Ghana is often referred to as the gateway to Africa as far as tourism is concerned. I had not realized it before I arrived, but there is a little of everything here: the beaches and jungles of the bottom third are those commonly associated with West Africa; the Muslim areas of the top third are heavily influenced by North Africa; and the open savannah regions in the mid third are reminiscent of East or Southern Africa. Mole (Mo-lay) National Park is found in this latter region and is Ghana’s biggest wildlife sanctuary and, more or less, the tourist destination for animal viewing. The park is close to 5000 sq. km and has (according to the 2010 Brandt’s guide) about 800 elephants, 1,000 buffalo, and more than 90 other large mammal species including hippos, warthogs, antelopes and primates.
I was able to join a group headed to the park for the weekend and was pleasantly surprised by how much we saw during the 2 days (plus a travel day). I’m not entirely sure of all the species names, but the big one is obviously the elephants which we got to within 15m or so of. The rest of the critters were either too far to get a good look at (monkeys, waterbuck, kob, hornbill) or a little too close for comfort (free ranging warthogs and baboons that know how to open hotel room doors).
The only real place to stay within the park boundaries is the Mole Motel. Despite some pricey food and a few too many wayward college age students who seemed to have confused Ghana for Spring Break, Ft. Lauderdale, it is an ideal place to hang out with a pair of binoculars and take in the sights. The hotel overlooks a major watering hole and we were lucky enough to have several elephants come by for a few hours each morning and do their thing (mostly just stand still and flap their ears). The park office near the hotel offers fairly cheap jeep and walking safaris, but it’s mostly just a case of good luck to be able to see anything. Stomping around with 20-30 other foreign and Ghanaian tourists with cellphones a-ringing, mindless, high-volume conversations a-blathering, and cameras a-clicking, should be enough to scare or annoy away most of the animals for a huge radius, so I’m glad we saw what we did.
Despite these small annoyances and the travel on public transportation, that while not particularly dangerous, could be accurately described as Kafkaesque for its psychological intrigue, this was a great trip and definitely a big item crossed off of my Ghana bucket list.