In May, my partner and I travelled to Ghana to visit my sister. Before we even landed, I knew this trip would be an adventure. The plane circled for more than 30 minutes before touching down because the airport’s lights were out!

In just 2.5 weeks, I’d grow to depend heavily on my headlamp (the power went out a lot), attempt to do most things with my right hand, and rarely pass a stranger without saying “hello”.

For me, Ghana was a country of vibrant colours, rhythmic music, friendly faces and extreme traffic jams. From the sultry south to the arid north, every stop proved a feast for the senses.

See my trip in the photos below…

Sensory Overload in Accra’s Makola Market

Shopping in Accra, Ghana
A woman carries her wares in Makola Market, Accra

Giant snails, spices, shea butter or shoes! Find anything your heart desires and more in Accra’s sprawling Makola Market…and lose yourself in the process (literally).

Since 1924, Makola has been a centre for commence at Accra’s bustling core. Run by women, and packed with locals on the look-out for the freshest fruit or slickest pair of shoes, the market proved to be a total sensory experience.

 

Textiles at Makola Market, Accra, Ghana
Colourful wax print cloth hangs at Makola Market

We spent a morning perusing winding corridors stacked high with bags of pungent spices, calabashes filled with creamy shea butter, and silver platters heaped with dried fish. Colourful patterned cloth, glass beads and fragrant tropical fruit lured us in all directions.

Watching the Boats at Ada Foah

After a few days in sweltering Accra, we ventured east to Ada Foah.  Situated where the Volta River meets the Atlantic Ocean, this coastal town provides respite for Ghanaians escaping the city.

Although the water looked pristine, we avoided swimming, fearing bilharzia, a disease caused by a parasitic worm that thrives in fresh water infecting the urinary tract or intestines.

Ada Foah, Ghana
A man catches some breeze at Ada Foah: where the Volta River meets the Atlantic

Instead, we watched traditional wooden boats glide by, cooled off in the pool, and dined on freshly grilled tilapia served with kenkey (a popular Ghanaian speciality made of fermented maize). Learning to eat with just our right hands was a bit of a challenge. (Traditionally, the left hand is used for the toilet in Ghana.)

Tilapia at Ada
Fresh tilapia with kenkey tastes better when washed down with fresh pineapple juice

Mole National Park: A West African Safari Adventure

After a pleasant, hour-long flight north, we traversed 3 hours of dusty pot-holed roads to Ghana’s largest wildlife refuge, Mole National Park. Mole is home to over 98 mammal species including, elephants, hippos and warthogs.

Warthog in Mole National Park, Ghana
Warthog: A warthog patrols the grounds at Mole Motel in Mole National Park

Visitors can take walking tours or jeep safaris in search of the park’s inhabitants. The less adventurous, can relax by the motel pool with a cold drink and see what comes by. We were thrilled to see families of baboons, warthogs, tropical birds, and kob antelope without even craning our necks.

Baboons in Mole National Park, Ghana
Stealthy baboons sneak into rooms and steal candy. The night we chose to dine al fresco, they had a taste for ketchup!

The highlight though, was the massive elephant, People’s Friend 2. He stood casually fanning himself with his ears and munching leaves as we prepared to go on safari.

Photo of an elephant with white tusks and a long trunk standing in tall grass.
An Elephant called People’s Friend 2 at Mole National Park takes our breath away

Larabanga Mosque: The Oldest Mud-brick Mosque in West Africa

On our way to Tamale, we stopped at Larabanga Mosque.  Founded in 1421, it’s regarded as the oldest mosque in Ghana, and some say, in West Africa. Built of whitewashed mud brick and situated next to an ancient baobab tree, the mosque was striking.

Larabanga Mosque in West Africa
Larabanga Mosque: The oldest mud brick mosque in West Africa

From Tamale to Kumasi

A bus ride from Tamale to the ancient Ashanti capital, Kumasi, was a trip. As a Nollywood film blared in the background, the countryside sped by. Heading south, the foliage got lusher. Every small town seemed to have its own traffic jam, slowing us enough to take in the local market.

One market was all yams, another all mangos and another, all cassavas (a tuberous starchy root vegetable).

Yam market in Ghana
Yams, yams and more yams! A bustling yam market along the highway
Mango Market, Ghana
A roadside mango market offers all types of mangos

The West Coast and Cape Coast Castle

The coast was a breath of fresh air after 6 hours in a crowded un-air conditioned bus. The sea at Butre was enticing, but the undertow deadly. Women carrying their wares to market swayed by, fishermen in colourful boats hauled in their catch, and we sipped coconuts, plucked from the trees above.

Butre Beach
The view of Butre Beach
#12 Lover's Rock
Lovers’ Rock at Butre Beach

But Ghana’s coast has a dark past. After a few days of surfing and lazing at the beach, we drummed up the courage to visit one of the country’s major tourist sites: Cape Coast Castle.

Cape Coast Castle Ghana
Rusty cannon balls at Cape Coast Castle

Built by the Swedish and eventually taken over by the British, the castle was used as a prison for captured Africans before they were shipped to a life of slavery in the United States, the Caribbean and Europe. Now the castle is a museum, where visitors can learn about this terrible history.

Cannons at Cape Coast Castle, Ghana
Cannons at Cape Coast Castle
Elmina Harbour, Ghana
A storm approaches Elmina Harbour as a fisherman prepares for the onslaught. Elmina Castle looms in the background
Elmina Harbour, Ghana
Black clouds gather at Elmina Harbour as a storm approaches

We stayed in Elmina, a quaint neighbouring town. Our hotel afforded an eclectic view of a busy fishing harbour. That evening, a wicked storm blew in; fishermen secured their boats, and people ran for shelter.

From there, it was back to Accra then home to Vancouver. Too soon! Although I’ll miss strapping on my headlamp at “lights out” and gorging on fresh tropical fruit at every opportunity, I’ll miss having strangers smile and say “hello” the most: Something I just might just try bringing back to Vancouver.

Have tips or questions about travelling in Ghana? Share below!

Happy travels,

Sarah

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  • http://bbqboy.net Frank

    Fascinating trip! Not a place most go to. Love the wildlife pics, I encountered a baboon in Zambia and they’re not to be taken lightly – they can have a vicious temperament and have big teeth. Warthogs always an interesting animal to see.
    Nice post, very interesting.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Sarah

      Hi Frank,

      Thanks for your comments! Ghana was a great place to discover. I’d definitely recommend it for travellers seeking a little adventure. Zambia sounds amazing too!

      All the best in your future travels!

  • http://travelphotodiscovery.com/cool-places-and-backstreets-of-san-francisco/ noel

    What a stunning and colorful area, I would love to visit including the fort, the markets look so amazing!

    • Sarah

      Hi Noel,

      Thanks for your comment! Every day in Ghana brought something new and exciting. Hope you get to experience it for yourself one day. Happy travels!