Monkeying Around In Ghana And Togo

It’s not quite like being in the Serengeti, but there is more to do in West Africa than visit beaches and sightsee in capital cities. So on this two-country trek, let’s do a little monkeying around and see some animals — both alive and dead. 😱

I flew from Abidjan, Ivory Coast to Accra, the capital and largest city of Ghana. Accra is located right by the Atlantic Ocean on the Gulf of Guinea’s southern coast.

I was going to stay at a nice resort there directly at the beach. I flew out of Abidjan in the evening, and when I arrived in Accra, I had some good steak from hotel room service for dinner.

Welcome to Ghana

Sightseeing in Accra

Early the following day, we went on a day trip about two hours out of Accra to an area called Shai Hills. We went to see some landscape and hills and a wildlife reserve.

They don’t have a lot of wildlife there, but we saw some antelope, deer, and other such animals. The main feature to see there, though, is the dome-shaped hills outside of a pretty flat area. That was pretty interesting to see, and there were a lot of monkeys there too. 🙊

Prominent hills in the distance tower over the otherwise flat landscape

We climbed up the rocks, which was actually quite arduous and potentially dangerous, but I made it up safely. At the top, I enjoyed the nice views over the area, which is pretty beautiful.

Feeling victorious, having climbed to the top of these dangerous rocks 💪

We drove back to Accra for a city tour. We visited several sights around the city, including Ghana’s “Jubilee House.” It is the equivalent of their White House as it contains the residence and office of Ghana’s president.

There I was informed that Ghana is one of the most stable African countries with no civil wars. The last coup was 40 years ago, which is a nice contrast to the neighboring countries I had visited that had many problems with coups.

The “Golden Jubilee House,” formerly known as the “Flagstaff House,” is a pretty nice piece of architecture.

We got to see the W.E.B. Dubois Centre, which honors the American civil rights activist who spent his final years living in Ghana, promoting peace and speaking out against apartheid. The center includes Dubois’ former home, as well as the tombs for him and his wife.

Walking around the W.E.B. Dubois Centre

We took a stroll around Independence Square, known by locals as Black Star Square. This is the second-largest city square in the world, and there was a lot to see around there.

Can you take a guess as to why they call it “Black Star Square?” 😂

We saw the Supreme Court of Ghana, which is close to downtown and ensures justice according to the country’s 1992 constitution.

The clean white exterior of the Supreme Court is meant to represent the delivery of justice in the country.

We also visited the fishing village of Jamestown, where the British built a lighthouse in 1871. People can climb to the top of the lighthouse if they’d like to see the view from above, but I was content to see it from the outside.

The old British lighthouse

We continued our sightseeing tour to Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park. This park was dedicated to, and holds the remains of, Ghana’s first president, who declared the country’s independence.

A statue of the former president in front of the sleek architecture of his mausoleum

For lunch, I had probably the best pizza I’ve ever eaten in Africa, or maybe worldwide, which was pretty cool to find. Actually, I must admit that many West African countries had great pizza.

Much to my satisfaction, I found that you could get good pizza pretty much anywhere in Ghana. 😋

After lunch, we visited a school, a boxing ring, a soccer field, and so on, so I had the opportunity to see how the poorer locals live their daily lives.

Boxing is a very popular sport in Ghana 🥊

In the evening I relaxed at my hotel and took a walk along the beach. The main beach strip with a lot of bars and restaurants was right next to my hotel, and there were tons of people on the beach.

Very few people were white, but when I walked past, I met a lesbian Hungarian lady who invited me to come to her table with her black African lesbian lover. It was a funny group to have a beer and a chat with, but when the sunset began, I left them because I didn’t want to see what would happen past dark. 🙈 I took some nice pictures of the sunset, then went back to the hotel.

Taking a nice solo sunset walk along the party beach

Dark History

The next day we drove east to the Cape Coast to visit Elmina Castle, which was built by the Portuguese in 1482. It is the oldest existing European building south of the Sahara.

In 1637, the castle was seized by the Dutch, who continued running the slave trade until 1814. In 1872, the Cape Coast, including the castle, then called “the Gold Coast,” became the property of Great Britain. The castle had the biggest slave fortress in all of West Africa, and today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Cape Coast

It’s a very old and quite impressive fortress, from where they shipped many enslaved Africans to America. It’s an interesting site, and it was quite a harrowing story to learn about.

The old slave castle

The fortress is very well preserved, so we saw where the slaves were kept, and visited the whole castle, including the area for the slaves as well as the masters. It was quite spooky. They had good explanations, and I felt very impacted as I walked through this castle which was located directly at the sea. 😔

A pretty old building with an ugly past

We had lunch nearby at a little restaurant, then continued to the town of Elmina. There was another castle there that we didn’t visit because it was basically a smaller version of the one we had already explored. But we saw it from the outside.

It looked like a nice place to stop for a rest, but the locals there were so chatty that I couldn’t find a moment of peace.

Then we continued back to my hotel at the beach. It’s not really a nice beach. It’s mostly surrounded by a dike that protects the property, but they have a nice bar there, and a swimming pool. I used the afternoon to work, then walked a bit farther to visit the other beach about a kilometer away.

One of many beautiful beaches on the Cape Coast

Welcome to the Jungle

The next morning we visited the jungle. Around an hour north of the city is Kakum National Park, where you can see some wildlife. There are elephants, monkeys, and other animals living there. It’s famous for its canopy walkway: a series of hanging bridges high above the ground in the canopy of the trees, probably about 50 meters high.

Ready to conquer this canopy walkway

For many people, it’s quite the adventure, but for me, it was pretty normal. There was a group of several other people there, and we did this canopy walkway together. Everyone else was very scared and took forever to cross these hanging bridges, and they were was surprised by how fast I was. 🤣 I just ran over them because, even though it was in Africa, it was made by Canadians. So I was sure that it was safe — much more so than the Hanging Bridge of Death.

Carefree in the canopy

We didn’t see many animals there except for quite a few monkeys, which was cool. From there, we drove back to Accra.

Getting Wet

The next morning we were driving to the upper Volta region, which was once colonized by the Germans. Volta is a region located in between Ghana and Togo. Togoland was once a German colony, so this part of Ghana is actually located in Togo. It’s a very nice area of Ghana that is a bit cooler with a slightly higher altitude. There are nice mountains, lots of greenery, and tons of water.

Who is thirsty? 💦

They have the Volta reservoir there, which is one of the biggest water reservoirs in Africa. We were supposed to visit the electricity station at the reservoir but it was closed, so we went to a nearby hotel with a great view of the dam holding all the water, and we had a nice lunch there.

Damn, that’s a big dam!

We continued on from there to the mountains to see a famous waterfall right at the border of Togo.

The “mountains” of Ghana

We had to walk about 45 minutes to get there, but it was a big impressive waterfall with no one there except a bunch of butterflies and fruit bats flying around.

Not pictured: the swarms of butterflies and fruit bats flying around 🦇

It was a very scenic location, and I couldn’t wait to strip down and jump in the water to swim around a bit. I actually got pretty close to the massive waterfall, where we took some pictures. It was a pretty cool experience.

Enjoying the refreshing mist of the powerful waterfall

On the way back, we visited a monkey reservation. After just a brief walk in the forest, we saw a lot of monkeys. I visited with bananas, and they were very tame and came to me. I even got the main monkey sitting on my arm trying to snatch all the fruit.

I may have been a monkey whisperer in a past life.

It was a nice experience to be with all the monkeys in the forest. It was raining, so we were just at the building site, but it was still nice being with all those little monkeys. 🐵

My new friend

Time To Go to Togo

We went back to Accra, which was quite a long drive. I had my last evening in Accra, so I stayed at the hotel and had some nice food there for dinner.

One last look at Accra

The next day I had to fly to Togo. It’s just the neighboring country, but the land borders were closed due to covid, so we couldn’t drive over there. I had to take a short thirty-minute flight over to Lomé, an important flight hub for Asky airlines, as a lot of West African flights pass through Lomé.

I guess Ghana takes a firmer stance on this than some of their neighbors.

I landed in Lomé and was ready to enjoy a very short two-night stopover in Togo. It’s a small country, so there’s not too much to see there. Togo is a very flat country like Benin. It’s a very long, narrow strip of land, going almost 1000 kilometers north but only 100 km from east to west.

In Togo, you can take your snacks to-go!

I would take advantage of a very nice, quick visit to Togo, then continue to Cameroon and the Central African Republic on an upcoming group tour.

Exploring Around Lomé

After coming from the airport in Lomé, I first went to my hotel, which was in Togo’s highest skyscraper. It was a nice building right in the city with great views overlooking Lomé.

Togo’s tallest building

After refreshing ourselves a bit at the hotel, we went to the local national museum to learn a bit about the culture of Togo. Then we went to the fishing harbor, which was pretty new and fairly well-structured for Africa. We walked around the market a bit, looking at the fishing boats and the fish they sell.

An assortment of flags flying at the fishing harbor

Then we took a city tour of Lomé. There wasn’t that much to see, but the most interesting thing for me was the fetish market, of which Lomé has the largest in the world. Like Benin, Togo has a long history of voodoo, and they believe in the healing properties of animal skin and bones and so on.

Would you grind these up and drink them to become more potent or cure your ailments?

Many animists come to this market to purchase these dead animals and grind them into powder to drink it in their juices and so on. It’s quite disgusting, but I like those things, so I found it very interesting to adventure through the fetish market and see all the dead and dried animals. ☠️

I actually prefer seeing snakes alive, but I guess these are cool too.

We also drove to the border between Ghana and Togo. Lomé is basically a town right at the border shared with Ghana. It goes over into the Ghanaian town, where people cross illegally every day between the countries. Although the border is officially closed, locals pass through it easily. There’s just a little fence with a lot of holes that separates the countries.

An easy-access border fence

Many people just pass through these fences and no one really cares. There’s some military around, but it seems pretty relaxed because those countries, Ghana and Togo, have no problems with each other. We drove along this border fence and I had a brief glimpse back into Ghana. From there, we went to spend the afternoon at the hotel where I did some work.

Up to the Mountains

The next morning, we left to spend the whole day seeing the mountains of Togo. It was the same mountain area that I had seen in Ghana, but I was now on the Togo side. So, we spent some time walking around the mountainous terrain of Togo. We visited a small waterfall, which wasn’t nearly as impressive as the one we had seen in Ghana, but was still pleasant.

Togo’s largest mountain

We walked a bit in the jungle, which is famous for having very big butterflies flying around there. I went with a guy who specializes in catching butterflies. It was pretty cool to see him catch a bunch of butterflies to take a closer look before releasing them again into the wild. The butterflies had very nice natural colors and it was a great experience to see them up close like that.

A wild butterfly hunt. Or perhaps more accurately, a catch-and-release.

After that, we went to the bush to visit a spring. The water there was magical, and it felt as though I was baptized in the spring water, making me a real Togo-guy. Supposedly, the water there brings a lot of luck. We’ll see how that works out for me. 😅

Then the guy showed us some pictures he had taken with the butterflies and so on. We found a big stick insect there, so I let it walk over me, even on my head. The big guy explored so thoroughly that he even got his antennae into my mouth, which was not that pleasant, but I managed to snag some great pictures of myself with the biggest stick insect I’ve ever seen.

I’m still not sure whether I tasted him, or if he tasted me.

Ready to Go

We walked around a bit in the colorful village before driving all the way back to Lomé.

Walking around the remote village

There we just enjoyed the hotel because there wasn’t much more to see. I got ready for my flight early the next morning to Cameroon, where I would take a tour with lots of driving as part of a group. In Cameroon, we looked forward to visiting a national park and having a very pleasant trip. It was one of my last African countries to visit before the end of the year.

Join us next time to hear about my journey through Cameroon and Mali.