Ghana # 6

Posted on December 27th, 2010 in General,MAPA expeditions by Administrator

Travel journalist March Eveleigh is volunteering for MAPA in Ghana and this is his latest post…..

MAPA Blog 06
26-Dec 2010
Our Christmas was short on snowfall and reindeers but we had a thick coating of laterite and good sightings of kob, roan antelope, bush buck, water buck… And instead of turkey plenty of guinea fowl curry.
Mole National Park is Ghana’s flagship park, and is by far the best wildlife habitat we’ve seen so far.
The elephant grass is a hindrance to wildlife spotting at the moment however. It is at the stage where it needs to be burnt off to provide a ‘green bite’ for the game. The powers-that-be at Mole consider it far too dangerous for visitors to be able to drive the park alone and nobody goes anywhere without an armed guard. (It seems a bit melodramatic but for some tourists it probably feels more of an adventure). We were joined by a veteran ranger by the name of DK Basig. DK was raised in a village in the north of the park but his family and their neighbours were ‘sacked away’ when the park was being cleared in 1964. I helped DK set a couple of bushfires along the track of our evening game drive – a pyromaniac’s dream!
Predators are extremely elusive. Lions are seen only every few months and few rangers have ever seen a leopard here. Apart from some big crocodiles that inhabit the waterhole in front of the Mole Motel, the most common predators are certainly hyenas and during the night I woke in my hammock to listen to their riotous yip-yipping and yak-yaking.
On Christmas morning we followed fresh spoor of some of the park’s estimated 600 elephants and, although we were surrounded by the broken branches and barked trees in what had clearly been the nighttime feeding spot for quite a big herd, they remained elusive. Mole is quite densely forested and one wonders what its natural state really is: there were once perhaps be far more elephants here, and therefore greater expanses of open savannah.
There is only a fairly small network of roads in Mole that are open to the public. Nothing in the north. We’re confident that we flattened as much of Mole as could be done but I was hoping for a wild trip to the far north and maybe a bush camp up there. No go!
From here we move on to Bui National Park. Since 1971 there have been plans to build a dam and flood the Bui area and the project should have been completed late this year but even today nobody is really sure whether there is a dam there or not. We will soon find out.
MAPA Blog 06
26-Dec 2010
Our Christmas was short on snowfall and reindeers but we had a thick coating of laterite and good sightings of kob, roan antelope, bush buck, water buck… And instead of turkey plenty of guinea fowl curry.
Mole National Park is Ghana’s flagship park, and is by far the best wildlife habitat we’ve seen so far.
The elephant grass is a hindrance to wildlife spotting at the moment however. It is at the stage where it needs to be burnt off to provide a ‘green bite’ for the game. The powers-that-be at Mole consider it far too dangerous for visitors to be able to drive the park alone and nobody goes anywhere without an armed guard. (It seems a bit melodramatic but for some tourists it probably feels more of an adventure). We were joined by a veteran ranger by the name of DK Basig. DK was raised in a village in the north of the park but his family and their neighbours were ‘sacked away’ when the park was being cleared in 1964. I helped DK set a couple of bushfires along the track of our evening game drive – a pyromaniac’s dream!
Predators are extremely elusive. Lions are seen only every few months and few rangers have ever seen a leopard here. Apart from some big crocodiles that inhabit the waterhole in front of the Mole Motel, the most common predators are certainly hyenas and during the night I woke in my hammock to listen to their riotous yip-yipping and yak-yaking.
On Christmas morning we followed fresh spoor of some of the park’s estimated 600 elephants and, although we were surrounded by the broken branches and barked trees in what had clearly been the nighttime feeding spot for quite a big herd, they remained elusive. Mole is quite densely forested and one wonders what its natural state really is: there were once perhaps be far more elephants here, and therefore greater expanses of open savannah.
There is only a fairly small network of roads in Mole that are open to the public. Nothing in the north. We’re confident that we flattened as much of Mole as could be done but I was hoping for a wild trip to the far north and maybe a bush camp up there. No go!
From here we move on to Bui National Park. Since 1971 there have been plans to build a dam and flood the Bui area and the project should have been completed late this year but even today nobody is really sure whether there is a dam there or not. We will soon find out.

Ghana # 5

Posted on December 26th, 2010 in MAPA expeditions by Administrator
Travel journalist is volunteering for MAPA in Ghana and this is his latest post…..

Travel journalist March Eveleigh is volunteering for MAPA in Ghana and this is his latest post…..

MAPA Blog 05

22-Dec 2010

We spent a long dusty day mapping Gbele National Park. The other team was running short on fuel so we agreed to make the run into the centre of the park to try to find a road through to the north. We made three aborted runs up tracks that finally disappeared into cattle trails or footpaths.

Nobody was really sure what we would find in Gbele and, although we succeeded in mapping pretty much everything that could be mapped, by the end of the day it seemed safe to say that Gbele is pretty much a park in name only. There are said to be protected Roan antelope here and perhaps from time to time lion (nomads from Burkina Faso) but there are several large villages in the park and cattle roam most parts. Farmland and burnt scrub seemed to be pretty much all that Gbele had to offer.

It was almost dark by the time we made it to Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary and pitched camp by the side of the Black Volta. The mist shrouded forest on the far side was Burkina Faso. It seemed that the river had a fantastic effect of cooling the normally balmy Ghanaian evening and we passed an interminable night of cold that was about as intense as any I have experienced in Africa.

We rose with the sun and met up with our guide Joshua to take a canoe down the Volta to waypoint a hippo hide and to check out some of the sanctuary’s resident pod of 60 hippos.

After that it was another long drive back east to the famous Mole National Park, where we plan to stay through Christmas.

Ghana # 4

Posted on December 26th, 2010 in Get Involved! by Administrator

Travel journalist March Eveleigh is volunteering for MAPA in Ghana and this is his latest post…..

MAPA Blog 04

20-Dec 2010

We arrived in Tamale at dusk, just as the prayer call was wailing out from the town’s many mosques. The traffic was thick with bleating motorbikes and honking taxis. Men dodged between the vehicles in their long djelaba gowns and most women seemed to have their heads covered.

A red dusty haze from the Sahara’s harmattan wind hung in the beam of our headlamps. It seemed that we had already crossed the line into North Africa though we were still a fair way short of the Burkina Faso border..

The next day the sun rose on a very different landscape too. Perhaps the most spectacular we’ve seen so far with great bulbous hulks of baobabs rising out of grass that has been burnished the colour of a lion’s hide. After a lunch of curried eggs and lebanese bread in Bolgatanga we hit the track for a long dusty drive through wonderful African landscapes.

Next stop the remote Gbele National Park.

MAPA Blog 04
20-Dec 2010
We arrived in Tamale at dusk, just as the prayer call was wailing out from the town’s many mosques. The traffic was thick with bleating motorbikes and honking taxis. Men dodged between the vehicles in their long djelaba gowns and most women seemed to have their heads covered.
A red dusty haze from the Sahara’s harmattan wind hung in the beam of our headlamps. It seemed that we had already crossed the line into North Africa though we were still a fair way short of the Burkina Faso border..
The next day the sun rose on a very different landscape too. Perhaps the most spectacular we’ve seen so far with great bulbous hulks of baobabs rising out of grass that has been burnished the colour of a lion’s hide. After a lunch of curried eggs and lebanese bread in Bolgatanga we hit the track for a long dusty drive through wonderful African landscapes.
Next stop the remote Gbele National Park.

Ghana #3

Posted on December 26th, 2010 in MAPA expeditions by Administrator
Travel journalist is volunteering for MAPA in Ghana and this is his latest post…..

Travel journalist March Eveleigh is volunteering for MAPA in Ghana and this is his latest post…..

MAPA Blog 03

19-Dec 2010

The main access route to Digya National Park (according to the head ranger it is the only access) is far from heavily touristed. This year Ghana’s second biggest national park received just three visits, including ours.

These days there are no driveable roads within the park at all. There are a couple of rough dirt-tracks that could take you to within about 10 miles of the park boundary but from there you have to walk.

By far the easiest access point to Digya is along a rough laterite road south of Kwame Danso. This road finally comes to a grinding halt at the banks of a big lagoon, part of the Volta system. Here we had to load necessary provisions for a night in the bush into a canoe for the half-hour paddle that would take us into the park.

The head ranger had told us that there are no longer any communities in the park and that such people as once lived here have all been resettled outside. A group of children was waiting on the far bank to help carry our bags up to what turned out to be quite a sprawling village of mud and breezeblock huts. The rangers live here side by side with the villagers.

The only ‘accommodation’ here for tourists was a couple of mildewy rooms, with the squeaks of bats in the roof giving no doubt as to the origin of the musky smell of guano. Or there was a dusty patch in the middle of the village where we were allowed to pitch our tent. As only the third foreigners to arrive here this year we were of course received almost as a travelling circus by the dozens of local kids.

However, with the help of a couple of guys with machetes, we were able to scout out and clear a great little camping spot near the village. Hopefully this little clearing will be remembered as the perfect spot to take future arrivals.

Who knows when those visitors will next come though.

There are plans for Digya to take its place among Ghana’s wildlife Meccas but for the time being – with no feasible access and no way to get around the park – those days would seem to be a long way off.

Ghana successes…

Posted on December 26th, 2010 in MAPA expeditions by Administrator

After a very difficult few months of late and heavy rains in West Africa, MAPA volunteers are finally getting the chance to show what they are made of.

This is what internationally renowned journalist, Mark Eveleigh has been sending into over the last couple of weeks.   Mark is travelling with his father Mike, who lived for many years in Ghana.  They’ve been keen to spend a bit of time revisiting old memories of the Gold Coast (OK, Mike isn’t that old but it sounded good) and this seemed like a good opportunity.

MAPA Blog 01
17-Dec 2010
It had been more years than I cared to count since I was last in Ghana. I was five years old when we moved away from my dad’s work here in search of ‘greener pastures’ in Nigeria. As we drove out of Accra on our first leg towards the north I had the feeling that the Ghanaian capital might not quite have lived up to all its promises either!
We had been told that the road north to Kumasi and even onwards, almost up to the Burkina Faso border were perfectly tarmac-ed highways these days and that it would take us just four hours to reach Kumasi. I had been slightly disappointed by these promises: you don’t come to Africa and then set off in an expedition prepared Landcruiser to drive smooth highways. It seemed that London’s M25 during a brisk winter would offer more challenges.
Ghana did not let us down however. Within an hour of leaving Accra the last of the tarmac finally crumbled away and we drove for the next couple of hours in second and third gear in a dense cloud of bulldust. This was more like it!
We stopped briefly to eat some of the delicious yogurt that seems to be available everywhere here and to buy a couple of last minute supplies (a length of tube to resurrect the thus-far useless water tank, a machete and a stack of firewood). The tarmac reappeared eventually but in the end the drive up the ‘highway’ almost to Kumasi took seven hours of fairly fast driving.
We turned off onto another section of laterite, feeling now that we were making headway into what was beginning to feel like bush-country as kites wheeled above us and a mongoose flitted across the track.
Our first stop, Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary, turned out to be a very small park where only a single walking tour could be organized. The headquarters were well maintained and staffed by typically friendly Ghanaians and we left there feeling that it would have been a wonderful spot to camp for the night. However, there was still time enough to drive on for a couple more hours to make it to Boupom Wildlife Sanctuary. Complications in finding the entrance to Boupom were exacerbated by the fact that the park seems to be entirely erroneously named on all the maps we have. In fact the head ranger James Porodomi has been working here for ten years and had never heard the name Boupom. In fact this is Bomfobiri Wildlife Reserve.
We are now camped next to a ranger station inside the reserve and within a hour – after all the data is uploaded – we intend to have a couple of hefty pork chops sizzling on the fire and a bacardi and coke frosting our camping mugs.

MAPA Blog 01

17-Dec 2010

It had been more years than I cared to count since I was last in Ghana. I was five years old when we moved away from my dad’s work here in search of ‘greener pastures’ in Nigeria. As we drove out of Accra on our first leg towards the north I had the feeling that the Ghanaian capital might not quite have lived up to all its promises either!

We had been told that the road north to Kumasi and even onwards, almost up to the Burkina Faso border were perfectly tarmac-ed highways these days and that it would take us just four hours to reach Kumasi. I had been slightly disappointed by these promises: you don’t come to Africa and then set off in an expedition prepared Landcruiser to drive smooth highways. It seemed that London’s M25 during a brisk winter would offer more challenges.

Ghana did not let us down however. Within an hour of leaving Accra the last of the tarmac finally crumbled away and we drove for the next couple of hours in second and third gear in a dense cloud of bulldust. This was more like it!

We stopped briefly to eat some of the delicious yogurt that seems to be available everywhere here and to buy a couple of last minute supplies (a length of tube to resurrect the thus-far useless water tank, a machete and a stack of firewood). The tarmac reappeared eventually but in the end the drive up the ‘highway’ almost to Kumasi took seven hours of fairly fast driving.

We turned off onto another section of laterite, feeling now that we were making headway into what was beginning to feel like bush-country as kites wheeled above us and a mongoose flitted across the track.

Our first stop, Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary, turned out to be a very small park where only a single walking tour could be organized. The headquarters were well maintained and staffed by typically friendly Ghanaians and we left there feeling that it would have been a wonderful spot to camp for the night. However, there was still time enough to drive on for a couple more hours to make it to Boupom Wildlife Sanctuary. Complications in finding the entrance to Boupom were exacerbated by the fact that the park seems to be entirely erroneously named on all the maps we have. In fact the head ranger James Porodomi has been working here for ten years and had never heard the name Boupom. In fact this is Bomfobiri Wildlife Reserve.

We are now camped next to a ranger station inside the reserve and within a hour – after all the data is uploaded – we intend to have a couple of hefty pork chops sizzling on the fire and a bacardi and coke frosting our camping mugs.