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Angola - 11 days
Expedition to Angola
Prices from £3,199
Expedition to Angola
Prices from £3,199
Our Angola holidays visit an utterly wild part of southern Africa that is only now beginning to open up to tourism. Focussing solely on Angola rather than combining it with the well trodden lands to the south, this unique Angola holiday covers the remote south of the country, a land that the modern world has barely touched, of vast unspoiled wildernesses and tribal groups following time honoured traditions. Starting in the capital Luanda we have time to explore before flying south to the city of Lubango, our springboard for venturing into the interior. Lubango offers an intoxicating mix of old Portuguese architecture and the joyful chaos of contemporary Africa, and after time here we leave the modern world behind, heading first to the tribal region surrounding the remote town of Oncocua. This area is home to the hunter gatherer Mutua, the colourful Mucuwana and of course the Himba, those icons of southern Africa, and here far less modernised than their counterparts in Namibia. This enchanting region is nothing less than a lost treasure chest of African anthropology. From here we return north to meet the Muila people, whose hairstyles have to be seen to be believed, camping near one of their villages. Heading west we explore the beautiful landscapes and prehistoric rock art of Tchitundo Hulo, visit remote oases and travel into the lands of the Mucubal people. Few have heard of this fascinating ethnic group, and meeting them is a snapshot of the ancient ways – some of their most interesting traditions include teeth sharpening and incredibly elaborate headdresses. Accompanied by expert guides we travel sensitively through remote communities and settlements in an effort to understand the customs and ancient practices of the region’s most traditional peoples, staunchly holding on to their way of life and for whom the outside world is barely relevant. Carefully designed and researched, this trip is one of a kind and offers intrepid travellers the chance to see a world which may not exist for much longer, and travel on paths that few have ever imagined, let alone trodden. Join us on the ultimate Angolan adventure.
Day 1 – Luanda
Arrive in Luanda and explore the key sights of the city.
Day 2 – Lubango
Transfer to the airport and fly to Lubango, the main city in southern Angola. We explore the city on foot and by vehicle.
Day 3 – Oncocua
A full day’s drive south to Oncocua, a former Portuguese settlement in the middle of a cultural ‘island’, inhabited by three different ethnic groups – the Himba, the Mucawana and the Mutua.
Day 4 – Oncocua
We spend today visiting the different tribal groups that live in this area, taking time to learn about their culture and customs. This is one of the most traditional areas of Angola and visitors are rare, but the local people are friendly and welcoming.
Day 5 – Chibia
Drive to the town of Chibia and meet the Muila people, known for their incredible body decorations.
Day 6 – Namibe
Visit Muila villages and then descend from the plateau on the famous Serra de Leba pass towards the Atlantic Coast and the city of Namibe.
Day 7 – Tchitundu Hulo – Capolopo
Drive to Tchitundo Hulo to discover a vast collection of prehistoric rock art, with paintings of animals, plants and men – possibly up to 20,000 years old.
Day 8 – Tomboua – Arco
This morning we visit the Mucuis and Mucuroca people, then drive to Curoca with its striking rock structures, the coastal town of Tomboua and the oasis of Arco with its impressive natural arch.
Day 9 – Cangolo
Drive to the village of Cangolo to meet two different ethnic groups; the Nguendelengo people, who live by hunting, gathering and rearing livestock, and the Mucubal.
Day 10 – Hoque – Lubango – Luanda
Drive to Hoque where we meet our last traditional tribe of Angola, the Handa. From here continue to Lubango and fly back to Luanda.
Day 11 – Luanda
Visit Santiago Beach to see the numerous shipwrecks in the bay and later transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
Day 1 – Luanda
Arrive in Luanda and transfer to the hotel. After time to check in and freshen up, begin exploring the key sights of the city, with impressive old colonial buildings, bustling markets and the Forteleza de Sao Miguel. Overnight tourist class hotel.
Luanda is a city under construction – after the long lasting civil war (1975-2005) the city seems to be permanently expanding, fuelled by the oil boom which has also made Luanda one of the most expensive cities on the planet. The centre is divided into three distinct sections – Baixa de Luanda (lower Luanda) from the port to the fortress, Cidade Alta, the upper part of the city, home to the presidential palace, and Ilha do Cabo, a peninsula surrounding the bay with beaches, nightclubs and restaurants. Behind and above the historic centre, central bairros include Maianga and Alvalade (residential) and Miramar (embassies), as well as Kinaxixe and Maculusso, which are characterised by Portuguese apartment blocks. Further outside the centre, the neighborhoods become more informal, dotted with 1970s Cuban apartment blocks and new developments.
Upon arrival in Luanda, it is impossible to miss the towering obelisk-like structure shooting above the rest of the city, a mausoleum dedicated to Augustinho Neto, the first President of Angola. Other sites worth visiting include the Fortaleza de Sao Miguel, a 16th century building built during the earliest period of colonial rule and a self contained city for the military garrison, as well as a holding point for slaves – the highlight here are the ornate hand painted wall tiles. The National Museum of Anthropology is home to an impressive array of traditional masks and other artefacts, while the 15th century Igreja Nossa Senhora do Populo is the first Anglican church in Angola, built in 1482.
Day 2 – Lubango
Transfer to the airport and fly to Lubango, the main city in southern Angola. Set in a lush valley guarded by a statue of Christ, Lubango is rich in colonial heritage mixed with the vibrancy of local culture. We explore the city on foot and by vehicle. Overnight tourist class hotel. (BD)
Day 3 – Oncocua
A full day’s drive south to Oncocua, a former Portuguese settlement in the middle of a cultural ‘island’, inhabited by three different ethnic groups – the Himba, the Mucawana and the Mutua. On the way we pass villages belonging to the Mugambue people, and visit a community of some of the last surviving Kung (bushmen) people in Angola. Overnight camping. (BLD)
Day 4 – Oncocua
We spend today visiting the different tribal groups that live in this area, taking time to learn about their culture and customs. This is one of the most traditional areas of Angola and visitors are rare, but the local people are friendly and welcoming. Camp tonight in one of the nearby villages. (BLD)
The Mucawana people
The Mucawana people seem impervious to change, still living and dressing in strictly traditional ways, with the hairstyles of the women made with a mix of cow dung, fat, and herbs for fragrance. When not working Mucawana people like to celebrate, an intoxicating medley of singing, dancing and clapping. The women at such festivities look dazzling, but different, with multicoloured braids, bead corsets around their waists and curiously Teutonic-looking iron crosses dangling down their backs.
The Mutua people
The Mutua live in small settlements in the deep bush and their livelihoods depend on honey and fruit gathering. They do not possess land or animals and they are considered as a lower caste by the neighboring tribes. At a first glance they look similar to the Himbas, but if one looks closely one will see how they are shorter and their dresses are shaggy and hairstyles less sophisticated compared to those of the Himba and Mucawana.
The Himba may be one of Africa’s most photographed tribes, but even so nothing can really prepare you for meeting them in the flesh. As in many ethnic groups these days, the women maintain their style of traditional dress to a far greater extent than the men, dressing in skirts made from animal skin and fashioning their hair into unique styles with the aid of butter fat and ochre, with different styles denoting their age and marital status. The same substance is used on their bodies, giving them an orange brown sheen that is considered a sign of beauty within Himba society.
Day 5 – Chibia
Drive to the town of Chibia and explore its old colonial centre. Chibia is a centre for the Muila people, known for their incredible body decorations, and this afternoon we head out to one of their communities to spend the night. Overnight camping. (BLD)
The Muila people
The Muila people are a cluster of semi-nomadic ethnic group living on the Huila Plateau. Women coat their hair with a red paste called oncula, which is made of crushed red stone. They also put a mix of oil, crushed tree bark, dried cow dung and herbs on their hair. On top of this they decorate their hair with beads, cowrie shells and even dried food. Having their forehead shaved is considered as a sign of beauty. The plates, which look like dreadlocks, are called nontombi and have a precise meaning. Women or girls usually have four or six nontombi, but when they only have three it means that someone died in their family. Mumuila women are also famous for their mud necklaces, which are important as each period of their life corresponds to a specific type of necklace. When they are young, girls wear heavy red necklaces, made with beads covered with a mix of soil and latex. Later girls start to wear a set of yellow necklaces called vikeka, made of wicker covered with earth. They keep it until their wedding, which can last 4 years. Once married they start to wear a set of stacked up bead necklaces called vilanda. Women never take their necklaces off and have to sleep with them.
Day 6 – Namibe
Visit Muila villages and then descend from the plateau on the famous Serra de Leba pass towards the Atlantic Coast and the city of Namibe. After lunch explore the town with its fading colonial architecture. Overnight simple hotel. (BLD)
Day 7 – Tchitundu Hulo – Capolopo
Drive towards Virei, stopping en route to see the prehistoric weltwishcia plants. After lunch visit Tchitundo Hulo to discover a vast collection of prehistoric rock art, with paintings of animals, plants and men – possibly up to 20,000 years old, but no-one really knows. Overnight camping. (BLD)
Day 8 – Tomboua – Arco
This morning we visit the Mucuis people, considered the original inhabitants of this region, and who follow a hunter gatherer lifestyle. We also have the opportunity to stop at a Mucuroca village – during initiation rites young men fashion their hair into elaborate styles, which we hope to see. Continue to Curoca with its striking rock structures, the coastal town of Tomboua and then drive to the oasis of Arco with its impressive natural arch. Overnight camping. (BLD)
Day 9 – Cangolo
Retracing our steps to Namibe, we rejoin the tarred road and drive to the village of Cangolo. Here we meet two different ethnic groups; the Nguendelengo people, who live by hunting, gathering and rearing livestock, and the Mucubal. The Mucabal are semi-nomadic pastoralists with many fascinating customs, including the practice of teeth sharpening. We camp next to the village. (BLD)
The Mucabal people
Mucubal (also called Mucubai, Mucabale, Mugubale) people are a subgroup of the Herero ethnic group, with a lifestyle based on cattle and agriculture, and some very specific customs and traditions. Girls have their upper teeth sharpened and lower ones removed. In order to convince young girls to have their lower teeth removed, Mucubal elders make them believe that their teeth leave their mouth during the night, to go in a hole dug to relieve themselves and return to their mouth covered with excrement. Their nomadic lifestyle is based on cycles, between nomadism and staying in villages.
The Mucubal believe in a god called Huku, and also worship their ancestors’ spirits called Oyo. Divination is very important in their culture, and they use talismans and amulets for numerous purposes such as to protect their herds or prevent adultery. Funerals can last several days or weeks, and graves are decorated with cattle horns. The number of cows sacrificed is in relation with the importance of the deceased. Cattle is only killed on special occasions, as Mucubal usually don’t eat meat but rather corn (when they manage to grow some), eggs, milk and chicken. They don’t eat any fish because according to the legend, one of their chieftains was brought to the sea by the Portuguese and never came back. Mucubal women are famous for the way they dress, the most notable example of which is an original and unique headdress called the Ompota. It is made of a wicker framework, traditionally filled with a bunch of tied cow tails, decorated with buttons, shells, zippers and beads. But tradition is disappearing as some women use modern items to fill their ompota headdress. Women whether they are married or not can wear jewels. Ornaments like iron anklets and armlets are worn by girls as well as adult women. Mucubal women are also famous for the string they have around their breast, called oyonduthi, which is used as a bra.
Day 10 – Hoque – Lubango – Luanda
Drive to Hoque where we meet our last traditional tribe of Angola, the Handa. The older women of this ethnic group wear enormous beaded necklaces and complex hairstyles – we visit a local market here to meet them. From here continue to Lubango and fly back to Luanda. Overnight tourist class hotel. (BL)
Day 11 – Luanda
Visit Santiago Beach to see the numerous shipwrecks in the bay, as well as the small but interesting anthropological museum in Luanda itself. Finally transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (BL)
Airport transfers – We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers.
Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.
Accommodation – Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.
Guides – In most cases you will be accompanied by one guide from start to finish. However there may be occasions when this is not practical, for example if your trip covers a number of different countries. In these cases it often makes more sense to include different guides for each place, to take advantage of their specific knowledge of the destination.
Meals – As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.
Entrance fees – Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.
What’s not included:
Visas – We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour (www.travcour.com) can assist.
Airport taxes – If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to pay these yourself.
International flights – Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.
Travel Insurance – If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.
All travellers will require a visa to enter Angola, which must be obtained before travel. Most travellers will also need an invitation letter, which we will provide if requested. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.
Please note that the visa process can take a long time and is notoriously difficult – you should allow at least a month to obtain the visa.
Health and vaccinations
We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.
Please note that Yellow Fever is a compulsory vaccination for entering Angola and you must bring your vaccination certificate with you, otherwise you may not be allowed to enter.
It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.
Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.
Arrival and departure taxes
There are no arrival or departure taxes applicable for Angola.
The local currency in Angola is the kwanza, which you’ll find hard to obtain outside of the country. It is best to bring Euros for exchange purposes.
You will not be able to change money outside of Luanda and Lubango and so we recommend that you change money at the hotel upon arrival.
Costs in Angola are high – in Luanda you can expect to pay £20-30 for a meal, and the city is renowned as one of the most expensive on the planet, fuelled by the oil boom. However outside of Luanda costs tend to be more reasonable. For most of this trip meals are provided and there is not much to spend money on.
You may be checked at the airport when you leave Angola for any local currency that you have, so you should either spend this or change it back before you leave – officially it is not allowed to take kwanza from the country.
When to go
Angola is a large country with different climate zones, from the tropical north to the more arid south. The best time to visit the south of the country is from June to October.
Culture – language and religion
Portuguese is the official language of Angola, and while English is increasingly being spoken among some educated people, it remains fairly marginal. There are over forty other languages spoken throughout the country but these tend to be confined to specific ethnic groups.
Traditional beliefs tend to hold sway throughout Angola, followed by Christianity of various demoninations, of which Catholicism is the most popular.
Eating and drinking
Angola’s cuisine is subject to various influences, including Portuguese and Brazilian, and in coastal cities such as Luanda seafood dominates. In Luanda you’ll find a wide range of restaurants catering to an international clientele, but outside of the main cities food is more limited. While outside of the cities we’ll be camping on this trip. Breakfast will usually consist of bread, jam, biscuits and coffee or tea, while lunches usually take the form of a salad, sometimes with pasta or tuna and usually with bread and fruit. Evening meals will be a mix of European and African cuisine and a typical meal could be pasta, stew or spaghetti.
You should advise us when you book if you have any special dietary requirements. We will try to accommodate you as much as possible, but we cannot always guarantee this.
Luggage and packing
The first rule of packing is not to bring too much. There will be plenty of occasions where you’ll need to carry your luggage yourself and so you should be able to do this without help. Most people are surprised at how little they actually need to bring, and it’s normally possible to get laundry done along the way. It doesn’t matter whether you bring a suitcase, rucksack or holdall, but please don’t bring more than 15kg of luggage as this may be difficult to accommodate in the vehicles we use. You’ll also need a day pack.
It can get cold in early mornings and evenings and so a fleece or light jacket is recommended.
You will need to bring a sleeping bag with you for our trips in Angola.
You don’t need to be especially fit to join our trips in Angola, but there will sometimes be instances when we explore on foot so you will find it more enjoyable if you are moderately fit.
In Angola, like many of the destinations we offer, environmental thinking is not at the forefront of everyday life and you will see a lot of litter in places. However, we ask that you don’t contribute to this and to dispose of litter properly, including cigarette butts.
You may well come across beggars. There’s no hard and fast answer on this and everyone has a different view – some feel that giving simply encourages begging while others see it as helping someone in need. Some guidebooks will tell you that you should only give if you see a local person also giving, to determine whether the beggar is genuine. The issue is particularly difficult when it comes to children, but we’d ask that you don’t give to children as in poor communities this can often act as a discouragement to going to school. If you feel that you’d like to contribute then speak with your guide who will be able to make appropriate suggestions.
Most people like to take photos, and it’s sometimes easy to forget that the photogenic person in front of you may not want their picture taken. Always ask if it’s okay, and respect their wishes if they say no. You’ll often find that in remote villages or among more traditional communities the older generation, and women in particular, are not comfortable with having their picture taken.
On the subject of photography, it’s often forbidden to take photos of ‘sensitive’ areas such as military buildings or border posts, and doing so can land you in trouble with the authorities. If you’re not sure, ask your guide. If people appear to be unhappy with you taking photographs, you should stop. Exercising both common sense and courtesy avoids any problems in this area.
If you have been happy with the services of your guide, cooks and drivers, you may want to consider leaving them a tip. A reasonable amount would be around $50 per person for the guides, $25 for the drivers. This is of course not obligatory and if you do not wish to tip this is up to you.
When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.
Angola is one of our most pioneering destinations. Not only is there very little tourism here but the nature of the destination means that you should be prepared for challenging conditions. Outside of the capital very few hotels or accommodation options exist – in the desert these are non-existent. There are few opportunities to buy supplies en route and so we carry the majority of these with us, stocking up on fresh vegetables and fruit in the small towns that we travel through, where possible.
There are no formal bathroom facilities on our trips in Angola when camping, although on many nights you will be provided with water for washing, depending on how far we are from any wells and how much water we have used that day.
Our trips in Angola travel to some of the most remote parts of Africa, and it is essential that you appreciate what this entails before booking a trip. We cannot promise home comforts or luxuries and if you expect these, then Angola probably isn’t the right destination for you. However if you are prepared for sometimes challenging conditions, then Angola offers an adventure that is difficult to match through some of the most untouched, traditional and isolated corners of Africa.
We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any parts of Angola that we visit on this trip.
This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.
Angola – The Bradt Guide
Mike Stead and Sean Rorison
Promises and Lies
Another Day of Life
The State of Africa
Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Updated 3 October 2017
|14 July 2018||£3,199||£245||Full||
|14 October 2018||£3,199||£245||Available||
|13 July 2019||£3,199||£245||Available||