The Cape Coast castle was held by the British for four hundred years and is currently one of the largest tourist draws in the country. Until the slave trade ended in 1807, the Castle was used to hold Africans for months before being sent to the Americas as slaves.
The Obamas had visited two years earlier and their presence was still felt. On the road into town is a large sign displaying Obama’s picture and inside the castle is a plaque commemorating his visit. (Both Bill Clinton George W. Bush had also visited during their presidencies but without any mention.)
A one hour tour took us throughout the dungeons and cells and we walked through the “door of no return” where slaves passed before being shipped to sea. Recently the Ghanaian government added a sign on the other side of the door labeling it the “door of return” as a gesture of reconciliation for African American tourists who visit each year.
Mole is Ghana’s largest national park but as it is off the beaten track in the north, many tourists do not get the opportunity to visit. Because of our limited time we opted to fly (rather than take the 12 hour bus) from Accra to the gateway city of Tamale and continue for three hours on to Mole along a dusty road in a shared van.
The park has a hotel and restaurant but rooms were spartan, with only a few hours of running water each day and meals that had to be ordered hours in advance. Despite the rustic accommodations, there was a pool overseeing a large watering hole where we could relax and cool off.
Our first evening we went on a walking two hour safari with an armed guard who insisted upon telling us the scientific names of every tree and animal along the way. Our guide Adam pointed out the heads of crocodiles in a lake and took us up and close to a male antelope that had been injured in a fight and did not flinch as we approached. Large animals were not as common because the prior wet season had been atypically rainy and now during the dry season fewer animals were congregating to drink near the walking safari route. As the sunset we saw a pair of elephants in the distance and smaller animals approach.
The next day we went on a driving safari with the same ranger deeper into the park. This was far more successful as we encountered antelope and dozens of monkeys running next to the road. Our guide noticed evidence of an elephant on the road and stopped the SUV to make us examine the dung. We stood around in the heat swatting African flies while he explained to us the digestive system of an elephant, poked through the dung with a stick to show us what he had eaten, and warned us that it was fresh and whoever had left it was near.
Sure enough we turned the corner and saw the one-tusked elephant nearby. Again we were told of scientific facts and trivia but I was not paying attention while trying to shoot this video.
Here’s a more close up view. (Ok, maybe I zoomed in to get this one.)
The rest of the day was spent poolside among animals that appeared after losing their shyness. Warthogs roamed throughout the premises eating trash and grunting. I kept thinking about Pumba from the Lion King but apparently you don’t want to mess with a pack of these guys as they are pretty vicious.
A mischievous baboon came out of nowhere and caused a ruckus by first jumping in the open trunk of a car and then rummaging through someone’s bag. A waiter yelled and threw his keys at him and the baboon ran off only to sneak back a few minutes later.
Just before we left the park, elphants appeared at the large watering hole for all the hotel guests to see.