Ilha dos Tigres Ghost Island - Angola
Baia dos Tigres otherwise known as Ilha dos Tigres is the largest island off the coast of Angola.
The country is synonymous with internal strife and because of the problems of the seventies, when Angola had gained independence but had no single powerful political force, many of the areas and towns which were thriving communities under the Portuguese are now deserted and being reclaimed by nature.
In some cases this has proved fortuitous for the local wildlife and conservation of the fragile ecosystems which abound off the west coast of Africa. Ilha dos Tigres is about 20 miles long and is reached by boat from the mainland.
The first impression one gets of the island is gained from seeing huge sand dunes falling into the sea and guiding the boat over huge shallow lagoons that teem with life.
The island was originally a peninsula that extended from the bank of the Foz do Cunene river. The inhabitants of the island received their fresh water from a pumping station at the village of Foz do Cunene but after several storms the land bridge was washed away together with the water supply pipes. The island became isolated and eventually the inhabitants left. The lack of a customer base forced the closure of the pumping station and the people left the town. Today, a little like Kolmanskop, further south in Namibia, the desert is gradually reclaiming the town.
The island is now an uninhabited wetland area teeming with marine life and an important breeding ground for birds.
Before the Angolan War the island was a busy commercial fishing community with many Portuguese colonial buildings but now with its abandonment, the only accommodation is the tents of travellers. Accessing the island is an experience in itself. The towering dunes that plunge down to the sea leave no access for cars and the only access to the island by vehicle is across the exposed flat sand when the tide is out. The tide times and soft wet sand mean that the route must be driven at high speed to avoid sinking in the sand and skilful driving is a must.
Today the area is popular with sport fishermen who regularly return with game fish in excess of 200kg. Apart from them, the seabirds and turtles have the area to themselves.