Wild Ghana – experience national parks and natural beauty
Venture beyond Accra and into wild Ghana by taking a trip to one of Ghana's many national parks and wildlife reserves
Beyond the dusty cities is a sprawling wilderness of flora and fauna and the time is ripe to explore this diverse country. Lions, elephants and dozens of monkey species can be found in the well protected but little visited national parks and wildlife reserves dotted around the country. Bring some binoculars, dig out the long lens and take to the countryside.
Satellite maps of Ghana, a country the size of Britain, show remarkably few roads. Along those arteries, the country's 18 million souls, the majority in rural communities, toil the land or toil through urban life. In between there is very little - Ghana remains a real and true wilderness, and the richness of it is only just being discovered now.
Among the national park and wildlife reserves of Ghana is a wealth of flora and fauna. Forest elephants, lions, leopards, hippopotami and warthogs can all be found, but unlike in many East African countries the safari is not too common, but there are some excellent providers such as the well-regarded Ashanti African Tours.
From the suburban sprawl of Accra, it isn't long before you hit the rich savannah of southern Ghana. Endless grasslands interspersed with rolling hills, and the occasional rocky outcrop, are all that breaks the horizon.
To the east is Ghana's most visited national park, Kakum. Just about near enough for a day trip, Kakum, north of Cape Coast, is famous for its unique and vertiginous canopy walk high above the rainforest, and should be on anyone's Ghana to-do list.
Further afield, nature lovers will find a wealth of wildlife in national parks, budding geologists will wonder at the Domama Rock Shrine and mountain climbers will relish in the untouched beauty of the Eastern Highlands.
Note that the north is generally cooler than the south, and the wettest time is generally between April and September or October, with a welcome lull in the rains in August.
Climbing the Eastern Highlands
Once largely ignored by tourism, the Eastern Highlands are slowly hitting the backpacker radar, although you are still unlikely to bump into many foreigners. The Agumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary and the Wli Falls are the most popular destinations along the Togo border, but the area is becoming increasingly known for some excellent climbing and trekking that takes in some largely untouched terrain. One target for climbers is Mount Afadjato, just outside the village of Liati Wote - at 885 metres, it's the highest peak in Ghana.
Directly north of Accra is the southern end of Lake Volta, a popular weekend destination for city folk looking for respite from the fumes. Adventure tourism is also becoming popular around the Volta, with canoe trips being a particularly popular activity.
The heart of Ghana is the Lake Volta. It covers 8,502 square kilometres (3,275 square miles) and before 1965, didn't exist. It is the largest artificial body of water on the planet, created by Akosombo Dam that generates most of the country's electricity. It is, no doubt, a wonder of modern Africa. But while the engineering feats are remarkable, it is an essential part of Ghana's natural history.
The heel of the Lake and the town of Akosombo are a couple of hours from Accra and offer a multitude of water sports and activities such as birdwatching. From Akosombo, ferries, can be taken across the Volta. The Dodi Princess cruise goes to Dodi Island for an hour before returning. Longer trips can be taken on the Yapei Queen that runs the length of the Volta twice a week from Akosombo to Yeji in 24 hours.
For the ultimate in experiencing African natural beauty, take a trip from the capital to visit Ghana's lush national parks...
Agumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary (www.fcghana.com) is by the Wli Falls. Said to be the highest in West Africa, the falls are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Eastern Region. The wildlife sanctuary nearby was created to protect thousands of fruit bats in the gorge. Gorgeous walks are to be had along the gorge.
Kyabobo National Park borders Togo in the east. This newly created park is in the northern Volta region and consists largely of forest and savannah. Buffalo, warthogs and aardvark are all common. It is hoped lions, elephants, and other animals, will return from the park in Togo.
Digya National Park, on the western shores of Lake Volta, is 3,478 square kilometres (1,342 square miles) of woodland and part of the lake. This little visited park is home to colobus monkeys, antelopes, clawless otters, crocodiles and the park's emblem, the manatee. Digya means black rhinoceros which is extinct.
The lovely Shai Hills Wildlife Reserve (www.fcghana.com) is only 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Accra. Although it is largely savannah plains, there is lots of forest among the 48-square-kilometre (18-square-mile) reserve which protects 31 mammals and 175 bird species. Remnants of the Shai settlements can also be explored, making for an interesting side trip.
Bui National Park is known for its hippopotami that roam the rolling woodland across the Black Volta River. There are plans to flood some of the area for a hydroelectric dam, although nothing has been done yet. The park currently harbours the endangered black and white colobus monkey and a wide variety of antelopes.
Mole National Park was created in 1958 and covers an area of 4,840 square kilometres (1,868 square miles). It is among stunning terrain of Guinea savannah and veined with streams and rivers. Elephants are the unofficial symbol of the park, but it also harbours lions, leopards, buffalo and 3,000 bird species.
Bia National Park is unique in Ghana because it crosses a 305-square-kilometre (117-square-mile) zone of humid evergreen and semi-deciduous forest types. 62 different species of mammals have been spotted in the park including several types of rare colobus monkey, chimpanzee, forest elephant and threatened bongo.
Nini Suhien National Park is one of the most diverse parks in Ghana. The Forestry Commission has recorded more than 300 types of plants in one hectare. The forest elephant, Dina monkey, chimpanzee and bongo all make this park their home. It is 325 kilometres (201 miles) from Accra.
Kakum National Park and the adjacent Assin Attandanso are the most visited parks in Ghana, given their proximity to Accra and Cape Coast. The park is perhaps most famous for its unique canopy walk that gives visitors a monkey-eyed view of the surroundings from a vertiginous height. The reserve has an impressive array of birds, including the frazer-eagle owl and 400 species of butterflies. It is also home to the very rare mona-meerkats, forest and pygmy elephants, buffalo and civet cats. Seeing the wildlife is not easy, but there are guides on hand.