In the Gulf of Guinea, Accra – GHANA
Arrival in Accra and transfer to the hotel.
The Shai Hills, from Accra to Akosombo
Hike of the day: approximately 2 hours; altitude: from 120 m to 189 m; level of difficulty: easy.
We move to the eastern side of the country. The Shai Reserve is a comparatively small fenced wild-life park, with a surface of about 52 sqkm and made up largely of savannah covered plains, interspersed with a series of hills. A unique mosaic of forest covers the hills, thicket and grassland with a low stature and dry forest found in intervening canyons. The most popular attractions include the hills themselves and the trails that lead to them. We will walk accompanied by a guide who is well-versed on the history of the Shai tribes who used to live in the hills, as well as on the flora and fauna of the beautiful coastal savannah .
By car we reach Odumase. The area of Krobo is famous all around the world for its beads. Here they are produced and used for cults and esthetic purposes. We will visit a factory specialized in the production of those beads and even follow the process of making one! The craftsmen have now been making beads following the same long lasting traditional technique for centuries. They use scrap glass that they ground into a fine powder. The glass powder is then meticulously made into patterns and placed into hand-made clay molds covered in kaolin. The beads are cooked, then decorated, washed, and eventually strung.
Hike of the day: approximately 2 hours; altitude: flat; level of difficulty: easy.
All along the coast of Ghana, Togo and Benin, voodoo is a religion that has been passed on by the ancestors and is still fervently practiced. Although for many Europeans voodoo is only a vulgar form of black magic, in truth voodoo is a true religion, far richer and more complex than people often think.
In a village we will join a Voodoo ceremony: the frenetic rhythm of the drums and the chants of the adepts help calling in the voodoo spirit who then takes possession of some of the dancers. They fall into a deep trance: eyes rolling back, grimaces, convulsions, insensitivity to fire or pain. Sakpata, Heviesso, Mami Water are just some of the voodoos divinities who can show up. In this narrow village, surrounded by the magic atmosphere of the ceremony, we will finally understand what people mean when they say: “In your Churches you pray God; in our voodoo shrine we become God!” Then we discover Volta Lake, one of the largest manmade lakes in the world.. Walks along the shores of the lake.
Forest, from Akosombo to Wli (150 km – time of drive 4 hr)
Hike of the day: approximately 2 hours; altitude: flat at 141 m; level of difficulty: easy.
We drive to the Volta Region. Amedzope: the highest located village in Ghana (756 m.). We reach the village by a winding road running through a green forest. We enjoy the view on the valley. The Monkey Sanctuary of Tafi Atome was created in 1993 to protect a community of sacred monkeys living in the forest. According to century-old traditions, in this village monkeys and tortoises are considered sacred species thus demanding respect and protection – in particular monkeys are the “spokesman” of tortoises. We will take a lovely walk in the forest lead by a local guide to encounter this great community of Monas and Colobus monkeys. We continue by vehicle across a very luxuriant region of forests offering very nice views over mountains and waterfalls.
The highest peak, from Wli to Liati – Wli
Hike of the day: approximately 2 hours; altitude: from 248 m to 885 m; level of difficulty: moderate.
Today we will climb Mt Afadjato, the highest mountain in Ghana and part of the Agumatsa Range which runs along the Ghana-Togo border. From the top, magnificent views of the surrounding communities, forests, mountains, deep valleys, and, in the distance, also of Lake Volta. Mount Afadjato is covered with luxuriant tropical forest and is well-known for its interesting biodiversity – over 300 recorded species of butterflies and 33 species of mammals. Mona and Spot-nosed monkeys are regular sights. Path is quite steep however the reward is guaranteed. During the hike we will also stop at Tagbo Waterfall which flows from an almost circular cliff into a refreshing pool. The forefathers of the current villagers considered the river sacred and still today a number of taboos are associated with it. For example: no fishing in the pool since the spirit of the people is thought to live in it; no washing in the stream on Fridays because the spirit of the river and his children bathe on this day, etc.
Hike of the day: approximately 4 hours; altitude: from 254 m to 798 m; level of difficulty: moderate.
Wli, Ghana’s highest waterfall is great to admire in many respects: for the sheer grandeur of the water falling from a height of approximately 60 meters down a steep cliff into a large pool below; for the massive mountain formations and soaring peaks, part of the Akwapim Mountains; and for the lush forests around, currently designated as the Agumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary. The Waterfall actually consists of two separate waterfalls, the Lower Fall and the more challenging Upper Fall. The hike will allow us to sight some of the 200 species of birds and the 400 species of butterflies which have been identified in the region.
Savannah, from Wli to Yendi (320 km – time of drive 6 hr)
Today we drive northwards, leaving the forest behind and entering into savannah country. We transit across a seldom visited region, it is here that the Dagomba live. They build round clay huts with thatched roof. The house of the village chief is easily recognizable thanks to its larger size and style: it has a central pole supporting the roof and the entry is framed with pieces of burned clay. It’s here that the council of the elders meet.
Witches, from Yendi to Mole (290 km – time of drive 5 hr)
Today we take a track leading to Tamale and along the way we meet a very large settlement of … witches! All exiled from their villages because found guilty of terrible events such as the death of a teenager, a mysterious disease or a bad harvest…they now live all together in a specific place. We will chat with them about their life and about the special shrine which protects them, “cleaning” their spirit from bad will. Their warm welcome dramatically contrasts with the gravity of the stories that justify them being here. In the afternoon we reach Mole National Park
Hikes of the day: 2 walking safaris of approximately 2 hours each; altitude: from 150 m to 258 m; level of difficulty: easy.
Mole National Park is Ghana’s largest wildlife refuge. The park is located in the northwest and is made up of grassland savannah and riparian eco-systems, the average elevation is 150 m a.s.l. with a sharp escarpment making up the southern boundary. The park is home to over 93 mammal species – including elephants, hippos, buffalos and warthogs – and is considered a primary African reserve for antelope species such as kobs, Defassa waterbucks, roan, hartebeests, oribi, bushbucks, red duikers and yellow-backed duikers. Sightings of hyenas, lions and leopards are unusual but possible. Olive baboons, black-and-white colobus, green vervets and pata monkeys are resident species. Among the 33 known species of reptiles recorded, it is worth to mention the slender-snouted and dwarf crocodile. 344 the listed bird species, with very good chances to spot: martial eagles, white-headed and palm-nut vultures, saddle-billed storks, herons, egrets, Abyssinian rollers, violet turacos and red-throated bee-eaters. We enjoy two guided walking safaris, early in the morning and late in the afternoon when animals are more active.
Back in the forest, from Mole to Techiman (300 km – time of drive 6 hr)
Hike of the day: approximately 1 hour; altitude: flat at approximately 366 m; level of difficulty: easy.
Drive south. Hidden inside the forest, visit of the lovely Kintampo Waterfalls to admire the waters of the Pumpu River fall from a height of 70 meters down beautiful rocky steps, before they continue their journey towards Black Volta River. A nice refreshing stop.
In the Brong Afo region we leave the main road and follow a track to a sacred forest. The locals living here consider Monas and Colobus monkeys as their totems, as result we can encounter the largest community of these species in the world. During a walk in the forest, accompanied by the emerald green light filtered by the giant trees, we will see plenty of sacred monkeys.
Kumasi, from Techiman to Kumasi (130 km – time of drive 3 hr)
Kumasi is the historical and spiritual capital of the old Ashanti Kingdom. The Ashanti people were one of the most powerful nations in Africa until the end of the 19th century, when the British annexed Ashanti Country to their Gold Coast colony. The tribute paid today to the Asantehene (=King) is the best evidence of their past splendour and strength. With nearly one million inhabitants, Kumasi is a sprawling city with a fantastic central market, one of the biggest in Africa. Every type of Ashanti craft (leather goods, pottery, Kente cloth) is found here, along with just about every kind of tropical fruit and vegetable.
In the afternoon we participate – if available – in a traditional Ashanti funeral, attended by mourners wearing beautifully red or black togas. We say “funerals” but it means a “festive” celebration: the deceased in fact is believed to be still with his/her family and through this ceremony he/she becomes an ancestor. Relatives and friends gather, socialize and celebrate his/her memory. The chief arrives surrounded by his court under the shade of large umbrellas while drums give rhythm to the dancers whose intricate moves are highly symbolic.
Royal Kindgom, Kumasi
In the morning continuation of the tour of Kumasi, with the visit of the Royal Palace Museum hosting a unique collection of gold jewels worn by the Ashanti court. The program includes also a visit to the Ashanti Cultural Centre: a rich collection of Ashanti artifacts housed in a wonderful reproduction of an Ashanti house. Meeting with a chief, on day of Awukudae. In the Ashanti calendar certain days each year are set aside for special celebrations in Kumasi and this traditional ceremony takes place in one of the last African Kingdoms which has maintained its ancient rituals still alive. The ceremony is celebrated around the traditional chiefs in order to benefit from the constant protection of the guardian spirits and also to strengthen unity between the people and their chiefs. People kneel down to pay their respects to their chiefs. After libations are poured over the thrones of the former kings here comes the time of the great happy ceremony. During this celebration, the chief sits under a spectacular colorful umbrella, is adorned in vivid cloth and massive centuries old jewelry (Ashanti gold jewelry and masks are considered masterpieces of African art) and is surrounded by the Ashanti elders and advisors.
Kakum National Park, from Kumasi to Kakum (260 km – time of drive 5 hr)
Hike of the day: approximately 1 hour; altitude: from 135 m to 256 m; level of difficulty: easy.
We reach: Kakum National Park, covering a surface of 357 sqkm of mostly undisturbed virgin rainforest. We are at the easternmost extent of the Guinean Forest of West Africa, one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the African continent. Park rangers are here specifically trained in the medical and cultural significance of the local plants. After an early dinner, we will reach our tree house where we will spend the night, surrounded only by the forest sounds.
Castles, from Kumasi to Elmina – Anomabu (110 km – time of drive 2 hr)
Hikes of the day:
Morning approximately 1 hour; altitude: from 135 m to 277 m; level of difficulty: easy.
Afternoon approximately 2 hour; flat; level of difficulty: easy.
In the morning, we will experience the thrill of a “canopy walk” right in the deep forest of the Kakum National Park: one of the world highest suspended rope bridges held by steel cables. Perched 37 meters (120 feet) above the earth, you will enjoy a stunning view of the rainforest – instead of unveiling their trunks, trees will reveal their tops!
Drive to Anomabu. In the afternoon visit of Elmina Castle, the oldest European building in Africa, erected by the Portuguese in the 15th century. At different times the castle has been used as a warehouse to trade gold, ivory, and eventually slaves. Nice walks in Elmina: city tour will be down by foot including castle, fish market, harbour, city, Catholic mission (Nice view), salt production 2 hrs
NB: DEPARTURE OF 12TH DECEMBER: The visit to Elmina castle will be on day 13, because of Christmas holiday.
African city, from Anomabu to Accra (150 km – time of drive 3 hr)
Hikes of the day:
Morning approximately 1 hour; flat; level of difficulty: easy.
Afternoon approximately 2 hours; flat; level of difficulty: easy.
Walk on the beach to meet fishermen ready for another day in the Ocean.
Drive to Accra, the capital of Ghana, has maintained its unique identity despite the fast paced development currently underway in this intriguing African city. The luxuriant administrative area, punctuated with elegant villas built during the first half of the 19th century, reminds us that Ghana was one of the most flourishing British colonies in West Africa.
We explore the old quarter of James Town, inhabited by the local population known as the Ga. Facing the Ocean is where local native people life fully unfolds: a village surrounded by the city! Here all economic activities follow very different rules from the ones governing “the city” (business area), just a few hundred meters away. Walking tour from James Town to Osu including last minute shopping at the craft center.
Our tour continues with the visit of a workshop where they specialize in building fantasy coffins. These special handcrafted coffins can reflect any shape: fruits, animals, fish, cars, airplanes…. the only limit being imagination! Started in Africa, these flamboyant coffin designs are by now collected worldwide and exposed in museums.
In the evening transfer to the airport for the flight out.