I visited Mognoori village, 11 kilometers from the Mole National Park entrance, in September 2009. My driver told me that it was no different from any other village in the area, but if a visitor paid the fee for the village walk, photography was freely allowed. None of his previous clients had ever wanted to go there, so he had never visited the place himself.
Mognoori may be just like any other village, but as a stranger, you’re not really free to stop in just any village, snap a bunch of pictures and then leave. I’m sure that would be considered rude and an invasion of their privacy. My driver also told me that many Ghanaians are ashamed of their poverty and don’t like foreigners taking their pictures. As an eco village, the Mognoori villagers permit photography in order to encourage tourism. Therefore, as an enthusiastic photographer, I thought Mognoori would be a worthwhile stop, and I was right.
The dirt road from the park entrance to the village was in fairly good condition, despite the heavy seasonal rains this year. There are several signs pointing the way and a sign at the edge of the village that says Mognoori so you can tell when you arrive that you’re in the right village.
We didn’t see any evidence of an office to pay the village walk fee, but if you ask pretty much anyone, they’ll find the guy who will take you on the tour within minutes. It was 7 cedis total for one Ghanaian and one foreign visitor, including the photography fee. I was assured I was free to photograph anything and anyone in the village.
The villagers are very friendly. My driver, who has been taking tourists all over the country for 15 years, even remarked how friendly they were. He told me that people in the northern part of Ghana can be suspicious, aloof and sometimes very unfriendly to strangers, but he found the Mognoori villagers exceptionally welcoming. No one in the village came begging for money or hassled me in any way.
The Mognoori village guide told us he works with the Ghana Tourist Board and with several NGOs to develop activities that will be interesting for visitors. These include a canoe trip, home stay, traditional drum and dance performance, and the village walk. The drum and dance performance is held by request only. The request must be made one day in advance in order for them to prepare. That can be arranged by asking about it in the Mole visitor center, and they’ll send someone to the village to let them know. I only had enough time for the village walk.
The village is small, and it doesn’t take a long time to see it, but the tour can be as long as you like. If you ask a lot of questions and take a lot of pictures, you’ll have a longer tour than someone who doesn’t.
I was lagging behind the village guide and my driver because I was taking tons of pictures. An older gentlemen who I don’t think was an official guide took care to explain everything to me that I was photographing. It seemed to me he was interested in us as visitors and just being friendly. I would have otherwise missed out on any explanation, since I was dawdling so far behind the guide that I couldn’t hear anything he was saying to my driver. I found the old man’s attentiveness very charming.
At the end of the tour, I gave the old gentleman a one cedi tip. He was quite surprised and very grateful. Having lived in Togo, I have observed West Africans tipping others for small services like that, so I know it is part of the culture and not something that only foreigners are expected to do. Considering I have more disposable income as a tourist, I felt it the least I could do.
I’m so glad I visited Mognoori village. I only wish I would have had more time to spend there. A visit to Mognoori is a great opportunity for photographers and anyone who wants personal contact with the locals.