Angola is in Southern Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Namibia and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The terrain consists of a narrow coastal plain rising abruptly to vast interior plateau. The highest point is Morro de Moco at 2,620 meters (8,596 feet). The province of Cabinda is an exclave, separated from the rest of the country by the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Environmental issues include overuse of pastures and subsequent soil erosion attributable to population pressures, desertification, deforestation of tropical rain forest (in response to both international demand for tropical timber and to domestic use as fuel) resulting in loss of biodiversity, soil erosion (contributing to water pollution and siltation of rivers and dams), and inadequate supplies of potable water. The mining industry is prominent in the Angoloan economy, particularly diamond mining and its environmental impacts. The official environmental ministry is known as Ministério do Ambiente. Environmental NGOs include the Angola Field Group and Juventude Ecológica Angolana.
Angola has no official biosphere reserves; however, there is a massive transboundary protected area project underway, called the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), involving Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. KAZA TFCA includes Angola’s Luiana National Park and Longa-Mavinga National Park. KAZA TFCA was initiated by the Peace Parks Foundation and World Wide Fund for Nature, but subsequently endorsed as a Southern African Development Community project. There is discussion of the creation of a new visa category to include all 5 countries of the KAZA TFCA. There is also discussion of another transboundary protected area, the Iona – Skeleton Coast Transfrontier Conservation Area, between Angola and Namibia, including Angola’s Iona National Park and Namibie Partial Reserve.
In total, Angola has 11 national parks and 4 partial reserves (see below). National parks are being restored for tourism under the “strategic plan of national networks of conservation areas” (Plano Estratégico da Rede Nacional de Áreas de Conservação). Angola has 5 official Important Bird Areas (Ramsar), Iona National Park, Lago Carumbo (Karumbu), Luachimo River (Chitato), Mupa National Park, and Quiçama National Park. Other noteworthy natural attractions include the Lake Arco wetland, Kalandula Falls on the Lucala River, Tazua Falls on the Kwango River, the Black Rocks at Pungo Andongo, as well as Ilha de Luanda.
Game viewing, bird watching and hiking are best during dry season, from June to late September, as some parks close in the rainy season, from October to late May. Western lowland gorillas can be seen north of the Congo River, in the Cabinda exclave. The critically endangered giant sable antelope has become emblematic for Angola. There is a Giant Sable Conservation Project run by the Tusk Trust around Cangandala National Park. Cheetahs have made a miraculous comeback, since the end of Angola’s infamous, decades long civil war in 2002. Birds Angola is a website dedicated to birding in Angola.
Landmines leftover from Angola’s civil war have presented a huge issue for hikers. Angola is considered one of the worst landmine affected countries in the world. CNIDAH (Comissão Nacional Intersectorial de Desminagem e Assistência Humanitária) is the the national demining comission in Angola. International NGOs working on demining in Angola include the Halo Trust, Mines Advisory Group, and Mineseeker Foundation.
EcoTur Angola is a new ecotourism specialist. Angola Safaris operates from Namibia. Angolan Adventure Safaris is based in South Africa, but works with a number of lodges in Angola, including Flamingo Lodge, Kwanza Lodge, and Rio Longa Lodge. AA Safaris also founded the Angolan Surf Association.
- Bicauri National Park
- Bufalo Partial Reserve
- Cameia National Park (Kameia)
- Cangandala National Park (Kangandala)
- Chimalavera Regional Nature Park
- Ilheu dos Passaros Integral Nature Reserve
- Iona National Park
- Longa-Mavinga National Park
- Luando Integral Nature Reserve
- Luengué Hunting Reserve (Luenge National Park)
- Luiana Partial Reserve (Luiana National Park)
- Mavinga Partial Reserve
- Mucusso National Park
- Mupa National Park
- Namibe Partial Reserve
- Quiçama National Park (Kisama)
- Acçâo para o Desenvolvimento Rural e Ambiente
- Ministério Do Urbanismo E Ambiente
Angola was probably first peopled by San Bushmen (Bosquímanos). Today, Angola is dominated by Bantu people, including Ovimbundu (37%), Kimbundu (25%), and Bakongo (13%). “Mestiço” people, mixed European and Native African, make up some 2% of the population.
Portuguese explorers reached what is today Angola in the 15th century, and the Portuguese colony of Angola was founded in the 16th century. Through the slave trade a strong bond with Brazil developed. The slave trade was abolished 1836; but, slave smuggling continued until the end of the U.S. Civil War.
Following WWI, the monarchy in Portugal had been deposed and certain reforms were instituted in the Portuguese colony of Angola. And in the wake of WWII, Angola became an overseas province of Portugal; however, after 400 years of colonial tyranny, what came to be known as the Colonial War broke out in the early 1960s. After years of conflict, independence was declared in 1975, following the 1974 military coup in Lisbon.
Angola then descended into civil war, but Cuba intervened to help drive out Zaire (now DRC) and South Africa forces. Due to this Cuban intervention, the Angolan civil war became a Cold War era proxy war between East and West, covertly supported by the United States. Over a decade later, the international powers agreed to mutual withdrawal from the conflict, and subsequently an electoral process was agreed upon, under United Nations supervision; however, instability and sporadic in-fighting continued throughout the 1990s, until the death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi in 2002. Following 27 years of conflict, Angola was finally able to celebrate 10 years of peace in 2012.
Today, human rights violations and corruption continue to plague Angola. In 2013, traditional chiefs from the diamond region of Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul presented the Angolan government with a raft of hundreds of torture and assassination cases allegedly perpetrated both by the Angolan army and the private security company, Teleservice. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel to the Lundas region. The U.S. State Department clearly warns about crime and corruption in Angola.
Since Angola lies between the Equator to the north and the Tropic of Capricorn to the south, tropical diseases are an issue, particularly mosquito born diseases such as malaria. For instance, a yellow fever certificate is required if arriving in South Africa from Angola. In 2013, hundreds of cases of cholera were reported in Cunene Province, usually due to poor sanitary conditions and food contamination. HIV/AIDS in Angola is running at almost 4 percent of the adult population.
The economy of Angola is now one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, largely due to natural resources such as petroleum, diamonds, and iron. Consequently, the capital city of Luanda is one of the most expensive cities in the world, at least for the expatriate lifestyle. In fact, due to unusually poor economic conditions in Portugal, the jobless are now being encouraged to emigrate to Angola.
There are no official UNESCO World Heritage sites in Angola; however, 11 sites were added to the Tentative Lists of World Heritage in 1996 (see below). No Angolan institutions maintain membership in ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property). The ministry of culture does maintain a website at Ministério da Cultura. There is a national museum of slavery, called Museu Nacional da Escravatura. Annual events include the Luanda Jazz Festival and FestiSumbe, the music festival of Sumbe, capital of Cuanza Sul Province.
Tourism to Angola rose more than 300 percent between 2002 and 2007, in terms of entry of foreigners, and more than 5,000 hotel projects have been launched. Even though Angola has a national tourism steering plan (Plano Director do Turismo de Angola), high prices and bureaucratic impediments still hinder tourism development. The hotels and tourism ministry, Ministério da Hotelaria e Turismo (MINHOTUR), tourism steering plan is supposedly designed to fight poverty; however, the opposition FNLA party has come out in favor of promoting rural tourism. The institute of tourist promotion of Angola, Instituto de Fomento Turístico de Angola (INFOTUR), apparently operates under the auspices of MINHOTUR.
UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, has organized training and capacity development for sustainable tourism in Angola. UNDP, the United Nations Development Programme, worked with MINHOTUR on ecotourism value chain development under their poverty reduction program, Growing Sustainable Business. The association of travel agencies and tour operators in Angola is called AAVOTA (Associação de Agências de Viagens e Operadores Turísticos de Angola), and provides an extensive Members listing. Feira Internacional de Luanda now organizes the annual tourism trade fair for Angola, called “Bolsa Internacional do Turismo de Angola Okavango”. Interestingly, the lack of qualified English speaking tour guides has lead the the development of audioguides, for instance for use by hordes of arriving cruise ship passengers.
As of 2011, nearly 100,000 kilometers (62,140 miles) of Angolan roadways had been cleared of landmines. INCFA (Instituto Nacional dos Caminhos de Ferro de Angola) operates 3 major rail lines, the Luanda Railway in the north, the central Benguela Railway, and the Moçâmedes Railway in the south. Commercial passenger travel on the Okavango River by canoe is available, for instance at Rundu Beach. TAAG Angola Airlines is the country’s main international and domestic airline; though, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou helped start a new regional airline, Fastjet, known in Angola as Fly540 (fly540angola.com). Note, TAAG Angola Airlines is listed as restricted under air carriers banned in the European Union.
- Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceiçào da Muxima
- Church of Nossa Senhora da Victoria
- Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosario
- Fortress of Kambambe
- Fortress of Massanganu
- Fortress of Muxima
- Fortress of Sao Francisco do Penedo
- Fortress of Sao Miguel
- Fortress of Sao Pedro da Barra
- Little Fort of Kikombo
- Ruin of M’banza Kongo
- The impact of tourism in a fragile wetland ecosystem in Angola: the Arco (Namibe) case study by AO Tavares, MA Máquina, 2012
- Mapeamento da Situação do Turismo na República de Angola by D Verdugo, A Mavela, 2011
- El turismo en la región litoral central de Angola: análisis y valoración de las potencialidades locales by MF Bandeira, 2009
- Hiking in Africa: Mines and Mountains, Trekking Through Angola by G Fullen, K Dhaliwal, 2003
- Bay Of Tigers: A Journey Through War Torn Angola by PR Mendes, 2003
- Blood on the Tracks: A Rail Journey from Angola to Mozambique by M Bredin, H Logan, 1995