Firstly just to clarify, there are areas of Africa where it would be virtually suicidal to not use a mossie net. Then there are areas where not closing the zips is asking for larger problems.
My experience is predominantly the mossie, reptile and large mammal problem areas. Ive been stung by a scorpion once and dont intend to repeat the experience.
African problems go like this:
1> They start with thorns, You must use a heavy duty ground sheet of some description, ripstop canvas - heavy, but recommended. these range from tiny paper thorns in large patches, to four sided buggers and onto Acacia style thorns from the 2 inch to 5 inch variety, none of them good, but the small ones are the hard ones to get away from.
2> Then reptiles seeking your body warmth... never lie against the tent wall near a lake (12ft crocodile Lake Baringo got cuddly with me on the other side of the tent wall) Never "slept" so still - loooong night Snakes equally bad but tend to head under the sleeping bag / bed roll / ground sheet.
3> Insects, a mosquito net will eliminate this problem, but to clarify, mosquito's, ants, bed bugs/lice and ticks, building up to spiders and scorpions, they all target high concentrations of carbon dioxide from exhaled air to find their prey.
Note that they also love boots to rest overnight, and beds left out during the day so check before putting boots and helmet on, and pack your sleeping bag into a stuff sac.
The ground sheet should be sealed against the mosquito net to prevent them getting in.
4>Bovine sized herbivores, Buffalo and Hippo, these usually cause untold havoc to your sleep if you dont strongly request that they stay away, at night they are grazing, and your tent, if left there for a week or so will have juicy shoots next to it, they like these, and you wont. here a physical barrier is helpful, such as a tent, or at least tin foil hanging from the mosquito nets
5> Elephants. Well theres not much you can do, but its really cool looking at the footprints around your tent the next morning. Anything that makes a noise is great, tinfoil - pots and pans 505 nitro express... and dont camp under a succulent tree or any fruiting tree in Elephant territory, and camp against your vehicle.
6> Predators its an unwritten rule that if you zip up your tent they will leave you alone, there were some lions in Tsavo that sort of ignored this, and in Tanzania alone at least 50 people are killed by Lions each year (2008).
If youre still not sure about a closing tent, try to imagine this, a Lion was shot in Zambia having hounded and killed several natives, it weighed 500lbs and was 10 1/2 foot long.
Personally I would rather that there was a tent in place that he would adhere to the unwritten rule.
As a last word on predators, it is very well acknowledged that the night is theirs and that were open season if caught walking around at night. One long documented and observed trait is for lions to lie in wait outside doors at night for the first person to exit, they pounce and kill this person, so if youre wise you'll sleep in and be second out of the tent / room / hut. If your gallant, you'll be first.
Remember that you only have to run faster than the person youve just clobbered over the head with a large stone...
7>Be conscious of what bush paths you are thinking of camping on:
-The really flat vegetation free meandering ones that are well worn, and about 16-24 inches wide those are for Elephants, sometimes there are two parallel tracks, you think are car tracks until one crosses over the other!
-Anything cut into and running from a river bank is for hippo's and Crocodiles.
-Ragged flattened down grass is for lesser Herbivores, up to kudu sized and generally run towards water from deep bush, these are often used by predators, and have an unusually small opening going into the bush.
Dont camp on any of these.
Bare minimum for any African Camping trip should be a ground sheet, and mossie net, with a tarpaulin of some description for protection from the sun or rain.
Sorry Tim, going to have to disagree with you on the hyena thing, in a pack of several they are potentially dangerous, however terrified of a cigarette lighter and can of aerosol (but then so am I) individually they are easily scared away.
Unlike dominant baboons, they only attack with their jaws and a large stick is sufficient to keep one at bay, and after one square clout on the head they do slink off. Perhaps I dont display a sense of trepidation, they pick up on this and are intelligent.
I know the Turkana region fairly well (actually havent been there for a few years though) and only ever came across one lion, near Mt. Kulai no Hyena's so cant comment on their size, however a small donkey... thats fairly large for an hyena, hard to imagine.
Willing to place bets that your hippo and tent incident was at Roberts Campsite am I right? Walked through a grazing heard one new years eve without incident, gods were on my side, and I was unbelievable the worse for wear.
Recently found myself with a motorbike and hammock tent and one tree / fence post, so have been experimenting with using the bike as one support for the hammock... So far eventfully unsuccessful! - with me on the ground and the bike on top on one occasion and beside me on the other, so stayed uncomfortably on the ground and diddnt repeat the following night, but I am determined to find a solution to this.
As for a rope ladder to get into the tent when strung high , usually at about 12 ft, sagging when youre in to about 9ft, I tie a rope from the hammock itself that i climb up, however have not hung one up this high for a while as it was too much effort and I was rather concerned about lions on that particular occasion, I also wasnt where I should have been and wanted to be out of the line of sight and in the general tree canopy.
I am now looking at making my own tent specifically for motor cyclists that will eliminate the need to heavier poles, and use the leaned over bike as the main frame.
As for where do you put your stuff in a hammock tent, in Africa, take note of the bit about things liking to rest inside hot boots and other animals loving the sweaty helmet liner. Either hang off the bottom of the hammock, or inside tied to one corner above your feet.
Yes a Hammock tent does hemorrhage heat, even in hotter parts of Africa a decent warmth sleeping bag will be necessary, and an inflatable/open cell mattress underneath you, preferably velcro'd into place. I prefer the full cotton heavy duty weave base to the Hammock
Above 2500m asl Hammock tents will start to be cold, so you will need to look into wind proof sides, not mosquito net sides
Happy camping Cheers G