Malanje – Rapids of Kwanza and Black Sables
Malanje is a province in Center North of Angola. Its capital also named Malanje is 421 Km from Luanda. The most famous landmarks are the Kalandula waterfalls, the black stones of Pungo Andongo and the rapids of Kwanza. The Giant Black Sable (Palancas) national park is also in the province, just 30km from Malanje city and we wanted so much to include it in our schedule.
Although only 421 Km the journey from Luanda is long. So, we started at 6 a.m. and arrived at Malanje at 13h00, with two quick stops. That’s an unbeatable average… of 60k/h…! We went through the Golongo Alto road and some sectors of the road are in really bad shape. Although it’s still doable in a small car. Please be aware that we heard that the Dondo road is even worse.
Sleeping in Malanje
We stayed in Hotel Regina II for the two nights. Although on the expensive side we were very pleased with the Hotel. We believe that it’s better than the reviews say. It does the job perfectly. The room is big, clean and comfortable. The breakfast was buffet with usual options. On the downsize, the room’s AC wasn’t working. Anyway we definitely recommend you to stay in it.
RAPIDS OF RIVER KWANZA
Coming from Malanje, the rapids are a few Km after the town of Cangandala. To get into the rapids, you have to turn left into a dirt road just before the bridge over the River Kwanza. From the bridge you have a nice few of the rapids. The dirt road goes right through a village for 2 km into river Kwanza. When we got there we were saluted by a dozen of kids wanting to be our guides and asking if we wanted to be their friends. Although slightly overwhelming the kids were friendly, careful and even organized with the older ones taking charge, guiding us to the top of the waterfall and then into the water showing us the right path. They showed us how they fish in the small river dam and told us that when flow is lower there are crocodiles and hippos in the river. We noticed the cassava drying in the river banks, and even if we didn’t, we couldn’t miss its strong scent. Tip: If you decide on going to the rapids take cookies and sodas to give away to those kids. You will make their day and see some simple, true and honest happiness.
Kwanza is a big river, with a huge flow, thus the final drop of 5 or 6 meters of the rapids make a powerful waterfall. It’s an impressive image that will stay with you for a long time. You can swim in the flat water above and below the fall. For adventure seekers we found this unbelievable kayaking video in the upper Kwanza river:
You can only wonder, what other unreal places Angola have to offer?
In search of the Giant Black Sable National Park
As said above we wanted to see the Black sables and we knew the park was in Cangandala, but we couldn’t find any indication to it… So we asked in the hotel and in a restaurant they both told us the park was closed to the public; We asked to some random people in the street and some of them suggested we go and talk to the Soba of Cangandala. Maybe he could organize a visit for us, or even go with us. But, how would we find him…? Well, we went to Cangandala and looked for him… we went into the village and asked someone if they knew where Soba’s house was? He was very friendly and suggested to take us there. So we invited him to our car and he took us right into Soba’s house and informed that we wanted a hearing with him.
As we were being introduced many people gathered around us and laid chairs for us to sit in the hearing. Soba then invited us to sit and tell what brought us there. We explained the purpose of our visit asked if there were really black sables and if there was a way of him helping us see them. He kindly explained that he couldn’t grant an entry to the park, only the administrator could grant that. But if we wanted he would take us to her. We accepted his offer and went to find the administrator.
Soba came with us to the public administrator’s house, but when we got there she was gone. We had gone to the church… Luckily, while we were still trying to figure what we were going to do, the administrator arrived. We, again, explained we would love to go to the sable park and the way we made go get to her. The administrator politely explained that the park was too big and the number of black sables was still too small for her to guarantee any sightings. To make it worse, the grass was way to high (2 meters) for us to see anything.
Unfortunately it was obvious that we weren’t going to see Angola’s national symbol this day. She suggested that we could schedule a visit to August, when the grass is smaller and most importantly by that time there would be a way of GPS tracking the Sables which would help the sightings. We took her contacts and thanked her very much.
Although ultimately we failed our goal: we weren’t able to see the sables neither enter the park. it was quite an unusual cultural experience: going to a traditional village, having a hearing with the Soba. The warm, kind and helpful way we were received was the closest we ever experienced to the famous cliché of the kindness and hospitality of the African people with smiling and welcoming faces.