Panthera’s road to Luengue-Luiana National Park began in 2015 with a comprehensive survey of the park’s potential following decades of civil war. The survey, conducted in cooperation with the Angolan Ministry of Environment, assessed the status and distribution of lions, other large carnivores and key herbivores, in both Luengue-Luiana and Mavinga National Parks. You can read the report of that survey's results here as well as Dr. Paul Funston's blog on lion populations within the country here.
It was roughly a year ago to the day when I answered the unexpected call from Dr. Paul Funston, Panthera’s Southern Africa Regional Director. After a lengthy discussion, I understood the vision for what could be one of the largest national parks in Africa. With a smile on my face, I began to imagine my idea of the epitome of Africa: a vast wilderness of land where wildlife could live without the threats from human development and intervention.
Fast forward to today; I sit on the banks of the Kwando River and write this blog under a large sausage tree with roots firmly planted in the soils of Luengue–Luiana National Park in Angola. Visitors to the park are greeted by proud members of the Angolan National Police as well as the local rangers, known as fiscais, at the border post.
Wildlife such as buffalo, reedbuck and elephant eagerly await the arrival of those brave enough to venture into what I classify as “Africa at its best.” The rewarding sight of a male lion’s tracks shortly beyond the Namibian border reassures me that we are now in the right place.
While driving through the soft sands of Angola, I realize how privileged I am to call this piece of paradise home for the next five years. This park, along with blood, sweat and tears involved in creating it, are the result of Panthera signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Angola. Together, we are working with local authorities and communities to generate economic benefits through wildlife conservation.
A drive to Jamba, a main town within the national park, rewards one with breath-taking scenery of Southern African landscapes. A quick glance to the left even shows a hyena standing in broad daylight. As I turn off the engine and turn on my camera, I realize that Angola is ready to be offered to the world. This park is a place that offers superlative wildlife sightings and houses a community that is proud of what they have in their country, and rightly so.
After driving a few minutes down the sandy track, we come into a woodland area where it seems every sound is amplified. It’s here that we see four cheetahs: an adult female and her three cubs. Indeed, this is the highlight of my ride.
Luengue–Luiana National Park sits in southern Angola and is neighbored by Bwabata National Park in Namibia to the south and Sioma-Ngwezi National Park in Zambia to the east. There is no doubt that this piece of Africa is ready to showcase itself to those who find they have a chunk of Africa already embedded in their hearts.
As the winds start to settle and the campfire becomes the prominent source of light, a sense of excitement settles in. Our minds begin to anticipate what tomorrow will offer. Taking in every moment one cannot help but feel humbled by the dream of Angola that is now slowly becoming a reality. The long road to Luengue–Luiana is starting to transform into not just a trip, but the journey of a lifetime.
Want to know more about the big cats of Luengue-Luiana? Read more about cheetahs and lions on our website.
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