Ben’s trip report

Posted: September 3, 2012 in Accra, Akosombo, Akwidaa, Atimpoku, Biakpa, Busua & surrounds, Cape Coast, Kpong, language, Nima, Shai Hills, Transport, Wli

Two weeks in Ghana

I only had two weeks in Ghana but I felt obliged to share my two pennies’ worth on this update page given how useful the Bradt guide proved to me.
In short, I split my limited time between the West Coast and the Volta region with a few of pit-stops in Accra. What follows is a list of the key hotels / events that I did with a simple 5 star rating system (***** = Muhammad Ali; * = Muhammad Atta).
WEST COAST
***** Ezile Bay, near Akwidaa
Without doubt the highlight of my time in Ghana. Run by a charming French lady, Ezile Bay is a small collection of bungalows on a cute beach near Akwidaa (west of Busua). The key draw of Ezile Bay is how isolated – and clean – the beach is compared to rival resorts nearby. The food was delightful which should come as no surprise given a Frenchwoman’s involvement. The beach is said to be swimmable but I wouldn’t get too confident – there are some nasty rocks in shallow water (at low tide at least). The rooms are very modest and there was only electricity for a few hours in the evening…but who cares when you’re in Ezile Bay?
*** Mighty Victory Hotel, Cape Coast
Decent enough. A short walk to the centre of town but it has wifi which is cool. Somebody mentioned to me that the staff weren’t friendly but I got along with them just fine.
VOLTA REGION
***** WAASPS trial flight, near Kpong
Philip, this has to go in the next guidebook. Run by a Brit but staffed by young Ghanaian women, this is a cool airplane company that has two neat dimensions: i) teaching local (rural) girls to build and fly planes and ii) dropping medical info to hard-to-reach parts of Ghana.
I did a trial flight in a really slick little plane that they built onsite. It may not be for everyone but it’s certainly safer than your average tro-tro journey and the views are spectacular. And it helps that the manager, Jonathan, is the closest thing that the West African aviation world has to a rock star.
**** Mountain Paradise Lodge, Biakpa
Lovely place. If you’re in any way outdoorsy then you shouldn’t miss this one.
atmosphere
** Waterfall Lodge, Wli Falls
Strange atmosphere. They also close on Tuesdays which is really peculiar for a hotel.
*** Aylo’s Bay, Atimpoku (near Akosombo)
These guys are out for as much of your money as possible. It’s bang on the Volta River which offers sensational views – and is great for swimming despite the minature crocs (no joke). But the prices are practically double what was stated in the book – 70/80 cedis for a double without/with a river view. Plus they make you pay on arrival which wasn’t the coolest way to kick things off.
In truth I found the whole Atimpoku / Akosombo area slightly less friendly than elsewhere in the Volta region – perhaps it’s something to do with being closer to Accra. In particular watch out for a taxi driver named Aristotle. Although he claims to be both a pastor and the captain of a cruiseship, he is actually just a money-grabbing psychopath.
**** Boat ride on Lake Volta, Akosombo
The maintenance man at the Volta Hotel, Daniel, takes people out on a motorboat for 40 cedis an hour which I think is less than other boat trips / boat hire nearby. This Daniel fella is super-cool and he lets you stop for the odd swim. (Best to give him a tip since the greedy hotel keeps all 40 of the cedis for themselves.)
ACCRA
***** Tour of Nima with Charles Sablah
I had a few hours being shown around the Accra suburb of Nima with Charles, a local. He gave some excellent insights into the community – its diversity, its history – and showed me both his house and those of his friends. We stopped for a beer at one friend’s and lunch in another. Awesome to the max. It’s not far from Asylum Down if you are staying there. His website is as follows:
**** Josta Lodge, Osu
Aside from a renegade toothbrush that I discovered in the bathroom, I liked this place. It was clean, safe and had wifi. Best of all it was in Osu, a much cooler suburb than Asylum Down, which I found to be really boring. Granted, Osu is way more pricey but this was my last night and I thought I’d ratchet up the luxury a few notches.
** Pink Hostel, Asylum Down
I’m less sure about this place. I stayed in a pretty shabby dorm that had an even more gritty bathroom adjoining it. I found the staff less than friendly – in fact one woman had a permanent expression as if she’d just received some dreadful news. There was wifi which was some consolation.
* Shai Hills Resort, between Accra and Akosombo
I’m sure the nature reserve is lovely but I took one look at this hotel and bolted for the nearest town (which happened to be Accra). The whole hotel complex looks like the aborted brainchild of Kim Jong-il and I can guarantee that you’ll be the only guest.
OTHER
A few other tit-bits that other travellers may find useful:
Language. The cleverest thing I did was use the small phrasebook at the back of the guide to try out my language skills on the locals. It’s great fun and it is an excellent way of interacting with, for instance, cab drivers and the people next to you on tro-tros or buses. It also serves as a great icebreaker because the locals love to hear you give their language a try. When you invariably screw up, their reactions are something to behold.
Buses. If you’re going from town to town, buses can be a more sensible (and safer) option than tro-tros. Since buses will only leave when they are full, it makes sense to choose your bus wisely. A poor decision could literally cost you hours. Don’t bother with the large air-conditioned buses since they take an extremely long time to fill. The thinking man takes the orange Metro Mass Transit buses which, despite not being as safe as their upmarket rivals, fill up quickly and are crammed with funner people.
Motorbikes. If you’re foolish enough to get on a motorbike with anyone (it seemed to be the only option in some parts of the Volta region), make sure that the driver puts your heavy rucksack in front of him (rather than you carrying it on your back). They seem perfectly happy to do this and it will help to prevent you from falling off the back if you hit a bump or they accelerate too quickly (I’m convinced this can happen). One thing I tried was to offer the driver a one cedi tip at the outset of the journey on condition they refrain from driving like a nutter. (Need you ask, this made no difference whatsoever.)
Maps. For whatever reason, I didn’t meet one Ghanaian who could decipher a map. It’s best just not to go there.
Fufu / Banku, etc. I’m sorry but I’m just not convinced.
Local whiskey. I was foolish enough to try one of those little whiskies in a plastic sachet (K20 was the name). Massive error. This was 10 days ago and I still cannot get the taste out of my mouth.
Ben Griffiths
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Comments
  1. Kira says:

    Brilliant report! Glad you had a great trip – should have warned you about the trials & tribulations of buying dodgy plastic sachets of alcohol … !

    • potatohead says:

      thats one of the best travel reports i have ever read…..brief, informative, witty…….thanks I wrote down a bunch of stuff from it……..watch out for Aristotle!!!!!!!

  2. madinghana says:

    How informative your post! Next time you visit Ghana I hope you make it to Ashanti where Four Villages Inn, Kumasi, offers you an unconditional 50% off a three day stay. We’ll even throw in Comfort’s famous Kumasi Central Market tour which I’m sure ranks with Charles Sablah’s tour of Nima. Once again great report which sure will factor in our recommendations to travelers.

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