Angola is a country that is very slowly opening up to tourism and we say that cautiously as there are areas throughout the country where you could be putting your personal safety at risk. Traveling to Cabinda, Lunda Norte, and Lunda Sul is not safe and these areas should be avoided. While the persisting political issues are still keeping this country off almost all traveler's lists of places to go, there is interest from the Angolan government to take a more serious look at the possibilities that more tourism can bring. On the forefront of change, there are some reputable companies bringing travelers into areas where tourism is reasonably safe. Still, it is likely that only the truly intrepid will adventure here if they have cash to burn as Angola is considered quite expensive relative to elsewhere in Africa. The now over oil boom put Angola as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The reality of that being mostly over hasn't changed the inflated prices and this makes it an unappealing destination to your traditional backpackers and casual vacationers.
For those few fearless adventurers who throw caution to the wind and love to forge new trails, Angola has so much potential with its sweeping beaches, an astounding array of natural environments and its burgeoning National Parks, all of which are ripe for exploration. One interesting fact about Angola is that nearly half of the population is under 15 years old! There are also more than 100 diverse ethnic groups with distinct cultures to learn about, and as a former Portuguese colony, there is an obvious influence from the colonial past in the culture, cuisine and architecture. Still, this is a developing nation with limited to reasonably good infrastructure depending where you are. Travelers to Angola should also be aware that Angola is still considered one of the most corrupt nations in the world and the disparity between the ruling elite to the average citizen is marked.
Sadly, most of the big game in Angola were killed during their civil war which ended in 2002. The good news is that since the war ended in 2002, there are now programs to bring back the animal populations, such as in Quiçama National Park, or Kissama, which is just south of Luanda. This is the best place to view wildlife in Angola. About 20 years ago, animals were relocated from elsewhere in Africa and the number of elephants, elands, wildebeests, zebras, and giraffes have been increasing every year. However, elephants especially are always under threat from the incessant poaching that continues to this day in Angola and other parts of Africa. Visiting the national parks gives reason to keep them protected and this is an excellent reason to go here.
While there are not as many animals as found at Kissama, the Iona National Park is a most fascinating place in the south of Angola and a visit here could thrill even the most well-traveled adventurer. Along the coast is the vast Namib Desert, which runs from the middle of Angola all the way down the coast to South Africa and here is where you can find the infamous ghost town on Baia dos Tigres, a former peninsula that the ocean reclaimed and turned into an island that is now completely abandoned. Getting there is quite the adventure! If you make it all the way down south or are in the north of Namibia, the Ruacana Falls are some of the biggest in Africa and are situated right on the border.
From Luanda, have an incredible adventure, albeit an expensive one, with a three-day 4x4 excursion to the very beautiful Malanje Province. Traveling inland, at times on dirt roads, you'll drive through incredible scenery making stops at the N'dalatando Botanical Gardens and at Piedras Negras. These are very unusual rock formations said to be shaped like the animals of the savannas. Continuing on, not far from here are the spectacular Kalandula Falls. By volume, this is one of Africa's largest waterfalls rivaling Victoria Falls, and they are quite the stunner. This trip also includes a visit to Cangandala Park which is the smallest national park in the country. Cangandala and the Luando Strict Nature Reserve are special because there are efforts underway to save the nearly extinct giant sable antelope which is Angola's national animal that was thought to be extinct after the civil war.
If you are looking for cheap thrills in Angola and a hold on to your lunch adventure, about 25 miles from Lubango is the Serra da Leba Pass in Huíla. An engineering marvel, this is one of the world's most famous roads for its hairpin turns and jaw-dropping views. The road is no joke though as there is no protection in the way of guard rails. In high winds and bad weather, it should be avoided for obvious safety reasons.
When To Go
There are primarily two seasons in Angola, wet and dry. The cool and dry season is the best time to go and that runs from June through September. Depending on where you are going in the country, south, central or north could also factor in when to go as the climate varies considerably.
As far as the political climate, progress is being slowly made. Despite some gains, in 2018, there was a forced eviction of around 400,000 people, mostly Congolese, as reported by Human Rights Watch. As with anywhere, you should always research where you go. We do this for our clients who are considering places that have notable concerns. At this time (10/27/2019), the current situation is a Level 1 from the US State Department which is the lowest, however, there are areas as previously mentioned which are to be avoided.
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