Amazing Angola – Travel Blog. An overland journey from north to south with stunning scenery, spectacular waterfalls & great infrastructure!
Amazing Angola, a country so few people travel to, that guidebooks were almost non-existent. Angola was our wildcard in Africa. After some pre-tour research, we had high hopes, but weren’t quite sure what we would find. But we were incredibly surprised with the natural beauty we were presented with. We can say with confidence, that Angola quickly became one of our favourite countries travelled in Africa!
Our first stop was Cabinda, a small Angolan territory nested tightly between the two Congo’s. Our longest (2.5 hour) border entry process in Nigeria was outdone, with a new 3 hour record being set to enter Angola. Nicknamed “the Kuwait of Africa” because of its oil production, we were only transiting through Cabinda for a day. The security situation at the time put the area in the ‘do not travel’ category with the British Home Office. The 120 km transit was on very good roads and we drove through beautiful jungle once again. The people were friendly, but maybe not quite as friendly as the Congolese. We literally drove straight to the border and camped within the grounds of the immigration office. Here, we slept in our pop up net tent for the first time in weeks, confident that the rain would stay away. Thankfully it did!
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Exiting Angola the following morning took 1.5 hours, where we entered the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a 3-day adventure, before our return to Angola.
Songololo-Luvo Border Crossing
Re-entering Angola at Luvo was a very civilised experience. Having just departed Democratic Republic of the Congo with its hectic border we entered Angola where there was complete calm, law and order. We stopped just after the border to change money. Which, on the black market, gave us 390 Angolan Kwanza (AOA) to the dollar, as opposed to the official rate of around 212(AOA). We changed up US$50 which gave us the equivalent of US$91. The good roads we had encountered in Cabinda continued with the exception of a few rough patches near the border.
We didn’t travel too far before finding a beautiful, scenic bush camp with views over a valley. However, as with much of Angola we were unable to stray too far from the roads and paths due to the ever-present threat of landmines! “Angola remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, with over 100 million square metres of land contaminated and over 1,200 known and suspected minefields. Millions of landmines and other unexploded bombs are still scattered throughout the country – the legacy of over 40 years of conflict.”
The Northern Coastline
We spent the next two days travelling along the towards Luanda. We drove towards the coast joining the EN100 which took us south through the north west provinces of Zaire and then Bengo. Bush camping on the beach just south of N’Zeto on the first night was awesome. The pristine white sandy beaches were literally deserted and beautiful. Strolling along these empty beaches as the sunset over the Atlantic and then sleeping under the stars is what overland travel is all about and exactly why we love it.
Luanda and the Miradouro da Lua
The day after, we ended up travelling right up to Luanda. This was so a fellow passenger could get some medical attention for a worm-like parasite that had taken up residence in their toe. It was actually a welcome diversion, as we spent a good amount of time at the best supermarket we had been to on the trip. We were pleasantly surprised to see a huge variety of fruit, veg, meat and cheese for very reasonable prices. Not only that, but a 330ml bottle of beer only set us back AU$0.44c! Yes, we stocked up!
By 4.30pm, we were back on the road spending the night camped by the Miradouro da Lua (Viewpoint of the Moon). Shaped by centuries of erosion, this lunar-like landscape really lit up pre-sunset. The golden hour light emphasising the contrasting colours of the multi-layered cliffs. With stunning views over the coast it was a great vantage point to watch the slightly cloudy sunset with some of our incredibly cheap Angolan beers. It rained in the early hours of the morning and we were thankful we had opted for the canvas tent rather than our netted one.
We left the beautiful views of the Miradouro da Lua shortly after breakfast heading east to the Kalandula Falls of the Malanje Province. It took two days driving on both good and not so good roads, with a bush camp in a quarry en-route. We passed a variety of villages and small shanti towns consisting of mud brick and tin hut dwellings.
After two solid days of driving we were happy to reach the falls. But it was totally worth the drive. Having researched the falls prior to our trip, we knew what to expect, but it was even better than we had hoped for! The falls were stunning, some of the nicest we had seen in all of Africa!
Being there at the wetter time of year, the falls were at their magnificent best. At 105 meters high and 400 meters wide there was lots to explore. There was a couple of structured lookouts to view them from as well as a hike down to its base. But what we liked most was just being able to clamber around the rocks and find all the hidden viewpoints atop this amazing waterfall. And it wasn’t just views of the falls from the top, there were nice views over the surrounding countryside and down the Lucala River. With plenty of shallow pools it was also a great opportunity for a proper wash to rid all that dust! We’d loved to have stayed much longer.
After lunch, we started the drive south west towards Pungo Andongo. It didn’t take too long on the pristine and perfectly straight roads of this part of the Malanje Province. In fact they were some of the best roads we had encountered over the whole journey down from from Ghana.
After only a few hours we were approaching Pungo Andongo and got our first glimpse of the regions famous ‘Black Rocks’ (Pedras Negras de Pungo Andongo). This massive and mysterious black rocks sit in the middle of nowhere, towering out of the green flat fields that surround them. It was a seriously impressive and unexpected sight.
As we drove closer their sheer size became apparent. It was difficult to capture the scale of this rock formation on camera, especially from up close. Setting up camp at their base we were able to go out explore this unique place. With several viewpoints nearby it made for a great evening. Hiking up to the viewpoints pre-sunset their were awesome views over the rocks and out over the landscape beyond. The nearby towering trees were a Hornbill hotspot and there were plenty of pretty insects around too. It was lovely and tranquil place to spend the night.
After a full day enjoying some of the breathtaking natural wonders of the Malanje Province we had an early start for the final leg of our amazing Angola adventure. We backtracked for a few hours before heading south through the Cuanza Sul Province toward the Huíla Province. It took almost 2 days of driving to reach Lubango, passing through countless villages, farmland and stunning landscapes. Everything was lush and green from the recent rains and impressive evening storms. However, that also meant the dirt roads that we had to drive along for a good while, were a boggy mess. It was stark contrast to the near perfect roads the few days previous!
Tundavala Gap (Fenda da Tundavala)
When we finally reached the Wild Camping Tundavala campsite just outside of Lubango the weather wasn’t great. From there we made the short drive up to Tundavala Gap, one of the places we had been most excited to visit. Typically just as we arrived, the low lying clouds rolled up from below and we couldn’t see a thing! That evening we had a vibrant, but incredibly eerie sunset. It had been raining lightly throughout the day but come the evening it poured! It made cooking a challenge! But luckily Wild Camping Tundavala was a really well setup campsite. We’d seen nothing like it in Angola. It was much more like the awesome campsites you find in East and Southern Africa.
Thankfully, the weather cleared the next morning. And, we loved the 2 hour window we had to explore the deserted Tundavala Gap before the clouds reclaimed the views. Visiting during the wet season, we were grateful to see anything from this massive escarpment.
There really were so many vantage points along the rim. At about 2200m in height this lookout had truly spectacular views. Through the natural window or ‘Gap’ in the escarpment there were awesome views of the Namibe Province over 1000m below. And with the clouds quickly rising around us it made for some mystical photos along the various cliff face ledges.
After an amazing time at Tundavla Gap, we made our way to Cristo Rei de Lubango. This is Angola’s version of Christ the Redeemer perched up on a hill overlooking Lubango. Having seen the real deal in Brazil, the statue was on the underwhelming side. The weather had turned again and we ate lunch on the truck waiting for the rain to settle and the mist to lift. Neither of which happened, it was set in for the day. So we packed up lunch and moved on, very appreciative of the small window of relatively clear views we had early morning.
The drive out took us through more beautiful landscapes with the odd reminder of Angola’s turbulent past. Our final night was spent at a Catholic mission, close to the border of Namibia.
We had a seriously awesome time in amazing Angola, loving every minute of the natural beauty that we witnessed every day. The country was so diverse and so untravelled, we barely saw another tourist for the entire 12 days. Having had such a great time, we were super excited for our next destination, revisiting Namibia!
Our Oasis Overland Expedition
We travelled with Oasis Overland on the 12 week Accra-Cape Town section of their 42 Week UK-Cairo Trans Africa expedition. Doing an Overland expedition was an epic way to travel through this big and beautiful continent. It took the hassle out of travelling independently through some of most remote parts of the world. Yet, it still provided the challenges and adventures that we as well-travelled backpackers wanted. From free-camping under the stars to sweltering in the dense jungles and driving for days along dusty desolate tracks to haggling in the busy and bustling markets, this expedition had it all. We really did get a little off track!