Moçamedes to PN Iona, Namibe, Angola

Grand entrance to the Angola of the Dunes

Area to be cleared
The Failed “Vanessa”
Reduce speed
Fishing fleet
Free fly
Chapel of Our Lady of Navigators
Coyote in Search
Namib Desert vs Atlantic Ocean
Namibe Golden Dunes
Figure on Dunes
Sea lion on the run
At the Doors of the Death Zone
Cove south of the Curoca river
Bandex Motoreta
A. Chipandega
Utopia Cafe
Welwischia mirabilis seed
Sarapintadas Dunes
Cattle in Arcos
Still with Moçâmedes as a starting point, we traveled in search of the sands of Namibe and Iona National Park. The cacimbo meteorology prevents the continuation between the Atlantic and the dunes to the stunning south of Baía dos Tigres. It will only be a matter of time.

Recovery in Moçâmedes lasts as long as it lasts.

We left the city as early as we could, taking into account the repair of the flat tire last afternoon and some essential grocery shopping.

We passed the Arcos (dry) lagoon again. We finally found it, illuminated by a radiant morning sun.

Attracted by the vegetation that survives from groundwater and surface mud, different groups of cattle frequent it.

A herd of cows grazes at the base of the cliffs that make up the lagoon's eponymous Arches.

A herd of goats, in search of better and disciplined, climbs a trail that gives access to trees with succulent leaves.

We walked around, paying attention to their movements and how they enriched the landscape. Shortly afterwards, we reversed our route in search of Estrada Nacional 100, which would take us further south.

Upon leaving Arcos, we pass through the same village that serves as its gateway and the same MPLA flag that, like so many others spread across Angola, displays the affiliation of its people to the eternal party in power.

Instead of following a marked path, Alexandre, the guide who leads us, decides to trust in the dryness of the vastness and his already proven navigation skills.

Faced with an inhospitable expanse marked by road marks and with no view of the Atlantic, he improvises a course, paying attention only to the darkest spots, indicative of sand in which the jeep would get stuck.

Looking for Welwítschias mirabilis

We reached the asphalt unscathed. We leave him moments later for a so-called Gorge of Flamingos, which Alexandre follows towards the ocean. At a certain point, we noticed that a colony of welwitschias was dotting the area.

More round in terms of its tourism promotion, the Namíbia promotes this large endemic plant of the Namib desert as its national flower, emblematic beer brand and the like.

O Angolan Namibe is, however, the same. Just more northern. To the welwítschias amazing emerge from its sands in unexpected and remote places like that.

They make them even more mystical and miraculous, like the plant itself, an almost-miracle of the desert that unfolds in long tentacular leaves that justify the popular name of desert octopus.

Alexandre illustrates how they are divided into male and female specimens.

How they look for each other, equipped with different flowers that pollinate each other and thus perpetuate the unusual gymnosperm species.

We examine and photograph them with the admiration they deserve. After which we headed back in search of the asphalt.

We point to the coastal road that branches off the EN100. We crossed the Curoca River, a few hundred meters from the mouth.

From its trace of flow lost in a stony and parched bed, we headed south.

Namibe Coast Below, Towards Old Porto Alexandre, current Tombwa

We stop on a windy promontory highlighted by a deserted Christian temple, accompanied by the roadside, by the ruins of a colonial-looking house that someone identified as “Utopia Myth Café".

We completed the short pilgrimage to the Chapel of Nª Srª dos Navegantes.

From the coastline that welcomes it, we see the desert sands slide down the bare slope and join the blue-green Atlantic.

From there, we advanced to the city, known in Portuguese colonial times as Porto Alexandre, today, named after the local name for welwítschia plants: Tombwa.

The Portuguese and Fishing Genesis of Tombwa

Port Alexandre It was founded around 1863, it is said that by fishermen from Olhão who were later (1921) joined by others from Vila do Conde who abandoned Brazil because they refused to lose their Portuguese nationality.

During the XNUMXth century, the enormous quantity of fish attracted there by the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the Benguela Current, supported the migration of thousands of Angolans and the development of a serious fishing activity, equipped with suitable infrastructure.

So much so that, in 1961, Porto Alexandre became a city and attracted regular visits from South Africans who enjoy recreational fishing.

Overfishing and rising water temperatures due to global warming have caused fish stocks to decline.

Still, when we walk along Tombwa's coastal street, we see the beaches full of fishing boats.

These are boats that, despite the adversities, continue to feed the city's almost 50 thousand inhabitants.

Tombwa retains a good part of the buildings erected in the years before Angolan independence: the primary school, the church, dozens of houses with obvious Portuguese architecture.

Above all, some buildings and the bright murals around the roundabout that move traffic in the city center are out of place. We have lunch nearby, while Alexandre buys a bottle and some supplies that are still missing.

To the south of Tombwa, asphalt no longer exists. We once again crossed a sandy stretch because not everyone ventures out.

By that time, Alexandre had once again removed much of the air from the jeep's tires.

We move forward, as if in accelerated levitation, across the sand as far as the eye can see.

PN Iona: from the failed ship “Vanessa” to the Portal to the Great Park

The driver and guide takes us to the seaside. There he reveals to us the “Vanessa”, a stranded fishing boat that the tides caused to sink into the sand.

When we arrive, its uncovered towers and structures serve as a landing place for cormorants.

The vessel was just one of hundreds defeated by the treacherous sea off the Namib Desert.

Further south, in Namibian territory, there are so many boats wrecked and washed up on the sand that this coastline was named the Skeleton Coast.

In the meantime, we returned to a slightly elevated interior of the desert.

Iona National Park had a checkpoint and shelter for its rangers there.

We were supposed to register there.

We do this according to instructions from the officer on duty A.Chipandega.

Also monitored by a coyote used to wandering around there, attentive to any offering from humans.

A poster warns of an area that is still mined, one of the tragic legacies of the long Angolan Civil War.

PN Iona: In Search of the Great Pink Dunes

We head in another direction. In one of the renowned Pink Dunes of Iona, an endless number of hyperbolic dunes to which the shining sun gives the tone. To reach them, we have to cross the threshold sand, the one beaten by the waves of the Atlantic.

In the middle of the cacimbo season, the strong afternoon wind extended them almost to the base of the dunes.

With the ebb tide already well back, the reach of the waves gives us an adventurous margin of maneuver that, like other guides in the area, Alexandre Rico had learned to control.

We thus advanced on the wet and hardened sand.

For most of the route, safe from the waves, but, in spaces, caught by them and with the jeep's progress compromised by the water.

We survived four or five incursions from the sea.

After one of these scares, we come face to face with a huge seal that clumsily drags itself along the sand, anxious for the safety of the ocean.

Ahead, Alexandre stops the jeep: “From here on, it’s the death zone.

Night spent at the gates of the Death Zone

During the cacimbo we can no longer advance any further. The dunes are huge and the distance is too far for us to be able to cover them safely from the sea.”

We ascend, on foot, to the highest and most panoramic point.

From there, we admired the amazing confrontation between the Namib Desert and the Atlantic, tormented by the gusts of south wind that threw sand at us from the dunal edges.

We photographed a sunset filtered by clouds that blackened the western horizon.

Therefore, we took refuge at the base of a dune used for overnight stays in the Pink Dunes of Iona National Park

We fought the wind until we managed to stabilize a fire fed with logs and branches collected from the beach. We cooked and shared some snacks.

And stories about Angola, the desert, Alexandre's life and a little bit of everything.

Dejected by the long journey, the cold and, above all, the adrenaline generated by the final stretch, we surrendered to the idea of ​​sleeping in the desert.

The Resplendent Dawn of the Golden Namib Desert

The awakening catches us with the Namib Desert golden by the dawn.

That kind of sample created absolute amazement in us. We are still anxious about returning to Iona National Park outside of Cacimbo season.

Of crossing the Death Zone.

And to reward ourselves with an expedition to the enigmatic island of Baía dos Tigres.


TAAG – Angolan Airlines:  Flight Lisbon – Luanda in TAAG: per from €550.

1 - Book your travel program to Namibe, Lubango and other parts of Angola at Cosmos Angola – Travel and Tourism –  phone/whats App:  +244 921 596 131

2- Or, in Luanda, rent your car at rent-a-car  Tel./Fax: +244 222 444 666 Email: [email protected]

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