Safari at Zaina Lodge
As we walked onto the terrace over looking Mole National Park, elephants played in the water holes directly in front of the hotel. The air was warm and dry, the trees brown with harmattan dust. The salt and lime drink on arrival helped to quench our thirst. We’d arrived at Zaina Lodge. The brochure describes Zaina Lodge as ‘West Africa’s first luxury safari lodge’. And true to the blurb, the lodge elegantly blends a safari sensibility with modern amenities, but all with ecological business practices. From the very beginning you think this looks and sounds like a trip worth making, but is it too good to be true? Arriving on the morning flight from Accra, a member of the Zaina Lodge introduced himself as Mr. Boat (short for Boateng). He was our driver and later we found out, our safari guide. We were led to the safari truck and welcomed with ice-cold hand towels and reverse osmosis water, created at Zaina Lodge, to refresh us and prepare us for our two-and-half-hour journey along smooth roads. As the truck pulled up to the hotel entrance, the Zaina team met us with smiles and waves and offered a ‘light breakfast” of fresh home made juices, muesli, stewed fruit and a choice of eggs, bacon or sausages. Once breakfast was over we were shown to one of the 12 double chalets available. This was an experience in itself. Walking onto the private veranda, a view of the watering hole ensured none of the animal action would be missed. This beautiful room seemed half tent, half chalet.
A complete guide to Mole National Park
To find Ghana's best wildlife, it's Mole National Park in the north of the country where you need to head. Here's our guide to the park. Mole (pronounced Mo-lay) National Park is Ghana’s biggest wildlife sanctuary. There are 93 mammal species in the park, including buffalo, warthogs, hippos and several antelope species. For practical purposes, one of the places to stay is Mole Motel (027 756 4444, www.molemotelgh.com), the only hotel inside the park. Situated on the edge of an escarpment and looking out over a waterhole, it’s somewhere where monkey-watching becomes just another part of breakfast, lunch or dinner. In the dry season, it’s not uncommon for elephants to pay sneaky visits to the hotel’s swimming pool. A new luxury residence is about to open called Zaina Lodge (030 393 8736, www.zainalodge.com). This ecolodge is located in Mole National Park. Facilities will include an infinity pool, open bar fire pit and 25 rooms with private balconies and outdoor showers if you choose! The park office next to the motel acts as the meeting point for localised game waland looks over two waterholes (on which elephants tend to be the main draw), or 4x4 tours much deeper into the Mole Park. Despite the hotel and park office, there’s very little in the way of tourist infrastructure. This is seen by many as a positive thing, and one consequence is that it’s become an important place for scientific study, particularly in relation to poaching and sustainability. Two hours from th
The best sights and attractions in Ghana
Kakum National Park
Half an hour’s drive from Cape Coast, Kakum National Park’s verdant slice of semi-deciduous rainforest offers a fresh green alternative to the bustling cities and stifling heat of the coast (033 21 302 265, www.kakumnationalpark.info, 8am-4pm). The 607 square kilometres (234 square miles) of protected rainforest are home to an assortment of wild residents, including forest elephants, giant hogs, flying squirrels, leopards and various species of monkey. However, with much of the elusive wildlife buried deep in the forest’s flora, there’s little chance of seeing anything more than a millipede or two unless spending a night on an organised camping trip. For those content with gazing at the greenery to a soundtrack of birdcalls, try the canopy walk (US$9). Elevated 40 metres above the forest floor, the 350-metre-long wooden walkway and various viewing platforms offer spectacular, if vertiginous, views of the park, although it is unlikely much wildlife will be seen. There is a simple but informative visitors’ centre, a café and gift shop administered by the Ghana Heritage Conservation Trust.
Big Milly’s Backyard
hose unwinding in Kokrobite can enjoy fresh and tasty meals at Big Milly’s onsite restaurant. The menu includes fresh seafood such as lobster and barracuda, as well as a wide selection of vegetarian options. It’s also open for breakfast. There’s good, basic accommodation here too. Double huts with a fan cost US$22. Single rooms are US$16 a night (US$27 with bathroom and AC), dorm rooms are US$7. Houses are available to rent for groups too.
Cape Coast Castle
You’ll most likely be aware of Cape Coast Castle already (Barack and Michelle Obama visited in 2009 to much fanfare), as it was here that some of the worst atrocities of the slave trade era were committed. The city was founded by the Portuguese in the 15th century, and the solid white bulk of the castle acted first as a fortified base for overseeing the export of gold and other goods before ‘market forces’ initiated a move into human trafficking. A tour of the site today makes for a harrowing, but undeniably salutary, visit. Thousands upon thousands of West African men and women were imprisoned within the castle’s scratched dungeon walls – in truly horrific conditions – before passing the ‘Door of No Return’ and being shipped off to the Americas, the majority of them not surviving to reach their final destination. To establish a clearer understanding of the crushing reality of the period, the 45-minute guided tour (included in the ticket price) comes highly recommended. There’s also a museum on site. The Castle is now listed as a World Heritage Site, and gazing down today from its old ramparts at the late-afternoon hubbub of fishermen and red-dust footballers, it’s hard not to be stirred by the human cost of its past.
From a historical perspective, Elmina Castle is a key attraction. Like its Cape Coast equivalent, it has strong links with the slave years and is registered as a World Heritage Site, although it tops Cape Coast Castle on age; founded in 1482, Elmina Castle (also known as St George’s) is the oldest extant European building in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s had a few facelifts over the years and little resembles the original structure, but still makes for a fascinating (not to mention hugely disquieting) tour. For GH¢8, plus a little extra if you’re taking photos, visitors can explore the dungeons and stairways of the interior (unlike Cape Coast Castle, guides here will ask for a tip of GH¢10). On a more upbeat note, the courtyard adjacent to the castle sees a local group going through drumming and dancing rehearsals each evening from around 5pm to 6pm – a diverting sight if you can make it.
First-time visitors pulling up to Bojo Beach’s powdery sands are oft taken aback that this easily accessed beach just 25 minutes’ drive from the frantically beating and dusty heart of Accra feels more like a remote stretch of the Caribbean. A meander through a couple of Accra’s sprawling suburbs and down a bumpy track or two is all it takes to reach this wide expanse at Bortianor, just off the Kokrobite Road. After paying an 8ghc entrance fee, beachgoers hop into little boats that glide across a small and flat stretch of water to Bojo’s gleaming strip of sugar-white sand. Thatched umbrellas stud the shoreline, looking out over the area’s characteristically crashing waves. Rustic to say the least, Bojo is a delightfully simplistic set up of sand, water and seating. The current here is a powerful one, however – there are lifeguards, but it is advised that only good swimmers go out of their depth in the hardy surf. But what appeals compared with the overall feel of city-front Labadi, is Bojo is well-maintained, clean, and the urban hubbub seems eons away. A large thatched shack is the only refreshment option, serving up average but edible snacks and a good selection of chilled drinks. During the week, and on the rare cooler day, the beach is a wonderfully tranquil haven, with oodles of space. Weekends and holidays tend to see a transformation into a bustling hive of activity, with locals and visitors alike enjoying a festive atmosphere, and participating in the likes of jet sk
Mr Bright's Surf School
British national Brett Davies (aka Mr Brights) has devoted his life to surfing. After leaving a top rung job at the head office of Rip Curl several years ago, he decided to take the plunge and open up his own surf school in Ghana (the second love of his life). A formally trained surf coach and lifeguard means surfers can’t be in better hands to try out Ghana’s exhilarating waves. Beginners to advanced are welcome, as are children, with boards and equipment naturally provided. The school has been so successful since its inception last year that Mr Brights is opening a second school in Accra at Kokorobite. Bookings are taken via the website with prices given in person. Kangaroo Pouch Beach Resort, Busua Beach (www.mrbrights.com). Open: everyday 6am to 6pm.
Ghana's best resorts
The Royal Senchi
The Royal Senchi Resort is a shiny new four star hotel situated on the west bank of the Volta River. It boasts 84 luxury guest rooms, infinity pool with pool bar, a fitness centre, upscale dining and competent, attentive staff. Rooms are tastefully decorated will all the mod cons, including 32 inch televisions. The conference centre is large and bright, mixing traditional touches with first class professionality. Beauty treatments in the spa include facials, hot stone massages, traditional back massages as well as salon treatments.
Elmina Bay Resort
A couple of minutes’ drive farther out of town lies the secluded new Elmina Bay Resort, not to be confused with Elmina Beach Resort. There are 26 rooms available for guests, notable for their cleanliness and bright style. All have sea views, DSTV, Wi-Fi, fridges and air-con, and beach access is excellent. There’s also a pool and a restaurant, making it the best bet around Elmina.
Aqua Safari Resort
We were rather taken aback by Aqua Safari. It faces out to the estuary of the River Volta, a mile or so upstream from the ocean. From an open-sided restaurant and bar you can see Ghana’s island-dwelling folk crab-fishing and clam-diving in the water. The forward-thinking owners offer guided tours to the islands for boat-building and basket-weaving workshops – there’s also a lot of water to play around in on a jet-ski or one of the pontoons. Game-fishing excursions can be arranged too. Best of all is the option to spend a lazy couple of hours exploring one of the most beautiful areas of Ghana by boat. The whole river environment gives a relaxing and slower pace of life; a stark contrast to Accra two hours away. The rooms are well-appointed, and large chalets all have sizable and impressive common areas and kitchens. There’s also a small pool if you don’t fancy a dip in the river. There’s a new, large conference centre with all the modern amenities you’d need.
White Sands Resort
Those willing to splash some cash for the millionaire treatment can stay at the deluxe private members White Sands Beach Club near Fetteh; slide into the infinity pool, sample the top-notch cuisine and enjoy some of the best service in Ghana. It’s exclusive enough to require you to email email@example.com before even seeing prices. However, non-members can visit between Mon-Fri.
Best Western Atlantic Hotel
There’s no missing the 100-room Atlantic Hotel, a huge white monolith overlooking the ocean around Takoradi. The rooms in the main building are modern and well-appointed – ask for one with ocean views. There are also 12 chalets, with single and family rooms among the leafy paths. The highlight, however, is the pool area – a ridiculously inviting sight on a hot day. Combine it with a seafood platter from the outdoor Canoe Bar and you have the makings of a lovely afternoon. The main Ocean View Restaurant & Bar offers a large buffet with the chance to try some flavourful Ghanaian cuisine. Like much in Takoradi, the hotel will cater mainly for the many oil workers who pass through the town – you can see one of the rigs being built in the Bay of Guinea from the terrace. There’s a vast conference and event suite, plus a smaller function space. A private golf course sits in front of the hotel.