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Why Your First Safari Should Be In Ghana
Life & Travel

Why Your First Safari Should Be In Ghana

We’ve all been seeing tons of travel content from Ghana light up our social media feeds lately. Ghana’s popularity has exploded among Black travelers, kicked off by 2019’s "Year of Return" and sustained by Detty December, a month-long celebration that draws crowds of partygoers to the capital of Accra. For first-time visitors to Africa, Ghana’s relative stability, natural attractions, and nightlife make it a perfect introduction to the continent.


I visited Ghana recently, spending two weeks exploring Accra, Kumasi, and Tamale, home to Mole National Park, the country's largest natural game reserve located in the northern part of the country.

Though you won't see lions, giraffes, or zebras at Mole National Park, you'll get up close with elephants, baboons, monkeys, and antelope in what I call a great "starter safari."

If you’re planning a visit to Ghana soon, here’s how to add a safari to your trip.

​But First, Some Paperwork.

Before considering a trip to Ghana, be aware that U.S. citizens need a visa to enter the country. The costs depend on whether you need a single-entry or multiple-entry visa. You can complete the application online, and regular processing times are 15 to 20 days while the expedited service is seven business days, so apply early.

Travelers to Ghana will also need to get a yellow fever vaccine, which can be administered at a local health clinic.

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​How To Get To Mole National Park

Most travelers from the U.S. will fly into Ghana’s capital city, Accra, which is where I landed after a connecting flight from New York where I had met up with my friends. Once we landed in Accra, we met our tour guide from Uprise Travel and spent the night at Roots Hotel which had a trendy rooftop lounge with a bird’s eye view of the city.

The next morning, after a breakfast of coffee and fresh fruit, we headed back to the airport for a quick one-hour flight to Ghana’s northern city of Tamale. From Tamale, we met another tour guide from Uprise Travel who drove us two hours to Mole National Park. If you don’t want to fly to Tamale, it is about a 10-hour drive from Accra, which can be arranged by booking a private driver or by taking a bus.

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​Where To Stay

Mole National Park is the largest game reserve in Ghana, and there are only two options for staying at the park. The first, Mole Motel, is a no-frills motel with clean rooms, a large swimming pool, and impressive views of the park. My friends and I chose the second option, Zaina Lodge which is a luxury safari camp, and if you’re used to certain conveniences, I would recommend staying here.

Zaina Lodge has a gorgeous dining area that overlooks the savanna, pool loungers that surround an infinity pool, and cabins with outdoor showers, high-end linens, and private balconies. The food during our stay included a mix of Western and African dishes; there was oatmeal, bacon, and toast for breakfast along with dinners of goat pepper soup, fufu, and jollof rice.

​What To Expect

We stayed at Zaina Lodge for three days, which gave us time to lay out by the pool, go on a pre-dawn walking safari, and enjoy a canoe safari where we spotted rare birds and visited a local village. The highlight of our stay though was the early morning safari. We rose before the sun and traveled deep into the wildlife park in a safari jeep. Treading quietly, we followed the park rangers to the elephant tracks etched in mud, and with bated breath, we watched as a herd of elephants slowly emerged from the leafy jungle, walking just steps from us.

Even if you decide to not take a jeep safari, staying in Mole National Park means you need to be pretty comfortable getting up close with animals because here they have free reign on the property.

Monkeys would often hang out by the pool and warthogs would gather in groups outside of our cabins. The larger animals like the elephants, antelope, and baboons stayed further from the lodge grounds, though we were cautioned that the baboons could smell our food and we were discouraged from taking anything from the dining area.

The lodge’s remote location meant that we sometimes lost power at night (which can be daunting sleeping in a cabin surrounded by wild animals), but the presence of armed park rangers also helped us feel safer. Being in the park was also quite peaceful. During our stay, we talked to a few other travelers—a Ghanaian family from London and medical students volunteering in the area— but for the most part, our visit was quiet compared to the bustling city life we left behind in Accra.

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​Final Tips

Visiting Mole National Park deepened my experience in Ghana, and after my stay, I would recommend the safari for experienced or adventure travelers. There were times when we didn’t have any phone reception or electricity, and for some travelers, the experience might be a bit too far out of their comfort zone.

There’s also a bit of planning involved in getting to Mole National Park, and I highly recommend using a Ghanaian tour company like Uprise Travel who booked our flights and lodging and arranged for a driver to pick us up from the airport in Tamale and transport us to Zaina Lodge.

Three days were just the right amount of time to visit the safari park though you could easily extend your stay to a week or longer. If you already have plans to visit Accra, a visit to Mole National Park is a great way to experience your first safari.

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Featured image courtesy of Mariette Williams

 

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