GHANA: HERE I COME

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Ghana is named after an ancient gold-trading empire that flourished in the West African interior between the 4th and 10th centuries when the trans-Sahara caravan route linked the region to the Mediterranean via Timbuktu.

However, before independence on 6 March 1957, the territory was always known as the Gold Coast, a reference to the large volumes of gold that were mined in the interior and exported by sea following the arrival of the Portuguese at Elmina in the late 15th century.

Over the centuries that followed, the Gold Coast became the site of several dozen castles, built as trade centres – initially specialising in gold. Away from the castles, the area was divided into several kingdoms, of which the most important were the coastal Fanti, and the Ashanti further inland around Kumasi.

In 1957, the newly independent state of Ghana became the first British colony in Africa to be granted independence. Under President Kwame Nkrumah, the newly independent country made rapid progress in fields such as education, industrialisation, infrastructural development and the provision of social services.

Ghana Culture

Religion: There is no official state religion, and freedom of worship is a constitutional right, but religion has a strong influence on day-to-day life. Indeed, Ghana emerged as the world’s most religious country in a poll conducted by the Christian Science Monitor in 2012 (Nigerians would argue this fact definitely), with 96% of respondents stating that they are religious.

Unofficial figures claim that at least 60% of Ghanaians are Christian, and around 30% Muslim, making Ghana the only West African country where Christianity is numerically dominant.

Islam is the predominant faith in the north. Christianity dominates further south. Minority religions include Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha’i, and various traditional faiths.

Weather & climate

Ghana has a typically tropical climate thanks to its proximity to the equator and low elevations – the entire country lies below 1,000m (3300ft).

The most temperate part of Ghana is the highlands area flanking the Volta Basin, which is often pleasantly cool after dusk. A noteworthy climatic phenomenon is the harmattan winds, which blow in from the northeast from December to March, bringing dust from the Sahara and reducing visibility to as little as 1km (0.6 miles).

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Ghana is fine to visit at all times of the year, but if you have the choice, aim for the northern hemisphere winter i.e. October through to April, when humidity is lowest and the weather is typically quite dry.

Where to stay in Ghana

Hotels:  Accommodation in Ghana tends to be of mediocre quality and quite costly for what you get, and most travellers will find it is proportionally, the biggest drain on their budget.

The few chains or standalone hotels that genuinely conform to four- or five-star standards are almost all located in the capital, though there are also isolated examples in the cities of Kumasi and Takoradi, and a few of the major coastal resorts.

These typically cater to government, NGO and business travellers, and are likely to feel overpriced to leisure visitors who are footing their bill.

Ghana’s Attraction

Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary

This is a protected forest reserve is the best place in Ghana for close-up encounters with two handsome monkey species – the Lowe’s mona monkey and the black-and-white colobus monkey – both of which are held sacred by the local villagers.

Busua

This backpacker-friendly village on the west coast is arguably the ultimate Ghanaian beach venue, as well as supporting a nascent surfing scene and some great seafood eateries.

The stunning beaches running for about 15km (9 miles) west to Cape Three Points, are lined with several rustic and isolated budget resorts, including the legendary Green Turtle and newer Ezile Bay.

Lake Bosomtwe

Set in an ancient impact crater created by a meteorite that fell to earth, this pretty circular lake south of Kumasi is great for paddling, swimming and walking. It also now offers the most tantalising horseback experience in Ghana.

Mole National Park

The largest and one of the best-equipped game reserves in Ghana is home to easily seen elephants, various antelope such as roan, bushbuck, waterbuck and kob, and elusive populations of lion and spotted hyena. It is serviced by a decent and quite affordable hotel, and visitors can explore either on foot or in a 4-wheel drive vehicle, but must always be accompanied by a guide.

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 Sirigu

Among the best organised and most rewarding of the numerous community tourism programmes in northern Ghana, Sirigu is renowned for the curvaceous adobe architecture and brightly painted exteriors of its houses.

Volta River

The village of Ada Foah, with its wonderful location at the Volta mouth is the site of a few supremely chilled beach resorts, and one of the country’s two official marine turtle-viewing sites countrywide. About 60km (37 miles) upriver, the stretch of river below Akosombo Dam is also lined with resorts catering to all budgets.

Wli Falls

Situated on the Togolese border east of Hohoe, the waterfall at Wli – part of the Agumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary – is reputedly the tallest in West Africa, and certainly among the most spectacular. Visit in the late afternoon and wait for the tens of thousands of bats that nest on the surrounding cliffs, to soar into crepuscular action.

Centre for National Culture

Shop till you drop. Crafts, kente and other traditional clothes are for sale at the Centre for National Culture. The Makola Market is a large and busy open-air market attended by traders from surrounding villages. The Osu Night Market is illuminated by hundreds of lanterns and candles.

 Ghanaian Festival

Attend a Ghanaian festival and enjoy drumming, dancing and feasting. Each region has its own annual festivals for the affirmation of tribal values, the remembrance of ancestors and past leaders, and the purification of the state in preparation for another year.

Fishing

Go fishing in a local fishing boat. Sport fishing is especially popular. At the mouth of the Volta, anglers have the chance to catch barracuda and Nile perch.

Kakum National Park

Situated 30 minutes north of Cape Coast, this important rainforest reserve is home to a variety of monkeys and antelopes, as well as some lovely forest birds. Visitors can view wildlife at canopy level from a wobbly but spectacular 333m-long (1,093ft) canopy walkway, the oldest construction of its kind in Africa.

Mole National Park

The largest and one of the best-equipped game reserves in Ghana is home to easily seen elephants, various antelope such as roan, bushbuck, waterbuck and kob, and elusive populations of lion and spotted hyena.

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It is serviced by a decent and quite affordable hotel, and visitors can explore either on foot or in a 4-wheel drive vehicle, but must always be accompanied by a guide.

Mountain hike

Aduklu Mountain hike tours are available through the Ministry of Tourism, and Afadjato Mountain in the Volta region attracts climbers of all ages. Mount Afadjato and Togbo Falls at Liati Wote are excellent for hiking.

National Theatre

Watch a musical show, play or dance at Accra’s National Theatre, which is a Chinese architectural showpiece.

Owabi Forest Reserve and Bird Sanctuary

Bird enthusiasts should go to the Owabi Forest Reserve and Bird Sanctuary, located close to Kumasi. Further to the northeast is the Bomfobiri Wildlife Sanctuary, containing the spectacular Bomfobiri Falls. The salt marshes of the Songow Lagoon are also essential.

Safari

Owabi Wildlife Sanctuary, Bia National Park, Bui National Park, Mole Game Reserve and Kakum Nature Reserve are also all good options for hiking and exploring the savannah and rainforest. The Shai Hills Game Reserve can be explored on horseback.

Ghana Native Foods
International food is available in most large hotels and many restaurants serve a range of local traditional foods. These delicacies are prepared in their specialities:

• Kenkey (a firm ball of fermented maize boiled in a removable wrapping of plantain leaves and served with a spicy tomato sauce or hot peppers and fried tilapia).

  • Akyeke (cassava couscous served with avocado).
  • Fufu (a sticky ball of pounded cassava beans, yam, plantain or rice, usually accompanying traditional stews such as palm nut, ground nut, kontomere or okra).
  • Fante fante (a palm oil stew with small fish, popular in the central regions).
  • Akrantee (bushmeat).
  • Red red (the favourite local dish of many visitors is this spicy concoction of rice and beans cooked in red palm oil).
  • Kalawole (deep-fried plantain cubes seasoned with ginger, pepper and salt).
  • Palava (spicy sauce made from spinach-like cocoyam leaves).
  • Jollof rice (a spicy rice dish made with red palm oil, often cooked together with chicken, fish, or meat in the dish).

By Naijassador

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