Nature Travel in Ghana
West Africas Threshold
|Elephants in Mole National Park in Ghana.
Follow the coast west from Accra, Ghana, and you will reach one of the few well-preserved areas of tropical rainforest in West
Africa. The highlight of the Kakum National Park, about 20 miles from the coast, is its canopy walk, which begins on a hilltop and extends more than 500 feet
into the forest to more than 100 feet above the forest floor.
European traders built about 40 forts along the coast in Ghana, originally as trading posts for gold. When the slave trade surpassed
the gold trade, their storerooms became dungeons for thousands of captives who were held there for transfer into ships bound for the West. Of the dozen slave
castles that remain, Cape Coast and St. Georges offer excellent museums and tours. For those who want an even deeper experience, four other fortsGood
Hope and Patience between Accra and Cape Coast, and Metal Cross and Princes Town farther westoffer sleeping accommodations.
The National Cultural Centre in Kumasi is a good place to start learning about Asante culture. A miniature Asante village is on the
grounds, but why content yourself with a mock village when actual Asante villages are an easy drive from Kumasi? Several villages specialize in a particular
craft, with techniques handed down through the generations. Individual travelers will readily find villagers eager to explain their craft and its place in
North of Kumasi, the landscape changes to savanna and conditions become more harsh. But the northern city of Larabanga rewards travelers
with two remarkable experiences: a 13th-century mosque and game preserve, Mole National Park. Unlike the East African wildlife areas, where over-visiting
is creating environmental and other problems, Moles isolation has kept it comparatively pristine. Elephant, antelope, baboon, and crocodile are common.
To best experience Mole, spend a night in its primitive hotel or campground. At 6:30 a.m. and again at 3:30 p.m., a heavily armed guide
leads you on foot into the preserve to come as close as one can safely get to wildlife.
Ghana is a poor, tropical country. No Western traveler can spend a day there without realizing the hardships and hazards of travel in
sub-Saharan Africa. Yellow fever vaccination is mandatory; malaria preventatives and vaccinations for hepatitis A, tetanus, and meningitis are highly recommended.
But these simple precautions are easy to take. When I remember the people of Ghanatheir hospitality, their unselfconscious spirituality, and almost
eerie cheerfulnessthe memory of hazards and hardships fade. Ghana may not dazzle you with scenery or overwhelm you with wildlife, but it will charm
you with its people.