Cape Coast & Kakum National Park – Travel Blog: Searching the tropical forests of Kakum and exploring Cape Coast’s colourful coastline.
West and Central Africa had been on our radar for some time. A part of the world far less travelled than its eastern and southern neighbours, it was sure to take us a little off track.
Having travelled through most of East and Southern Africa before, we were keen to see a different side to Africa. Although people definitely do travel these parts of the world independently, we imagined it as logistical nightmare. Envisioning a fair amount of hassle, frustration, and visa issues, we instead opted for an organised tour.
We booked the overland Accra-Cape Town with Oasis Overland. A company that we were both very familiar with from our tour leading days. One we were hoping would offer us a real adventure.
The tour itself actually started in London and ended in Cairo 40 weeks later. But we chose only to do the 12 week Accra to Cape Town section. We thought it would be nice to see a few other parts of Ghana independently first. So we arrived in Ghana a week before our tour was due to start.
Our first two days were spent on and around Kokrobite beach, relaxing and acclimatising. Kokrobite was said to have one of the nicest stretches of beach near Accra, but sadly, it had become polluted and a hot spot for petty crime. We stayed at Big Milly’s Backyard, the main accommodation in the area, It was basic, but clean with friendly staff. A nice place for a pre-sunrise walk down along the beach as the fishermen returned with their catch.
For sake of ease, we arranged for a driver to take us to Cape Coast. This 2 hour drive from Kokrobite didn’t come cheaply at 300c! We checked into Baobab Guest House, an awesome little charity supporting disadvantaged children. It was small, with only five rooms, but comfortable and centrally located. They had a small organic vegetarian restaurant, serving great food. After a wander around the town, we ended up at a restaurant for a few hours in the afternoon, watching some local kids football training on the beach.
Kakum National Park
The next day, we took a taxi to Cideuo Bus Station for 10c and then a ‘tro tro’ (shared minibus) to Kakum National Park for 8c p/p. When we arrived at the bus station, we were the only ones on the bus and feared we would be waiting a long time for the bus to fill up and leave. However, after 15 minutes, we were ushered to another bus and were off. The journey was quite civilised and took about 40 minutes and were dropped off right outside the park gate.
There were two options for visiting Kakum National Park, a day trip, or, to stay the night in a tree house or camp. We opted for an overnight stay in the tree house, which slept about 15 people. On arrival at the park, we were allocated a guide. He showed us to the tree house and then left us for the afternoon.
One of the benefits of staying in the treehouse was the views. Being up in the canopy made spotting the fairly scarce birdlife a little easier and from our balcony, we spotted several White-Throated Bee-Eaters and Collared Sunbirds.
As visitors weren’t allowed to wander freely around the park, we spent the afternoon wandering around the visitors’ center watching the pretty Common/Rainbow agama’s darting around. The flamboyant males with their bold colours and orange heads liked to put on a bit of a show, but the females were a little less conspicuous. Coincidently, we met our Oasis group who had stopped into Kakum for the afternoon. It was nice to meet a few of our future fellow travellers before our tour started.
After retreating to the tree house late afternoon, Our guide joined us at 7 pm and stayed the night with us. We were the only people in the tree house, which was nice! As part of the accommodation rate, we were offered a 1 hour hike the following morning. Our guide had suggested we get up at 4.30 am and leave at 5 am, which we agreed to do. What we didn’t realise was that it would still be totally dark at 5 am. After an average nights sleep, we decided to delay and leave at 6 am, just as the sun came up.
It was a very hot, sweaty and a pretty non-eventful hike. We didn’t see any wildlife at all, not even a bird! We wondered what we may have been able to see had we left in the dark? As the park’s not renowned for its night walks, we doubt much more. Our decision for the later start had been so we were actually able to see the the tropical forests we were wandering through. But in truth it was just an incredibly underwhelming experience!
The park had a canopy walkway, which, due to our uneventful hike, we chose not to do. Although it was the park’s main drawcard, it was being sold as an attraction, rather than a national park experience. There was no control over noise levels, therefore, no animals around.
Felling hot, sweaty and disappointed, we returned to the tree house, cooled down, packed our bags and checked out. We headed to the road and flagged down a
All in all, we were really were disappointed with Kakum. We really regretted not having travelled further north to Mole National Park, which offered a far greater abundance of wildlife. We had read that we’d be unlikely to see any mammals in Kakum. But, had been hopeful as bird fans, that we would see a few different species. The sad reality was there really was very little on offer for wildlife fans. A handful of Bee-eaters, Sunbirds a
Our final two days in Cape Coast were spent chilling by the beach and eating the local food. One of our favourite dishes was the Red Red. A popular vegetarian dish made from Black-eyed beans and Plantain. Although quite oily, it was seriously tasty. We were told it was named ‘Red Red’ because they use red palm oil to cook the red tomatoes.
Baobab Guest House was fully booked on the first night, so we stayed at Oasis Beach Resort and as the name suggested, was right on the beach. The weather was nice and it was a great opportunity to catch up on emails and chill out on the sand.
Cape Coast Castle, a historic slave trade centre, is the main site in the city. The entrance was quite expensive and its a sobering experience, but this UNESCO World Heritage Site does offer great views along the coast. The fishing villages were hives of activity and we loved wandering through them. The coastline was really colourful and it was interesting watching the fisherman haul their daily catch in from their boats as they docked.
Getting back to Kokrobite via public transport was a breeze. We took a taxi to Ford Station for 5c and then jumped onto a small air-conditioned minivan for 24c p/p. As the van was full, we left right away. The drive was fast and we passed the Oasis group on the way who were also travelling from Cape Coast to Kokrobite. We were dropped off at a junction and took a taxi to Big Milly’s for 20c. All in it was about 2 hours and for less than a third of the astronomically priced of a private car we had foolishly booked out to Cape Coast.
And that was where our independent travels in the region finished. We were about to join Oasis Overland for 3 months of adventure down the west and central coast of Africa! Up next Kokrobite and the Volta Region.
Best time to visit
As a whole the drier months from mid-November through to April are the best time to visit Ghana. During the rainy season travel can become a lot harder and slower.
Tips and essential information
- Ghana is a great place to start your travels in this part of the world. English speaking, good transport links and its reputation as a safe country to travel, make it a great introduction to West Africa.
- Download Maps.me to your phone so that you have offline maps. It ideal for tracking bus journeys and finding our way to our hostels. For a long overland trip its a great way to pin your route too.