Kissama National Park – A Safari in Angola
Kissama national park is about 75 km south to Luanda. It’s close enough to easily do a day trip and far enough to be completely outside the city influence. The park entrance is just 2 km after the bridge of river Kwanza, which makes most of the northern border of the park.
Kissama Lodge and Safari prices
The first game drive is around 7:00 AM, so to get there in time we woke up at 5:00 in the morning to leave at 5:30. This way we escaped city traffic and arrived just in time. Be advised that between the park entrance and the Kissama Lodge we have to drive about 30 km in a dirt road. Don’t let this scare you, the road was in almost perfect condition, better than many of other roads in Angola.
We heard that the lodge wasn’t in good conditions so we had low expectations, but in fact it looked well maintained, with a bar, a pool and a stunning view to the park. We couldn’t check the inside of the huts but from the outside they looked nice. They aren’t luxurious but we wouldn’t mind spending the night. The problem is that there wasn’t anyone staying there and no else but our group doing the game drive. If this is a normal day, they won’t be able to keep the park open with good conditions. It’s a shame, because it’s a very pleasant activity and not that pricey… at least when compared with other prices in Angola:
- National Park Entrance: 2500 Akz( 15 USD) per person;
- Game drive: 4000 Akz ( 24 USD) per person;
- One night accommodation with breakfast: 20 000Akz (120USD);
*Note: We have read and talked to people who paid different prices. Although we didn’t bargain (neither it would make any sense), apparently as many other things in Angola the prices of the park don’t seem to be very rigid.
The Animals and Plants in Kissama
Kissama was created as a hunting reserve in 1938 and became a National Park in 1957. During the 30 years war most of the animals were killed and the Park was devastated. In 2000 it was revitalized through Noah’s Arc operation, which translocated a huge number of animals from South Africa and Botswana to Angola. This included elephants, elands, giraffes, wildebeest and zebras. These animals adapted very well to their new home and are repopulating Kissama National Park very quickly. Although this success, Kissama can’t yet compete with other African parks like, Kruger (see here and here), Chobe or Etosha, in terms of the huge herds of animals neither has their variety and still lacks on predators like lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas.
What Kissama lacks on quantity of fauna it balances with the quality of its flora and natural scenery. In terms of inherent and wild beauty Kissama is as beautiful as it gets. The Kwanza river, the surrounding landscape, the abnormal quantity of huge Baobab trees mixed with huge cactus and other exotic plants make the scenery luxurious or even Jurassic like. We were very lucky and went there in rainy season therefore the park was gloriously green.
The Safari in Kissama
The safari game drive takes up to 3 hours and goes through the park looking for the big prizes: Elephants and Giraffes. We noticed a few idiosyncrasies on this safari tour:
- In Kissama the safari starts off through the dirt road and then it goes into tracks through the savanna. Why is it different? After a while you notice that you are more in “off the beaten track” and then there’s no track at all! You are driving literally in the middle of the bush without road and without tracks. We have never done this in other national parks… IT WAS FUN!
- When you find an interesting animal… let’s say a herd of elephants, but they go away… the driver goes wild and starts chasing and hunting down the herd so you can have a better look. This was rather unique. In every other safari we did, if the animal hides or goes away, your bad luck. We can’t disturb the animals in any way, so let’s try to find another one. If the park gets bigger and with crowds they will need to change to a more passive attitude
- The truck used in the safari is a huge truck, that is incredibly noisy. Besides being uncomfortable to the client it seemed to scare off some animals. They need to improve on this.
- The guides looked knowledgeable and did a great job finding and showing us the best of Kissama, but they really need to work on communication. They didn’t really explain much about the animals, the plants or the park…
We were lucky enough to see a big herd of elephants, roughly 10 to 15, and two beautiful giraffes, one of them drinking water in a waterhole. Besides these two we also got to see elands, Zebras, several kinds of antelopes, monkeys and wildebeest (fighting which was incredibly cool). The park also offers a boat ride, for those still wanting safari activities. We didn’t try it, but you can spot crocodiles in the Kwanza river.
Overall the Safari is worth for the natural beauty and the park itself, but the tour can be improved. We believe that this will happen if more tourists come and enable the Park and Guides to improve.
Post Kissama Safari tour activities
While arriving to the Kissama Lodge we had a surprise waiting for us. The lodge was full of monkeys playing in the ground and trees. There were so many and so cute, with youngsters and babies also. Although clearly wild, they looked quite used to humans.
They probably go to the lodge every day looking for easy food. They even came to us to get some cookies. It was the first time we were able to do something like this 🙂
Finally after all this Safari fun, it’s only 11:00 so the logical thing to do is… going to the beach! Kissama is very close, 20km or 30Km, to the great beaches of Sangano and Cabo Ledo! These are great beached to relax, sunbathe, play in and by the turquoise and warm water. Both of beaches have good restaurants where you can have fresh seafood! What better way to end an already great day?You can even buy seafood from local fisherman to cook at home.
If Angola ever truly opens up to international tourism Kissama will become as widely known as other great game parks of Africa. It surely has all the potential, don’t you think?