Travel-journalist Mark Everleigh is volunteering for MAPA in Ghana. This is his is his latest post.
We have just come to the end of our last day of mapping in Ghana and have explored all the possible inroads to Songor Lagoon. This is a big Ramsar site not so far from the Togo border. It is famous as a bird-watching venue. There are in fact two bird-watching platforms at opposite ends of the lagoon but both are broken. Mostly Songor Lagoon seems to be being used for salt production and there are eerie landscapes that bring to mind more a desert (or a moonscape) than a tropical lagoon.
Coming to the end of our big Ghanaian adventure now and when we look back it seems incredible that we have seen so many changing landscapes in just a month. From the dust and smog of Accra, which sometimes seems like one big building site, it was a long, long road north to Kumasi and through Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary and Bomfobiri Wildlife Sanctuary to Digya National Park. The access road to Digya was an adventure in itself (and I still wonder what the people at Kwame Danso hotel are thinking about the two eccentric Englishman who set up a table and chairs to barbecue in their carpark!). The canoe-ride across the Volta to Digya NP has to be one of the most adventurous access points to any park in Ghana and having found a gang of willing workers to swing cutlasses it was good to be able to set up a small campsite there. Hopefully that spot will be used by others in the future (much better than the grungy, bat-infested hut that was considered to be tourist accommodation).
Our road then lead farther north to the Mosque-lined streets of Tamale and Bolgatango where the harmattan winds of the Sahara glittered in the Landcruisers headlamps. The area along the Burkina Faso border was startlingly different, with its desert architecture and fat-bellied baobabs. We arrived late in the village of Tumu and departed early to map the mysterious Gbele National Park…where in the end we found little but yam plantations and settlements.
We just made Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary by sunset and camped alongside the Black Volta. Then it was Mole for Christmas and we finally started to see game and elephant. Our camp there was within earshot of yapping hyena. Mole threw some challenges at us with uncrossable rivers (and others that were only barely crossable) but we mapped every accessible part of the eastern border.
After that a homecoming of sorts in Kumasi and a spot of luxury (sort of) in a hotel owned by Tony Yeboah (Ghanaian footballer of Leeds United fame). Then out to the far west and the Cote D’Ivoire border, wondering about border problems and refugees, but finding ‘all quiet on the western front.’ We mapped Krokosua National Park and even managed to re-open a track that had been closed by elephants into Bongo Camp, in Bia National Park. Working with the rangers and chainsaw operators (the cutlass-wielding Bongo Buccaneers) during those days of bridge building and tree clearing will be one of the unforgettable memories of this trip.
Finally coastwards, stopping for a brief visit at Ankasa to map the only existing road that park has. Resisting the temptation at this stage to try to reopen other roads we set out for a quiet evening game-drive…and got irretrievably stuck in soft clay. We dug for four hours and had to set camp. In the morning we dug for three more before we finally admitting we needed help and hiked the 10km walk back to the ranger station.
After the scrabble out of Ankasa things were pretty much plain-sailing along the coast. We mapped Amansuri Wetlands and part of Kakum National Park. We visited Elmina slave fort and finally headed back through Accra and way back east towards the Togo border and our present location at Songor Lagoon.
Sitting writing now under palm trees with my feet in warm sand I am mentally preparing myself for January in Europe…and already planning a return to Ghana!