The coast of Angola is one of the most beautiful coasts on the African continent. It is a steep coast full of spectacular virgin beaches, where you will find many cliffs, natural pools formed by the tides and fantastic sunsets in stunning scenery. With more than 1.200 kilometers of coastline, you will not find much tourist infrastructure but some environments that make it one of the most beautiful treasures in the country.
Fishing is one of Angola’s main incomes. The Benguela stream passes in front of its coast, making it an area with an abundance of fish and seafood. That is why the coast of Angola is also a place where you will find many wooden boats on the beachfront, as fishermen pull them out of the sea, as they sell fresh fish, as they rest on the sand or as they prepare and they fix the nets. Most local people make a living from fishing, and during your trip along the coast you will find some towns like Tômbua or Namibe (Baía das Pipas and Mucuio, for example) which are some of the most important ports in the country.
But the coast of Angola is not just about beaches and fishing. You will also find inland villages with beautiful mud houses that mix with the mouths of small rivers and where you can see every day African scenes such as people washing clothes or showering in the river. And, as happened to us, different tribal groups which have moved north due to the weather conditions they have suffered for themselves and their flock (if you want to know more about the ethnic groups in Angola, you can click here). Apart from that, there are some unique landscapes that you can see on the coast of Angola such as the lunar landscapes of the Miradouro da Lua, the rock formations of Colinas and Arco in Tômbua, the Quissama NP, the mouth of the Kwanza River, the Binga waterfalls and the caves of Sassa in Sumbe; among others.
One of the most characteristic landscapes of the southern coast of Angola is the presence of the Namib Desert, which occupies much of Namibia (if you want to read our experience in this country, you can click here), and part of the coast that goes from the border to the town of Tômbua. If you are lucky enough to be in that area during a full moon day, you can drive at low tide through the desert passing through an impressive coastline of dunes and water until you arrive right in front of San Martinho dos Tigres and its bay, a place completely isolated where the desert sand is the main protagonist accompanied by secondary actors such as the presence of jackals, sea lions and the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The coast of Angola also has a desert, one of the oldest and most beautiful on the planet!
The coast of Angola is also home to some of the country’s major cities, such as its own capital, Luanda. Luanda is considered one of the most expensive cities in the world, with a skyline on the seafront formed by huge skyscrapers; and a bay where many merchant ships rest. It also has some islands like Cazanga Island and the bustle of many African capitals, with a large crowd of people up and down and a great inequality between different neighborhoods that you can see if you drive along the Via Expresso (the roundabout that surrounds the city) and by the seafront, for example. In the south, on the other hand, we find some much quieter cities such as Benguela, Namibe and Lobito. Benguela is a city with a lot of local life that is located right on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and from where you can enjoy a beautiful promenade while watching children play on the beach, different young people walk in love watching the horizon of the ocean and elderly people rest on the banks that have been formed with the construction of the dike that borders with the sea.
And, of course, the coast of Angola has a long history. It was there that the first Portuguese who explored the continent landed and went in search of that unknown world before them; and there, in some places like Praia do Sarico, you will also find stories of sunken ships that have been stranded, remembering that the past of this country and this coast cannot be so easily erased.
If you visit Angola, you must travel much of its coast to understand the diversity of this country, both in terms of landscape (where you will find desert landscapes in the south and wilder landscapes in the north), in terms of population (with fishermen, different tribal groups and business people in the capital), and in terms of beauty (with spectacular pristine beaches, sunsets and a very beautiful interior to photograph). Below we will detail from south to north what for us have been the main attractions during our trip to Angola in January 2022.
The first stop on the south coast of Angola is the town of Tômbua or Tômbwa, a coastal town in the province of Namibe located on the beach of Porto Alexandre which has the most important fishing and oil port in the country. The majority of its population is engaged in these activities.
During the Portuguese colonial government, Tômbua was one of the main ports in West Africa established by fishermen of Portuguese origin from the Algarve and also fishermen from Póvoa de Varzim who left Brazil so as not to lose their Portuguese nationality. Due to the fish industry, Porto Alexandre (now known as Tômbwa) gained city status in 1961. Today, it is still a good fishing spot and well located if you want to visit the Namib Desert and Baía dos Tigres, as it is the last village before entering the vastness of the desert.
In Tômbua, you will find the main services such as petrol stations, banks and restaurants. The latter stand out for a very good fresh fish and seafood cuisine. For example, the Virei restaurant with a charismatic and endearing owner like King and located in the center of the village. There, they cook mostly fresh fish and seafood of the day with great service. It is a stopover for many people visiting the area, so it is highly recommended to book in advance by calling +244 923 356 372.
How to get there?
To get to Tômbua, the only option is to cover the 95 kilometers that separate this town from Namibe. The road from Namibe to Tômbua is one of the best roads in the country, paved and wide on a route where you will enter the desert part of the Namib, and from where you can deviate to visit some of the essential points that we will explain in below. There is approximately an hour’s drive between Namibe and Tômbua, where you will pass (a few kilometers before reaching Tômbua) by the mouth of the Curoca River (a dry river) where there is a lively local market.
What to do in Tômbua?
Tômbua is the gateway to the Namib Desert. It is the first town in southern Angola, but it is almost inaccessible if you come from the coast of Namibia. That’s why most people get there from Namibe. The main attractions to keep in mind when you arrive in Tômbua are:
– Marvel at visiting Arco or Lagoa dos Arcos
Arco was an oasis in the middle of the Namib Desert that was the paradise of every living being in the area. Many birds, reptiles, etc. could be seen there and it was a very important place for the local communities that lived in the area in terms of grazing and also fishing for fish from the lake for survival. This lagoon, however, has been very dry since 2014 as it has not rained in the area since this year.
However, the area is very beautiful to see as the water previously present caused the rocks to erode and create a curious landscape. The most distinctive part, hence the name, are the two rock arches in the middle of what was once the lagoon.
To get there, follow the signs from the main road to Arco. The inland junction to see Arco is on the right and 13 km past the Curoca River Bridge if you go from Tômbua to Namibe. You can easily park under the arch and explore the area from there, with the option to wild camping in these more deserted landscapes under the shade of one of the few remaining trees. When you arrive, a person from the village will come and show you the area and at the end ask for a donation for the community. A different and beautiful landscape to visit during your trip along the coast of Angola.
– Go inside Morros Vermelhos or Colinas
These curious rock formations are located between the towns of Tômbua and Namibe. It is an iconic place in the area, beautiful to photograph and get lost in for a while. To get there, follow the signs for “Colinas”. You will find the main road junction about 19 km past the Curoca River Bridge if you go from Tômbua to Namibe. You will have to drive towards Iona Park and after about 9 kilometers from the turnoff, turn left to go towards Colinas.
These rock formations are up to 25 meters high and have been sculpted by the wind for thousands of centuries. Of reddish earth, they are called Morros Vermelhos for their color and shape. Accessible by car, the entry is free. And it is also a good place to wild camp during your trip to Angola. Nearby, you will also find different canyons and some very interesting formations to discover.
– Visit the Namib Desert, sail to the ghost town of São Martinho dos Tigres and drive through the Death Acre
The Namib Desert is one of those places you will never forget if you step on it. Being able to be in one of the oldest and most arid deserts in the world is a unique and unrepeatable experience. Its dunes can reach 400 meters in height and have an imposing majesty. This desert shared between Angola, Namibia and South Africa covers an area of 310.000 square kilometers. Thanks to the fog caused by the interaction of the waters of the Benguela stream and the hot desert air, there are many species that live in this humidity in extreme conditions.
Since 1964, this area north of the Namib Desert has been proclaimed a national park: Iona National Park, where conservation work is being carried out on the area, repopulating the wildlife that once inhabited it before the civil war and working together with the communities. Also, from 2020, this park has merged with the Namibian Skeleton Coast Park and Naukluft National Park making it a single natural area where animals can cross freely without understanding boundaries.
To get there, you have to keep in mind that it can only be accessed when it is full moon and low tide, as this way there is a small space between the sea and the desert to pass by vehicle, also known as the Death Acre. Therefore, it is only accessible a few days a month. We were lucky enough to be there during that time, and it really has been one of the most spectacular experiences of our trip to Angola. It is highly recommended to make this journey accompanied by a security car and someone from the area.
Baia dos Tigres, so named because of the yellow and black colors of the dunes reminiscent of the animal from which it is named, is a bay surrounded by desert dunes and bordered by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Being able to see the sea and the dunes at the same time is an experience we will always remember. Many agencies, when there is a full moon and low tide, offer the option to spend a night in the desert in a camp to take advantage and go boating in the town of São Martinho dos Tigres, one of the iconic places on the Angolan coast. Despite being an expensive experience to do (one night in the desert and two days on the road), we really enjoyed this drive through the desert, the sunsets on the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean and sitting in a dune and navigate the waters of the ocean to discover a very special place.
São Martinho dos Tigres is a fishing ghost town that was created in 1860 during the Portuguese colonization of Angola with the aim of being an economic fishing hub of the country and the area. The Portuguese colonial government sent many Algarve fishermen with extensive fishing experience to the Baia dos Tigres and created what would later become the village of São Martinho dos Tigres.
This village grew to become the largest fishing center in the country. Suddenly, however, the village, located on a peninsula in the Baia dos Tigres, was isolated from the mainland due to strong waves eroding the peninsula at one end, causing the peninsula to become an island in 1962. From then on, the town’s prosperity declined, first due to the difficulty of distributing drinking water on the island and then due to the civil war, which caused its inhabitants to leave. The Angolan government subsequently tried to repopulate the area several times but without success. Today, São Martinho dos Tigres is an abandoned and ghost town on a 37-kilometer-long island located 10 kilometers off the coast of Baía dos Tigres.
– Find a Welwistchia Mirabilis in the middle of the desert
The symbol of Namibe province is the Welwisthia Mirabilis plant. It is a plant that only exists in this part of the world and lives in the middle of the desert. It is a unique and very curious plant that has adapted to a totally inhospitable habitat. Its useful life ranges from 400 to 1.500 years. The sexes are separated, that is, there are male plants and female plants. They are believed to pollinate through insects (some say beetles and others a type of wasp). The seeds are scattered throughout the desert due to the action of the wind (as they have wings that make it easier to travel long distances) and survive for several years. They only germinate if there is heavy rain for a period of several days. Because these conditions rarely occur, many plants in some colonies are the same age, as they all germinated in the same year. The plants, once established, depend on the fog to survive until the next rains occur. Plants are rarely found more than 100 to 150 km from the coast. If you have the opportunity to cross the Namib Desert, try to find one and you will witness one of the few plants of prehistoric origin that still remain.
Where to sleep in Tômbua?
– Flamingo Lodge: This lodge is located in a spectacular place, at the beginning of the Namib Desert, in the middle of cliffs and in front of a pristine beach. It is an isolated place, but its beauty lies basically in it, being in the middle of nature and the spectacular landscapes it offers. This lodge has rustic bungalows with private bathrooms. Frequented by fishermen in search of “big fish”, this accommodation has much more to offer and is a perfect place to explore the area. From there, they also organize excursions to the Namib Desert and São Martinho dos Tigres. Think that a 4×4 is essential to get there as you will pass through a desert area full of sand. For more information, click here.
Moçamedes is the city formally known as Namibe. It stands out for being a quiet city, with its large fishing port and transport of minerals from the interior of the country (iron, diamonds…), the main activities of the majority of the population that lives there. It was created in the mid-19th century by Portuguese settlers who saw the great potential of this key point between the Atlantic and the Namib Desert and thanks to the railway connection built later, this location has grown to the point of being currently one of the most prosperous cities and the third most populous in the country.
How to get there?
There are several possibilities to reach this city located in the southwest of the country, right next to the oldest desert on the continent:
By air, you will need to fly to Luanda and then take a domestic flight to Welwitschia Mirabilis International Airport (Namibe) through Angola’s TAAG Linhas Aéreas or Fly Angola. On average, it takes approximately 1 hour from Luanda to Namibe.
By land, the easiest option is to go with your own car or rental car. If you drive and come from Namibia or the interior of the country, you will first pass through the city of Lubango. Namibe is about 200 kilometers away. To get there, you can cross the mythical Sierra de Leba (to find out more about this point, you can click here), a curved route that descends from the heights of Mount Lubango to the desert plain of Namibe province; or get there through Quilemba and Bibala by a mountain pass also very beautiful and less crowded than the Sierra de Leba. After reaching Chicolongilo and once you have the mountains behind you, you will have to drive along long straights and with an asphalt where you will have to be careful to dodge the different holes you will find on the EN280 for 100 kilometers to get to Namibe. You will often follow the train track and pass through the iconic town of Caraculo, a place where dictator Salazar wanted to make a pharaonic project to populate the desert, until you reach Cambongue, on the outskirts of the city, and cross the Bero River to enter the city of Namibe.
If you come from the coast and the north, such as Benguela, Lucira or Praia do Soba, the best way to get there is to take the EN100, a road that they are fixing and that is paved from Lucira to the main junction of the EN280, about 30 kilometers from the city of Namibe. This road is in very good condition, and passes through the cliffs of Bentiaba and the junctions to Piambo or Praia de Soba. From Lucira to the main junction, there are about 160 kilometers. Keep in mind, however, that from Lucira to the north, you will find about 85 kilometers of gravel road that you will have to go very slowly. Therefore, if you come from Benguela by car, you can follow the coastal route along the Benguela-Lucira-Namibe route; or you can go inside on an asphalt road for the Benguela-Lubango-Namibe route. We recommend that you make the first choice, because despite these 85 kilometers of land, the landscape is very beautiful to see.
There is also the possibility of using public transport. There is a bus from Luanda to Gamek or in the São Pablo district of Namibe with the Macon or AngoReal lines. From Lubango, you can also use the train of the company Caminhos de Ferro de Benguela (CFB). To buy tickets, go to Moçamedes Train Station.
What to do in Namibe?
– Visit Namibe city center
This city of Portuguese origin has a special charm. If you walk through the city center (you can do it on foot) you will enjoy seeing buildings with colorful facades of Portuguese architecture, wide streets with sidewalks, churches by the sea such as the Parish of Santo Adrião. Also, a key point of the city is the market called Mercado 5 de Abril, where you can buy everything from fresh produce from the land.
As a maritime city, Namibe is also home to some great fish. You can stroll along its promenade (known as the Marginal) while enjoying the view of the small bay of Namibe, a bustling port of activity. There you will find different restaurants and cafes to stop for while you eat some fish, drink a Portuguese wine and enjoy a good view of the ocean. We had lunch at the Clubs Náutico Moçamedes restaurant, popular for its fish and seafood dishes. It has a terrace with a pleasant atmosphere where you can see the sea and you can have lunch or dinner with the gentle sea breeze. We ate seafood, fish and a bottle of white wine for 25 euros per person.
One of the most popular cafes in the city of Namibe is Café Girassol, a place where people gather early in the morning for a good coffee accompanied by a cream cake typically of Portuguese influence that ensures that you start the day very well. Namibe is a city with a lot of local life that lives and works by the sea. A pleasant and calm city to visit during your trip along the coast of Angola.
– See the fishermen when they arrive at Baía das Pipas
About 30 kilometers north of Namibe and following the coast (without taking the EN280 that goes to Lubango or the turnoff to Lucira), we find some roads where we leave the asphalt for the gravel road. Baía das Pipas is located in the middle of steep cliffs, where its population (about 500 inhabitants) is basically engaged in fishing.
Every morning you can see the frantic work of its inhabitants when the fishing boats arrive, unloading the fish, selecting it and putting it in boxes, sewing the nets… All this in a spectacular, more desert landscape and where you can also swim in the ocean. It is advisable to explore the area with a 4×4 (not essential, however) which will make the journey easier and quieter as the road is unpaved.
– Enjoy the tranquility of the small fishing village of Mucuio
Another beautiful town to visit if you are in the area is the fishing village of Mucuio which is about 8 km north of Baía das Pipas, and about 40 km from Namibe. With a beautiful beach, you can see the daily life of a village of no more than 20 houses. It is not a tourist place; lovely people will ask you where you come from and they will be interested in what you do. Swim on the beach, visit the small school or sit in the shade of a tree with a fisherman sewing their nets while telling you stories about the sea.
Where to sleep in Namibe?
– Lodge Vila Doroteia: Lodge located in Praia Amelia, right next to Namibe. It is a good option if you do not want to stay in the middle of the city, much quieter and with better views. It has a clean and beautiful beach where you can see the city in the background. Nice bar and restaurant and where you can eat very well. We ate for 13 euros per person an octopus salad, clams and a good fresh sole. It has bungalows (priced at approximately 15.000 Kwanzas) and also a campsite that when we stayed there was under renovation (it will be priced at 3.000 Kwanzas for two people and a car). For more information, you can check out their website here.
– Residencial Sol e Mar: Located in the city center, this small accommodation has a family atmosphere. It offers suite rooms with a TV and Wi-Fi. It has a restaurant serving traditional and home cooking, and is one of the best places to stay in the city. You can check out their website here.
– Hotel Chik-Chik: Chik-Chik Namibe is one kilometer from the hospital. It is a high-end hotel with spacious rooms decorated in a classic style. It offers free Wi-Fi and free private parking on site. You can check out their website here.
PRAIA DO SOBA AND PIAMBO
Praia do Soba is one of our favorite beaches in Angola and we really enjoyed it! Between cliffs and desert, this clean, clear water beach stands out in the landscape like a mirage. It is a private beach, that is to say it belongs to the lodge that receives the same name; and its surroundings are spectacular. If you’re lucky, you can see whales, dolphins or turtles, and you can also dive into some of the caves that have been naturally created in this part of the Angolan coast.
A few kilometers north of Praia do Soba (but an hour’s drive away because you have to go all the way around to get there), we find the Piambo area, a place with a local town where you will find a lighthouse and small natural pools that form during low tide. This part of the coast between Namibe and Lucira stands out for being a totally wild coast, with almost no tourist infrastructure, difficult to reach but with incredible views. A must stop during your trip to the coast of Angola.
How to get there?
Praia do Soba and Piambo are located between the towns of Namibe and Lucira. To get there, you will have to reach the junction of the main road (EN100) that runs between these two towns, which is very well paved and in good condition. This turnoff is 30 kilometers from the start of the EN100 from Namibe and exits from the main road to Lubango; or 135 kilometers from Lucira (via Bentiaba) if you come from the north.
From this junction, the road turns into a gravel and stone road where you have to go at a very low speed so as not to damage your vehicle. In some areas, a 4×4 is recommended for the steep slopes you will find, although you can also access it on certain routes already marked with a 2×4.
Don’t go slowly just to take care of your vehicle, but also to enjoy the drive that passes through completely deserted areas of rocks and that goes up and down different mountains until you reach after 20 kilometers the Praia do Soba, or to Piambo after about 27 kilometers. Please note that it will take you between 45 minutes and 1 hour to complete these kilometers from the EN100 main road.
What to do in Praia do Soba and Piambo?
Welcome to some of the best beaches you’ll find on your Angola coastline. You can spend several days here. We, as activities, recommend:
– Enjoy Praia do Soba and watch its sunset
The main attraction of Praia do Soba is the beach itself. It is a beach that is well maintained and clean. Enjoy it by sunbathing, swimming (watch out for sea currents) and discovering its nearby places. There are different paths you can walk to discover the area and above all don’t forget to enter the grotto to the right of the beach, it’s a magical place!
When the sun goes down, order a beer and enjoy the colorful spectacle of the sky! And another day, you can also see the sunset from the other end where the grotto is and where you can see how the day goes out with a view where you will have the water of the sea, the shape of the rocks and the horizon of the sun and the sky before you.
– Camping in a natural cave on the beach
Apart from accommodation in small chalets, in Praia do Soba you can camp right at the foot of the beach in a grotto created many years ago by the sea. Camping in this unique place is fascinating, apart from the fact that it protects you from the heat of noon and enjoys all the facilities: water, shower and toilet, a sink for washing dishes… This campsite, which is paid, belongs in Praia do Soba, where you can enjoy the tranquility and noise of the sea in a fabulous surrounding.
– Visit the Piambo lighthouse and its natural pools
Piambo Lighthouse is close to Praia do Soba. To get there, you have to go back inland and take a detour to Piambo in about 45 minutes-1 hours due to the state of the road. The route, however, passes through beautiful rocky landscapes with sea views. Once there, you can leave your car and walk to discover the different places around Piambo.
You can, for example, visit Piambo wetlands and a small local fishing village; stroll along this part of the coast that is characterized by an area full of cliffs and small coves of golden sand, and enjoy a nice excursion while talking to the few local people you will meet.
In addition, next to the lighthouse and to its left if you look at the sea, there is a small path that will lead you to some natural pools that are created when the tide is low between the rocks. It is only advisable to swim there when the sea is calm and the tide is low (a few fishermen warned us that it can be dangerous, and we even got a shock due to the force of the waves). So, take your swimsuit and sneaker-socks to protect your feet from the sharp rocks and enjoy this beautiful place like Piambo!
Where to sleep in Praia do Soba and Piambo?
– Praia do Soba Lodge: This accommodation is located on top of a cliff and at its foot is the private beach which is accessed via a staircase or a small road for cars staying at the campsite. It has chalets of different sizes to accommodate couples or families, as well as a campsite on the beach. At the same time, it has a bar-restaurant facing the beach and the sea with a small swimming pool. Its owners, Andrea and Chris, will give you a warm welcome and welcome you as one of the family. In the evening, they have a dinner buffet with very good quality food. If you have the opportunity to enjoy this little paradise, do not hesitate to contact them via Andrea’s phone at +244 922 502 665 or through the website.
BENGUELA AND LOBITO
These two cities are located right next to the Atlantic Ocean in the west of the country. The first, Benguela, is the second Portuguese colonial city to be founded in 1617. It is known for its surrounding beaches, fish and seafood and good weather. It is a very easy city to get around, where you can take a leisurely stroll along its avenues on foot and where the people you meet smile and greet you with a “Bom dia!”.
Benguela but also has a darker past. It is said that millions of African slaves left their port for South America, and from Praia Morena, the city’s beach, they were shipped directly to Salvador da Bahia in Brazil. Paradoxically, this colonial past has also given the city a special charm, as the streets are full of buildings, churches, palaces and squares of a very interesting Portuguese style to visit.
The second city, Lobito, is the third most populous in the country after Luanda and Lubango. It has the second most important seaport in the country where minerals are transported from the Congo and Zambia, as well as fresh inland products that arrive thanks to the city’s railway infrastructure. The part of the city bay and the peninsula that stands out is one of the areas where local people go to relax and swim.
If you come from the south coast of Angola, this is where you can find two cities that are located very close to each other, and that form a very interesting and beautiful nucleus to enjoy its people and see how these cities develop in a very populated environment but at the same time very pleasant.
How to get there?
Benguela and Lobito are two cities located about 30 kilometers apart. Benguela is located in the southern part, while Lobito is further north on the coast of Angola. To drive between the two towns, there is a good road (EN100) where you can make the journey safely in 30 minutes. The only drawback is the traffic you can find at the exits and entrances of the city, as well as the various police checks with radars in this area.
If you come from the south coast of Angola, the first city you will find will be Benguela. To get there, you can do so via the Namibe-Lucira-Benguela route along the coast and in this way, visiting some of the most spectacular places on the coast such as Praia de Soba or Piambo; or, through the Namibe-Lubango-Benguela route, discovering one of the cities with one of the most beautiful surroundings in the country such as Lubango (if you want to know more about our experience there, click here).
If you come along the coast and Lucira, you will have to drive about 85 kilometers on a gravel road (but they are currently in the process of paving it) from Lucira to the small town of Cimo, and from there drive about 100 kilometers more on good asphalt and passing through the beautiful town of Dombe Grande, to reach Benguela. About 17 km before reaching Benguela, you will find a crossroads where if you turn left you will head towards the beaches of Caotinha, Baía Farta and Baía Azul. It takes about 6 hours to get from Namibe (or Praia do Soba) to Benguela via Lucira.
However, if you come from Lubango, you will not have to go directly to the coast, and you will be able to drive for about 360 kilometers until you reach the town of Benguela, passing by the EN105 until you reach Cacula, and there continue on the EN105 (which then it becomes EN260) until arriving at Benguela crossing through the population of Catengue. It is an asphalt road where in some areas you will find different holes in the road, and you can do it in a journey of approximately 5 and a half hours.
If you come from the north (Luanda), the first city you will find is Lobito, where you will reach via the EN100. From Luanda, you will pass by the main towns of Cabo Ledo, Porto Amboim or Sumbe on a road where the landscape is completely green and very different from the southern part of the coast of Angola. From Luanda to Lobito, there are a total of 510 kilometers to cover in about 6-7 hours.
What to do in Benguela and Lobito?
– Walk through the center of Benguela and enjoy the evening at Praia Morena
Benguela is a paradise for walking. A city of wide avenues where you can easily reach the center of the city on foot, you can visit the Teatro Monumental; the Archaeological Museum, which is one of the oldest buildings in the city and where slaves were “kept” until they were sent to the new continent; the cathedral of Fatima with its triangular structure and the 17th century church of Pópulo built with stones from Brazil that ships carried when they returned from carrying slaves; the Palacio das Bólas of 1920…
Once you are tired of so many walks and so many monuments, in the evening we advise you to go to the promenade of Praia Morena and you will see the activity that this part of the city takes during the sunset or on weekends: families walking, friends listening to music and dancing, children swimming on the beach, people doing sports… Sit on one of the terraces drinking a Cuca or a N’gola (Angola beers) and enjoy the sunset.
– Visit the three most beautiful beaches near Benguela: Baía Farta, Baía Azul and Caotinha
These three beaches located south of Benguela are some of the bests in the area. To get there, you will have to drive 17 kilometers to the south, and once you find the turnoff that goes to Dombe Grande, turn off towards the sea to find these three beautiful places that are usually very crowded during the weekend. If you want to stop before for eating or drinking, Tudo na Brasa, located about 3 kilometers on the outskirts of the city of Benguela towards the beaches, is an ideal place as they make all kinds of traditional Angolan food and also of Portuguese origin, with a very cheap dish of the day.
The farthest beach from Benguela, about 25 kilometers away, is Baía Farta, a completely fishing village that enjoys a long beach where fishermen gather to paint their boats, sell fish, fix nets… There, in no hurry, you can see how local life revolves around the sea.
Baía Azul is the most touristy beach of the three. There are many houses that are the second home of many Angolans who are going to spend the summer there and you will also find many restaurants where you can eat good grilled fish. You can swim on the beach and enjoy a nice walk as you approach some of the cliffs and unwind during your trip along the Angolan coast.
Finally, Caotinha beach is, for us, the beach we liked the most. Located next to Caota, the beaches of Caotinha are transparent and pristine, without too many people and where the desert cliffs meet the ocean. A very quiet place to swim in its calm waters and rest in a truly amazing place.
– Visit the town of Dombe Grande
The coast of Angola is not all beaches and villages by the sea. You can also find some beautiful local towns, such as Dombe Grande. This town is located about 60 kilometers south of Benguela, and is a small oasis in the middle of the arid terrain of this part of Angola.
Dombe Grande is a town that we really liked because of the life it breathes. It is a very agricultural place due to the large presence of water, and this is noticeable with the landscape. There is also the Coporolo River where people live, whether it’s washing clothes, washing dishes, carrying water at home or taking a shower.
– Stroll through the Lobito Peninsula
Lobito is a rather chaotic city, where you will only find peace of mind if you visit the small arm that protrudes into the water, and which is surrounded on the east by the Baía do Lobito (and where there is a project to build one of the major ports in the country) and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. There, on this small peninsula, are the main restaurants and lodges, as well as many of the rich houses in the city.
You can walk along Lobito Beach and enjoy a drink in one of the various bars and restaurants on the beachfront. You can also stroll through the inner streets to see Lobito Bay. As a curiosity, in this small part of Lobito you can find, in a roundabout, one of the most iconic ships in the country: the Zaire ship.
This ship is the one used by José Eduardo dos Santos on 7th November 1961. The one who was, years later, president of the country fled into exile with six other comrades heading to the DRC Congo crossing what was known as the Zaire river. There, and in the context of the armed struggle in which the country was subjected, he coordinated the movement of the MPLA, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (if you want to know more about the recent history of this country, click here). It took them 7 days to reach their destination, and once the war was over, this ship has been preserved as a national symbol for many Angolans in the town of Lobito.
Where to sleep in Benguela and Lobito?
We were in this area for a whole week because we found some friends who wouldn’t let us go. We slept in his house, with totally hospitable people and to whom we are very grateful. Here are some of the accommodations we found on the Internet in case you’re interested:
– Nancy’s Guesthouse: Located in the center of Benguela, this guest house has double suite rooms at a price of 6.000-8.000 Kwanzas. It has a car park and is within walking distance of the beach and the center. You can find more information on their website.
– Casa Rosa Hotel Residence: This small hotel located on the Lobito Peninsula is a good budget option if you want to spend the night in the city. Located in a quiet area, it has single rooms for about 7.000 Kwanzas and double rooms for about 10.000 Kwanzas. For more information, you can call +244 997 700 701.
The Sumbe area is an area less known to the country’s tourism industry, but it has a few gems to discover that we believe can be a good stopover on the way north or south of Angola’s coast, depending on the direction you go. The town of Sumbe, also known as Novo Redondo, does not have much to offer but around its surroundings you can visit some beautiful waterfalls in a different environment and one of the largest caves in the country, in the region of Kwanza – Sul.
How to get there?
Sumbe is a maritime town located about 180 kilometers north of Lobito. To get there, you will have to follow the EN100 on a paved road that passes through a greener landscape than the south of Angola and pass through the beautiful town of Kikombo. If you are coming from the north, Luanda, the best way to get to Sumbe is to take the EN100 coastal road that passes through Cabo Ledo and Porto Amboim. From Luanda, there is a distance of 330 kilometers on a good road that you can cover in 4 to 5 hours.
As we have said, however, in Sumbe we find the main tourist attractions around it, that is, in Binga and in the Sassa caves. To get to Binga, you have to drive on the EN240 from the north of Sumbe and do not turn off towards Porto Amboim when you find the turnoff about 15 kilometers from the city. From this detour, Binga is about 27 kilometers away which you can do in 20-30 minutes on a beautiful asphalt road that has a few holes in the middle of the road. Also, you can reach Binga via Gabela and Quibala which are already inland.
To get to the Sassa Caves, you will have to pass the town of Sumbe and just south of this town, when you find the junction that goes to the EN100 towards Lobito and which is next to two large hotels, turn and drive along the EN245 until you reach the turnoff after 7 kilometers, which will take you to the Sassa caves. From here, the road turns to a gravel road, passing a few houses until after a kilometer you have to leave the car and head to the caves on foot. You can go there without a guide, although you will find many children who will want to accompany you for a small tip for food or money.
What to do in Sumbe?
– Drive along the beautiful scenic road to Cachoeiras do Binga and have a picnic there
These waterfalls, located a few kilometers from Sumbe and close to the hot springs near Conda, are a good half-day excursion to discover the area. The road follows the course of the river Keve, which floods fertile fields among palm trees and passes through green hills of vegetation. A very beautiful route where, suddenly, in the distance, you will see the small but imposing waterfalls of Binga that stand on a cliff.
The Parque das Cachoeiras is the closest area where you will have a good view of the two waterfalls and depending on the flow of the river you can swim in it. But first, always asks the people there to see if there are any crocodiles near the area. To enter the waterfalls, you will have to pay an entrance fee of 250 Kwanzas per person. It has a large barbecue and picnic area, and also for the laziest, a restaurant where you can order something to eat. There is the possibility of camping right next to the river.
Visiting the Cachoeiras do Binga is a beautiful excursion to do during your tour of the coast of Angola and enjoy different landscapes and beautiful villages that are very close to the ocean.
– Enter into the Grutas da Sassa as if you were the first explorer to discover them
The Sassa Caves are about 3 km east of the town of Sumbe in Kwanza-Sul province. They have a mysterious and mystical air, and it is a very important area for the locals. You can visit them yourself, but think that when you get to the top where you will leave the car, you will find many children who will want to accompany you to the caves. Even if you tell them no, they will follow you while they stare at all the details of your clothes, your face, your skin and your hair…
The hike starts from the town of Sassa where you will have to go down the mountain right to the level of the bed of the Cambongo river that flows into Sumbe. After descending these almost 100 meters of elevation gain along a path of about 2 kilometers, you will see the imposing entrance to the cave: a triangular hole. This cave is also known by locals as Gruta Santa or Furnas de Deus. It is also said that in the past it served as a refuge for many people who did not want to pay taxes. There are also a number of oral stories and legends surrounding these caves about magical creatures that inhabit them.
Once inside, darkness, humidity, and cold will overwhelm you. You will need to open the flashlight and your eyes will begin to get used to the darkness. Once done, you can start enjoying the place: stalactites and stalagmites, limestone rock walls with ripples formed by the erosion of the river that passed through there, noises of bats… In fact, the excrement of these bats they are collected by farmers in the area and used as fertilizer for their land.
The Grutas da Sassa are a wonder still unknown to many people in the country that if you get the chance to discover, you will feel like Indiana Jones discovering totally intact places in Angola.
Cabo Ledo is one of the most beautiful destinations on the coast of Angola. It is a fishing village that has pristine and beautiful beaches, next to cliffs. Located a relatively short distance from Luanda, the weekend is usually full of people going to unwind and rest on the fabulous beaches in this area, thanks in part to the different tourist infrastructure we find.
It is an ideal destination for those who like to surf, as in Cabo Ledo we find Praia dos Surfistas. But it’s not just about this sport. On this beach, you can also go for long walks while watching the sunset, or head to Cabo Ledo Beach to see how the fishermen live and work.
Cabo Ledo is located in one of the most important national parks in the country, such as the Quissama NP. This national park was born in 1957 as it used to be a game reserve. From “Operation Noah’s Ark”, animals were transported from other surplus African parks and reintroduced to the park. Nowadays you can see elephants, the Sable antelope, buffaloes, seasonal birds …
If you do not want to enter the Quissama NP, you can drive on a half-day excursion along some of the paved roads that cross this large area and go to some iconic towns in the country such as Muxima, located on the banks of the river Kwanza and that stands out for being the Lourdes of France or the Montserrat of Catalonia, a town of pilgrimage for Catholics to go and worship their Virgin.
Cabo Ledo is a great destination if you want to spend a few days in an accommodation that has all the services, unwind, rest, enjoy the beach and go on short trips to discover the surroundings of this part of the coast of Angola.
How to get there?
Cabo Ledo is located 113 kilometers south of Luanda, following the EN100. You can drive this distance for about 2 hours, passing by the Miradouro da Lua and the Barra da Kwanza, which we will explain below.
If you come from the south, Cabo Ledo is located about 220 kilometers along a paved coastal road that passes through Porto Amboim and the entrance of the Quissama NP where you will not have to pay any entrance, as it is a public road for everyone. The journey from Sumbe to Cabo Ledo can take between 2 and a half hours and 3 hours.
You can also go to Cabo Ledo from inland. Just 10 km north of this town, there is a road that goes to Muxima until you reach the town of Catete, which is located on the same line as Luanda. This road (the EN110) is a total of 173 kilometers, of good asphalt, and with a very dense landscape of trees (passes, partly, by the Quissama NP) that you can cover in almost 3 hours. Then, from Catete you can go directly to the Malanje region without having to go through the capital (if you want to know more about our experience in this region, you can click here).
What to do in Cabo Ledo?
The main activities we highlight if you are in this area are:
– Enjoy the beauty of Praia dos Surfistas
Praia dos Surfistas is one of the most popular beaches in Angola. This is a beach located next to a cliff and from where you can enjoy a nice walk on the sand while contemplating the landscape around you.
This area is beginning to be known by surfers, who say that the waves and the layout of the beach are ideal for surfing. It is a good place to rest, swim and unwind during your holiday in Angola.
– Watch the sunset from the top of Praia do Surfistas or Carpe Diem
Praia do Surfistas is located under a cliff overlooking the sea. If you want and have time, you can go up the mountain to see the sunset in the foreground, right in front of you. There, as the view is focused on the west, you can see the sun fading behind the Atlantic Ocean, with a setting that is sure to leave you indifferent.
If you don’t have the time or strength to climb to the top of the Praia do Surfistas viewpoint, you can also watch the sunset from the beach or from the Carpe Diem, on some of its swings or tables facing the sea. A magical and special place in this country as unknown as Angola.
– Visit the fishing beach of Cabo Ledo
Just past Carpe Diem Lodge, you will find another beach full of wooden boats and fishermen. It is the local beach of Cabo Ledo where you can enjoy marine life in every way: you can see how the nets are collected, how the boats are taken out of the sea, how they are fixed and how they are painted, how some fishermen rest waiting for going to work again and how families live by the sea.
Cabo Ledo is not only an idyllic place for tourists, but also a local village where you can talk to fishermen and their families to understand the importance of the sea and fishing for many people in Angola, a country where precisely one of the most important riches it has comes from the animals of the sea.
– Visit Muxima Church by the Kwanza River
Further away from Cabo Ledo, and inland, there is a visit that can be made in one day to go back and forth as is the visit to Muxima. Muxima is one of the most sacred towns in Angola due to the presence of the Church of Our Lady of the Conception, located next to the Kwanza River.
This 16th-century Portuguese colonial-style church was an important center of the Angolan slave trade. Therefore, around it you can also discover a small fort that served to protect this space. There, in the church, the Portuguese baptized slaves before being deported to the new colonies.
Today, the church of Muxima receives hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the country, who come to make offerings to Mama Muxima, where legend has it that she miraculously appeared twice in the early 16th century. In fact, she is the patron saint of Angola and celebrates her festivity every 8th September.
– Visit the Quissama NP
Quissama National Park is the largest and most important park in the country. It was formed as a reserve in 1938, but its history has been quite tragic due to poaching but mainly civil war. During the last years of the twentieth century and in the midst of the country’s civil war, many animals were slaughtered and the park was almost abandoned with very little animal presence. Therefore, if you visit the Quissama NP you will see very little animal presence, but this will change soon as an attempt is being made to preserve this space today with the reintroduction of new species that previously lived in Quissama. A slow work that we hope will bear fruit in a few years so that we can enjoy wildlife in a country as complete as Angola.
Where to sleep in Cabo Ledo?
– Carpe Diem: This accommodation is the best place to stay if you visit Cabo Ledo and its surroundings. Managed by Paulo Sergio, a very close man with many projects and a fan of surfing, it offers different cabins, bungalows and camping space in an environment located on the seafront. You will find restaurants with very good food, very attentive staff, a swimming pool and different sun loungers to lie down and relax in front of the beach. It also has a campsite located right on Praia do Surfistas for those who want to camp on the beachfront and in a more unspoilt and remote environment. For more information, see their website here.
BARRA DO KWANZA AND MIRADOURO DA LUA
75 km south of Luanda is the mouth of one of Angola’s longest rivers: the Kwanza River. Around the river there are several restaurants and hotels located in this magnificent place ideal for sport fishing. In addition, you can find some animals that take advantage of the vegetation that grows around the river to feed, such as baboons. It is a common destination for weekend getaways from many people in the capital Luanda. You can go for walks along the river and its mangroves, as well as go fishing, stroll along the beach, relax… A good stop during your trip along the coast of Angola.
About 15 kilometers north of the mouth of the Kwanza River, we find yellowish ocher rock formations that almost collide with the Atlantic Sea and are a marvel of nature. This lunar-like landscape, hence the name Miradouro de Lua, originated from wind and rain erosion for centuries.
These cliffs are a tricolor karst formation that form sharp pinnacles. With walls of sand and clay cut in the shape of stalagmites it is a landscape that looks totally from another planet. An amazing place! This was the setting for the film “O Miradouro da Lua”, the first Portuguese-Angolan film co-production, which tells the story of a young man from Lisbon who arrives in Angola looking for his father he does not know, and who at the end of the film, on the grand stage of Miradouro da Lua, he decides to stay in Angola.
The best time to go there is said to be during sunset, which is when the reddish and ocher colors become more powerful thanks to the warm sunlight. We, due to logistic aspects, could not visit it during this time, but really the scenery is just as beautiful.
Unfortunately, this landscape is at very high risk of disappearing due to the great erosion of these years, but it seems that conservation work has now begun. But remember that it is up to all of us to preserve it, so when you go there do not throw rubbish or mark your name on the walls. It is thanks to all that this little piece of the moon will continue in Angola!
How to get there?
To get to Barra do Kwanza and its mouth, you have to follow the EN100 along the coast of Angola. From Cabo Ledo, it is about 40 kilometers away; while from Luanda it is about 75 kilometers. Please note that in order to cross the bridge over the Kwanza River, you will have to pay a cash fee of 500 Kwanzas per vehicle.
15 km north of the Kwanza River and following the EN100 itself, you will find the Miradouro da Lua viewpoint, where you can stop and get out of the car to see a unique and different landscape of the Angolan coast. From there, you’ll be within shorter distance (about 60 km) of Luanda, the country’s capital.
Luanda is the third most populous Portuguese-speaking city in the world, and one of the major cities on the African continent. Considered one of the most expensive cities in Africa, there you can see the great inequality that exists in Angola, with avenues and skyscrapers that look like you are in New York, but on the other hand you find neighborhoods and housing of aluminum sheet where most of the Angolan population lives.
Luanda is a city with constant evolution and many investment projects that make it a very attractive city for business. In fact, Angola is a country that is very rich in both fishing and diamonds and this makes the capital a place where the richest people in the country is concentrated. Anyway, if you walk around, and like all the big cities, be on the lookout for theft.
We passed by the Luanda ring road (the Via Expresso) in order to continue our journey along the coast, and we did not stop in the big capital. Many times, and driving our own car during this sabbatical year through Africa, we try to avoid some of the big cities, and so we did with Angola. However, if you arrive by plane or want to stop to visit this metropolis, we leave you with an article which explain some of the main activities to do in Luanda.
PRAIA DO SARICO AND BARRA DO DANDE
Praia do Sarico is the largest shipyard in the world. You can find more than thirty ships that have been destroyed over time, corroded by wind and salt water. Located in the north of Luanda, it is a must stop on the Angolan coast.
There are different versions of how these boats ended up on this beach: some fishermen say that once abandoned in the port of Luanda they were brought here as a dump, others say that when the boats are old many boat owners would benefit more to leave the ship in the open sea and be carried away by sea currents. And there are those who go further, and say that these ships were stranded on this beach strategically during the civil war, 30 kilometers from the capital, by the mass transport of weapons.
Despite not knowing the exact reason, it is true that on this beach there is a mystical and curious atmosphere with the presence of these ghost ships. As you get closer to it, you realize its great dimensions and the splendid past they must have been crossing oceans. Some rest in the sand stranded, others are probably already submerged under the sea.
Close to Praia do Sarico is the town of Barra do Dande, which is a good choice if you want to eat fresh fish from the area. We visited the restaurant Aldeamiento Turístico Passargada (+244 930 549 220) and ate mufete, a typical local dish consisting of grilled fish accompanied by beans with palm oil, cassava, fried banana and sweet potato which is eaten mostly on Saturdays or in celebrations.
Praia do Sarico, also known as Cementerio dos Navios, is a different place from the rest of Angola’s coast because there you can observe the country’s past through the sunken boats in front of its beach. If you visit that area, keep in mind that it is next to a military area, so you better try not to use drones if you don’t want to get in trouble with the military.
How to get there?
To get to Praia do Sarico, it is recommended to go by 4×4 vehicle because you will have to drive along the beach until you reach the sunken boats. From Luanda, take the EN100 road to Caxito. After crossing the bridge over the river Bengo, you will have to drive 6 kilometers past the side of the Panguila Lagoon until you find a turnoff where you will have to deviate and continue in a straight line and parallel to the sea for about 5 kilometers for a gravel road until you reach a turnoff to your left. From there, you will pass through a marshier area and after 1 kilometer and 200 meters from the turnoff, you will have to turn right, following the path that will take you to the first line of the beach. There, the best thing to do is ask the fishermen how to get there.
To get to Barra do Dande, you must first reach the town of Sassalemba, and then turn left onto the EN100A towards the sea for a distance of 28 kilometers and a road that, despite having some holes, is in good condition.
We traveled around Angola in January 2022, when it was still closed due to the COVID pandemic. We were lucky enough to be able to enter there via the Namibian border, and we followed the coast from south to north until we headed towards Malanje. We made a lot of friends during our trip, and we were with them for a few days as is the case with Namibe or Benguela. Then, seeing that we could not continue norther, we retreated again to return to Namibia and modify our route that we had planned for the African continent. The hospitality of this country surprised us positively, so on our way back to Namibia we went back to the coast to repeat some stops to greet our friends. Therefore, below we will explain only our route from south to north:
DAY 1: After our first three days in the tribal part of southern Angola and Lubango, we had to head back to the sea. We didn’t see it from the south of Namibia, so we were looking forward to it! After enjoying the scenery of the Sierra de Leba, just outside Lubango, we had to leave the mountains to go to the desert plain of Angola towards Namibe, also known as Moçamedes.
We arrived in Namibe at lunchtime, enough time to go to the gas station to fill the deposit, and have lunch at a local South African who came to greet us and, by chance, with whom we would end up living for two days at his home for free on our return to Lubango.
After lunch, we headed to Flamingo Lodge, where we were met by Hannes and Simoné, the managers of the place, and with whom we arranged a trip to Bahia dos Tigres. An experience that we really wanted to live, excited but with respect at the same time because we had no experience driving on sandy terrain, and more between the dunes and the sea. However, we really got experience driving to Flamingo Lodge…a very sandy road!
We stopped to lower the tires pressure, and luckily, we did, because the road was very sandy, and many times we had to make our way. What’s the trick? Well, we who had driven almost nothing on this kind of terrain, it was gas and gas and more gas… Suddenly, when we had been driving for a while, we saw the sea and the lodge from a distance. We had to drive to the beach to get there, so our car made the last effort of the day and we arrived at Flamingo Lodge.
There, we had a few beers with Hannes and Simoné, who had malaria a few days before and was recovering. The next day we would go with Hannes, a group from Angola and a group of Turkish to Baia dos Tigres, driving through the desert. When Hannes told us that the road to Baia dos Tigres was not as bad as the one we had taken to get to Flamingo Lodge, we were calmer!
We took the opportunity to swim on the beach. We saw the sea again after a few weeks! We were accompanied by a puppy who was eager to play, and between sunset photos and trying to chase the dog, the afternoon passed quickly.
In the evening, from a distance, we saw two more cars arrive: they were the group of Turkish we were waiting for. It turns out that the car was driven by the Turkish ambassador of Angola, accompanied by his wife and son and two other members of his team, such as the consul and the chief financial officer. Very nice people to talk to and with whom we could talk about many topics and have a great time together.
After dinner, Hannes told us the whole plan for the next two days, so we had to go to sleep in one of the oceanfront cabins because the day after, we had to get up early the next morning to be at the critical point (Death Acre) when it’s low tide and so avoid, as they came out in some photos, some cars stranded and with sea water under their wheels while going up the level… Let the adventure begin!
DAY 2: We got up early, and after breakfast while it was daylight, we drove to the town of Tômbua. It was time to make our way back to the main road via the sandy road we had made the day before, but now we had Hannes opening the way for us… Unfortunately, the Turkish people got stuck with their car, and Hannes told us to drive alone to the main road. We only had time to say ok, because he had already left quickly with the car to rescue the other car, so we were again alone in front of the sandy abyss in front of us. Luckily, we were able to follow some of the previous day’s ruts and arrived safely (and without getting stuck) to the main road.
After a while, the Turkish and Hannes arrived. Finally, they would leave one of the cars in Tômbua and they would go as passengers of another vehicle that would take them to Bahia dos Tigres. So, after stopping to buy food at a local market with was very crowded, we arrived at the gas station to fill up the gas tank and lower the tire pressure to 1. The wheels were very deflated, but it was already this to be able to pass quickly through the sand.
We were all ready to go to Baia dos Tigres. The group was formed by us and our car; Hannes with his car and a trailer carrying the zodiac that would take us to São Martinho dos Tigres; the Turkish with one of the cars; Ludy, a boy from Lubango who came with his 4×4 to take the other Turkish passengers with them; three people from Namibe who came with their 4×4 also to do the route with us; and a security car with four workers who would prepare the food and help Hannes with all the management.
Hannes was suffering because we had wasted a lot of time trying to get the Turkish car off the road, and we were a little late considering the tide schedule. So, we quickly went through the entrance process to the Namib Desert Park area of Angola, and started driving through the sand of the beach and trying to dodge the remnants of the water coming from the waves. in order not to fill the car with salt.
Each time we advanced, we had the dunes closer until we reached the Death Acre and there, we passed over wet sand between the sea and the desert. The feeling of having the immensity of the sand of the dunes and the water of the ocean is hard to describe: it was a spectacular landscape we had never seen in that way, so wild, virgin, natural, and we were there with our car after more than five months driving around Africa. What a moment of happiness!
After passing this critical point, we drove along the coast until we came to a wooden camp that was under a desert dune. There we left the cars and while they put together all the sleeping equipment with mattresses and sacks, we were able to share our feelings with our fellow travelers.
A few minutes later, Hannes came to pick us up to take us to the island of São Martinho dos Tigres with the zodiac. We would go with two groups to make the journey of about 30 minutes to reach one of the villages that was one of the most important fishing centers in the country but due to the erosion of the waves it separated from the mainland and was part of a new island where it has become a ghost and abandoned village.
When we were doing the boat trip it was amazing to see the perspective of the desert dunes from the water. Indeed, during our journey through Africa we had already walked through the desert, such as the dunes of Lamu in Kenya, the De Hoop Reserve in South Africa, or Sesriem in Namibia; but the view we had that day with that frame we had never enjoyed.
As we walked away from the desert, we approached an island with the silhouette of a church. As we approached, we could see more and more clearly the different factories, houses and buildings of what was known as São Martinho dos Tigres.
Hannes dropped us off while he went to pick up the rest of the group, so we were able to walk around the island. The first stop was the church, a very photogenic place that stood out in the middle of that sandy place. We went inside and saw the decadent style of that building. From there, stairs led up to the bell tower and from where you could have fantastic views of what that town had been like.
In Namibia, we had visited Kolmanskoop in the Lüderitz area, a mining village that was abandoned and almost buried by desert sand. And now, in Angola, we visited São Martinho dos Tigres, another abandoned village that, being on an island, still retains much of its buildings. We were able to enter the theater and see different houses, as well as walk on the sand with our bare feet in the water while imagining the life that town had only 60 years ag … Who would have imagined about 100 years ago that that town would become an island?
After wandering around this mystical and charming place for a while, we chatted with the group of Angolans who also came with us: Picas, Ismael and his uncle. They looked at the place with a certain nostalgia, probably aware of what it meant to their parents and grandparents. In fact, some of his relatives had lived on that island and this was their first time in São Martinho dos Tigres.
We headed back to the mainland and to the Baía dos Tigres, before passing through an area full of sea lions swimming next to our boat. The picture was beautiful: sea lions, the Atlantic Ocean and the Namib Desert in one snapshot. When we reached the desert again, as we were about to enter the sea for a swim, a dolphin joined the party and began to swim by jumping along the shore. It was impressive to be able to be there at that time and place, in a completely deserted area but with a lot of water; without any kind of infrastructure but with a lot of connection with nature; and totally isolated but very well accompanied by those animals and that landscape.
After lunch at camp, we had free time in the afternoon to walk through the dunes, drink beer and enjoy that unique setting where time seemed to stand still. We could see a jackal appearing and after climbing a dune, it disappeared on the horizon; and while Ludy was trying to get to unimaginable places he couldn’t get in with either the Turkish car or his car (he also asked us for the keys of our car because he said that with that Toyota we had he could get miles inside the desert, but we preferred not to leave the car as it was to remain our home for the next months of the trip), we took the opportunity to walk through the dunes and observe the beauty that we had around us: the vastness of the sea and the infinity of the desert in our eyes.
We watched the sunset, have a few beers with the Turkish people (in fact, we already drank more beers before) and went back for dinner by a large campfire. There, we talked about many things, such as music (taking advantage of the fact that Esteve had taken out the guitar to put a soundtrack to that moment of fire, desert and stars), the presence of China in Africa, or the future of Angola.
It was time to go to bed in the camp, with a wooden hut that had no roof but at least some protection from the wind and cold. We put ourselves in the sleeping bag and before going to bed we told ourselves, as we have done many times on this trip, that we were lucky to be able to get to Angola despite being locked up by Covid, to be able to coincide on a full moon day, to be able to travel with our car and to be able to enjoy that unique and incredible experience in the Namib Desert.
DAY 3: The next day, the first rays of light woke us up. As Hannes said the day before, you don’t need an alarm clock here because you wake up in the sunlight… And so, it was. We had to take into account, again, the timing of the tides to get back on the same route; so, we had breakfast and picked up before heading back to Tômbua. But first we had to take a photo of all the members of that expedition.
We returned to Tômbua slowly, as if we wanted that journey between the sea and the desert to last even longer. Now, we felt like experts in that field and we tried to enjoy every moment there. Before leaving the beach, we came to an area where a fishing boat had sunk, the result of a storm that could not be saved.
We went back to civilization, and there we said goodbye to Hannes, his team, the Angolans, and our fellow Turkish who had been great ambassadors for travel and whom we hoped to meet at other times. We would take the opportunity to visit different landscapes in the desert but which were also very special and located in the area of Tômbua.
First of all, we went to El Arco where years ago there was a lake of water but now due to the drought, it was too dry. There lives a village that used to make a living from the fish it fished in the lake and now those who remain are trying to survive as best they can in that desert area of Tômbua. Due to the presence of water during these centuries and the wind, some rocks have been eroded creating very curious formations such as an arch that gives its name to this place: The Arch of Tômbua.
We arrived and left the car, and immediately two local people, that were the ones who lived there, came from a distance and told us the story of this place (in exchange for a free tip). We went up to the Arc in question to see the panorama and imagine that place with water. In fact, that night we searched the internet for a photo to get an idea of how a landscape changes with or without water. And, unfortunately, El Arco had been without water for too long…
After El Arco, we went to Colinas following a path marked by Maps.me so as not to return to the main road. The roads were full of rocks, dry and arid, where we really had a hard time imagining being able to live there. We came across some trucks coming from looking for stones and sand, and after a while, trying to follow a sign that was completely erased but that was intuited to mark the destination we wanted to go, we arrived in Colinas, better known as Morros Vermelhos.
There, we entered a terrain full of rock formations that were up to 25 meters high and had been sculpted by the wind for thousands of centuries. Of reddish earth, they received the name of Morros Vermelhos by its color and form.
We were able to drive completely alone on paths that passed between those big rocks, and see a completely different landscape than what we had seen so far in Angola. How could those big stones be erected in that area? And it is that Angola is an immense country with a variety of spectacular landscapes.
We were back on the main road, and Esteve took the opportunity to pee next to the car when we suddenly saw a car approaching. It turns out they were Picas, Ishmael and his uncle (who was driving). The first two came smoking and with a half-empty wine box. These three Angolans we met the day before in Baía dos Tigres were very funny, friendly and beautiful people. We had shared many good moments with them, with laughter, reflections, dancing, music… And with that meeting, it seemed like we weren’t saying goodbye to them yet.
We followed them to Namibe and there we parted. They went to lunch at Vila Doroteia, the place where we would camp that night, and we took the opportunity to go to lunch on the promenade of Namibe and to clean the car completely to eliminate any trace of salt that could damage any part of the vehicle. We still had a long way to go and we had to take good care of it!
In the afternoon, we arrived at Vila Doroteia and met our friends with whom we continued to share cocktails, beers and food until late at night. They gave us a lot of advice and it was a lot of fun to get to know a little more about Angola through their experiences and also without paying anything. As always, if one day they come to Barcelona, we promise to do the same!
DAY 4: We got up at the campsite in Vila Doroteia, a lodge that was in front of the beach but was being renovated. In fact, the camping area was very deserted, but during all these months, it is also true that we had slept in much worse places. That day it was time to leave the city of Namibe and head to one of Angola’s most beautiful beaches, Praia do Soba.
That morning we went to visit Baía das Pipas, a bay with a very beautiful giant beach. When we got there, we put on our swimsuits to swim on the beach. Suddenly, a fisherman comes and tells us to be careful, that according to the restrictions of the covid, swimming is not allowed on any beach in Angola. We had no idea and had swum in the desert, but obviously there was no police check there.
And that fisherman was there not to forbid us to swim, but to warn us that a few meters away came two policemen who were watching to ensure that the regulations were fully complied with. We changed again and sat in front of the beach as we greeted the two policemen coming in front of us. Beside us were a few fishing boats that had come to spend the night at sea and carrying a lot of fish that the women were carrying in different basins. Some were also swimming, so they rushed out of the water when they saw the police. Another of the effects of the pandemic in Africa that we had to live in the first person!
Baía das Pipas was a place we liked a lot, because there was a very local atmosphere with a lot of fishermen. But a little further north, we find the town of Mucuio which are a total of no more than 20 houses that live in front of the sea and also work in fishing. We drove there, and stopped at the entrance of that small village to walk along its main street, see the school, and meet some isolated fisherman who was preparing nets to go fishing and women and children who they were waiting for their husbands and parents who had gone out with the boat to do their daily work: to venture out into the Atlantic Ocean to make a living with the fish they would catch.
From Mucuio we continued driving towards Praia do Soba. We took a road that marked the Maps.me, and it really was a route in quite poor condition, with rocks and stones, but with a very beautiful landscape with the sea next to it. Suddenly, in the distance, we saw a shining line and as we approached, we saw a very well paved road coming out of Namibe. It was the road we had to take to keep going north to the coast of Angola … Thanks to Maps.me for taking us along those roads!
Praia do Soba and Praia Mariquita are two of the most iconic beaches in the country. If you ask someone in Angola (obviously high-class people because they are the ones who can afford to travel) to tell you the best beaches in the country, one of these two is sure to tell you. After driving a few kilometers on the tarmac, we reached the turnoff to Praia do Soba, Piambo and Praia Mariquita. Since we wanted to sleep at the Praia Soba campsite, we went to see the other beach first.
The road to get there, even if it is only 20 kilometers, is very slow, as the topography of the terrain forces you to do so. But the landscape is very beautiful… We arrived at Praia Mariquita, and there we saw a sign that said it was a private beach. We went to the reception and asked if we could go see the beach, and a guy told us to wait. He came back with bad news: it turns out that being a private beach, if we didn’t consume anything we couldn’t get in. We came from a completely free, natural and wild Angola, and now, in Praia Mariquita, we had been set rules and we couldn’t see the beach and its surroundings.
We decided to return, and headed straight for Praia do Soba. We had already written to Andrea and Chris, the owners of the lodge, who had greeted us very kindly, so we went there… We arrived at the Praia do Soba, which is at the top of the rock -seat with unbeatable views of the Angolan coast. There, we introduced ourselves, and then we had to drive down a very steep slope to go down to the beach and camp just below one of the steep rocks. We have slept in many places, but none like that…
We took advantage of the afternoon to take a swim (without getting too far away because the sea current was very strong and really dragged you across the sea), and watch the sunset from one end of the beach where there was a spiked rock in the middle of the sea. From there, the sunset was awesome! And then we went to cook dinner when, suddenly, the fridge made a noise and smoke started coming out of the engine…
We immediately turned off the fridge and looked to see what was going on. We didn’t know a lot about electricity, so we tried it again and smoke came out again. Something had burned, we didn’t know it was, but the fridge had stopped working. And we still had months of travel left… Traveling without a refrigerator is an inconvenience and we could have done it. The problem is that Esteve is carrying all the insulin of the trip from the diabetes there, and they need to be kept in a cool place. So, we went to drop them off at the Praia do Soba lodge, thinking about finding a solution for the next few days.
Despite this latest incident with the refrigerator, we had discovered one of Angola’s treasures that day: Praia do Soba, which is in a remote place surrounded by cliffs. Definitely one of the most beautiful beaches on the coast!
DAY 5: We got up early on Praia do Soba beach to go for a walk by the sea and take some pictures. It seems a lie how the colors of the cliffs and rocks can change from day to afternoon… After picking up the whole car, we continued on our way. We wanted to go to sleep in Benguela so we could find a solution to the issue of the refrigerator; but first we would pass by Piambo, which was hundreds of meters north of Praia do Soba but to get there you had to drive about an hour. That’s what it’s like when you come across a steep coastline full of cliffs.
When we arrived in Piambo, we didn’t know that we would experience one of the scenes where we were most afraid of the trip that day. We had been told that there were some natural pools forming at low tide, so we left the car near Piambo beach and went down from the top of the cliff. There, there were some women who were washing clothes right next to the wetlands. We tried to communicate with them in Portuguese, but they didn’t speak much of it; so, we went through the wetlands in search of these pools.
If they were poolside by the sea, they couldn’t be so inland. Just as we were thinking about where we could find them, a woman appeared with her daughter on her back and luckily, we were able to understand each other and she told us to follow her, that she was also going to the pool area. We passed again in front of the women who were doing the laundry, and we followed the coast, passing between rocks and climbing cliffs until we reached a lighthouse. From there, the pools were a few hundred meters to the south.
The woman showed us from above where the pools were. It turns out that her husband was also fishing in that area, and she was going to help him. We went to get the car to get it closer to where we were, as the heat was starting to get stifling, and we went down to swim in Piambo’s natural pools.
There, we could see several pools… Some were already covered by water, because the waves were strong that day; and others were still quiet. It was nice to enjoy a place like this, where you could hear the noise and the force of the sea, but you were protected by the space between the different rocks. There, you only need only to watch over of one thing: the sea urchins.
When we were in the water for a while, relaxed, we didn’t notice that a wave was coming from the sea that was much bigger than the others. We turned our backs on the sound of the sea until we saw the fisherman standing on a rock suddenly rise.
At that moment, which should have been a few seconds, a wave passed over the natural dike of the rocks and reached the pools, dragging with all its might everything in front of it. And there was Esteve, whom he dragged a few meters to the rocks. Luckily, Esteve had time to protect his head, although he received some blows from the rocks, which turned blue and scratched. Laia, fortunately, was further away but she also was little injured by the rocks.
After this first wave, Esteve came out as best he could, with his flip flops also floating on the water of the impulse of that wave. It was time to flee from those pools, where the danger was not only the sea urchins, but also the force of the sea. And the fact is that you always have to respect the sea. And even more so when traveling off the coast of Angola.
After this moment that luckily ended in nothing, we decided to leave and make our way to Benguela. The route passed through very beautiful towns such as Bentiaba and Lucira; with a road that was surprisingly new and paved. Then, from Lucira to the north, there were 85 kilometers of land that passed between mountains. We went inland, and for a few moments we left the shore, which was inaccessible to see unless you went by boat.
The landscape after Lucira was very different: mountains and gravel roads that shook the car, full of trucks and works (trying to pave this whole route); tribal groups such as the Mucubals who walked in search of water for their pastures; a horizon where you could visualize the next kilometers; and a lot of heat. We had lunch in the middle of nowhere, and when the tarmac came back, we fell in love with a town: Dombe Grande.
Dombe Grande is located about 60 kilometers south of Benguela, and is a small oasis of water and vegetation throughout the landscape we have seen so far in southern Angola. Before arriving, you can see the village from the top of a hill; and then the road follows some curves until you go down to the village of Dombe Grande that you cross in the middle if you go to Benguela. There, we could see some very beautiful houses, with very smiling people living on the street, and at the end a river full of life: not only water, but children playing, women washing clothes, men showering… A very beautiful scene during our journey to Benguela.
Since we had some fun at Dombe Grande, we arrived late for our meeting in Benguela. We had stayed with Tozé, a contact that Dio of Windhoek gave us, so we could stay one night at his home. We wrote to WhatsApp (when there was coverage) and told him we would be there at 6pm. The problem was that we were half an hour late.
Before reaching Benguela, we stopped at a corner of the road to fill the tank with the extra diesel can we were carrying and thus ensure that we would reach our final destination, when suddenly we saw two motorcycles passing and stopping: they were Tozé and Copper, with whom we had stayed, and who had worried for us and had come to meet us. After greeting us with the engine running, we followed them until we reached the Tudo na Brasa, a restaurant located before the city, and where we made beers and tapas while explaining the trip and sharing adventures and anecdotes.
After drinking the beer “de la porta” several times, we finally went to Tozé’s house, where we met his neighbors and we were chatting until the wee hours of the morning. At first, our intention was to stay one night in Benguela, but we finally stayed there for a whole week!
DAY 6-7-8-9-10-11: Tozé and Copper are two very nice people we were very lucky to meet on our way. They welcomed us as if we were his family, and we are very grateful to them. We were told that those who came with them to Benguela did not leave so easily; and so, it was.
We spent more days drinking beers in Tudo na Brasa; one day we cooked a paella for the whole group; another day we were taught how to cook Calulu, one of the typical Angolan dishes; they helped us find a solution for the fridge (which we finally couldn’t fix because it was a compressor problem); we went for a walk on Praia Morena while having a drink at sunset; one night we were able to make music with Zebeato, a musician from Angola with whom we had a great evening; we visited the fishing beach of Baía Farta; Tozé introduced us to Lobito; we went to discover some of the beaches of Benguela like Praia Caotinha or Baía Azul, where we could enjoy a swim in crystal clear waters … In short, in Benguela we lived some amazing days surrounded by all this great family.
During that week, we had another sample of the great hospitality we experienced during our stay in Angola. Now, in Benguela, we have a few friends to meet in Angola or somewhere else in the world. Thanks!
DAY 12: It was time to say goodbye to Benguela… But during our return trip, we went there again. And then in Namibe and Tômbua we all met again: us with the car and the gang of “Motard Rebeldes” with motorcycles. We had to keep exploring the coast of Angola and the next stop was at Cabo Ledo.
Along the way, we passed Sumbe, an area we visited as we descended from north to south and which stands out for the Binga Cachoeiras, beautiful waterfalls that form on the Keve River and where we were able to bath; and the caves of Sassa, hidden caves on the outskirts of the city that we toured with the company of different children who showed us the way and with whom we were able to discover a mysterious but beautiful place.
But that day, we didn’t stop in Sumbe because Paulo Sergio had been waiting for us at Carpe Diem for days… Because in Benguela we kept saying “ok, one more night”; then we had to warn someone else we had talked to that we would be late one day. And we had heard a lot about Cabo Ledo, so we went straight there.
We arrived in Cabo Ledo in the afternoon and were able to enjoy a walk along one of the best beaches in the country: Praia dos Surfistas. With the company of two dogs, we walked during the sunset and swam in a place that totally invited us to relax. Then we had a good dinner and went to rest in an idyllic place.
Carpe Diem was Paulo Sergio’s lodge, and he offered us a room there. During the week, this accommodation is usually quite empty, but on weekends it is full of people coming from the capital to enjoy the beauty of those beaches in Cabo Ledo. After the hospitality of Benguela, it was time to enjoy the tranquility of the coast of Angola!
DAY 13: That day we took advantage of the morning to advance work on our website from an office that was the pool and sunbeds that were on the beachfront. Really, finding such places during the trip is appreciated, both for resting from so much driving and for advancing in the process of making the continent known to all those travelers who are encouraged to discover it.
After a morning of work, we went for a walk to the other beach: the beach in the village of Cabo Ledo where we could see the daily life of the fishermen. Like Baía das Pipas or Mucuio, fishermen took their boats out of the sea, some painted their wood and others rested on the beach sand. It was nice to see how in one place where one of the most beautiful beaches in Angola is on one side, there is also a highly recommended local beach to visit in the other side.
In the afternoon, we were lucky enough to talk to Paulo Sergio, the owner of the lodge who had a lot of ideas in mind. It was a beautiful evening with him, sharing his time and all his experience, and a very quiet and enjoyable day in Cabo Ledo, just 113 kilometers away from Luanda, one of the most populous capitals on the African continent.
DAY 14: Finally, to finish our first trip along the coast of Angola from south to north, that day we had to say goodbye to Carpe Diem (we went there again during our return to Namibia). We had stayed with Raquel and Fabio, a couple of Angolans, in Luanda to go and discover with them the area of Praia do Sarico and the Cementerio dos Navios; and then, in the afternoon, we wanted to make our way to the Malanje region, to discover Pungo Andongo and the Calandula waterfalls, the most spectacular we have seen in Africa.
Before reaching Luanda, however, we crossed the bridge over the mouth of the Kwanza River, one of the longest in the country; and we stopped next to the main road to see the Miradouro da Lua. Here we could see a completely lunar landscape, with sharp pinnacles of sand and clay cut in the shape of stalagmites and the seabed forming a scene from another planet. Also, there was no one in the early hours so we were able to fully enjoy a unique type of scenery that we had not yet seen during our trip to Angola.
After this stop at the Miradouro da Lua, we could already see that we were approaching the big capital. We started to see more cars, gas stations, overcrowded houses and a lot of people walking down the road. Benguela’s friends had told us to be careful when crossing into Luanda as we were driving a car with a foreign license plate which could be a candy for many people… So, we stopped to refuel before entering into the capital, and we met Raquel and Fabio on the Via Espresso in Luanda.
Once we got there, we found them in their 4×4 car and followed them north to Luanda. We passed through the outskirts of the city contemplating from a distance the skyscrapers of the promenade and a city that is one of the most expensive but most important metropolises on the African continent. And, of course, with the traffic, even if it was a Saturday, it was also noticeable…
After almost an hour of driving, we came to a gravel road junction and continued on to a beach where some fishermen were dragging their nets from the shore. There, Fabio told us if we had driven in the sand and we, happy and proud to have been to Baía dos Tigres and the Namib Desert, said yes and that we were already lowering the pressure on the wheels. We continued driving them along the beach until we came to a place where there were many fishing boats (some quite battered) sunk before our eyes.
It was amazing to see all those ships there. Some versions say they are there like a dump; others because the boats were old; and others because they were a strategic point for carrying weapons during the civil war. We don’t know for sure what the correct reason is, but what is certain is that all those ships sunk there have lived many stories and kept many secrets.
We haven’t told you about Raquel and Fabio yet. This young couple from Portugal working in Angola started following us on Instagram because they were also planning a year-long trip to Africa. Then, when we entered Angola, we wrote them down so that we could find and share experiences together. They were preparing all, they hadn’t said anything at work yet, but they were very excited about their project…
When we were at the Cementerio dos Navios, Fabio took out a drone and started flying it over the ships… Really, the aerial images that could be taken went far beyond any photo on our camera. We got in our car to take pictures from the drone with the boats when, suddenly, two men appeared from the beach waving at us and shouting at us.
Since we were the first car, we stopped; and they immediately, and in very bad ways, began to claim to us that we were in a military zone and that we could not fly drones. We act as we didn’t understand anything, but the angry soldier kicking the wheel made us get down and back. He asked for our passport, and we only gave him a photocopy because we didn’t trust any of those two men.
Raquel and Fabio also went downstairs to show that the images they had recorded were only of the boats, in order to convince them to let us keep moving forward. But they said the area was private and no one could pass. While they were arguing in Portuguese with the military (we didn’t talk much), we suddenly heard a car coming shouting, “Look, a car with a Spanish license plate!” Inside was a man and two women who worked at the ICEX (the public company that helps Spanish companies to export) in Angola and who had also come to visit Praia do Sarico. We quickly explained the situation to them, and they turned around, aware that they might have also problems there.
Fortunately, the problem with the military was solved as follows: Fabio left with one of the men to see the general, but he returned earlier because he was asked for some money to let us go and return the passports. And that’s how we were able to get out of that place… the African way many would say!
Anyway, we could enjoy the Praia do Sarico and Cementerio dos Navios, and we were continuing our route direction Barra do Dande, where we ate a very tasty and local dishes while we were talking with them about travel tips, our plans, the best experiences and the places we liked the most… And really, Angola and the coast of Angola was one of them!
After two weeks of touring much of the country’s coastline, it was time to head for the Malanje region. We left the Atlantic Ocean to go to a more tropical part of the country, but during those days on the coast we made great friends, had unique experiences, saw amazing beaches and enjoyed Angola like never before!