One of the volunteers’ all time favourite destination to travel to is Kakum National Park. It is located in the Central Region, about a half an hour drive from Cape Coast. The attraction of the park is the Canopy walkway, a set of 7 hanging bridges that allow people to walk over the Park at canopy level.
Make sure to bring your volunteer cards with you, as they have raised the price to 17 cedis!
The canopy walk was very fun, but maybe it’s not for those who are scared of heights. People like me are bound to shake the bridge to frighten people (sorry Michael Hyon, not really)!
Things close to Kakum are Hands Cottage and the monkey sanctuary. In Hands Cottage they will allow you to touch the crocodiles for a small fee. In the monkey sanctuary you can meet the nice Dutch owner who will show you around the place. It is worth doing as you get to see a variety of animals which are not always possible to see in Kakum.
One thing the volunteers all need to be careful is to hire the right driver to drive them to the Park, Hands Cottage and the monkey sanctuary. We had particularly bad taxi drivers who kept raising the price and to top it off, they got stopped by the police for ignoring their barrier!
It is an almost a regulation trip that most volunteers do despite the high price, but I will still recommend it.
By Minato Kobori
There were a lot of high hopes held for the African teams before the World Cup started, due to the fact that it was on home soil and the numbers of stars abroad were growing. Yet 12 and a half days after the start of the World Cup, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria were all out of the group stages, falling short at the first hurdle. I personally don’t think it was it due to a lack of passion or effort. Noteworthy mentions go to South Africa’s triumphant victory against the French, Ivory Coast’s passionate display against the Brazilians while coming up against a terrible decision to allow Luis Fabiano’s second goal to stand, and Nigeria’s valiant effort against the South Koreans.
There was a lot of excitement and tension in Ghana because they were the sole country waving the flag for Africa. The whole continent’s hope rested on them to go through to the next round. So it was understandable that the staff in Kumasi were shouting, screaming and running about the office during the game!
The Ghanaians lost the game, but due to the Australians beating the Serbians in the other game, they managed to limp into the next round. They will now face USA on June . I will try and get a video of the crazy staff here for next time! The cars on the roads were all honking their horns after the game and the whole city was full of cheering Ghanaians. I can’t wait for the next game.
More importantly though – Japan vs Denmark tonight!
By Minato Kobori
It is often misleading when it says in the guidebooks that the official language in Ghana is English. This is not the same as saying the official language in the UK or the US is English, but this in Ghana means that all official documents are written in English. It does not mean that it is their mother tongue. I have come across plenty of Ghanaians who cannot speak English, but only speak their local language. This in the Ashanti region is Twi. The local language in for example, Cape Coast, is different. Do not be put off though! The majority of Ghanaians can at least understand English to a basic level and you are likely to come across those who can speak it very well. You can get around just fine with English. It is common though, to have road side sellers and taxi drivers to only speak a few words or cannot understand what you are saying.
So before departing, it is quite a good idea to learn a few phrases of the local language. In Kumasi the locals will hardly ever speak English to each other. The advantage of knowing Twi is that it is great for bargaining a price. Once the seller or taxi driver knows that you can speak a little bit of Twi, it makes things a lot easier. A lot of the time when they see a white person, they tend to quote a high price to try and get more money of f you.
So on one Wednesday meeting, Gabby, the regional coordinator in Kumasi, set out to teach the volunteers Twi. It was amazing to see that the volunteers had already picked out a lot of phrases and were using them regularly. It was also great to see that they had allowed the culture and language to sink in and really experience Ghana without resisting it.
This is just a gentle note for future volunteers who might expect all Ghanaians to speak fluent English! This is not the case, especially in the areas outside Accra. If you have a little bit of time, it will be very useful to learn the local language.
By Minato Kobori
1) Kokrobite Beach
If you're after a bit of R & R (relaxation and reggae), then Kokrobite beach is a must. Situated just 25km west of Accra it takes about two and a half hours to get there from the Hills (traffic depending!). There's a choice of cheap and cheerful hotels along the beachfront, and the sea is safe for swimming in areas patrolled by a lifeguard (although caution should still be taken). There is also an African Drumming School for those who want to learn a new skill.
2) Dodi Princess boat trip on Lake Volta
The boat departs from Akosombo at 10:30am every saturday, sunday and bank holiday. It takes you across the lake to the Dodi Islands. A barbeque buffet lunch is served on board, and there is music and dancing to satisfy the more energetic crowd. Those after a more relaxing experience can relax by the pool with a drink from the well-stocked bar. It's a lovely way to see a tiny corner of this vast lake.
There are a number of beautiful waterfalls scattered around the Eastern Region. Boti, Begoro, Akaah and many more are accessible all year round, but are undoubtedly at their most beautiful during the rainy season due to the larger flow of water.
4) Shai Hills
Shai Hills because a game reserve in 1962, and is home to large number of baboons, antlope, various species of monkey, and at least 175 species of birds. It is less than one hour away in tro-tro from Mamfe/Akropong, so is well worth a day trip. Game drives and guided walks can be arranged locally, and there are a number of hotels outside the reserve in the surrounding area should you wish to make a weekend of it.
5) City life -Accra
As much as we love the peaceful life in the Hills, it is certainly not known for its fine cuisine or crazy night life. Luckily Accra is just down the road! For those who have been in the Hills for over a month, it is understandable that you may be craving some different food, or maybe somewhere to go dancing after dark. There are hotels to cater to every budget, and plenty of bars and restaurants offering international cuisine and a buzzing night life. Shopping, cinema, markets, swimming pools -Accra has a lot to offer those who are craving a taste of city life, and it's only about one hour away!
By Anne Buglass
4:00AM. Hardly the ideal time to meet up, but in Ghana this is a pretty standard time to set off on a journey. So I met with the rest of the volunteers in the Metro Bus station in Kumasi to head to Tamale in order to eventually get to Mole. Getting tickets for the bus was no easy task, having to resist the hoard of Ghanaians trying to push through the queue!
The metro-bus was fairly uncomfortable for all the 6 hours it took to get to Tamale, but if you have experienced long distance tro tro rides, this was nothing. Highlights of journey included a roadside pineapple lady who managed to cut up a pineapple perfectly in 30 seconds flat and being sandwiched between two volunteers who wouldn’t let me sleep (thanks guys!).
The plan was to get to Larabanga, a town about four hours away from Tamale, and stay there for the night. After hours of sweating on the tro tro and bus we finally managed to get to our small beaten-down hostel. In a small village without running water or any particular cuisine to mention, one would wonder why we decided to stay there. The attraction of the hostel was that we got to sleep on the roof (yes!), and the attraction of the village was that it had the oldest mosque in West Africa. The night on the roof was a wonderful experience, lying under the stars and enjoying the nighttime breeze.
The next day we visited the mosque and somehow ended back at the hostel with all of us with a child holding our hand. This is something quite common too in Ghana! The ride to the national park was probably one of the coolest ways to get to a destination, sitting on a back of a motorbike, racing through the dirt road. Mine was a particularly exhilarating ride after shouting to the driver that he should go faster!
The swimming pool at the Mole National Park Motel seemed like paradise and the first thing we did was to strip off and dive in. Although it wasn’t at any length the best swimming pool any of us had been in, it felt amazing. We even got to see the elephants drinking water afar by the pond.
The safari ride the next day was a bit of a disappointment due to the fact that we did not get to see the elephants close up. Perhaps our expectations were too high, but we did get to see warthogs, deer and baboons and other different types of monkeys. It furthered my belief that so much more could be done to this place to make it a top national park. I would still recommend people to go, since it is an experience like nothing else whatever happens.
We were due to go back to Kumasi the following morning, but what’s a weekend without any problems? I was woken up around 1am by a volunteer who had a bad fever and headache. He asked me to wet his handkerchief and put it on his head. I obediently did as I was told in my sleepy haze and went back to bed. Two minutes later I realised I should probably do something! I went to look for the staff at the motel and found one, but none that had a vehicle to take us to a hospital. Luckily I found a man sleeping in his car and managed to persuade him to drive. The volunteer could hardly walk at this stage, but with some help he managed to get inside the car. We drove around in circles trying to find the clinic which was apparently located within the national park. Even after finding it, waking up the nurses required a lot of effort, having to bang continuously on their doors and windows. A grumpy nurse did eventually come out. Without any electricity, but with the aid of a torch, the volunteer was put on the IV drip. 1000ml of IV, a few pills and 11 hours later, the fever had subsided and the headache got a lot better.
Perhaps the good thing about having to stay behind one day was that I got to meet the community within Mole and the school. I spent most of the day hanging around with two boys who skipped school due to the teacher not turning up. They were both part of a football team, but quite sadly they could not train because they did not have a ball. I bought them a ball and the jubilant boys showed me around the school and I was even treated to a few songs from a class.
The volunteer was strong enough to travel the next day, but what he did not need was a four hour bus ride on a Metro Bus to Tamale. I have not yet experienced a bumpier journey in my time in Ghana. It was completely relentless and the dirt on the road made us go orange. We somehow managed to get back to Kumasi and get to a proper hospital, where the volunteer was diagnosed with malaria. Happy times! The volunteer was well enough to come to the meeting the following day.
Despite the problems I encountered, it was a hugely enjoyable experience and I believe the weekends can be the highlight of any volunteers coming here. I strongly recommend traveling on the weekends as you get to experience Ghana even more.
By Minato Kobori
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