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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!