In April 2015, we decided to seek a true Angolan Adventure, so in Easter break, we went from Luanda to Benguela by car. It’s just 591 km not that far, a piece of cake we thought, well not quite so, but worth it.
We went with some colleagues from work, the plan was: wake up early 5 a.m, 8 hours of journey and arrive at Benguela.
The journey started on a Friday, take off at 5 a.m, but in the end, it was 6 a.m, because an Angolan colleague decided to arrive one hour late. The route isn’t difficult, basically, it’s always going forward, but in Angola, there are always some unexpected situations and having a local is a bonus, besides that he´s a colleague from work that wanted to return to Benguela.
Before the Kwanza river, there is the “miradouro da Lua”, that we were supposed to stop but we missed the spot, and in the way home we couldn’t stop because it was dark ups…
Passing the bridge over river Kwanza is amusing, at the beginning of bridge are 2 huge street bumps. The aim of the street bumps is to prevent cars from driving too fast, but they are huge, if the car has a low suspension, or is going too fast the bump can seriously damage the car.
The Kwanza river is the largest exclusively Angolan river, in the riversides, you can spot crocodiles. We never saw one, but already saw monkeys. In the early hours of the day the river and the bay give us a stunning view. A few years ago there was a war tank at that end of the bridge, remaining of the civil war, they must have removed it because it wasn´t there anymore.
Roughly 50 km after Kwanza River we passed the beaches of Sangano and Cabo Ledo which are great beaches for day trips or weekends out of Luanda (we will post about this later). The sights to Benguela normally are very dry, but at this time of the year during the raining season, it is surprisingly green. You can find a lot of “imbondeiros” or Baobab Trees, typical African tree that has an impressive large trunk.
Along the way we also came across many car accidents, the road is in very bad shape, full of potholes and you have to be very careful. If you don’t notice them, they can seriously damage the car…
There were a lot of cars that had crashed because of the potholes. So be very careful with the road, and don’t go too fast. I recommend you to do the journey in an SUV.
Then we made a detour, to go see the Binga waterfall of the Keve River. It’s on the way of Gabela. These waterfalls are in fact big and impressive. Again we also were lucky, they were full, was in the rainy season. Definitely worth the detour. On the way to the waterfall, we saw a lot of people selling fish and shrimps that looked tasty and fresh.
By the way, we passed Sumbe, It is the administrative capital of Kwanza Sul. It is a very dry city, overpopulated and a very depressing. We didn’t like anything in Sumbe, very confusing full of dust and very poor.
As we get closer to Benguela the landscape starts changing, from Canjala onwards, it’s more mountainous and even greener. There are some small villages on the way, with some traditional huts. In Canjala, on the side of the road, there was a big market with a lot of local products and food.
After 8 hours of driving, we arrived at Lobito, and then Benguela 32 km after. Lobito is a city with a natural harbor protected by a 5 km long sandpit peninsula called Restinga. Apart from Restinga, it’s a big ugly and overpopulated city.
And finally, Benguela is a pleasant city, calmer than Luanda although being one of the biggest cities of Angola. Benguela is one of the most important cities of Angola. Benguela was extremely important in the 16th century, a center of important trade, especially slaves to Brazil and Cuba. The city center is small, in 15 min you can have a good tour of the city, there aren’t any tall buildings like Luanda. There are still some colonial buildings remains that are quite beautiful. All the buildings with a pink color are government buildings.
We were lucky; we had already a place to sleep in the house of our friends. But there is a verity of hotels where you can sleep, the prices are not cheap but we are in Angola. And a lot of good restaurants where you can eat, especially seafood. We recommend the restaurants: apart-hotel “Mil cidades“, delicious lobsters; “Tudo Na Brasa“, good fish and piglet; we don’t recommend “Zulu“, it’s a famous restaurant in Lobito, but the service was too long, and we ended.
A good place to go out in Benguela is the bar “Zona +“, a good place to chill out drink “caipirinhas” or Gin” and to play snooker.
Next day, we visited the wonderful beaches of Benguela and Restinga:
Praia da Baia Azul: long bay, with fine sand and warm water, everything you want in a beach.
Praia da Baia farta: a difficult beach to find but totally worth it, our favorite beach. Very peaceful place, desert beach with a lot of sand and wonderful water, and very clean.
Praia da Restinga: pleasant beach with less sand, with man bars by the beach so you can always order drinks, with more people, but relaxing too. Better for people watching, this where everything happens in Lobito.
Praia Morena: This beach is located really in Benguela, we didn’t like it, it didn’t seem clean, and we could smell the sewer.
And like that, with a lot of beach and relaxing, we had a great weekend, so on Sunday, we headed home with another 7/8 hours journey.
On our way back we stooped in Porto Amboim to eat some seafood, big delicious prawns. Porto Amboim has also a wonderful beach, and it’s a good option to spend a weekend out of the craziness of Luanda.
And like that off to work… Benguela is a must.. you can also go by plane and it takes just one hour, but I think that by car it’s worth the adventure at least one time.
Have you been to Benguela? Tell us about your Angolan Adventures.