With the sudden arrival of winter and the fleeting moments of sunlight, I can’t help but reminisce about the two weeks I spent in Ghana this summer. Located in West Africa, Ghana is home to some of the most culturally enriching activities, delicious cuisines, and locals, who are known for their friendliness and warmth.
I’m no stranger to Ghana; I have been visiting every year since I was five years old. Although I was born in London, I am of Ghanaian heritage. This is shown through my love of kelewele (spicy fried plantain), and vibrant Ghanaian fashion. I have family residing in the capital city of Accra, so I stayed with them throughout the holiday. However, due to my affinity for adventures, I was rarely indoors. With just two weeks to spend, I wanted to make the most of it. These were some of the highlights of my trip.
Over the course of two weeks I went to districts within Accra, such as Osu and Jamestown. Historically, Jamestown is the city’s oldest district, as it emerged in the seventeenth century. I always find that Osu and Jamestown have contrasting characteristics. Osu looks very modern and westernised, and is overpopulated with vendors and street markets virtually at every corner, whereas the Jamestown district has a coastal calm. When visiting Jamestown, one is captivated by its antique beauty which is reflected in the backdrop of colonial buildings and pirogues. Though Jamestown is a less affluent area, its tourism is successful, partly due to the natural products that are home to the district’s fishing harbour such as fresh crab, squid, mackerel and tilapia fish.
View of the coast from Brazil House in Jamestown
If you’re in Accra and looking for exquisite jewellery or simple souvenirs, Osu’s Oxford street is the place for you. Yes, that’s right, Ghana has an Oxford Street! Although Osu is smaller compared to its London namesake, there are still a lot of restaurants, clubs, boutiques and casinos. Osu has a charm that is at once alluring and overwhelming; the local vendors are very good at distinguishing the tourists from the locals and will try their best to sell you their items. Personally, I find that Osu offers a variety of items to choose from and is better in terms of the prices, so I prefer to shop in Osu rather than Accra Mall because the items at the mall are generally more expensive and less unique.
While in Accra, I enjoyed the guided tour of the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, the final resting place of Ghana’s first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Whilst there, you hear about Nkrumah’s remarkable endeavour to achieve Ghana's independence from British colonial rule. Nkrumah eventually did so on 6th March 1957 and Ghana became the first black African country to achieve independence. The mausoleum is conveniently a three minute drive from Independence Square, also known as Black Star Square, which is the venue for many national celebrations, such as Ghana’s Independence Day parades.
The Black Star Gate
The Independence Arch in Independence Square
The Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum
Cape Coast is an astonishingly picturesque city and approximately three hours’ drive from Accra. First, for the thrill seekers who enjoy the prospect of walking across a series of hanging bridges forty metres above ground, there’s the Kakum National Park, which is honestly less scary than it sounds. The first footstep on the walkway was nerve-wracking because of it swayed on a narrow path, but I wasn’t deterred. Though I gripped onto the side ropes for reassurance, my adrenaline rush was at an all time high. The further I walked, the more exhilarating the experience became; I was mesmerised by the stunning views of the forest and it felt as though I was soaring above the treetops. Since officially opening in 1994, the park has become a habitat for over three hundred species of birds, roughly six hundred species of butterflies and forty mammals. There are seven bridges to walk across in the Kakum Canopy Walkway, but there is quite a lot of hiking involved before getting to the first bridge so it’s best to wear trainers or comfortable footwear. The Kakum Canopy walkway is not for those with a fear of heights, but it genuinely has the most breathtaking view I have ever seen. From the walkway the air is noticeably clearer and refreshing, compared to the high levels of pollution in the urban areas.
Kakum was the most memorable part of my trip because of the expansive size of the forest. In the serene silence you can hear the soft trill of birds. I went early on a Monday morning when it wasn’t busy and I felt fortunate to experience the awe-inspiring ambience and peace of the rainforest, strolling out feeling reborn.
The Kakum Canopy Walkway
The Kakum National Park exit sign
In Cape Coast, one can have a historical tour of the Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle which were built in the seventeenth century and fifteenth century respectively. These castles played a significant part in the transportation of natural resources such as gold in the transatlantic slave trade. Poignantly, 2019 marks the ‘year of return’ to Ghana and I felt that it was important to visit and listen to the harrowing experiences that occurred here for centuries, until the abolishing of slavery in the early nineteenth century. It was an emotional and unnerving experience to hear the atrocities that took place and to walk through the dungeons and individual cells where enslaved, shackled Africans were forcibly kept. I felt a certain heaviness as the tour drew to a close but also took away a lesson that to avoid repeating the past, we must learn from it and grow as people to become the change we want to see.
The grounds of Elmina Castle
The Cape Coast Castle forecourt
The other side of the Cape Coast Castle forecourt
At the end of the Cape Coast Castle tour, we stood looking towards the vast Atlantic Ocean with its pockets of wooden canoes. Industrious and relaxed locals are all in the same place. It’s an image of optimism and dynamism.
While we hold the memories of the past, we face forward to the zestful scenery that is Ghana.
View of the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Coast Castle.
Edited by Katharine Trojak, Travel Editor, and Alexia McDonald, Digital Editor