Angola Travel Blog. Angola recently relaxed their visa process, so I decided to check it out before they changed their mind.
Luanda was the most expensive city I’ve ever visited and travelling around Angola was costly. Unfortunately, this meant that my budget severely limited what I could see.
My travel blog on Angola starts with something abandoned.
Just north of Luanda is Shipwreck Beach, a long stretch of white sand with rusted skeletons of old ships resting slightly offshore.
Locally known as Praia de Santiago or Praia do Sarico, you can see dozens of old ships across the horizon.
There are many conflicting stories, but apparently in the 1970’s, old ships were towed to the area from Luanda Harbour. There were no decommissioning facilities, so the tides eventually pushed the ships onshore.
A mix of cargo boats, oil tankers and smaller fishing vessels, it is an abandoned explorers paradise.
I was easily able to get on board one of the larger ships in the area that was still relatively intact.
Over the years, many of the boats have been salvaged for scrap, but there is still a lot left to see.
Parts of the beach were fenced off – rumour has it that they are finally trying to clear up some of the ships.
Angola Travel – Luanda
In 2002, Angola finally ended a long and tragic civil war that lasted 27 years. Today, their economy is almost completely dependent on oil, which like many places on Earth created an inequality between the rich and poor.
There are new high rise towers cropping up across the city. People in slums still struggle to eat, while expats and government officials struggle to find adequate luxury housing.
According to my guesthouse, there were many areas of Luanda which were still not safe. Carrying your camera was also a risk due to theft and questioning by suspicious police. Only at a few of the main sights would it be OK to take some pictures.
Luanda does not have a wide variety of sights, but a good place to start is the Agostinho Neto Mausoleum. It is a monument, cultural centre and the final resting place of Angola’s first president. After many issues, the giant obelisk and mausoleum was eventually built with the help of North Korea.
While his body was originally mummified in a similar process to other communist leaders, it was not maintained and deteriorated during the fall of the Soviet Union and the later years of the Civil War.
His body is not on display, but you can enter the central chamber to see the black sarcophagus which contain his remains.
Kalandula Falls / Malanje Region
I’m a sucker for a waterfall, so I was quite excited to see Kalandula Falls in the Malanje Region – a breathtaking waterfall about a days drive from Luanda.
It was a pretty epic sight and well worth the drive…
Well… almost worth it. The driver had an unfortunate taste in music.
They were renovating a hotel nearby which will eventually have rooms overlooking the falls. It will be epic and I would have definitely stayed there if it was open.
You can view the falls from either side and even go on a very wet walk near it’s base.
Leaving Luanda you see the evidence and scars from the long civil war. A lot of recovering villages, but nothing of the riches of the capital. It is still recommended to keep to well worn paths and not wander off the road due to land mines.
Although the war ended in 2002, Angola is still one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. A lot of work is being done demining the country by organizations like The Halo Trust, however they still have a long and dangerous way to go.
To break up the journey back to Luanda, we made a few quick stops.
The Piedras Negras (Black Rocks) was a scenic place to stop for a lunch and nearby we also visit something known as Queen Nzinga’s Footprint. She was a 17th century queen, supposedly so powerful that she left an imprint of her foot on a rock in the region.
I think my driver was mostly excited about stopping in a town famous for it’s moonshine. To be honest, I ended up being pretty happy with it myself.
I smell a rat
We were on the home stretch now, but it was getting late so we stopped for dinner at a dusty crossroad with no name. It was the only restaurant in town. They served only one dish. Meat with rice. What meat? Paca apparently.
Normally I would google it, but there was no signal in town. Through process of elimination, I determined it was not chicken, cow or goat. But to be honest, I kind of knew what it was anyway.
They assured me that it was fresh local meat. Right.
I’ve done enough travelling to know that when an animal name doesn’t translate into English, it’s either endangered or it’s a rat.
The sauce was quite good, but the smell and chunks of flesh (and some hair still attached) made me think of the one time I had something called “labba” in Guyana. They referred to that as “jungle rodent” and it was the only other time I’ve smelled this specific stench. It literally smells like a rat. Lovely.
I had a few bites to be polite and then washed it down with a warm coke. The driver felt so bad, he took me to KFC to apologize once we got to Luanda. Thanks again for reading my travel blog on Angola.
Angola Travel – Useful Information
Visas: Formally a very difficult visa to obtain, Angola has recently relaxed their requirements. The embassy staff was friendly and helpful in London or you can get an eVisa online.
Airport: I was held at the airport for an hour due to some mystery issue with my yellow fever certificate. He wanted money for a jab or a new certificate. There was nothing wrong with my certificate, so I just waited him out until he eventually let me into the country. The taxi rates were insane at the airport, so I recommend booking a transfer with your hotel in advance.
Money: Kwanza Bank Rate / Kwanza Black Market Rate. There are two rates and there is quite a big difference between them. You can change money at the airport for slightly above the bank rate or go to the black market slightly outside the airport (ask a taxi driver). You will have to bargain hard to find decent rates.
After the airport, I couldn’t really find anywhere to change money except banks (but this will leave you with the low bank rate). There were ATM’s, but usually their daily limit was less than you would spend in a day. US Dollars were more useful than Euros.
Electrical Outlets: European outlets (usually).
Useful Tips: The Thompson Art House is the only main traveller guesthouse to stay. They are incredibly friendly and offer some tours of the surrounding area.
Language: Portuguese is really useful. Even a little Spanish helps. English is only spoken in touristy places in the capital.
Food: Stay away from the paca.