Ghana, on a shoestring

In West Africa you can try surfing and safari on a tight budget

Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 01:00

I want to lay out some holiday options in Ghana, West Africa that are ideal for everyone, from young families to active retirees. They will cost about €45 a day for food, accommodation, transport and guid es. The hotels will be clean and smart, with air-conditioning where needed, and the best food in town. My only problem is that Ghana has four unmissable re gions and seeing them all in a fortnight would be a squeeze, so better to focus on three instead.

The first is the phenomenal Mole National Park in the northern semi-desert. The second is the southern coast with its old slave forts and gorgeous beaches. The third is the lush Volta region of trekking trails through the eastern highland forests, and the fourth is the central Ashanti area which has great wildlife sanctuaries and crafts.

Mole National Park
The Mole National Park is in the blistering hot northern semi-desert, a region as vehemently Islamic as the south is Christian. The park’s lodge (called a motel) is on a high escarpment above a watering hole, so in the dry season animals gather beneath the lodge. While sitting at the bar beside the swimming pool you can see elephants drinking, warthogs sniffing and various deer-like creatures grazing. This is were families can encounter the famous wild animals of Africa at affordable prices. The entrance fee is €8 and comfortable air-conditioned bedrooms cost €20.

Best of all is that Mole allows walking safaris to get up close to elephants, warthogs and baboons. It costs €4 for two hours with an armed guard. A jeep safari costs around €15, depending on the amount of people. From the jeep you’re more likely to see hippos, buffalos, antelope, monkeys, waterbucks and more elephants. Lions and leopards are around, but rarely, if ever, seen.

An extra day would allow a visit to the Mognori village eco-tourism project in the park, where locals provide canoe safaris and overnight homestays or camping trip further into the park. It’s a way for them to benefit from tourist spending and to compensate for crop damage by elephants.

The park is three hours from the nearest town, Tamale, and transport is a little tricky. To reach Tamale from the south, fly (€70) or take a series of buses or tro-tros (shared-taxis), stopping off to visit the central region on the way. The bus takes 11 hours which wastes a day, as road travel at night in Ghana is to be avoided.

Central Ashanti region
The two big towns of the central region are Techiman and Kumasi. Techiman is four hours south of Tamale and from there take a tro-tro to the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary, a 35-hectare forest sanctuary. There, for the past 150 years, two communities have protected the Mona monkeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys believing they were descendants of gods.

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