Flatdogs Camp

Flatdogs is, in this day of high-end safari lodges, a good and affordable alternative that will probably take you by complete surprise. Owner-managed, the camp overlooks the Luangwa River in the South Luangwa National Park.

The Treehouse Master Bedroom

With its choice of chalets, safari tents, and the exclusive Jackal-berry Treehouse, Flatdogs is ideal for many a traveler, from honeymooner to family (it is one of the few children-friendly camps) to diehard return visitor. Guests can drive themselves to the camp or fly into Mfuwe airport and start their safari from there. Many safari camps and lodges have a set menu (albeit with one or two choices per course), but Flatdogs has an a la carte menu that allows guests to choose their meals daily.

The Treehouse

The quality of the safari guiding is well known in the region. The guides, eight of them at present, who all come from the area, are a fund of information not only on indigenous culture but also on the history of the area and local conservation practices.

A Wealth of Ideas

Chiyembekezo is a school that was set up entirely by local people for orphaned and vulnerable children. Kelvin, the founder, was concerned about the number of children he found walking the streets, fishing with their fathers, and generally not attending school. With their own money, he and a couple of other local businessmen hired a teacher (a fantastically committed woman named Dailes, who they paid when they could) and started a school in a small house. From there it has grown, and when it was providing education to fifty children five mornings a week Kelvin asked Flatdogs advice about raising funds.

Impressed with his commitment and initiative, the camp happily offered to help. Through combined fund=raising efforts, the teacher’s salary is paid, uniforms for the children are bought, and educational resources provided. The school uses St Agnes’ Anglican Church for classes, and Flatdogs recently helped install electricity and repainted the interior of the building. Future plans include the construction of a small secure storeroom, the upgrading of the playground, and sending Dailes for further training.

Flatdogs has also assisted Mfuwe Secondary School by building two classroom blocks, and it is raising funds for items such as new desks. At present Flatdogs repairs all broken desks from schools in the area.

Fresh from the Garden

Produce at Flatdogs is locally grown, and the camp has helped finance the installation of a water pump to help a local named Rodgers with his irrigation. In its own garden, the camp grows herbs and vegetables and will be helping Mfuwe Secondary School do the same to encourage kids to learn about conservation-savvy farming practices and about the variety of fruit and vegetables suitable for the local soil.

Wake Up!

Flatdogs makes a careful point of not buying only locally. “Buy too much of a scarce commodity,” it says, “and prices rise beyond the reach of local people. So we try to balance our needs, the demands of the business, and the prosperity of local people.” When Flatdogs requires lots of a product in short supply, it encourages Rodgers to grow plenty of it. So every tomato in camp will be local, but none of the fish will be, because it is a valuable protein source for locals and, says Flatdogs, “we want to keep prices down.”

At Chiyembekezo School

Flatdogs is involved in various women’s projects promoting women’s rights and independence by encouraging continued education and careers. It works with Project Luangwa through Eunice Nakachinda, who runs small projects in local villages, particularly with the aim of getting girls into school. Most girls are keen to learn, but they are often required to stay at home to help the family, so her project is one of educating the villagers on the value of education for all children.

Rodgers at Work

The camp also takes about 100 local children on safari each year to teach them the benefits of animals and to show them how peaceful they are in their own environments, to dispel the fear they have of animals who wander into villages at night. Each of Flatdog’s eight guides takes a vehicle full of kids out in the low season. The children are usually in their last two years of school, and most of them belong to the conservation clubs at their school. “We target these children because a couple of other local tourism operators offer something similar but for younger age groups.”

Besides solar heating for water, Flatdogs has some innovative recycling programs. Paper and cardboard go to schools to turn into bricks for cooking. Cans go to Mango Tree Crafts (based at Tribal Textiles), who use them to make a variety of quirky products. Glass and plastic go to Lusaka.

Click here for a Tribal Textiles video

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