Updates from Thor Young

My wife and I traveled to Ghana on vacation recently and relied heavily on the 4th Edition of the Bradt guide in our travels. I have comments on some of the places we visited for your internet readers or next edition. I’ll go in order from west to east with a general comment on tipping guides up front:

TIPPING GUIDES: We had a number of excellent “institutional” guides in Ghana at the castles, parks, reserves, community ecotourism sites, etc. I realize they don’t get paid well, if at all (some seem to be volunteers) so I tried to tip well, generally about half the admission price and sometimes higher. However, I was disappointed so few other western vistors tipped our guides at all even after they seemed to go out of their way for us. For example, at both Kukum and Cape Coast castle we had excellent guides who I gave 5 cedis each, but none of the other 8 or 10 western tourists who toured each of those sites with us gave them a thing. I’d like to reward people like these guides and encourage more local residents (as these clearly were) to get involved with local tourism.

BEYIN: The beach here was probably the nicest I saw in Ghana. We visited the Nzulezo Stilt village. The current rate is 10 cedis per non-Ghanaian adult. They stressed no one at the village was to ask us for money and that proved to be true. In fact, no one at the village said anything to us. Compared to other villages we visited, the people at the silt village seemed a bit more “unoccupied” and less friendly – which I imagine is because life on the silt village is pretty slow and they have a steady string of tourists parading by. We did visit the chief, who asked for a bottle of gin or 7 cedis in exchange for telling you the village history. We paid the money as a courtesy (not having any gin), upon which the chief told us a short sentence or two about the village history which our guide had already shared with us, then just sat and stared at us for a while, then finally made a plea for us to give money for the village school. I would recommend skipping this po rtion of the “tour”. That being said, our guide Charles was excellent and gave a lively and informative tour, so the overall 3-hour experience was very pleasant.

AXIM: We stayed at the Lou Moon Lodge and it was fabulous – like some remote luxury hideaway I’d pay three times as much to stay in Hawaii or the Caribbean and still not has a good as food or service. I can’t emphasize how fabulous the food was, and while it was expensive by Ghana standards, it would not have been compared to a similar priced dish in a developed country.

ELMINA: We stayed at the Coconut Grove resort which I really enjoyed, particularly the pool and restaurant. The only part of the resort I would not recommend is the golf course, which looked virtually unplayable. The Elmina castle tour is also very good although I would say if you only had time for one castle tour, the Cape Coast castle museum and tour are a bit better. The admission was 9 cedis for non-Ghanaian adults. Your guidebook mentions the great view from Fort St Jago but does not reference a tour there. I asked at St. Georges castle if there was a tour offered at Fort St. Jago and the folks at the front desk did not really seem to know, but after we hiked up the hill we found there was in fact an attendant there who gave us an excellent 30 minute tour. The rate was 3 cedis per person. I am told that fort along with the three main castles are the only ones in Ghana listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

KAKUM: The current rate if 9 cedis for the canopy walk and an additional 5 cedis for the 1 hour forest walk. You are right, you can’t purchase the forest walk alone – because it starts from the end of the canopy walk. The guide stressed we’d be unlikely so see animals on the forest walk and he was right – but it was worth it to see and learn about all the trees of forests and their traditional uses. Some of the trees are amazingly massive.

CAPE COAST: The castle tour was excellent as advertised. The castle museum is also excellent and probably the only one I saw in Ghana which was of modern western museum exhibit quality. Admission for both was 9 cedis for non-Ghanaian adults.

ANOMABU: You noted the Anomabu Beach Resort has “few if any peers” on the Ghanaian coast. Its an OK place, but really nothing compared to some of the nicer resorts like Coconut Grove. The beach is suffering from severe erosion which threatens to topple the coconut trees which now have half their roots fully exposed. There is very little sand to stand on except the surf zone. The restaurant is very nice (and very popular) and did serve excellent meals as advertised, although I would not list the portions as “enormous” as the guidebook suggests.

SHAI HILLS: The current cost of the tour is 10 cedis per person entry plus 3 cedis per hour for the guide (non-Ghanaian adult), plus 4 cedis for a Ghana registered private vehicle. It takes about 3 hours to drive the park loop and hike to the two main caves if you have your own 4 x 4. I’m not quite sure what visitors on foot do – you can see the baboons near the entrance but not much else unless you have a full day to hike around. The hike to the Hionweyu cave at the park’s highest point is particularly rewarding, provided your thin and athletic enough to make it through the narrow openings. Plans to bring in more animals don’t seen to have materialized yet and you can’t help but think this park could be even better than it is if they could. We also toured the Cedi bead factory nearby which is very informative and worthwhile if you have a interest in beads – however, you might want to emphasize the bead factory is over a mile off the main road on a bumpy dirt road so be prepared.

EAST OF LAKE VOLTA: I could not agree more with the comment in the guidebook that cat-calls of “Obruni” would turn to friendly “Your Welcome” once we crossed the bridge – how very true!

AMEDZOFE: The map in the guidebook implies there is a road from Gbadzeme – don’t believe it. There was a road, but even in a 4 x 4 with a professional driver we barely made it up through 8 ft. tall vegetation and washed out portions – the locals at the top were shocked to see us driving into town from that direction. We went back down via Vane which is better, but not much, the roads up to Amezofe are steep and bumpy and long no matter which way you get there. The town is very nice and the people very friendly. The tourist office was open and provided us an excellent guide. The cost was 5 cedis to see the falls and 3 cedis to see Mount GEMI (which I’m told is properly capitalized and stands from German Evangelical Missionary Institute or something like that). They also call the falls by a different name, something short starting with an “O” that I did not write down. Anyway, the hike to the falls was probably my favorite short hike in Ghana (45 minutes each way) but is not for the unathletic. The view from Mt. GEMI (25 minute easy walk) is also very nice. We stopped at the Paradise Lodge for a drink but did not stay there. The view is excellent and the setting nice, but its not really close to Amezofe (or anywhere) and the road is not easily traveled. Contrary to what the guidebook says the lodge has electricity.

TAFI ATOME: The current rate is 7.5 cedis per person (non-Ghanian adult). We went at 12:30 on a hot day, which I figured would be a poor time to see the monkeys but we wound up seeing a lot right behind the tourist center as soon as we started walking. Apparently there are 4 family groups, only two of which are habituated and we saw both. The guide brought a bunch of bananas and we fed the monkeys from our hands.

WLI FALLS: The hike to the falls is well worth it and a great walk on its own. Its an easy walk, although the hike to the upper falls is just the opposite and very steep and difficult. The lower falls takes 45 minutes, the upper falls 2 hours to reach. The current rate is 8 cedis for the lower falls and just 2 more for the upper falls, so it is quite a bargain. They get a steady stream of visitors on weekdays but its not crowded, but apparently they get tour busses on the weekends which can make the lower falls rather crowded. This is the only eco-tourist site in Ghana where I saw souvenir stands so I assume that is related to the relative popularity of this attraction. I saw pictures of the caves in nearby Lukpe Todome which looked very cool but we did not have time to visit. We stayed at the Waterfall Lodge which was nice and very reasonably priced. It’s a short walk to the tourist office.

LOGBA TOTA: This town is actually fairly easy to get to (relatively) if you have a car – the first 4 km is flat and dirt, the last 3 km is steep but nicely paved with no traffic. The town architecture is interesting for the use of rock and mud in building construction. The tourist office is impossible to locate, but we asked in the square and someone found the only guide who opened a small room in a building near the square. The walk to the falls is 4.5 cedis. The walk is about 45 minutes and moderately challenging. Its sort of interesting in that you pass through the entire villages farm fields which are built on steep mountain slopes. The falls is seasonal and was barely flowing when we went but still nice. I didn’t realize it before we went, but you have to wade/swim through the water at the bottom of the falls to access the cave. Bring your own flashlight. I don’t think they get many visitors – it had been 4 days since the last person signed the guest re gister when I visited.

I visited several other interesting places but have nothing notable to add to the guide on any of them. You’re right – Ghana is a great place to visit and well set up for independent travelers.

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