Discovering West Africa - a vacation in Ghana

In the end of October we packed our suitcases and headed to West Africa for two weeks. Our destination was Ghana. Why Ghana (we've got those question quite a lot)?

  •  I had never been to Africa before and several travel articles I read mentioned that Ghana is "Africa for beginners".
  • Ghana is one of the most developed countries in West Africa.
  • Public transport network is good.
  • According to the blog posts and articles I read the people in Ghana are very friendly.
  • Ghana has rain forests, savannas and sandy beaches. 
  • End of October and November are considered good time to go there - it's the end of rainy season. 
  • English is official language. 
Did all turn out to be true? Yes, in that regard Ghana was as expected, but there were also many things we didn't expect. For example I was ready to see lot of beggars, but this was not a case at all. I also didn't expect the cities to look as they do. Cities in Ghana look just like overgrown villages with lots of people, small shops that look like shacks and loads of trash. 


Small shop and a woman carrying her goods for sale
Another surprising this was that people carry everything on top of their head - crops from the farms, things bought from the market, even firewood. Here are some examples:

We were not sure about how we would like the local food. There were some things we didn't like - for example fufu. It's pounded yam that is shaped like a ball and it has very weird consistency. But there were also things that we really liked - grilled plantain, red red (rice and beans), grilled tilapia and other seafood, cocoyam leaves sauce and the fresh fruits. During our visit it was papaya and pineapple season and the pineapples were the best I've ever had. The variety in local food isn't very high. Main vegetables that you can find in the menus are tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, chilies, cocoyam leaves, corn, yam and different beans. The typical breakfast is omelette with toast - we had it almost every morning as the only breakfast choice. There were only couple of places where we stayed that had other options as well for breakfast. At breakfast the typical drinks are tea and instant coffee. You can get "normal" coffee in very few places. 

Cashew plant

Fruit sellers on the road
So how did we organize our trip? From the blog posts and articles I read it became clear that road are good only between the bigger cities and that you can waste a lot of time when using public transport to get to the more remote areas. Therefore we contacted a local company that organizes eco tours - Jolinaiko. We filled in the form on their website telling them what we are interested in and received an offer. They were very flexible in taking into account our wishes and also adding some recommendations from their side. We booked a private guide/driver to take us to the Northern part of the country for 8 days. In the end we were really pleased with our guide. We wouldn't have seen half as much as we did if we had gone on our own, plus he was also explaining to us lots of things we saw. The rest of the days we planned to stay in the South using public transport - this worked out very nicely as well. 

To go to Ghana you need a visa. Jolinaiko provided us the invitation letter for the visa, we also got ourselves vaccinated against the yellow fever and then we sent all the paperwork and our passports to Ghana embassy in Bern. About a week later we received our passports back with the visas. 

When we arrived to Accra, the customs and passport checks went very fast, the most of the time we spent at the airport waiting for our luggage. It took about an hour waiting at the luggage belt before out suitcases arrived. 

What was our agenda?
Day 1. Accra
Day 2. Meeting with our tour guide and heading to Volta region. We visited 2 waterfalls - Wli and Tagbo.
Day 3. Driving to the North. Most of the day we spent in the car. 
Day 4. Tamale and arriving to Mole National Park. 
Day 5. Mole National Park.
Day 6. Wechiau Hippo sanctuary. 
Day 7. Boabeng Fiema monkey sanctuary
Day 8. Craft villages around Kumasi, Lake Bosomtwe
Day 9. Last day with our tour guide in Kumasi.
Day 10. Taking a bus from Kumasi to Cape Coast, visiting Elmina Castle.
Day 11. Taking public transport from Cape Coast to Busua Beach.
Day 12-14. Surfing camp at Busua Beach.
Day 15. Flying from Takoradi to Accra and from Accra back home. 

I'll write about all the places we visited more in the next posts.