Iona National Park in Angola
Covering an area of approximately 15,200 square kilometers, Iona National park is the largest national park in the Republic of Angola. It is poisoned in the southwestern corner of the country in the province of Namibe. Iona National park is bound by different features including the Atlantic Ocean to the West, an escarpment to the East and this marks the beginning of the interior plateau, the Curoca River to the North and the River of Cunene to the south. With about 200 kilometers south of the city of Namibe and covering about 5,850 square miles, the Iona’s unique ecosystem is characterized by the shifting dunes, the rough mountains, cliffs, vast plains, savannah areas and Mopane woodlands.
Iona national park was proclaimed as a game reserve in 1937 and later in 1964 it was upgraded to a national park. It is situated in the northern Namib Desert – the only true desert in South Africa. This area is also known as Kaokoveld Desert and it is considered as one of the oldest deserts in the world with over 60 to 80 years old. The desert faces the Atlantic Ocean for about 180 kilometers on the edge of the Benguela Current – A cold up-welling from the depths of the Atlantic that creates a rich offshore ecosystem. Linked with different national parks like Skeleton Coast National park and Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia, Iona national park’s climate is characterized by the heavy fogs which happen when the hot and the dry airs of the desert combine with the cold and wet airs of the Benguela current.
Iona national park encompasses unique ecosystems including the reptile species, mammal species, plant and the bird species. These features only occur in the eco – region. Among the faunal species in the national park include the Hartmann’s zebras, cheetahs, leopard, South African oryx, spring bock, brown hyenas, and the ostriches. The park is known as one of the important bird areas in Angola with over 150 bird species.
Wildlife in Iona National Park
Despite the increased illegal acts like poaching and illegal hunting, Iona national park is still one of the major destinations for game viewing. The park hosts a variety of wildlife including the ostriches, the kudu, and zebra, springbok, impala, leopards, cheetah, klipspringer, Quelengue and others.
Iona national park is one of the important destinations for the birders. The national park is a home to over 114 bird species where a number of them are sighted at the banks of River Curoca and in the woodlands. Among the birds recorded at the park include the lesser flamingos, gray lark, cape gannet, African penguin, Cinderella waxbill, Rueppel’s parrot, Ludwig bustard and many others.
Attractions in Iona National park
Besides the faunal species, Iona national park is made up of unique floral species including the Welwitschia Mirabilis. This is one of the oldest plant species in the world. The park also encompasses different features like the sand dunes, the river basin and the coastal pans which are amazing destinations and sites for photographic adventures and hiking safaris.
The national park is also surrounded by unique tribal groups with unique cultural practices including; the Himba, Kimbundu, and the Mucubal people. Many of these tribal people are farmers and livestock herders who have lived in these areas for a number of years.