Distance driven: 3943km
Days spent: 37
Distance driven/day: 106,3km
Diesel price: 0,29€/l
Money spent: 1505€
We got our visas in Accra (Ghana). The embassy (N5 36.736 W0 11.219) is located in the main area of diplomatic representations but not signposted. The staffs were friendly and professional but also strict on requirements to obtain a visa. Applications are only accepted on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00-12:00 and visas can be picked up on Fridays. You actually keep your passport until Thursday when you have to come in to register fingerprints and pay the visa fee and thereby finish your application. The following is needed to obtain a one month single entry tourist visa:
3 passport photos with white (!) background
Filled out form provided by embassy
International driver license copy
Vehicle paper copy
Yellow fever certificate copy
Bank statement or copy of credit card (front suffices)
Letter of introduction explaining your situation and listing all the countries you will travel through
Itinerary describing your date of entry into Angola and places/sights you want to visit
Equivalent of 160US$ (116,80€) in Cedi (recently changed from US$ to Cedi)
Note that we were not allowed to place several copies on the same paper (e.g. driver license and yellow fewer certificate). The visa is valid for 2 months from date of issue which means you have to enter Angola before the expiry date and are then allowed to spend one month in the country. We tried everything to extend these 2 months or let them write down a later date of issue but to no avail. They were also not allowed to issue us with multiple entry visas which not long ago was still possible. On both matters several phone calls from different staff members were made with Luanda without results. As we want to enter into the Angolan enclave Cabinda first and do not want to use up our one month visa they provided us with a stamped and signed letter explaining our situation addressed to the Angolan consulates in Pointe Noire and Matadi. We will update later on the success or failure of us obtaining a transit visa for Cabinda.
As we had used up our tourist visa with the visit to Cabinda we applied for another one at the Angolan consulate (S5 49.707 E13 27.698) in Matadi. The staff here can be quite a piece of work but in the end we were successful. The one month single entry visa costs 101US$ (73€) and takes a week to process. However if you don’t want to wait they can issue an express visa. Fees for that are not really fixed as the regulations only say that “an express fee has to be charged”. We were quoted 200US$ (146€) instead of 101US$. Marc had an ace up his sleeves though and argued that his broken wrist needed immediate looking after in Luanda. We ended up paying 150US$ (109,50€) per person and could pick up the visas about two hours later.
Necessary for the application are copies of every single passport page with a visa or stamp on it as well as the main page, yellow fever certificate copy, carnet copy, car paper copy, 2 passport photos and an introduction letter stating the reason why you apply for the visa in Matadi and your intended itinerary in Angola. Note that if you are a couple you will still have to write individual cover letters!
After all the troubles involved in getting the necessary visas Angola paid us back tenfold. The variety of landscapes is stunning with some real highlights that would be crawling with tourists were they located anywhere else. Only in a few places we could still see reminders of the 30 year long independence and civil war in form of ruined buildings and rusting tanks. Fuel is dirt cheap but eating out and accommodation is very expensive so we bush camped all the time. The large supermarkets in bigger towns like Kero or Shoprite are actually not too bad especially compared to the ridiculously expensive French supermarkets ala Casino in West and Central Africa.
The north of the country was covered in lush green grass on rolling hills. Just south of Ambriz we found a lovely deserted bay all for ourselves. In Luanda we stayed with some friends and got a bit of an insight what life there is like when you are not staying in a walled off camp. The traffic is horrendous but the Marginal along the waterside very modern, clean and spacious. When staying at the Club Naval you have an awesome view over the bay on the city skyline. A bit inland the Kalandula Falls were very impressive and best of all barely crowded and free to visit. So far the biggest waterfalls we have seen. A bit further south the Pedras Negras (Black Rocks) stick out of the surrounding landscape, are beautiful at sunrise or sunset and make for a nice bush camp. The drive from Gabela to Seles makes for a beautiful, curvy drive on brand new tarmac through a magnificent countryside. Lobito turned out to be our favourite Angolan town with its relaxed peninsula, brilliant seafood and hilly desert surroundings. The drive south to Namibe along the coast grants access to some wild, deserted beaches with high waves and even higher cliffs. Don’t miss out on the beautiful coastline at Caotinha. The relaxed small fishing towns Lucira and Mucuio are perfect for a refreshing dip in the Atlantic. Two more highlights are found a bit inland around Lubango. The Serra da Leba Pass is a must-drive and the area around Tundavala with a straight 1000m drop is magnificent bush camping territory. When in the area don’t forget to drive up to the Jesus Christ statue overlooking Lubango and resembling the famous Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. South of Namibe is the Flamingo Lodge at the end of the driy bed of the Flamingo River. Camping here is a bit of splashing out but even on a day visit you can do some great fishing, spot springboks, visit a beautiful canyon nearby and see large welwitscha mirabilis plants along the way. A last big highlight for us was a one week drive through the Namibe desert from Tombua to the mouth of the Kunene River where even Fabian caught some fish and hundreds of turtles stick their heads out of the water from time to time. From there on we went inland through rough and rocky terrain towards Ruacana and the border with Namibia where we met many tribes people ala Himba and Mudimba.
We ended up enjoying Angola so much that we decided to extend our visas. This can be done to our knowledge in Luanda, Lubango and Benguela. We chose the latter. You will have to locate the SME office (S12 34.930 E13 23.813) and state your request. We had to fill out one Portuguese form, hand in 2 passport photos and copies of our current visa and the passport main page. The cost for the extension was the equivalent of 90US$ in kwanza. We were first told that they could only give us another month from the date of issue so if you are only two weeks in you would only gain another two. Surprisingly we ended up with a full month on top anyway. Passport pickup was the day after.
Practicalities Namibe desert:
We would like to mention some more details about the drive from Tombua to the mouth of the Kunene River and inland to Ruacana. The total distance of this route is about 850km where you cannot realistically find any fuel supplies so an auxiliary tank and/or several jerry cans are necessary. Outside of the few and far between settlements we met only 6 other vehicles in one week which indicates the remoteness of this area. Water can be found at several places along the way but if you break down somewhere between the settlements you will want to have as much as you can carry. Note that Tracks4Africa shows the whole route but OpenStreetMap is missing some essential stretches.
Starting in Tombua you can find a Sonangol fuel pump at S15 48.008 E11 51.248. On the way out of town there is a ruined, sand covered graveyard on your left (S15 48.049 E11 52.485). Driving further towards Namibe you come across a sign indicating Lake Arco (S15 45.844 E12 03.869) which is a beautiful and peaceful spot to walk around with a large rock arch. It was dry when we were there but must be even more beautiful when filled with water. At S15 43.419 E12 03.393 is the turnoff for the route to the Foz do Cunene. The piste is first hard and relatively smooth but quickly gets corrugated and very rocky so don’t count on making many kilometres a day. At S15 54.039 E12 21.938 you come across the largest known welwitscha mirabilis plant which are endemic to the Namibe desert and can supposedly live for thousands of years. At some point you will pass the giant stone entry gate to the Iona national park. When we visited there was no one around to collect any fees but that might change at some point. Driving through magnificent landscapes along dry river beds you might come across wild horses, springboks and the odd Himba hut. At S16 47.134 E12 21.828 is the turnoff to the Foz do Cunene and shortly after you come across a guesthouse. After that the landscape turns into barren rocky plains and eventually hard packed sand dunes. We spotted several oryx around there. At S17 06.465 E12 00.303 you can turn left and reach a magnificent spot at the Kunene River (S17 09.630 E12 01.093) shortly after – perfect for a day’s relaxation. Every morning we found fresh spoors leading to the river of antelopes and leopards. The Kunene is quite fast flowing here and we replenished our water supplies but were not sure about crocs so did not dare to go for a swim. Before you reach the river mouth (S17 15.121 E11 45.065) there is a friendly police post where your details are recorded. If you have a fishing rod with you try your luck at the river mouth as there is an abundance of fish here. From here you backtrack towards the turnoff to Ruacana at S16 47.134 E12 21.828. After a while you will reach the settlement Ilona from where on the track becomes very rough and rocky with many dry river crossings. The comparatively bad departure angle of the Land Cruiser led to us scraping the rear rock sliders along the ground several times. At Oncocua there are fuel supplies but not for sale to tourists. We tried to acquire 10-20l but gave up after talking to several people. In case of a real emergency you might be lucky though. There are a small shop with some essentials (S16 39.242 E13 25.472) and several wells in town and the colourful Mudimba tribes people come here to fetch water. The rest of the drive to Ruacana is a bit less rough but beautiful nevertheless and you will come across a lot of tribes people including Himba and Mudimba. Don’t bring to many kwanza as we got a terrible exchange rate at the border. The closes fuel station with a little shop and ATM is at Ruacana (S17 26.210 E14 21.817).
Recommended Campings (prices for 2 people and a 4×4):
Club Naval, Luanda – S8 47.937 E13 13.442
The yacht club people love overlanders and you are allowed to stay for free with one of the best views in town, use the toilets and showers and the free wifi
Zulu Restaurant – S12 19.076 E13 34.779
The friendly, English speaking owner Louis welcomes overlanders to stay for free inside his property right at the beach, no showers but water for bucket showers available, free wifi, very relaxed place
Namibe Campsite, Namibe – S15 11.393 E12 09.010
The only real campsite we stumbled upon in Angola, right at the beach, we did not actually stay but were allowed to fill up with drinking water for free
Flamingo Lodge, south of Namibe – S15 34.202 E12 01.184
Simple but nice camp at an isolated beach catering mostly for sport fishermen, simple and clean ablutions, nice bar/restaurant on top of a hill, friendly South African managers
60US$/night (43,80€) which is very steep but they are willing to lower the price for overlanders