That's welcome in the country formerly known as the Gold Coast. This article is about one of the most beautiful countries in Africa and the world (of course after Senegal) where I have had the chance to experience first-hand a gobsmacking culture and breath-taking views... That's Ghana!
Ghana has left a lasting impression on me in a way a few countries ever could, it was one of the most informative and eye-opening trips I have made to date.
Getting to Ghana
My most seamless trip ever, probably because it's also one of the rare occurrences where I have done a lot of research on the country and the main landmarks. Booking the trip, on the other hand, was almost spontaneous when I received a notification from Jack's flight club about cheaper than average tickets and an almost imminent departure.
As soon as I realised I was definitely going to Ghana, I spent a good chunk of the week-end scouring the internet for a list of activities and whether my travel habits (only booking the flight and rental car) would be catered for in there. On this occasion, I was to learn a new way of traveling...Accompanied travel!
For the first time in many trips, I had to leave it to someone else to drive me around and create an itinerary. Not that I am a control-freak, but I like my independence in my movements and decision-making, however, I did not regret one bit (I did not have the choice either!) touring Ghana with locals and re-discovering myself in de
Where to stay?
There are loads of nice places in Accra and across the country. Most large groups have a presence in Ghana, however, I am not a fan of traveling half-way around the globe to stay in a hotel group I could see at home. The choice is yours, Airbnb, booking.com or Expedia...
Talking about that I booked a hotel (which I will not name of course) relatively late in the game, perhaps the day before I left for Accra. Naturally, because of my "great" time-keeping skills, I was not spoilt for choice due to the scarcity of the funds available for the trip...Long story short, I booked what seemed to me as a good balance between price and quality but I was not ready for what was to come next ...
Conversation between the taxi driver and me on the way to the hotel:
Driver: Are you sure this is where you want to go, Sir?
Me: Yes, that's the address from the booking confirmation?
Driver: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, certain
Driver: It is a temporary hotel, Sir. I would not advise you to stay there
Me: Well, I am only in here for less than a week - Temporary (Starting to feel a bit exasperated from the long trip and the numerous questions )
Driver: Do you know that some ladies work there?
Me: Well, we are in a new Millenium, ladies can work anywhere they want
Driver: I don't think you understand, Sir. It is ladies that go to bed with men and get paid for it
Me: (Now my shocked faced and helplessness have taken over my exasperation) As in... prostitution?
Driver: Ehen! (Acknowledgment sound)
Me: It looks like I'm stuffed, it is 2 AM and the hotel is pre-paid
Driver: Maybe just speak to them and hopefully, you can amend your stay to one night and find another hotel
Me: I will check at the reception and hopefully we will come to an arrangement. Thanks a lot for caring, mate!
As I got off the taxi and was about to check-in, I suddenly had a feeling that what other people were doing in the hotel room was none of my business and I was only in charge of me. Me being there or leaving was just not going to affect the course of things, so is life sometimes I guess...
My journey through Ghana has mainly been concentrated in the southern part of the country namely Accra, Cape Coast, and Akosombo. I have chosen to spend more time in those cities in order to make better use of my time and also live more the "Ghana way".
Accra is the capital of Ghana and the second biggest city in the country. It boasts an impressive dynamism across the 225.67 square kilometers of land it covers and a city that never sleeps could not have described any better. The city was captured by the British in the late 1800s and was designated as the then Gold Coast and following the world war, was the incubator of independence ideas which was widely spread across the continent.
Kwame Nkrumah Memorial
House to Kwame Nkrumah mausoleum, the memorial park is located in downtown Accra and is also neighbour to a few government buildings and the Accra art centre where you can buy a lot of souvenir and high-quality Kente. It is dedicated to the world-famous and Ghana's first President, Kwame Nkrumah. It also is built on the site of the former British colonial polo grounds in Accra.
As soon as you pass the gates of the memorial, one main item which draws most of the attention is a headless statue with a lot of history...
The statue was "decapitated" during a violent coup in 1966 however recovered in the 2009 thanks to the kindness of a good soul...
President Nkrumah was buried three times following his passing in 1972. He was first buried in Guinea where he was co-president with Sekou Toure, before being transferred to Nkroful, his birthplace before again being transferred to Accra as his final resting place. The iconic monument which serves as his mausoleum has two stories behind the idea of its architecture. The first idea is that it represents swords that are buried upside down which is a symbol of peace; the other idea is that it as an uprooted tree that depicts the unfinished works of Nkrumah.
The memorial also hosts a museum that tells the life of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and displays some of his items such as clothing, walking staff (which he liked very much), and a selection of photos.
Entrance fee: ¢10/£1.4/$1.7
Osu Castle (Formerly known as Christiansborg Castle)
Once a colonial motherboard, the castle was built by the Danish and has experienced different ownership (Norway, Portugal, Akwamu - An Akan tribe state, Britain before ending up back to Ghana's ownership post the independence). It is also home to a slave storage facility and the famous "door of no return".
On the left, you have what was at the time, an infinity pool, with views on the Atlantic ocean. On the right, you have a life-size slave cell ...
This is the staircase leading to the cells...
Osu castle definitely lifts the curtain on a very cruel part of history. Slave trade has lasted for 400 years, which makes the most horrible oppression of which has caused Africa to lose north of 12 million of its best workforce (approx 30% of the whole continent's population). This is one of those events in history not mentioned enough in history discussions and no sign of reparation or official apologies can be expected.
This door once marked the last time its users would ever set foot on the African soil. It led to the slave ships which would change the course of history for ever...The door of no return
Entrance fee: I do not remember having paid for the entrance however a tip for the castle tour guide is always welcome.
The complex is spread across a large area where is located the Independence Arch, Black Star Gate, and the Liberation Day Monument. Ghana is the first country to gain independence in West Africa - 3 years before most countries in the region, which have started to enjoy the same status around 1960.
The black star was inspired by Marcus Garvey Black Star Line, which was a shipping corporation formed in 1919 as part of a Back-to-Africa movement and in opposition to the White Star Line. The symbol soon became a symbol of Pan-Africanism anti-colonialism.
Entrance fee: Nil
Artists Alliance Gallery
This art gallery is situated on the outskirts of Accra and offers a large range of high quality art, from paintings to sculptures. It is only a 15 minutes drive from downtown Accra and is very well worth the journey.
Entrance fee: Nil
Cape Coast is the southwestern part of the country and the fishing powerhouse of the nation, you would not be surprised that its mascot is a crab. Michelle Obama also believes it to be her ancestral home.
Shai Hills Resource Reserve
The reserve opened to the public in 1962 and spreads over 51km² (20mi²). It has been named after the tribe (Shai) which used to call it home and were ejected by the British in the late 1890s. Today, its population counts baboons, green monkeys, antelopes, zebras, mammals, reptiles and a large variety of birds.
Activities in the reserve include rock climbing, hiking, game viewing, and bird watching.
The games also come with trouble and often come on a self-drive basis...
Entrance fee: ¢50 for the first hour and ¢10 then on/£7/$9
Kakum National Park
Kakum National Park is one of the most diverse and best-preserved national parks in West Africa. It spreads over 375km² (145mi²) and is home to an aspect of African flora and fauna however is more know for its camping facilities and its impressive canopy walk.
The water is actually drinkable (I normally have a weak stomach)...
You can also rent this high log cabins if you would like to stay longer in the park. They come with mosquito nets and a feature I just loved...
The canopy walk is the most famous attraction of the park and quite frankly, it does not disappoint one bit!
Entrance fee: ¢60/£8/$10
On the way back from Kakum, I made a few random stops to see for myself the how the main export products of the country are made.
Alongside their west African neighbour, Ivory Coast, the region produces over half of the world's cocoa yet is not as famous as chocolate producing countries such as Switzerland or Belgium - Also almost 70% of the world's cocoa comes from Africa yet I have never seen the fruit before this trip.
This is what cocoa actually looks like...
Perhaps the most random thing I have ever done on a trip. On the way back from Kakum, I have asked the driver to stop by a traditional oil manufacturing plant and come pick me up 4 hours later. When I got to the plant, with the help of a translator, I have asked if I could work at the plant for half a day, and for free. The manager could not believe I was serious about my request and asked the translator whether she did understand me correctly - Clearly, I was underestimated. The most fun I had the whole week!
Since I am a pro, I feel the need to explain the process:
1. Heating the palm nuts
2. Transferring to the crushing machine (of course I have forgotten the name
3. Extracting the oil
The process is repeated over and over again to clear a batch of palm nuts. The nuts are also used to make wine, both alcoholic and light - The taste is a bit like ginger beer.
Unfortunately, the price of most commodities are not set by the raw material producers themselves, they find it hard to expand their operations or invest in more capacity. The picture of a 50-year-old chap looking fitter than me backs up the fact that this is not an easy job (and credit to me 😉)
Akosombo is a small town in the eastern region of the country. Aside from being the most beautiful part of the south of Ghana, it also has a particularity with the streets bearing the names of African countries.
Easily one of the most impressive in the world, the Akosombo dam is also the third-largest man-made dam in the world. Its build flooded part of the Volta River Basin and led to the subsequent creation of Lake Volta.
I am wearing a polo shirt made by Woodin, a local company using Ghanaian fabric and employing locals. They have a few outlets across the country and they also have a website to give you an idea of their product range. Here is the link to there website.
Entrance fee: ¢10/£1.4/$1.7
As a "casualty" of the Akosombo dam, lake Volta was created. It is a quiet stream that lovers often use to propose to their partners. It is also known for fishing...But for me, it was the best rest I could have dreamed of.
Entrance fee: Nil - You can also get a very nice view from the Royal Senchi hotel.
After only visiting 65 countries, I have awarded the Royal Senchi the best hotel in the world title. The place is almost a world on its own and shows off nature and Ghanaian culture in a very unique way. Passed the reception, you can find a live band playing in the breakout area, next to the pool.
Great mocktails and cocktails are served at the bar and the restaurant makes some of the best Jollof rice I have tasted during my trip.
My favourite part of the hotel, the treehouse restaurant!
Rates per night: ¢1,440/£200/$250
You can get more information about the hotel on their website.
£10 to any non-Ghanaian or anyone who has visited Ghana - What is in the picture below?
You can send me your answers on Instagram and I will publish the results within a fortnight.
Preparing a trip to Ghana?
If I have sparked your interest in Ghana, feel free to reach out via the chatbox or on Instagram for some travel tips. I have also added below the names and contact details of the tour guide and driver who have been very helpful with my discovery of this amazing country:
Nana Gish (Accra Tour) +233 24 461 1140
Martina (Land Tour) +233 27 742 4244
Daniel (Driver) +233 24 480 4400
Until next time...