Football, Forests & Fufu - Top Things To Do In Ghana
A vibrant country located on the West Coast of Africa, Ghana has something for everyone who visits its friendly shores. Projects Abroad’s top volunteer destination for five years running, Ghana’s attractions include tropical beaches, vibrant market places and wildlife sanctuaries to name but a few. We have placements in Accra, the Akuapem Hills and Cape Coast. Many of our staff have spent time travelling around and exploring all Ghana has to offer. In this post we discuss their suggestions of the top things to do in Ghana.
Walk Kakum National Park's Canopy Platforms
Located in the south of Ghana, not far from Cape Coast, Kakum National Park is made up of tropical rainforest making it a great location for the walkway which stretches for 330 metres across the canopy. The hanging bridge is 40 metres off the ground and offers the perfect vantage point for visitors who wish to get a view of the animals and plants not visible from below. Projects Abroad UK Marketing Director, Suzi Lamb, first worked for Projects Abroad in Ghana and highly recommends adding this to your list of things to do while you’re there.
“One slightly different way to ‘do Kakum’ is to stay at the reserve overnight and walk the canopy platforms in the early morning. This gives you a better chance of seeing monkeys and other wildlife. We were expecting to stay in ‘tree house’ type accommodation, but the reality was a wooden double bed sized platform only about two feet off the floor. The platform beds were totally out in the open, and with a mosquito net hanging around you, it was a rather surreal sensation of sleeping in a four poster bed in the middle of a jungle. The strange noises through the night meant that we were all awake before sunrise to get up and experience the canopy platforms at dawn.”
Visit the Elephants at Mole National Park
Mole National Park is the oldest, largest and most developed national park in Ghana and is a great place for elephant spotting. The park is home to a variety of wildlife including an estimated 500 elephants. During the dry season, between January and April, many animals flock to a pool near the park’s motel to drink and bathe, giving visitors a great view. There are three elephants in particular who can often be seen feeding on the grass in front of the motel.
The park is situated in the north of the country making it quite a drive but it’s worth the effort to witness these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat as opposed to tamed for tourism purposes. Operations Manager, Suzy Adams, recalls her time there.
“My trip to Mole national park was magical from start to finish. I stayed in a village outside of the national park called Larabanga. I slept on the roof of a local guesthouse, and was woken by the sound of the call to prayer from a nearby mosque. I then cycled the few kilometres up a dusty track to the park. I had my fingers crossed, hoping I would be lucky enough to see at least one elephant as I knew sightings were not guaranteed. However, after a five minute walk into the park we bumped into two large elephants having their breakfast. It was a wonderful day walking around the park. We saw three more groups of elephants, a huge variety of dear and even a crocodile swimming down the river. What a great day!”
Visit One of Ghana’s Slave Forts
One of Ghana’s most well-known slave forts, Cape Coast Castle has a history dating back to 1653 and was previously occupied by the Portuguese, Swedes, Danes, Dutch and British. The castle grew in size over the years meaning more military defence and a bigger holding capacity for slaves who were to be exported to the new world. The dungeons which used to house the slaves were small and cramped with little to no ventilation and no means of sanitation. Because of these conditions many slaves died here before even boarding the ships.
Visitors can take an informative guided tour of the castle and then browse the museum and gift shop. Anne Buglass, our Deputy Director of Operations, had this to say about her experience at Cape Coast Castle.
“It’s well worth taking the guided tour around the former slave fort in Cape Coast.The stories are bone-chilling when you realise what people went though.”
There are also other slave forts to be visited along the Ghanaian coast. Suzy shares her experience of one in the village of Senya Breku.
“Visiting the slave forts in Ghana is deeply moving. In the small fishing village of Senya Breku you have the rare opportunity to spend the night in a slave fort. Being able to spend the night at the fort, listening to the sound of the waves as you drift off to sleep is a unique experience.The beach by the fort is busy with fishing boats, people swimming or surfing on planks of wood and women selling goods.In the morning you can watch the sunrise from the fort and then spend some time people watching.”
Relax on a Beach
The West African coastline is spectacular and Ghana has a number of beaches worth visiting.
Labadie: One of Accra’s most popular beaches, Labadie is great for a variety of beach activities and many people come here to take part in football, volleyball and Frisbee. The beachfront is equipped with showers, changing rooms, restaurants and snack bars.
Kokrobite: A party beach of sorts, Kokrobite is a cool little beach town not too far from Accra and is a great destination if you’re keen on bonfires, dancing and drumming. It’s also a favourite among backpackers in the area.
Busua: Busua’s rather remote location over five hours’ drive from Accra makes it perfect for a peaceful, quiet and relaxing break.
Ada Foah: 100km from Accra, Ada Foah beach can be found at the estuary of the River Volta. This beach is known for its sea birds and rare and endangered turtle populations.
Dani Cristea, an Operations Manager at Projects Abroad, lists Ada Foah as one of her favourite beaches.
“Ada Foah is great for a weekend trip, with very good options for accommodation and restaurants either in the town or on one of the many islands that continue further to the east from Ada, between 10 minutes to 1 hour away by boat. The boat journey itself is a delight, doing slalom between the small islands and culminates at the place where the Volta River meets the ocean.”
Attend a Football Match
Ghana is a football crazed nation so catching a match or two while you’re there is definitely a must if you’re a sports lover. Whether you’re watching at the modest home grounds of a small local team or kicking back in the seats of a Premier League stadium, the passion Ghanaians have for this sport is undeniable. Programme Advisors David Flaschner and Ian Birbeck have both spent time in Ghana and highly suggest watching a game there.
Ian - “A great experience is to go and watch a local football match in Accra. I still remember fondly the first one I went to. It started on a patch of land with hardly a blade of grass. The organisers marked out the lines with buckets of charcoal. The players all knelt in prayer before the start of the match. As locals started to hear that the match was on the numbers rose from 20-30 to probably near 300 within twenty minutes. It was great to see the passion and excitement amongst the crowd. The football skills on a really bumpy pitch were great to see!”
David - “For the majority of the time that I was in Ghana I was coaching football, so I saw a lot of matches! Most of these were lower division games on random pitches dotted around Accra, which had an incredible atmosphere. However, I’d certainly recommend checking out a Premier League match if you have the time. Firstly, Ghana has some excellent facilities because they had to custom-build a number of high quality stadiums in order to host the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.
Perhaps more importantly, the thing that struck me was the price. I was able to turn up on the day for a Premier League match and buy a ticket on the gate for the equivalent of about £4. The football wasn’t the best you’ll ever see but the fans were fantastic and it’s well worth a go if there’s a game on while you’re visiting.”
Try the Local Cuisine
Ghana isn’t exactly globally renowned for its traditional cuisine but there are a few dishes that you simply must try when travelling in the region. From fufu to red-red, our staff members have sampled their fair share during their time in Ghana. This is what they had to say about what they’ve eaten.
David – “The first thing to say about Ghanaian food is that it has an unjustly negative reputation. I think that a lot of this comes from Westerners who try one dish, don’t like it, and then stick to European-style restaurants for the rest of their trip. As with most countries in the developing world, if you take this approach then you end up wasting money and missing out on an incredible array of tasty treats available from street food vendors, or ‘Chop Bars’ as they are known in Ghana.
I’ll be honest - I really don’t like fufu, which is arguably Ghana’s national dish. I find the texture off-putting and the taste non-descript. However, I’d pay money to watch people make it! Wherever you go in local towns you can see women stirring a glutinous mix of cassava, plantain, and yam in a small wooden bowl with one hand, while a partner slams a huge wooden pole up and down. This stirring and pounding motion turns disparate ingredients into a springy mixture with the consistency of uncooked pizza dough. It’s then served up with one of a variety of soups and stews and traditionally eaten with your right hand.
If you want to eat local food but don’t fancy pounded cassava and goat soup, there’s no question that popular Ghanaian dishes such as jollof rice or red-red (beans cooked in red oil) are safe and delicious options. However, if you’re a bit more adventurous then my advice would be to head to your local kenkey seller. Kenkey is fermented corn which is stewed in big vats before being wrapped in corn leaves. The end result is a steaming hot block of carbohydrate that resembles the texture of raw cookie dough. It’s a lot firmer than fufu or the other traditional starchy staple of banku. As a result of this, you tend to eat it dry with fried fish and hot pepper sauce rather than submerged in a soup. It will burn your fingers, the pepper will make your nose run, and you won’t be 100% sure you liked it to start with. However, they must put something special in it because once you get to like it you can’t get enough. As my Ghanaian friends used to say to me, “David, you like kenkey tooooo much!”
Dani – “My two favourite dishes in Ghana were kokonte and kelewele. I like the taste, but also the way they sound and the reaction of the locals when you ask for one of them, like a good connoisseur of the Ghanaian dishes. Kokonte is similar to the loved fufu, and is usually eaten with the same types of soups or sauces, while kelewele is made from plantain bananas, and is the perfect snack to have while watching a football match on a local terrace with your friends.”
Suzi – “I was definitely surprised how widely eaten rice is in Ghana. My favourite of all the common Ghanaian dishes was jollof rice. This dish is well known all over West Africa, and is typically served with chicken. The rich, colourful, spicy, tomato-ey rice is delicious, and slightly reminded me of good paella. For me, fufu was something to try once, but unlike most of our local staff, wasn’t something I’d choose to order time and time again if we ate out a restaurant. I just couldn’t get used to the gloopy/pasty texture and the fact that you couldn’t really chew it! You may also get addicted to Fan Ice frozen yogurt, which are plastic sachets of ice-cream, yogurt or sorbet with some delicious and sometimes surprising flavours.”
Visit Wli Falls
At 80 metres high, Wli Falls is the highest waterfall in West Africa. It is located in the Agumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary and is a nature lover’s paradise. Visitors who would like to see the upper falls can take an uphill hike to get there. The lower falls are a must for those wanting to swim as there is a plunge pool to relax in. There is also a wide variety of birdlife to be spotted as well as 400 butterfly species and fruit eating bats. Suzi gave this account of her experience at the falls.
“I went to Wli Falls a couple of times, in both the rainy season and the dry season. I’d recommend the rainy season or just after it, if you want to see an impressive torrent of water. It does dry up to a trickle in the dry season. Even in the dry season though, the hike to get there is picturesque and you can swim in the pool at the bottom of the falls to cool off.”
Take a Boat Trip on Lake Volta
A boat trip around Lake Volta is a popular choice among visitors to the area. The “lake” is in actual fact the world’s fourth largest reservoir and was built as a means to supply the local community with fresh water, electricity and economic opportunities. Lake Volta is located in what is known as the Volta Basin in Eastern Ghana. There are several options in terms of boating on the lake. Anne chose to go with Dodi Princess Cruises.
“The lake is so vast, you just get to touch the tip of it but it’s still impressive to see. The Dodi Princess cruises around for a few hours and makes a short stop at Dodi Island, where you can get off and have a walk around. It’s great to get away from the hustle and bustle and dusty roads, and they even have a tiny swimming pool on the deck!”
Visit a Market
When visiting Ghana it’s almost a given that you’ll find yourself browsing around a market of some sort. The Kejetia Market which is located in the centre of Kumasi, is the largest open air market in West Africa and is made up of over 11,000 stores selling everything from food and clothes to beads and plastic goods.
Having spent quite some time in Ghana, Anne knows her way around a Ghanaian market or two.
“I love markets. The chaos, the colour, the shouting! The more rural ones in the Eastern region (wood market in Aburi and bead market in Koforidua) are less intense versions. The ones in Accra and Kumasi are chaotic, dusty, and full of weird and wonderful things that you will never need! Whichever market you visit be prepared to haggle hard.”
Visit the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary
A visit to The Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary (WCHS) is a must if you’re into wildlife. The sanctuary is a community driven project that protects and preserves a 40km stretch of the Black Volta River. There are only two remaining hippopotamus populations in Ghana and one of them calls this river home. A visit to the sanctuary gives tourists the chance to view wildlife and learn more about the local culture. Suzy had this to say about her time there.
“One of the highlights of my trip to Ghana was a visit to Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary near to Wa. The project was set up by local chiefs in 1999 to preserve the hippo population and promote community development. You can choose to stay in a small lodge, with a local family or in a tree house by the river. I chose the tree house, but soon regretted the decision when it started to pour down with rain. Luckily it didn't take too long to dash back to the lodge. Seeing hippos in the wild from a small canoe was an experience of a life time.“
Have you been to Ghana? If you have any other suggestions of places to see and things to do in Ghana tell us about them using the comments box below.
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