Within the confines of the Mole National Park, visitors have two options for accommodation: the Mole Motel or the Zaina Lodge. The names probably indicate where each falls on the "luxury" spectrum. But you probably wouldn't believe just how beautiful the Zaina Lodge is, until you step onto its grounds.
We woke up bright and early on our second day in the Mole National Park, Ghana's largest protected wildlife refuge, and moved from the Mole Motel to the Zaina Lodge: an upgrade of at least a few stars. We had booked a jeep safari in the very early morning; a time at which we hoped the animals of the park would be at their most active. We certainly wouldn't be, so it was nice to sit in the vehicle and let our driver do all the work.
Ghana is not blessed with the expansive savannahs of nations like Tanzania or South Africa, and you won't find families of gorillas hiding in its jungles, like you might in Rwanda or Uganda. But this is still a large African nation, and as such, there's plenty of amazing wildlife to be seen. The biggest and best of Ghana's numerous national parks is Mole, which occupies a sizable 5000 square kilometer chunk of the country's northwest. We spent two nights in the park.
A fascinating structure purported to be the oldest in Ghana, the famous mud mosque of Larabanga dates back to the 14th century. As it was right along our path to the Mole National Park, we couldn't avoid paying a visit. But although the mosque itself was incredible, this was one of the most irritating experiences we had in Ghana.
Having explored Ghana from south to north and back again, we completed dozens of long- and medium-length journeys, as well as innumerable short inter-city trips. In doing so, we've run the gamut of transportation options in Ghana. Here are our tips and advice for getting around the country.
To arrive at Tengzug, we arranged a private driver from Bolga Station. Although it'd be possible to get here with shared transport, this would take a long time and require a transfer in the town of Tongo -- and on this extremely hot Sunday, we had no patience for such an undertaking. So we had paid a guy take us straight to the village's gate, and wait until we were done; it was money well spent, and we'd encourage others to do the same. (Just make sure to haggle!)
You don't have to be an expert in Ghanaian culture to guess that the town of Bongo is known for drumming. Just outside the village, you'll find a formation of giant rocks, which are known for the bizarre, musical tones they produce when struck. We embarked on a hike to this natural orchestra pit, and found ourselves amazed by the area's beauty even more than the famous rocks.
After having conquered our fears at the Crocodile Pond in Paga, we felt like a more soothing experience, so wandered over to the nearby chief's palace, which has been set up as a touristic primer to the housing style of the Kassena people, a tribe of about 160,000 people, found along the border between Ghana and Burkina Faso. We were met at the gate by a guide who brought us into the labyrinthine complex.
"Maybe it's a trap," I thought to myself, while watching our guide swing a squawking fowl about, luring a massive crocodile onto the shore. "It could be a trap." Then he was calling me over, asking me to crouch down next to this monster, and every rational synapse in brain was in agreement, screaming, "It's a trap!" But I took a deep breath, and approached. If it was a trap, at least it would be an amazing way to go out.
After hopping out of the trotro, we stopped for a lunch of Tuo Zaafi at a roadside stand, and then asked the 14-year-old girl who had served us about the location of Wulugu's famous house. Rather than simply point out the way, she grabbed her brother and the two of them led us there directly. They also hunted down the son of the local imam, who was in charge of tours. In Accra, we had been impressed by the friendliness of the people, and were discovering that this hospitality is no different in the north.
About an hour north of Tamale, the last town of any size before hitting the border with Burkino Faso is Bolgatanga -- referred to almost exclusively as "Bolga". (The full name is so rarely used, you might be met with confusion when saying it.) We spent four days in Bolga, using it mainly as a base for exploring the surrounding area. On the day we arrived, though, we spent the afternoon seeing the sights. Such as they…
Sometimes, I just feel stupid. Sure, I completed high school and graduated from college. I was even a Cub Scout! But my practical knowledge pales in comparison to the people of northern Ghana, all of whom seem to know how to create things which are immediately useful... with their hands! I might be able to write code, giving your website a blue as opposed to white background. But this little 80-year-old lady? She can mold a jar, make butter, and sew you an outfit, all before breakfast.