The longest railway line in Angola, which crosses the country to its borders with Zambia and DR Congo, departs from its second city, Lobito, which has a deep water port.
In the Baía das Vacas began about 1601 the first landing of Portuguese attracted by an apparent animal richness. After that, Manuel Cerveira Pereira was motivated by the legends of the rich silver and copper mines of the region and he founded S. Filipe de Benguela that would become the basis of penetration in the island.
The location of S. Filipe was very bad since it was surrounded by swamps and was also fatal for the majority of the population that passed away of the worst diseases.
At this point, the colonisation began in Benguela and directed to the inland, to South and mainly East, started to give some profits. As well as the caravans of commercial exchange stimulated by the exchange of colonial goods for articles coming from Europe (cloths, wine and trinkets).
The few dry fish that was produced and salt also gave their contribution to this situation allowing the exchange for goods from the tableland: at the beginning cereals, wax, rubber and ivory and then cattle, manioc, castor oil plant and sisal. Benguela began to be considered as the most important commercial harbour after Luanda; it was the departure and arrival point of exchange caravans.
Mokamba (that in the native’s language means Benguela) was the symbol of commercial prosperity and the Mecca of businessmen. A new life begins and under this climate began to appear villages, intermediary cities and production centres of goods in the inland: the purpose was Benguela. And it was from Benguela that came out the majority of settlers that founded cities to the East. So the myth of Benguela becomes Known – City, Mother of Cities. Catengue, Ganda, Cubal, Quinjenje, Cuma, Longonjo, Lépi and Caála were born.
The need for an harbour and the wonderful conditions of the ancient Catumbela das Ostras from the time of Manuel Cerveira Pereira, gave form to Lobito. The creation of this harbour and city confirmed the importance of the phenomenon of colonisation made from Benguela in a range of about 1300 km – from the coast to the frontier. But the crisis in Benguela became stronger when the trade with the natives began to disperse. The economic situation got worse after the fall of the international quotation of the sisal produced in the outskirts after the 2nd World War. The square of Benguela worked in great scale with the sisal of the surrounding inland regions and the majority of their capitals was lost with the fall of quotation. So, what was left of those capitals was directed to another kind of business: fishing.
The coast of Benguela was a true wealth: the boats came full of fish and fish meant real money. Money started to appear. Sea workers arrived from Portugal settling there and like this the kingdom of fishing began. Thanks to the profits, lots of houses, little an big buildings were built by destroying the old “adobe”. In 1948 the urbanization plan of Benguela began. The development of Benguela is due to the fishing industry meaning a jump to progress that can never be equalled.
The cultural and social events have been relevant through the times. Benguela was the pioneer of journalism in Angola and the cradle of athletes and teams that made history in the Angolan sport. In the surroundings of Benguela there is a group of the most interesting beaches: Caóta and Caotinha, Baía Azul and Baía Farta are their names and in all of them are ideal conditions for sportive fishing and scuba diving. In Baía Azul there is a touristic infrastructure run by the Baía Azul Hotel.
Praia Morena: You can see Benguela smiling at you on the fine white sands of this beach, which starts in downtown Benguela, where the main govemment buildings and hotels are located and stretches out over I 000 metres. This beach is popular among young courting couples.
Baía de Santo António: Three kilometers long
Praia da Caota: Ten km. from the city centre, it is 400 metres long. Its clean waters are smooth, this beach being a mixture of sand and pebbles, making it a good spot for scuba diving.
Praia da Caotinha: 20 km. from the city centre, it owes its name ("Little Caota beach") to its size (just 150m. long). You can reach this beach going round the Morro (hill) da Caota.
Praia da Baía Azul: This is a splendid beach south of Benguela, three kilometers long. It is named after its blue waters. Baía Azul is considered as the Mother of Beaches in the Baía Farta area, many of which can be found in inlets along the coastline.
The great business of Catumbela began by the trade with inland mainly after the opening of the road to Bailundo and Bié.
The trade of rubber began in 1888 and was the basis of a tremendous development. “It was a real rubber excitement – everything was made of plastic, there was a lot of money and everyone wanted to be dealer. The most important commercial houses opened offices in Lisbon and many firms were born. With such an evolution, the links between Catumbela and Benguela, served by roads with excellent art works, needed a modern system of transport faster than the bull car and than the boats that navigated near the coast.
That’s how the idea of the railway was born. The last two decades of 19th Century can be considered the peak period of Catumbela, helped by special geographical aspects related to the commercial life with the local populations. Catumbela, famous and beautiful village, is today a stable land. The present and the future give it agricultural traditions that imposed it in the past to the conquerors from the kingdom of Benguela. They made it famous for its precious source of richness during the tough periods of lack of food.
In that time was also approved its urbanisation plan. In 1949, it was published an edict that established the legal rules to legalise clandestine constructions. The Resting of Lobito was then urbanised becoming a more noble residential area and the best meeting point in moments of leisure.
By order of 28 November 1902, the great statesman and council president, Teixeira de Sousa, granted in the name of the Portuguese government to sir Robert Williams the contract of concession to construct and explore during 99 years the railway road that would link Lobito to the tableland of Benguela getting to the East till the luso-Belgian frontier. When the construction works began in 1 March 1903 it also began the brilliant history of the harbour of Lobito and were born at the same time the roots of this important city.
The excellent bay that shelters the harbour of Lobito, measures approximately 5 km of length, it has an entry of 600 m, the wider part measures 1,5 km with depths between 15 and 36 m and the biggest tide amplitude is of 1,9 m exceeding its 300000 square m of area. The first place of the works was finished in 31 January 1928 but there was afterwards the need to enlarge the quay that happened in 1957 giving Lobito two quays of 1.122 m forming an “L”. It was also built a shipyard called today “Estalnave”, the biggest of Angola.
The beaches of Lobito, in the city itself, are easy to get to and are near hotel accommodation. The best known are Restinga, Cabaia, Compão and Liro in the baía de Lobito, which is so large it could accommodate the /th Fleet of the US Navy.
In the surroundings of Lobito: Palácio do Governo (old colonial style architecture), Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Arrábida (17th century), Quilve lighthouse, Termas (Spa) da lomba (22 km.), Barra do Rio Cumbal (32 km.), Bela Vista belvedere, Vila da Catumbela (8 km.), São Pedra da Catumbela lighthouse (9 km.), Nossa Senhora Aparecida belvedere (9 km.)
Nature reserves and parks
Cimalavera: With an area of 150 km.2, the Parque Natural Regional da Cimalavera is the main nature reserve of the province of Benguela. It was set up as a special reserve in 1971 and upgraded to National park in 1974. It has a great variety of fauna, its main attraction being the cabra de leque, a species of goat.
Búfalo: The Reserve parcial do Búfalo was set up in 1974.400 km.2 in area, it also has a great variety of species of animais, its name deriving from the black buffalo.
Others: Morro do Capelongo, Planalto Grande, Morro de Cimalavera, Maitse, Binga, Catengue, Coporolo and Coalongo. In these áreas, you can find animals ranging from smaIl antelopes to lions and elephants, apart from zebras, buffalos, ongires and palancas. As far as the flora is concerned, the most important forest reserves are those between Cubal and Catumbela, 600 km2. of woods and savannah and the reserve at Chongoroi, 650 km.2 of dry wood, savannah and steppe.