The Country, The People, The Places

by Published

Imagine your perfect trip. Fill it with as many unique challenges, unexpected encounters, and interesting experiences as you can. Then forget it entirely, because if you’re going to volunteer in Ghana, there are no preconceptions that will fit in with what the country has to show you.

The route through the mountains to the town of Nkawnkaw in the eastern region of South Ghana.
The route through the mountains to the town of Nkawnkaw in the eastern region of South Ghana. Photo by Charlotte Court

Ghana, or Warrior King as its name translates, has the ability to delight, amaze, confuse, and frustrate in equal measure at exactly the same time. The overriding feeling that everyone takes away from visiting this country, however, can surely only be enjoyment. Whatever it is that you have gone to Ghana to see and do, be it volunteering, community work, city travelling, beach relaxation, or a little bit of everything, if you sit back and allow the country to tell you how to do things, it will be simply impossible not to revel in the unique experience that this African haven will provide.

The Country

Ghana is located in West Africa, bordered to the west by the Ivory Coast, the east by Togo, the north by Burkina Faso and the south by the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean.

The northern half of the country is awash with savannahs and wildlife while the southern half is rich in forests and woodlands and peppered with springs, waterfalls, streams, rivers, caves, estuaries and mountains. Its coastline doesn’t shirk from attractive and interesting responsibility either and is a labyrinth of castles, ports, forts, harbours, and glorious, glorious beaches.

The travel infrastructure of the country is a mix of roads, dirt tracks, and bits of land that vehicles travel over, and the transportation that is used to traverse these “routes” is old, worn out, and full of as many people as can possibly fit into one car or bus – this will include using space in the boot and even on the roof.

The selection of food within the country is limited and there are not a lot of international foods to be found in the markets. Meat is very close to the bone and typical vegetables are simply non-existent. Stalls on the side of the road selling food are very popular but pre-ordering is pointless. You will be handed a polystyrene box of whatever food that stall has available which could include fish, meat, spaghetti, shredded carrot or cabbage, rice, sweetcorn, and special sauces that will either delight or disgust.

One of the most popular Ghanaian dishes is Fufu, a staple food of the Akan ethnic group. It is made by boiling starchy food crops, such as cassava, yams, or plantains, and then pounding them into a dough-like consistency, to be broken away into small balls, and dipped into an accompanying sauce. Watching a local batter this globule of starch in a giant mortar with a giant pestle for what feels like hours truly is a sight to behold. Eating it could be described as a more acquired taste.

The People

There are a few simple things to know about Ghanaian people:

  • They will charge you at least twice the local price for absolutely everything you buy.
  • Everything is cooked on one tiny gas camping-sized stove in one big pot so at any restaurant or eatery you dine in, it will take at least two hours to get your food; that is at the very least.
  • They will be amazed at the sight of a person that looks so dramatically different to them and might shout at you or whistle (not the wolfing kind – the attention-grabbing kind) to show you their amazement.
  • They can carry a phenomenal amount of boxes, food, and other varying items on top of their head.
  • They are one of the nicest, friendliest, most fun peoples that you are ever likely to experience.

The Places

Ghana is bursting with things to do and places to see. But you have to travel to get there and it’s more than likely you’ll have to be extremely uncomfortable (both physically and psychologically) to arrive. But that’s all part of the fun.

At the very south of the country to the Gulf of Guinea is Cape Coast. The capital of Cape Coast Metropolitan District and Central Region of South Ghana, Cape Coast has a multitude of attractions that showcase its Portuguese, British, Swedish, Danish, and Dutch history with, of course, a little bit of African thrown in for good measure.

The city has two forts, Fort William and Fort Victoria, and Cape Coast Castle, one of a number of “slave castles” built in the country.

Only 30 kilometers south of the city is Kakum National Park, which covers 375 kilometers of tropical rainforest and houses a number of endangered species, including the Diana monkey, giant bongo antelope, yellow-backed dukier, and African elephant. You can see all these delights on a 350 meter long canopy walkway. Like most modes of transport in Ghana, the fundamentals of the canopy walk are quite daunting with planks of wood covering step ladders that act as the base of the walkway. However, if you can force yourself to stop looking down, the vast beauty of your tropical forest surroundings helps to ease the worry of the canopy path.

Cape Coast also has a pretty spectacular coast line and, if you stay out long enough, some very friendly locals who like nothing more than to show guests in their country how to really party.

Accra is Ghana’s capital city, and the largest, and lies on the Ghanaian Atlantic Coast. The city has more of an international feel about because of a number of new buildings developed since the 1990s including banks, hotels, and department stores. There are a number of attractions in Accra including the National Museum of Ghana, the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Theatre, and the Accra Centre of National Culture.

Once again back to the south coast is the small fishing village of Kokrobite, just 30 kilometers from Accra. If you think you’ve driven to the end of what you’ve been considering a road for the better part of your journey, carry on just a little bit more and you’ll arrive at a beachside paradise. Despite the fact the area is set up for tourists with the popular resort Big Milly’s Backyard and Bahdoosh, a beer bar, hotel, and restaurant run by an Australian expat, Kokrobite is the epitome of the laid-back Ghanaian culture. The village has souvenir trading, local fishermen, Rastafarians, and severe African sun in the day, and dancing steel drums and the country’s Star beer at night. It’s a beautiful mix of tourism and authenticity and as you stare out into the Atlantic Ocean, it has the ability to make you feel like there is absolutely nowhere else you would rather be.

To describe Ghana correctly is to call it a developing country with aspirations for a stronger economy and better place through goals and hopes put in place for 2020. But to finish on that would be to do this beautiful republic a huge disservice. What it lacks in materials, it has in an abundance of vitality, charm, and energy.

Volunteer in Ghana - and then sit back, relax, and let Ghana show you how to enjoy all the wonderful things in life.

Topic:  Culture