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I'll be traveling to Africa in two weeks, and really wish I would have found this website before I made my plans. There's a lot of good information on here.

I'll be meeting my sister at the Lilongwe airport, and traveling to the Flatdogs camp in Zambia. Does anyone have a good estimation of how long that drive is, and the quality of road at this time of year? I'm also wondering if there were any reviews on Flatdogs in general. I've seen it referenced as a "budget" safari, but that is all I've seen.

I was also wondering where the best places to exchange money are. My sister mentioned being leery of exchanging at the Malawi/Zambia border due to counterfeiters, poor exchange rates, etc.

Any other info would be appreciated. Thanks.

Dan

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    Dan,

    I would really reconsider Flatdogs. Unless you are camping at Flatdogs, by the time you pay $50 per night for a chalet, pay for all your food, and throw in your game activities, you can almost stay at Kaingo or Kafunta instead.

    If you can afford about $150 per person per night, then you can probably negotiate with Kafunta or Kaingo. Ask them if there is any way that they could offer you low season local pricing.

    The $150 per person per night will include all your game activities, all your meals, your transfers to and from Mfuwe Airport and possibly even alcoholic beverages at Kaingo.

    Flatdogs is not terrible, but if you want a more exclusive arrangement, then I would contact Kafunta and/or Kaingo immediately.

    Kafunta is www.luangwa.com
    Kaingo is www.kaingo.com

    I stayed at Kafunta last year and really enjoyed it. This year I am staying at Kaingo.

    Good luck.

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    Dan,

    I meant to say in my opening statement that I would consider staying at Kafunta or Kaingo (if it is remotely close to your budget). Go to Flatdogs website and add up all the costs...lodging, food, game activities, transfers to and from airport, etc., and you are probably not saving more than $100 per night at Flatdogs in one of their chalets than if you stayed at Kafunta or Kaingo, that is if you negotiate the rates.

    Good luck.

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    Hi Dan,

    You don't have to change money if you have $US...Zambia is a dollar economy. Just make sure the bills you bring have the new big faces-- Zambian banks won't take the old ones! There is a bank in Mfuwe, at the airport, but I'm not sure if its better to change there or just do it at Flatdogs. If you stop in Chipata, I imagine the rates might be more competitive.

    Can't help you with the travel time, because on my trips I fly to Mfuwe.you driving your own car from Lilongwe, or taking the so-called "bus"? If so, I believe that will take a whole day! I'd email Flatdogs and ask them for the scoop on transport or driving times.

    Question: how long will you be staying in South Luangwa? Hopefully you'll have enough time to

    And while Roccco is correct that you should add up all the costs of any place, I wouldn't rule out Flatdogs...I happen to like the place for a number of reasons. If you have enough time, I'd spread it around between these places!

    First of all, if you've seen the Flatdogs website, you see that they cater to overlanders and people who have spent lots of time in the bush...and are now looking for a "bit" of civilization. Like a good bar (all the locals in the Valley hang out there, so it's) a great place to get to know locals and other travellers), satellite TV (only at the bar!) and a nice swimming pool. So a nice place to hang out for a couple days...but don't make it your only stop in the Valley!

    Flatdogs does have very productive game drives, if you can avoid a full vehicle. (Basically, it gets tight when there are 3 people across the seat...two is just fine, however. I just ask about signups...overland arrivals...and make my decisions accordingly. Also, because these are not private drives, they will tend to be restricted to the area of the park close to the main gate. If you do lots of drives, the scenery will get very familiar...of course the animal action is different on every drive.

    The chalets at Flatdogs are really quite nice--big rooms, ensuite facilities, cheerful colors. You'll have a refrigerator and stove outside your room, on a sort of covered porch. There are rudimentary cooking pans and implements, plates cutlery too. So if you do your own cooking, you'll save a bit on those costs.

    Also: my absolutely closest encounter with wild elephants were the ellies that munched on the trees outside my chalet at Flatdogs every morning. They were right up against my screened window! The ellies seem to like the Flatdogs property (its right across the river from the park... and they know they are safe there.

    By the way...given our other discussions about supporting conservationists-- the owners of Flatdogs are really strong supporters of conservation and wildlife protection in the Valley, and have been leaders in establishing the new South Luangwa Conservation Trust.

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    Hi again Dan...
    In addition to checking with Kafunta and Kaingo about special "green season" deals (which, in addition to being all inclusive and a bit more "exclusive" will also show you other parts of the park, and more of a bush experience) you should also check out Wildlife Camp, which has prices equivalent to Flatdogs. I wrote a bit about this place too (rooms not as nice as Flatdogs, but a more "wilderness feel". Nice bar and pool, but not as lively as Flatdogs. Nice game walks...crowded game drives. But wait a minute...if you are there in 2 weeks, you might have all of these places to yourself! Highly recommended at Wildlife CAmp-- do their walk/ bush camp overnight. They will do it with just 2 people, at $100 per person, all inclusive. BEcause you start walking from their main camp at sunrise, you must stay there the night before too. (And 60% of all your room fees here go to the Zambia Wildlife Conservation Society, which is preserving this big piece of land contiguous with the park/. So you know your fees will support wildlife conservation! (If you google Wildlife Camp and South Luangwa, you'll get their website)

    If you could do 3 nights at each of these places, you'd have a varied and colorful exposure to the Valley. I think Flatdogs gets the most locals for dinner and at the bar on Friday night, so that might be the night to stay there!

    Feel free to email me if you have anymore questions about these places...

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    I have seen Flatdogs from the road, although never been inside the camp. It does seem to have a prime location and may be more fun for someone looking for a partylike atmosphere. However, when I go to Africa, I really want to be around as few people as possible. If there is another interesting couple around, my wife and I will hang out with them, but if not, we are content to enjoy each others company.

    Regarding the prices for Flatdogs, they are as follows:

    Chalets
    US$ 30.00 Per Person / Night

    Game Viewing
    US$ 25.00 Per First Activity / Person

    US$ 20.00 Per Subsequent Activity / Person

    Excluding ZA.W.A Park Entry
    US$ 20.00 Per Person / 24 Hours

    So, with all meals and drinks excluded, it is $95 per night per person sharing, and that does not even include airport transfers or laundry. I imagine that by the time it is all added up that the average rate could easily become $125 per night per person sharing.

    In comparison, I am staying at Kaingo for $140 per night per person sharing and do not have to worry about meals, laundry, game activities, or airport transfers. I believe that Kafunta will probably offer similar rates and I am only paying $200 per night per person sharing for Puku Ridge and Chichele Presidential Lodge.

    I doubt I could get these rates later than June, but since the rates are not much different than Flatdogs, Kaingo, Kafunta and Puku Ridge/Chichele Presidential Lodge are definitely worth considering. Also, keep in mind that at Flatdogs you will likely have a different driver/guide for each game activity, while at the lodges it will be the same guide assigned throughout, and it is nice to develop a rapport with the guide and learn about his life in Zambia, etc.

    In any event, here are the links to each place:

    www.flatdogscamp.com
    www.star-of-africa.com
    www.kaingo.com
    www.luangwa.com

    Wherever you stay in South Luangwa, you probably cannot go wrong. It just all depends if you want a more peaceful and exclusive camp or a more lively and inclusive camp.

    I would not be at all surprised if my favorite camp on my upcoming trip turns out to be Mwamba, which is Kaingo's bushcamp with a capacity for only six guests, since I, for one, like as few people as possible. Having Kafunta Island Bushcamp all for STD and I last year was the best. I don't know when the next time we will have a staff of six to just take care of the two of us, but it was a great experience and Kafunta Island Bush Camp was a good three hour drive away from the busier Mfuwe Sector and probably an hour away from any other game lodge that we saw.

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    Just a minor clarification. Here is the daily schedule at Kaingo:

    DAILY ITINERARY

    05:30 Wake-up drums
    6:00 Tea/coffee/cake, etc in the central chitenge
    06:15 - 09:30 Morning Walk or Game Drive
    09.45 Full English Breakfast
    12.30 Hippo Hide trip, elephant crossing point or ebony gove/forest. Game viewing activity.
    13.30 Lunch
    Siesta or relax on the deck
    15.45 Afternoon Tea
    16:00 - 19:30 / 20 - 00 Walk / Drive / Night Drive. Stay out for sundowners and continue for night drive with spotlight.
    20:00 Drinks at the bar
    20.30 Dinner (3 course meal) followed by fireside chat.

    It turns out that Kaingo has not two, but, instead, three game activities included daily. For the same, it would actually cost more to stay at Flatdogs than at Kaingo, and that is even before you have a couple drinks.

    I do imagine that after four nights at Kaingo and Mwamba, that I will just want to relax a bit at Puku Ridge. And my final night at Chichele Presidential Lodge will offer the closest thing possible to a 5* hotel atmosphere, hopefully allowing me to go home fully rested.

    I am SO glad that my trip is getting closer. I will definitely NEED a good vacation soon and I think the combo of Italy and Zambia will be perfect! :)

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    Thanks for everyone's replies. We've already booked Flatdogs, but I wanted to get an idea of what to expect. My first choice was Kafunta, but my sister and her friend (who are pocketing $60/month doing mission work in Balaka, Malawi) preferred the lower price. I'm assuming we'll be making at least a few of our meals.
    We will be taking a rental vehicle from Lilongwe to the camp....my sister's told me about the bus rides. I arrive at 1pm, so we were trying to figure out if we can complete the majority of the drive before sundown. It looks right now like we will be waiting to make the drive until the following morning.

    On a side note, we'll also be traveling to Lake Malawi for a day or two. Does anyone have a resort recommendation for the Mangochi or Monkey Bay area? We'd like to do snorkeling and possibly SCUBA if the price is right and it's available. Thanks again.

    Dan

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    Dan,

    Please post a report on Fodors as soon as you return home so the rest of us may share in your experiences with South Luangwa and Malawi in April.

    Thanks and have a GREAT time!!! :)

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    Dan,
    Try posting your questions about driving times, road conditions and Malawi on the google groups (rec/travel/Africa). This group has the virtue of more people who actually live and drive in Africa-- they have been a great help with logistical questions in the past.
    Have a fabulous time!

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