Monday 6th May –
Saturday 18th May 2024
Leader: Inger Vandyke
|13 Days||Group Size Limit 6|
ANGOLA PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS WITH WILD IMAGES
Our Angola tribal photography tour offers an in-depth exploration of the rugged south-west corner of the country. A region that is home to a wide variety of tribal people and also some of its most spectacular landscapes.
For decades this beautiful country was effectively shut off from the outside world due to a long-standing civil war. After the war ended in 2002, access to the country was still very restricted, but nowadays tourism is encouraged and the recent arrival of an E-visa system has made it easier for travellers from all corners of the globe to visit. Nonetheless, Angola photography tours to the remote tribal areas are still in their exciting, pioneering days.
In comparison to developed Namibia over the border, Angola remains another world. The towns and cities are filled with buildings that are remnants of the country’s Portuguese past. Crumbling facades and street plazas characterise urban Angola. Examples of avant-garde architecture lie everywhere from space-ship looking cinemas to gigantic public monuments that were erected to honour former colonial leaders and the ‘conquerors’ of this vast and beautiful country.
Outside of the urban centres, Angola is wild, unruly and magnificent. Characterised by jagged mountain ranges, rocky deserts, eroded landscapes and remarkable coastal scenery, the breath-taking beauty of south-west Angola feels untouched and unexplored.
Living in this vast wilderness are some of the most beautiful and gentle tribal people in southern Africa including the Mumwila, Muhimba, Vatwa, Mundimba, Mucubal, Muhacuona, Nguendelengo and Nyaneke (Handa). Since the “opening” of Angola, some of these tribal people have changed at an alarming rate forcing many of them to move to more remote areas to keep their cultures, and in some cases, their livelihoods alive. Many of them reside in the vast Yona National Park in southern Angola or in similarly wild locations like Virei and Cunene.
Unlike the somewhat curated experiences you might have with tribal people just over the border in northern Namibia, in Angola many of the semi-nomadic tribal people of the south-west live in fairly wild areas and visiting them requires a sense of adventure, excellent guides and the ability to camp independently. Where they live has no lodges and in many areas, there are only small tracks leading to their tiny communities that are dotted around this magnificent region.
The Wild Images Angola photography tour is the most comprehensive cultural photography tour offered in the country. As we explore the south-west we will visit both settled communities near small towns and camps of tribal people moving across the countryside. We will trace the paths of nomads, camp alongside them in their villages, join their children in their morning livestock herding and share visits to wells with them. As is customary on our Wild Images tours to tribal areas, we will also take gifts of food as a thank you for the families we will stay with during our trip. We will explore ancient and unexplained rock petroglyphs that date back 4000 years and we will drive the spectacular Serra de Leba pass from Lubango down to the coastal town of Namibe.
On our final full day in Angola, we will explore the wild beauty of Angola’s coastline and enjoy stunning landscape photography opportunities in the eroded formations of Arco and Curoca at sunrise and sunset.
We will also enjoy visits to two tiny fishing communities north of Tombwa where the local Kwepe (or Curoca) tribal fishermen take tiny wooden boats out to fish each day. Returning home, they unload their catch and sell some of it fresh, while the remainder is dried on large racks in the sun or salted through local tiny factories. These villages provide a wonderful glimpse into the lives of Kwepe fishing folk in Angola and the way in which they survive in their incredibly harsh environments.
Our special Angola photography tour is for photographers who are able to respond spontaneously to situations when they arise, whether it be capturing a street scene in a lively market or a subtle change in light across a wondrous landscape. Unlike other parts of Africa, Angola is not a place that is easily posed or orchestrated. If you are passionate about capturing a truly beautiful corner of the continent we look forward to travelling with you.
ANGOLA’S HIDDEN TRIBES
The anthropological treasure chest of southern Angola is home to around eleven different tribal groups. During our Angola photography tour, we hope to introduce you to at least eight of them. Some of these tribes are semi-nomadic, following the paths of the wind and rain across the seasons. Others are more settled, choosing to stay in small towns and villages that we will travel through on our tour.
The whimsical and elaborately decorated Mumwila people can sometimes be seen wandering around the city streets of Lubango, however, to truly immerse yourself in their culture, you need to travel to the small town of Chibia.
While Mumwila men have largely abandoned their traditional dress, their women are still passionate about retaining it. Much like many descendants of the Herero complex of peoples, Mumwila women undergo significant changes to their appearance as they grow from girls to women.
Young Mumwila girls will often braid their hair in dreadlock style strands and they colour them using a mixture of deep red ochre mixed with animal fats. They usually will also wear a simple strand of colourful beads as a necklace.
Necklaces are an important part of Mumwila women culture, each symbolising a different phase of life.
As they grow towards womanhood, they will start to remove the ochre from their hair and will wear a simple series of three braids across that is unadorned with ochre. They also begin to wear a Vikeka, or necklace made from wicker covered with clay.
The cause for growing into a woman in Mumwila culture is one of great celebration. It is marked by a ceremony called a “Ficou” which involves drinking their locally fermented alcohol, music and dancing through the night.
After they are initiated and then married, young Mumwila women wear spectacular golden braids called Nontombe, again a dreadlock style of braid that is covered with animal fats and bright yellow ochre.
The most remarkable change in dress comes when Mumwila women begin to wear their large Vilandas, or many stranded necklaces after they marry. These are also never removed and Mwila women must sleep with their heads resting on a special wooden rest in order to not ruin their Nontombe or Vilanda decorations.
We will meet warm and smiling Mumwila people in both their villages and at lively, bustling local markets. If invited we may also walk with them through their fields of corn and millet or perhaps enjoy a visit to a well with them during our tour.
The ethereal beauty of the Mucubal tribe is almost difficult to describe in words. Their stunning culture is being kept alive by both men and women across their nomadic range in southern Angola.
On our Angola tribal photography tour, we will visit ornate Mucubal villages that feature beautifully sculpted clay huts, rings of thorny bush livestock enclosures and a central courtyard.
Both men and women in Mucubal culture engage in teeth filing for beauty. This involves filing the inside edge of the two front teeth and is very visible when they smile and laugh!
They both choose vibrant and beautifully patterned cloth to wear either as a sarong style dress or a covering for the hairstyles in women.
Driving around the tracks of southern Angola it is quite possible to encounter nomadic Mucubal people as they move across the region from village to village or from well to villages as they search for water and grazing lands for their livestock.
Mucubal men walk bare-chested, with sandals fashioned out of worn car tyres and a sarong made from beautiful Mucubal cloth. They may also carry spears for hunting or machetes for cutting tracks and wood as they walk.
Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of Mucubal dress, however, appears in their women. Mucubal women are best known for their beautiful large ‘hats’ called Ompota. These are fashioned from wicker which is kept rigid by being filled with dried cow’s tails. Once created Mucubal women cover their Ompotas with brightly coloured fabric scarves.
Mucubal women also wear a fascinating ‘bra’ called an Oyonduthi, effectively a piece of string tied around their breasts, to keep them from moving about as they walk.
Mucubal women and girls are instantly recognisable for their beauty and their large brass anklets which they wear for decoration.
When Mucubal children are learning to walk they are dressed in a decorated, carved bone harness which helps to keep them upright. Once they can walk on their own, the harness is removed and saved for the next child.
As a culture, Mucubal people have a strong belief in protective ancestral and supernatural forces. Their graves are covered in numerous cows horns if they have owned many during their lives. Amulets are worn around their necks including pretty box like pendants fashioned out of leather called Ngombe, which signifies that they are livestock owners.
Himba people have often been described as the most beautiful tribal people in Africa. Wandering freely across northern Namibia and southern Angola they are sometimes known as the Red Ochre people of the desert. In Angola, they are simply known as Muhimba.
In Angola, the Muhimba tribe is distinctly more traditional than their Himba brothers and sisters over the border in Namibia. In stark contrast to the curated experiences you might have with Himba people in Namibia, encounters with the Muhimba in Angola are more by reliable chance.
Modernisation has affected the Himba and Muhimba people in varying ways depending on where they live. While their tribal tradition is still strong in northern Namibia, if you look closely at the decoration of Himba women, small modern aspects have crept into their jewellery and dress. It is sometimes possible to find shiny keys, love-heart shaped pendants or other novelties that have been collected to wear. Himba men in Namibia are quickly abandoning their traditional young men’s hairstyles of Ondatu – a large plait worn down the centre of their heads. The culture of wearing an Ondumba by married Himba men is getting harder and harder to find.
Over the border in Angola, however, their traditional Muhimba tribal culture is alive and well. Ondatu and Ondumba are freely worn by men. Muhimba women not only wear a crown of Erembe, made from goatskin like they do in Namibia. They sometimes make their Erembes from a chainmail-style metal backed by leather in Angola. Young Muhimba girls have longer Ozondatu (front hair plaits) than their sisters in Namibia.
Dictated more heavily by tradition than the laws of modern society, the Muhimbas of Angola are perhaps the purest representatives of their tribal culture in the world.
In the dryer region of Cunene in southern Angola, we will meet the stunningly beautiful Muhacuona tribe. Although Muhacuona men have mostly abandoned their traditional dress, their women keep it very much alive. The most noticeable aspect of Muhacuona women is their headdress called a Kapopo, which is fashioned out of colourful beads, leather and twirled paper batons. It sits on top of her crown of hair, which is styled using charcoal, animal dung and fats.
During times of celebration, Muhacuona tribal women don an incredibly beautiful corset of beaded strands and almost Christian looking crosses dangling down their backs.
Muhacuona women maintain their appearance through treating their skin regularly with animal fats, allowing them to retain an ethereal beauty, even in old age.
A prominent Muhakuona headman tells the story of how the Vatwa people came about at the start of the twentieth century. In 1904 a skirmish broke out between a group of Portuguese colonialists and some Muhakuona men. Several Portuguese were killed in the event. Taking revenge, several Muhakuona decided to join with the Muhimba, changing their dress to look like Muhimbas in order to confuse the Portuguese and escape persecution. This little known fact is one of the theories behind the start of the Vatwa tribe, a tribal culture that is very closely related to the Muhimba in terms of dress and language.
These days it is quite difficult to distinguish individual Vatwas (known as Mutue) from Muhimbas. Probably the easiest way to think of them is as a Muhimba with simpler dress. A Mutue girl might braid her hair in the same way as Muhimba girls but leave one or two strands of hair free of ochre. She might also give up on wearing the heavy Muhimba necklaces called Ohumba in favour of wearing more simple strings of beads. Distinguishing between the two tribes can sometimes be a tricky exercise. We will have excellent local guides who will not only help us to determine the difference but who will be able to explain the sometimes quirky meanings behind the names of the Mutue we may meet.
One of the lesser occurring tribal groups in southern Angola, the Mundimba tribe are noticeable for the way their women wear their hair. Fashioned into a singular beehive style and decorated with colourful beads, pretty Mundimba women may also cover their hair with beautifully coloured scarves.
If we are fortunate on our tour we may meet Mundimba girls wearing an Ena, or wig made from multiple strands of colourful beads, indicating they have reached puberty and are ready to marry.
Classified as anthropologically extinct, yet related to the larger ethnic group of Mucubal people, the beautiful Nguendelengo tribe live in the foothills of the spectacular Serra de Chela mountain range that separates Lubango from the coastal town of Namibe. Numbering only 300 to 400 individuals, the culture of the Nguendelengo people is being kept alive mostly by their women, who braid their hair in three-stranded beehive formations which they often cover with scarves. Nguendelengo women carry their babies in beautiful papooses fashioned out of goatskin. In celebrations, they are known for their athletically wild dancing.
Visiting a group of Nguendelengo tribal people is truly a privileged glimpse into a world which is fast disappearing. Their refusal to intermarry, even with their culturally similar Mucubal relatives, means that we may not long live in a world where these people exist.
Another extremely endangered tribe of people, the Nyaneka Handa tribe have traditions that are only being kept alive by one small group of jolly, good-humoured elderly women in a small, remote town. Finding them involves asking around a local market and suddenly they will emerge.
Despite their advancing years, this small group of elderly women refuse to surrender to our modern world. They still dress up with their beautiful, elaborate strands of white beads which they wear in multi-layered necklaces and spectacular headdresses that fall down their backs. These days their beads are made from glass but it is thought that original Handa decoration was fashioned from mother of pearl.
Meeting them is a joyous occasion as they laugh and giggle while you photograph them. They are gracious hostesses who are the last remaining carriers of an obscure yet beautiful culture of Angola.
One of the most difficult facts to comprehend about this region of Angola is how little it has been studied from an anthropological and historical perspective. In comparison to other regions of Africa, this remote part of Angola offers very little in terms of a documented past.
The most striking evidence of this is the spectacular galleries of rock petroglyphs at Tchitundo Hulu. It is home to rock art galleries that are thought to date back 4000 years. The art is from the original inhabitants of southern Africa, the San. Yet academics who have visited this site have been unable, to date, to decipher exactly what they mean and why there are so many of them.
There are two main galleries of art here. One is a small gallery at Opeleva which is easily accessed by a short walk on flat ground. For the more adventurous we offer a walk up the granite hillside to the incredible Upper House galleries of Mulume and Pedra das Zebras. This walk is optional but should you decide to join us, the views over the surrounding countryside and its pretty Mucubal villages are definitely worth the effort!
In 2017 the Angolan government submitted the rock art sites at Tchitundu Hulo for UNESCO World Heritage status but this is yet to be confirmed.
EXPLORING ANGOLA’S RUGGED COASTAL LANDSCAPES
The beauty of Angola’s tribal people is perhaps only rivalled by the country’s stunning scenery. The coastal fringe of south-west Angola is separated by a natural barrier of rugged mountains called the Serra de Chela. Driving over these breathtaking mountains via the snakelike Serra da Leba pass transports you into another world. The wild coast of Angola is characterised by shifting sand dunes, eroded landscapes and charismatic fishing villages.
A short drive on a dirt road in what looks like a desert actually plunges you into the beautiful oasis called Arco. After we park our vehicles under large shady trees, we will enjoy a short walk over sandy terrain to visit the spectacular rock arch of Arco. It is possible to view this place from several different angles including one incredible spot where we can look through the rock arch to a lagoon that often has wading flamingos and other birds in it.
The port town of Tombwa is Angola’s southernmost large town. It sits at the edge of a stretch of coast that resembles Namibia’s Skeleton Coast with its wild sand dunes, colonies of Cape Fur Seals and shipwrecks.
The ruined cathedral of Tombwa lies on top of high cliffs that skirt the Atlantic ocean. Since the end of the Portuguese colonial period, this simple cathedral has laid open to the forces of wind and ocean. It now provides a tremendous viewpoint over the surrounding area.
Lying a short distance north of Tombwa, we will visit two very remote fishing villages, Rochas and Cabo Negro. Walking down sandy alleys between tumbledown huts, we will learn how local Kwepe (or Curoca) tribal fishermen dry and preserve their catch using salt. It is possible we will find small children repairing nets, fishermen hauling their small wooden boats ashore to offload their catch and women cleaning fish while they carry their babies in colourful papooses.
Visiting the landscapes of Curoca is a bit like exploring Mars. Layers of eroded red and yellow earth are held together by a topping of brittle clay. After centuries of wind erosion, wild Dali-esque formations have emerged. Rock pillars, caves, archways, dunes and grottoes all feature heavily here. We will explore Curoca by vehicle and on foot searching for incredible formations to photograph from different angles
Angolan Visas: Obtaining an Angolan visa used to be quite involved. Happily, this is no longer the case. Most nationalities can now apply online and receive a visa on arrival, with only straightforward documentation required. However, you should ensure you are not travelling in the four weeks prior to the tour as supporting paperwork may not be available until then.
Arriving in Angola: Unlike some countries that are more developed in Africa, arriving in Angola may be a little daunting for travellers who are not that experienced with travel in a developing African country. If you are concerned about your arrival into Angola for this tour, please speak with our office about planning to arrive on the same flight as our leader so you will have assistance when you land in Angola. If you are arriving via Luanda and require accommodation and local tours in Luanda, please contact our office to arrange these.
Accommodation & Road Transport: With the exception of the supported camps around Oncocua, Yona and Virei, accommodation is in comfortable hotels, lodges and guest houses. Our fully supported camps include tents that are tall enough to stand in and beds with mattresses and bedding. Shared shower and toilet tents will be provided and erected by our camp crew. Our meals will be prepared by our camp cook. Road transport is by 4WD vehicles as roads in southern Angola can sometimes be quite rough.
Walking: The walking effort is easy throughout. The only fairly demanding walk on the trip, to see the Upper House gallery of petroglyphs at Tchitundo Hulo, is optional.
Climate: Generally warm or hot, dry and sunny.
Photographic Equipment: For most photography of the people of Angola, a travel lens of around 24-105mm on a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless body will be essential. A wide-angle lens of around 16mm or smaller will be perfect for working with the people inside small huts.
If you prefer to photograph people from a distance, then please consider bringing a larger zoom or telephoto lens. It is our experience that sometimes people can feel a bit intimidated by large cameras and lenses so you may wish to bring a smaller sized zoom lens like a 100-400mm which doesn’t appear as intimidating as a large fixed focal length telephoto lens. Such a lens can also be useful for any wildlife we encounter.
If you bring a good quality bridge camera instead of a DSLR or mirrorless it will be best if it has an optical zoom of 18-20x or more, combined with a reasonable wide-angle at the other end of the zoom range.
If you have a phone or tablet that can be used for photography, you may find these quite useful around people.
Similarly, if you have a Polaroid camera like the Leica Sofort or an Instax Mini, these are wonderful to have on hand when you spend time with tribal people. If you decide to bring one of these, please bring lots of film with you as the photographs you produce will be quite popular!
Be sure to bring plenty of spare battery power. On a number of nights, there will be no access to power.
For the landscapes extension, we suggest a travel lens, a wide-angle and a zoom or prime lens up to 400mm for photographing birds and other wildlife we may encounter during that part of the trip.
Drones are also a wonderful addition to your photography kit on both our main Angola tour and the tour extension, however, if you plan to bring your drone with you please contact our office.
If you would like to talk over suitable equipment, please contact our office. We will be happy to advise.
- Join the most comprehensive Angola ethnographic photography tour
- A true adventure in the wildest regions of southern Angola, exploring the rugged coastline of Angola, the spectacular Serra da Chela mountains and the desert landscapes of Virei, Oncocua and the Cunene region
- Local guides who are knowledgeable about the natural and human history of southern Angola
- Excursions in tribal villages at sunrise and sunset to enjoy the best light of day for photography
- Visit lively, colourful markets that are always a meeting place for the semi-nomadic tribal people as they move across this remote region
- Explore the mysterious rock petroglyphs at the vast site of Tchitundo Hulu
- A chance to meet some of Africa’s rarest tribal people, including the Nguendelengo and Nyaneke (Handa) people, both of which are considered to be ‘anthropologically extinct’
- Visit two of Angola’s isolated fishing villages to meet the local Kwepe fisherfolk and learn their ways of catching and drying fish
- The extraordinary landscapes of Arco and Curoca in the Tombwa region on Angola’s coast
- Day 1: Evening tour start at Lubango.
- Day 2: Drive to Namibe.
- Days 3-10: Exploring southern Angola. Overnights camping.
- Day 11: Return to Namibe.
- Day 12: Visit Arco, Tombwa and Curoca. Overnight at Namibe.
- Day 13: Transfer to Lubango airport for early afternoon tour end (depending on flight schedules).
To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.
To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.
To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.
Angola Photography Tour Prices: Tour prices in Angola are high by any standards, but there are reasons for this. In the first place, transport for tourism purposes is expensive. Angola is a country with only a thin ‘meniscus’ of development that sits on an otherwise very undeveloped part of the world. Furthermore, and even more importantly, there are only a very limited number of local agents that specialize in tribal-tourism, so they can effectively dictate price levels. This combination makes for high prices.
Wild Images Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.
Our tour prices also include all tips for local guides, drivers, camp staff and accommodation/restaurant staff. We also include payments to local people who are willing to be photographed.
Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.
TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)
2024: provisional £7890, $9990, €9290, AUD14280. Lubango/Lubango.
Single Supplement: 2024: £340, $440, €400, AUD620.
The single supplement includes a single occupancy tent for the camping nights.
If you are travelling alone, the single supplement will not apply if you are willing to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.
This tour is priced in Euros. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.
ANGOLA PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR: HIDDEN TRIBES OF THE SOUTH: DETAILED ITINERARY
Angola: Day 1 Our Angola photography tour will begin this evening at our comfortable lodge in Lubango in southern Angola, where we will enjoy a welcome dinner. Airport to hotel transfers will be provided for those arriving today in Lubango.
Angola: Day 2 After an early start we will drive over the spectacular Serra de Leba pass towards a relatively fertile region of foothills that is home to one of Angola’s most rare and special tribes, the Nguendelengo people. We will visit one of their villages before departing for the charismatic Portuguese colonial town of Namibe where we will spend a few hours wandering around the old quarter and the fish market doing street photography. Tonight, at our comfortable hotel, will be our last chance to catch up on emails before we venture into Yona National Park to visit Angola’s tribal people.
Angola: Day 3 This morning we will start our journey into southern Angola from Namibe. En-route we will pass through a harsh stretch of rock desert that is home to one of the oldest plants in the world, the Welwitschia mirabilis. Arriving at the town of Virei we will stop to photograph the local Mucubal people in the tiny market at Virei before we drive out to their villages on a remote stretch of road that leads to the rock art galleries of Tchitundo Hulu. We will spend the afternoon exploring the petroglyphs and visiting beautiful Mucubal villages before we set up camp near to a Mucubal family for the evening.
Angola: Day 4 From our camp, we will take a long drive through beautiful landscapes into the region of the Muhimba people. On the way, we will stop for rests, photography and lunch.
Angola: Day 5 Today we will spend a full day visiting different Muhimba villages, learning about their ways, how they obtain water and survive in the harsh conditions of southern Angola.
Angola: Day 6 Another full day drive from the Muhimba to the Mucahuona area stopping to photograph landscapes and people on the way.
Angola: Day 7 A full day exploring the villages of the Muhimba, Muhacuonaand Vatwa people
Angola: Day 8 After an early start we will drive to the region of the Mundimba before we find a village and stay with a Mundimba family overnight.
Angola: Day 9 Today we will drive on good bitumen roads o Chibia, home to the friendly Mumwila people. If time allows, we will enjoy a sunset photography session at a local Mumwila village.
Angola: Day 10 A full day visiting Mumwila people in local markets and at their villages.
Angola: Day 11 Today we will drive from Chibia to a tiny isolated village to visit the last remaining women of the Nyaneke Handa women at a local market. After meeting and photographing them we will return to Lubango for a welcome overnight at our hotel.
Angola: Day 12 A pre-dawn start awaits us as we rise with enough time to catch the sunrise at the stunning rock arch formations of Arco. We will enjoy breakfast here before driving further down the coast to visit Tombwa, a scenic settlement with an old cathedral.
In the Tombwa area, we will visit two isolated fishing communities on the coast north of the town for photography. The people here belong to the Kwepe tribe, also known as Curoca, which is part of the Kuvale ethnic group.
Afterwards, we depart for the stunning ‘Mars-like’ landscapes of Curoca. When the light of the day is too low for photography, we will return to Namibe for dinner and overnight.
Angola: Day 13 A sleep-in for the guests finishing the tour today. The main section of our Angola photography tour ends after breakfast this morning. A transfer will be provided to Lubango airport.
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