‘Angola is not a holiday destination for beginners’ understates the introduction to Bradt’s first edition country guide, a declaration that must surely rank alongside ‘Benidorm is not noted for its Spanish culture’ and ‘Boy George is gay’ in the annals of shocking global epiphanies. However, despite having only one functioning escalator in the whole country, as accurate a measure of development as any, public perception of Angola still lags well behind the reality.
It’s now seven years since TV pictures documented the death of Jonas Savimbi, charismatic leader of the powerful UNITA opposition force, effecting an almost immediate ceasefire with José Eduardo dos Santos’s MPLA and drawing a line under 30 years of nihilistic post-colonial conflict. Bradt’s new guide continues, pulling no punches, ‘The tourist infrastructure is basic: there are as yet no fancy resort-style hotels, flights are expensive, and hotels are fully-booked for weeks on end.’ Yet beyond chaotic Luanda, and the country’s provincial capitals, lie over a thousand miles of beaches, tropical rainforests, desert and savannah, ‘all populated by some of the nicest people in Africa’ – undoubtedly the country’s greatest resource. In addition there’s a remarkable avifauna, memorable Portuguese colonial architecture, an intriguing fusion of cuisine and a most agreeable climate. Times-are-a-changing though: as oil revenues fund new roads, rebuilding of bridges and reconstruction of railway lines, areas once accessible only by TAAG domestic flights (or by several kidney-bruising days in the back of a truck) are opening up. Bradt’s Angola urges action – ‘Travellers shouldn’t waste another minute if they’re keen to see its raw beauty.’
Mike Stead has spent much of the last 30 years living and working overseas in the Diplomatic Service. He spent a year in Luanda as Deputy Head of Mission and Consul at the British Embassy.
Sean Rorison is a freelance writer whose range of travel interests encompasses some of the world’s most contentious regions – from Afghanistan to Iraq, Colombia and Somalia. In 2002 he helped to start Polo’s Bastards, a travel website focusing on difficult destinations – ‘Going where we ain’t supposed to.’
Authors: Mike Stead & Sean Rorison
Publisher: Bradt Travel Guides
Publication: October 2009
ISBN: 978 1 84162 304 7