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As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine November/December 2000

Nature Travel in Ghana

West Africa’s Threshold

Elephants in Mole National Park in Ghana
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. George’s offer excellent museums and tours. For those who want an even deeper experience, four other forts—Good Hope and Patience between Accra and Cape Coast, and Metal Cross and Princes Town farther west—offer 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 Asante life.

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, Mole’s 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 Ghana—their hospitality, their unselfconscious spirituality, and almost eerie cheerfulness—the 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.

For More Information

Cross Cultural Solutions offers 2-12 week stays doing volunteer work in villages of Volta region of Ghana.

CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange offers study abroad programs in Legon, Ghana.

African Travel Seminars arranges short- to medium-length tours with an educational emphasis.

Related Topics
Responsible Travel and Ecotourism

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