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Geography of Angola

Related subjects: African Geography

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Map of Angola
Continent Africa
Subregion Southern Africa
Geographic coordinates 12°30′S 18°30′E
 - Total
 - Water
Ranked 30th
1,246,700 km²
Coastline 1600 km
Land boundaries 5,198 km
Countries bordered DROC 2,511 km
Republic of Congo 201 km
Namibia 1,376 km
Zambia 1,110 km
Highest point Mount Moco, 2,620 m
Lowest point Atlantic Ocean, 0 m
Longest river Congo River, 4,344 m
Largest inland body of water
Terrain: coastal lowlands, hills and mountains, high plains
Natural resources petroleum, diamonds, iron ore, phosphates, copper, feldspar, gold, bauxite, uranium
Natural hazards occasional heavy rainfall with accompanying floods
Environmental issues deforestation, overgrazing of meadows, air pollution, waste disposal

Angola is located on the western Atlantic Coast of southern Africa between Namibia and the Republic of the Congo. It also is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia to the east. The country consists of a sparsely watered and somewhat sterile coastal plain extending inland for a distance varying from 30 to 100 miles (48 to 160 km). Slightly inland and parallel to the coast is a belt of hills and mountains and behind those a large plateau.


Satellite image of Angola
Topographic map of Angola.

The rock formations of Angola are met with in three distinct regions:

  1. the littoral zone,
  2. the median zone formed by a series of hills more or less parallel with the coast,
  3. the central plateau.

The central plateau consists of ancient crystalline rocks with granites overlain by non-fossiliferous sandstones and conglomerates of Paleozoic age. The outcrops are largely hidden under laterite. The median zone is composed largely of crystalline rocks with granites and some Palaeozoic unfossiliferous rocks. The littoral zone contains the only fossiliferous strata. These are of Tertiary and Cretaceous ages, the latter rocks resting on a reddish sandstone of older date. The Cretaceous rocks of the Dombe Grande region (near Benguella) are of Albian age and belong to the Acanthoceras mamillari zone. The beds containing Schloenbachia inflata are referable to the Gault. Rocks of Tertiary age are met with at Dombe Grande, Mossamedes and near Loanda. The sandstones with gypsum, copper and sulfur of Dombe are doubtfully considered to be of Triassic age. Recent eruptive rocks, mainly basalts, form a line of hills almost bare of vegetation between Benguella and Mossamedes. Nepheline basalts and liparites occur at Dombe Grande. The presence of gum copal in considerable quantities in the superficial rocks is characteristic of certain regions.


Southern Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Namibia and Democratic Republic of the Congo

Geographic coordinates: 12°30′S 18°30′E

Map references: Africa


  • total: 1,246,700 km2 (481,354 sq mi)
  • land: 1,246,700 km2 (481,354 sq mi)
  • water: 0 km2 (0 sq mi)

country comparison to the world: 30

Area comparative

  • Australia comparative: smaller than the Northern Territory
  • Canada comparative: slightly smaller than the Northwest Territories
  • United Kingdom comparative: 5 times bigger than the UK
  • United States comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Texas


  • Luanda (São Paulo de Loanda) - port - railhead

Major Cities

  • Amboim (Porto Amboim)
  • Bailundo (Vila Teixeira da Silva)
  • Benguela (São Felipe de Benguella) - port - railhead
  • Caála (Vila Robert Williams)
  • Calandula (Duque de Bragança)
  • Camacupa (Vila General Machado)
  • Chibia (Vila João de Almeida)
  • Ganda (Vila Mariano Machado)
  • Huambo (Nova Lisboa) - rail
  • Kuito (Silva Porto)
  • Kuvango (Vila da Ponte)
  • Lubango (Sá da Bandeira)
  • Luena (Vila Luso)
  • Massango (Forte República)
  • Mbanza Congo (São Salvador do Congo)
  • Menongue (Serpa Pinto) - railhead
  • Namibe (Moçâmedes) - port - railhead
  • N'Dalatando (Vila Salazar) - rail
  • N'Giva (Vila Pereira d'Eça)
  • Saurimo (Vila Henrique de Carvalho)
  • Soyo (Santo António do Zaire)
  • Sumbe (Novo Redondo)
  • Tombua (Porto Alexandre)
  • Uíje (Carmona)
  • Other Towns in Angola

Land boundaries

  • total: 5,198 km

Coastline: 1,600 km

Maritime claims:

  • contiguous zone: 24  nmi (44 km)
  • exclusive economic zone: 200 nmi (370 km)
  • territorial sea: 12 nmi (22 km)


Like the rest of tropical Africa, Angola experiences distinct, alternating rainy and dry seasons. The coastal strip is tempered by the cool Benguela Current, resulting in a climate similar to coastal Peru or Baja California. It is semiarid in South and along coast to Luanda. There is a short rainy season lasting from February to April. Summers are hot and dry, while winters are mild. North has cool, dry season (May to October) and hot, rainy season (November to April). In the interior, above 3,300 ft (1,000 m), the temperature and rainfall decrease. The interior highlands have a mild climate with a rainy season from November through April followed by a cool dry season from May to October. The plateau climate is healthy and invigorating. The mean annual temperature at São Salvador do Congo is 22.2 °C (72.0 °F); at Luanda, 23.3 °C (73.9 °F); and at Caconda, {convert|19.5|C|F}}. The climate is greatly influenced by the prevailing winds, which arc W., S.W. and S.S.W. Two seasons are distinguished - the cool, from June to September; and the rainy, from October to May. The heaviest rainfall occurs in April, and is accompanied by violent storms. The far north and Cabinda enjoy rain throughout much of the year.


Angola has four principal natural regions: the arid coastal lowland, stretching from Namibia to Luanda and characterized by low plains and terraces; green hills and mountains, rising inland from the coast into a great escarpment; a large area of high inland plains of dry savanna, called the high plateau (planalto), which extends eastward and south-east from the escarpment; and rain forest in the north and in Cabinda. The highest point in Angola is Morro de Môco, at 2,620 m. Elevations generally range from 3,000 to 6,000 feet (910 to 1,800 m).

Coastal lowland

The coast is for the most part flat, with occasional low cliffs and bluffs of red sandstone. There is but one deep inlet of the sea - Great Fish Bay (or Baía dos Tigres). Farther north are Port Alexander, Little Fish Bay and Lobito Bay, while shallower bays are numerous. Lobito Bay has water sufficient to allow large ships to unload close inshore. The coastal lowland rises from the sea in a series of low terraces. This region varies in width from about 25 kilometers near Benguela to more than 150 kilometers in the Cuanza River Valley just south of Angola's capital, Luanda, and is markedly different from Angola's highland mass. The Atlantic Ocean's cold, northwardflowing Benguela Current substantially reduces precipitation along the coast, making the region relatively arid or nearly so south of Benguela (where it forms the northern extension of the Namib Desert), and quite dry even in its northern reaches. Even where, as around Luanda, the average annual rainfall may be as much as fifty centimeters, it is not common for the rains to fail. Given this pattern of precipitation, the far south is marked by sand dunes, which give way to dry scrub along the middle coast. Portions of the northern coastal plain are covered by thick brush.

Hills and mountains

The approach to the great central plateau of Africa is marked by the west-central highlands, a series of irregular escarpments and cuestas parallel to the coast at distances ranging from 20 kilometers to 100 kilometers inland as Tala Mugongo (4,400 ft/1,300 m), Chella and Vissecua (5,250 or 6,500 ft/1,600 or 2,000 m). The Cuanza River divides the mountain zone into two parts. The northern part rises gradually from the coastal zone to an average elevation of 500 meters, with crests as high as 1,000 meters to 1,800 meters. South of the Cuanza River, the hills rise sharply from the coastal lowlands and form a high escarpment, extending from a point east of Luanda and running south through Namibia. The highest peak is Mount Moco (2,620 m/8,600 ft), and the escarpment is steepest in the far south in the Serra da Chella mountain range. In Benguela Province other high points are Loviti (7,780 ft/2,370 m), in 12° 5' S., and Mt. Elonga (7,550 ft/2,300 m). South of the Cuanza is the volcanic mountain Caculo-Cabaza (3,300 ft/1,000 m).

High plateau

The high plateau, with an altitude ranging from 4,000 to 6,000 feet (1,200 to 1,800 m), lies to the east of the hills and mountains and dominates Angola's terrain. It consists of well-watered, wide, rolling plains, and low hills with scanty vegetation. The surface of the plateau is typically flat or rolling, but parts of the Benguela Plateau and the Humpata Highland area of the Huíla Plateau in the south reach heights of 2,500 meters and more. The Malanje Plateau to the north rarely exceeds 1,000 meters in height. The Benguela Plateau and the coastal area in the immediate environs of Benguela and Lobito, the Bié Plateau, the Malanje Plateau, and a small section of the Huíla Plateau near the town of Lubango have long been among the most densely settled areas in Angola. In the east the tableland falls away to the basins of the Congo and Zambezi, to the south in Namibia it merges into a barren sandy desert.


The Zambezi River and several tributaries of the Congo River have their sources in Angola. A large number of rivers originate in the central uplands, but their patterns of flow are diverse and their ultimate outlets varied. A number flow in a more or less westerly course to the Atlantic Ocean, providing water for irrigation in the dry coastal strip and the potential for hydroelectric power, only some of which had been realized by 1988. Two of Angola's most important rivers, the Cuanza (Kwanza) and the Cunene (Kunene), take a more indirect route to the Atlantic, the Cuanza flowing north and the Cunene flowing south before turning west. The Cuanza is the only river wholly within Angola that is navigable--for nearly 200 kilometers from its mouth- -by boats of commercially or militarily significant size. The Congo River, whose mouth and western end form a small portion of Angola's northern border with Zaire, is also navigable.

North of the Lunda Divide the Kwango and many other streams flow north from the tableland to join the Kasai River (one of the largest affluents of the Congo), which in its upper course forms for fully 300 mi (480 km) the boundary between Angola and the Congo. South of the divide some rivers flow into the Zambezi River system and thence to the Indian Ocean, others to the Okavango River (as the Cubango River is called along the border with Namibia and in Botswana) and thence to Lake Ngami and the Okavango Swamp in Botswana. The tributaries of the Cubango River and several of the southern rivers flowing to the Atlantic are seasonal, completely dry much of the year.

Land use and hazards

Natural resources: petroleum, diamonds, iron ore, phosphates, copper, feldspar, gold, bauxite, uranium

Land use:

  • arable land: 2.65%
  • permanent crops: 0.23%
  • other: 97.12% (2005)

Irrigated land: 800 km² (2003 est.)

Total renewable water resources: 184  km3 (44.1  cu mi) (1987)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

  • total: 0.35 km3 (0.084 cu mi)/yr (23%/17%/60%)
  • per capita: 22 m3 (29 cu yd)/yr (2000)

Natural hazards: locally heavy rainfall causes periodic flooding on the plateau

Environment - current issues

Overuse of pastures and subsequent soil erosion attributable to population pressures; desertification; deforestation of tropical rain forest, in response to both international demand for tropical timber and to domestic use as fuel, resulting in loss of biodiversity; soil erosion contributing to water pollution and silting of rivers and dams; inadequate supplies of potable water

Environment - international agreements:

  • party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution ( MARPOL 73/78)
  • signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Flora and fauna

Both flora and fauna are those characteristic of the greater part of tropical Africa. As far south as Benguela the coast region is rich in oil palms and mangroves. In the Northern part of the province are dense forests. In the South towards the Kunene are regions of dense thorn scrub. Rubber vines and trees are abundant, but in some districts their number has been considerably reduced by the primitive methods adopted by native collectors of rubber. The species most common are various root rubbers, notably the Carpodinus chylorrhiza. This species and other varieties of carpodinus are very widely distributed. Landolphias are also found. The coffee, cotton and Guinea pepper plants are indigenous, and the tobacco plant flourishes in several districts. Among the trees are several which yield excellent timber, such as the tacula (Pterocarpus tinctorius), which grows to an immense size, its wood being blood-red in colour, and the Angola mahogany. The bark of the musuemba (Albizzia coriaria) is largely used in the tanning of leather. The mulundo bears a fruit about the size of a cricket ball covered with a hard green shell and containing scarlet pips like a pomegranate.

The fauna includes the lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, giraffe, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, buffalo, zebra, kudu and many other kinds of antelope, wildpig, ostrich and crocodile. Angola previously served as a habitat for the endangered African Wild Dog, which is now deemed to be extinct within the entire country, stemming from human activities during the period 1965 to 1991. Among fish are the barbel, bream and African yellow fish.

Ecoregions of Angola

The following ecoregions have been described in Angola:

  • Angolan Scarp savanna and woodlands, the steep coastal escarpment.
  • Angolan montane forest-grassland mosaic, the inland slopes of the central highlands which are covered in grassland and contain the remaining patches of mountain woodland;
  • Angolan Miombo woodlands, much of the large inland plain, indeed most of central Angola.
  • Angolan Mopane woodlands, an area in the south, mostly comprising Cunene Province and extending across the border into neighbouring Namibia.

(more to add here)

Geography - note: the province of Cabinda is an exclave, separated from the rest of the country by the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Extreme points

This is a list of the extreme points of Angola, the points that are farther north, south, east or west than any other location.


  • Northernmost Point - unnamed point on the border with Republic of the Congo (north of the town Caio Bemba, Cabinda province (an Angolan exclave)
  • Easternmost Point - unnamed location on a river section of the border with Zambia (north of the town Sapeta in Zambia), Moxico province
  • Southernmost Point - on the point where the Cunene River section of the border with Namibia terminates at the Caprivi Strip (immediately north of the town Andara in Namibia, Cuando Cubango province
  • Westernmost Point - Baía dos Tigres island, Namibe Province

Angola (mainland)

  • Northernmost Point - a point on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo immediately to the north-west of the town Luvo, Zaire Province
  • Easternmost Point - unnamed point on a river section of the border with Zambia (north of the town Sapeta in Zambia), Moxico province
  • Southernmost Point - on the point where the Cunene River section of the border with Namibia terminates at the Caprivi Strip (immediately north of the town Andara in Namibia, Cuando Cubango province
  • Westernmost Point - unnamed headland west of Tombua (Porto Alexandre), Namibe
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