I had the pleasure of visiting Ghana twice last year, both in the Summer for volunteering and with family at Christmas. When the plane the heat and humidity hit me instantly. I was home. After being welcomed with countless Akwaabas at the shiny new terminal that opened last year, I was out of Kotoka airport swiftly and engulfed by the buzzing Accra atmosphere. There is nothing like it. The unique feeling you get when you come to Ghana is one that you can’t explain until you’re there yourself.
Describing my whole experience over two trips would be very difficult, there is honestly too much say. Instead I will answer these 3 questions you probably have.
How do I make the most of my trip?
If you’re going to travel all the way to Ghana, you might as well become a local whilst you’re there, that’s how to get the most out of it! You will not be limited for things to do. Ghanaians wake up early (and I mean early) to start their day, you should try to as well. Boasting a rich history and with many exciting things to see, Accra is great for the landmarks, fancy restaurants, nightlife and lively beaches. Outside of the capital, there are also other great places to visit in Ghana. Expand your horizons! Whilst on my trip I visited Kumasi, Akosombo and Cape Coast. Here are just a few of my favourite things I did whilst there:
- Kumasi – My favourite place in Ghana (so far). I was there visiting family, so I didn’t get to explore as much but I love the atmosphere and the people are so warm and welcoming. My grandmother lived in area where the sand was red so white was not worn! They do have a relatively new Mall and rumour has it, it trumps the famous Accra Mall by a mile.
- Akosombo – I visited a local school and went on a boat ride across the Lake Volta, the largest man-made lake in the world.
- Cape Coast – Canopy walk at the infamous Kakum National park – 50 metres high. It was pretty scary being that high up but an enjoyable experience, nonetheless. If you’re weary of heights, there is a canopy walkway in Accra in the Botanical gardens which wasn’t as high but still leaves you feeling mesmerised. Kakum also has an array of wildlife to see including endangered species.
- Elmina – The most important visit of my trip was a visit to Elmina castle. I learned so much about the history of slavery in Ghana. It was important to me to understand as much I could about one of the most tragic and brutal parts of our history. It is a surreal experience and the tour guides were very informative and passionate. THIS IS A MUST!
- Cape Coast – If you do go to Cape Coast, a great place to stay is the Hans Botel if you like the idea of being surrounded by crocodiles. Yes, I said crocodiles. They’re friendly.
- Accra – Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park is a great place to learn about the first President of Ghana – one of the most important politicians Ghana has birthed. You learn about how he fought tirelessly to liberate Ghana.
- Accra – Legon Botanical Gardens, because I mentioned it previously. It is great for a day out with family or friends, full of fun activities like high rope assault courses and small boat rides across a lake.
- Accra- Makola market which is full of colour, noise and vibrance. Here you can find anything you can think of. Come here to get your Kente fabric.
How do I fill my belly?
This is a very important question. I am biased, but Ghanaian food really is the best. The variety is exceptional and there will always be something new to try. Ghana is a place where a vast majority of the people are self-employed so expect to be approached by people showcasing their hustle from coconuts, bread, plantain crisps to even clothing, whether that be by the roadside or the road itself! You can buy most dishes this way – very convenient if you want to buy something on the go. But there are also many ‘chop bars’ and restaurants that serve all types of tasty foods. My favourite being ‘Waakye’ a rice and beans-based dish that has a multitude of sides. You’ll feel like you’re building a mountain on your plate, but it all works together so well. From Fufu (you can get the authentic pounded version there that you don’t really get in the UK), to Banku, Kenkey, Kontomire, Jollof Rice (the BEST in Africa), Kelewele, Fried yam and Choffi and so much more. My favourite memory of Ghana is constantly being asked if I was hungry by my family- my reply was always yes!
What can I bring to a place like Ghana that has so much to give?
Bring yourself! The tourism industry is booming, be a part of the movement! In my humble opinion, visiting Ghana is a luxury. Ghana is a country that gives back tenfold with the atmosphere, the people and the culture – it really is unmatched. The people are some of the friendliest I have encountered. You will be greeted with Good Morning’s from strangers and ‘You are welcome’ when you walk into a room or when a person wants to share their food with you! On both trips to Ghana last year, I volunteered with children teaching maths and also refurbishing classrooms. These experiences really shaped and impacted my trips. I remember all the children’s faces I taught, and I don’t think I will forget them. Every individual has something to offer, whether it be visiting an orphanage and keeping the kids’ company for a day or coaching football to a group of young girls. I would highly recommend the opportunity, so get in touch with NGO’s like Akwaaba Volunteers and make a whatever difference you can whilst you’re there.