Ghana is less known for its national parks and game reserves and better known for its beautiful natural features such as lakes and mountains, dense rainforests, palm-fringed beaches, and grassy plains.
Ghana is comprised of the former British colony known as the Gold Coast. It is located on the Gulf of Guinea in western Africa and is bordered by Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east, and Cote d’Ivoire in the west. Ghana’s coastline is lined with sandy beaches, palm trees, and mangrove swamps. The interior consists of rolling country covered in grass and scrubs. The farther inland you go, the denser the foliage becomes, eventually turning into rain forest and wooded hills. The rain forest stretches across the south-central region and is only broken up occasionally by rivers and wooded hills. Ghana has no mountain ranges and its highest point is only 2,905 feet at Mount Afadjato. Many rivers and streams, though, rush through the country causing raging torrents during rainy season.
Perhaps one of the best things tourists can do in Ghana is relax and sunbathe all day on the Atlantic beaches, enjoying the scene of tropical palms, Atlantic breakers, and the flowing and ebbing of currents and tides. Or otherwise, get a little active; the beach lagoons are great for water sports. The best beaches and resorts in Ghana are Labadi Pleasure Beach, Coco Beach Resort, Busua, Kokrobite beach, Dixcove, and Ada.
Ghana’s beautiful lakes are also great places to unwind. Lake Volta, which can be reached by taking a car ferry to Kete-Krachi, is the largest manmade lake in the world. There are facilities for water sports. Alternatively you can visit Lake Bosomtwi, which is great for swimming, scuba diving, and mountaineering. And canoeing as well! From Lake Bosomtwi, take a multiple-day canoe trip into the mangrove jungles alongside the Ankobra River.
Fishing and angling is best done at the mouth of the Volta where you can catch Nile perches and barracudas.
Hikers and trekkers have many places to choose from. Hike tours are available through Ghana’s Ministry of Tourism in the Volta region where you’ll find the Aduklu Mountains. Togbo Falls and Mount Afadjato are excellent hiking destinations as well with the latter also attracting mountain climbers.
Birdwatching and Game-Viewing
Ghana does have its fair share of national parks, game reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries, although it is not typically recognized as the best place in Africa for viewing. The Kakum Nature Reserve provides and hiking and exploring amidst savannahs and rainforests that are inhabited by water buffalos, monkeys, and antelopes. Visitors can even view wildlife at tree canopy level (1,100 feet) while staying in a tree house. Other safari destinations include the Owabi Wildlife Sanctuary, Bia National Park, Mole Game Reserve, Bui National Park, and the Shai Hills Game Reserve; the latter can be explored on horseback. Mole National Park, meanwhile, is one of the best facilitated nature reserves and can be explored by vehicle.
Birdwatchers can visit the Owabi Forest Reserve and Bird Sanctuary near Kumasi, the Songow Lagoon salt marshes, and the Bomfobiri Wildlife Sanctuary, which is also home to the breathtaking Bomfobiri Falls.
Ghana has historic sites and architecture as well, boasting more than 40 European castles and forts. The Elmina and Cape Coast Castles are all UNESCO World Heritage designated. The castles and forts can be toured and often present cultural shows. You can also visit the Larabanga Mosque near Mole National Park. It was built in the architectural style of the Western Sudanese Empire; locals believed the mosque was built by God. In Kumasi, which is the historic capital of the Ashanti civilization, you’ll find the ruins of the Manhyia Palace, as well as the Royal Mausoleum which Lord Baden-Powell burned down.
Ghana is famous for its colorful traditional festivals. Ghanaians love to gather and celebrate historical events, victories of war, and the beginning of harvest. You can attend one of them and enjoy feasting, drumming, and dancing. These festivals are typically full of pageantry and pomp. The chiefs and queen mothers ride in gilded palanquins throughout the country while open markets are set up, giving the event the feel of an African bazaar. The festivals are distinct from region to region; they are often meant to affirm tribal values and honor ancestors and past leaders.
The climate in Ghana is tropical. Rainfall varies. The southeast coast receives less rain, averaging 39 inches while the southwest coast gets 80 inches a year. The winter months are dry, caused by the harmattan winds blowing in from the Sahara. The dry season in northern Ghana is much worse than in the south, both more severe and lasting longer.
Not much is known about Ghana’s prehistory. Beginning in the early 13th century, several migratory groups established small kingdoms in Ghana. In 1695, the Ashanti unified most of these groups and became a powerful kingdom, establishing its capital in Kumasi. The kings ruled for centuries until the Ashantis were annexed and conquered by the British in 1901.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to land in Ghana in 1471. They began trading for ivory, gold, and pepper with the people. The Portuguese soon named the region the Gold Coast because of the large amounts of gold found. The profits from the trade became so lucrative that other European traders soon arrived, namely the British Swedish, and Dutch. By the 18th century, several forts were established along the Gold Coast.
Unfortunately, the gold trade soon became subsidiary to the slave trade. Ships were captured in Ghana and shipped to the Caribbean to work the plantations. Kingdoms disintegrated as a result of the slave trade and several wars erupted.
Throughout the 1800s, the British were involved in a series of wars with the Ashanti nation in the interior. They made the coastal region a colony in 1850 and now wanted to venture inland. In 1874, the British looted Kumasi, taking all the gold and silver. They returned again in 1896 and conquered the civilization, exiling the chiefs. Not long afterwards, the Ashanti became a British colony in 1901.
In 1957, the Gold Coast was granted independence and renamed Ghana. This triggered other nationalist movements in other parts of Africa. Nkrumah was the first president of Ghana and he wanted to make the country a model African state. He built roads, hospitals, schools, homes, and factories. He worked to unify the country and encouraged foreign investments. Unfortunately, opposition still brewed and Lieutenant General Ankrah led a revolt in 1966 and Nkrumah was exiled as a result. General Ankrah was forced to resign in 1969 after allegations of financial irregularities. The government returned to civilian rule with multiparty elections in 1969. Busia came to power but he was overthrown in a military coup in 1972. The country was governed by a military government until 1979 when free elections were held once again. Ghana has enjoyed relative political stability ever since.