How was Ghana’s Mole National Park?

Ghana and I started it off many-many years ago, with the Globe Trekker episode that saw Meghan McCormick pay a visit to neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire, too.
Something was triggered in me, as it became my favourite episode ever. West African wanderlust perhaps? J
This October, Marcel and I travelled to Ghana. I’ll get straight to the title of this post, but I promise to write more articles on how our trip unfolded.

Getting there
I would have preferred to get to Mole by land – because I’m not a big fan of flying when I know that it harms the environment – (and stop overnight in Kumasi on the way back to Accra), but we were on a very tight schedule and were warned that a bus ride could take forever. J [Not really, but you get the point.]
So, in the end, we flew Africa World Airlines, with headquarters in Accra, and landed in Tamale. The flight took around one hour and we were treated to a fluffy croissant and a delicious pineapple and ginger juice – which became one of our favourite in-flight meals, ever. The airline was voted the best in West Africa and yes, they live up to that title.
From and to Tamale Airport, we took the easy way: James – you can contact him at +2330246238189. He is trustworthy, fun, and the rate is good: GHS 350 (one way).
Tip: There are budget options, too, if you don’t have your own car, that is, but you still need a private transfer to Damongo (from where trotros run). Or I’ve read that there’s a trotro service from Tamale to Wa and you could ask to be dropped at the junction with Larabanga (from there, you’ve got about 6 km left to Mole). I haven’t tried it, but, if you do, please report back.      

Finding a place to sleep (and eat)
If you’re on a budget, you can opt for a guesthouse or a homestay in Larabanga, but I honestly advise you to stay inside the park, because the vibe is different and the animals will fill you with energy.
Consequently, there are two options: the luxurious Zaina Lodge and the modest and age-old Mole Motel.
We chose the second option and breakfast was included. The rooms are very basic and not at all maintained (as is the case for the entire complex), but they are clean. Some members of the staff can be extraordinary and others – not so (quite arrogant, I’d say). Food is good, but a bit on the expensive side.
Tip: Always pre-order your lunch and dinner. It saves you time and it helps the kitchen staff. 

Planning the activities
It will always be done on the day of your tour (I am surprised that I didn’t read this before, on any blogs). For morning activities, be at the designated spot (up the road, on the left, a few meters from Mole Motel rooms) at 6:45am. For afternoon activities, be in the same spot at 3:15pm.
The main questions are always:
1)     Who wants to go on a walking tour? [Mole National Park is one of the few parks in the world where you can do that, accompanied by a ranger, of course.]
2)     Who wants to go on a safari drive?
Then, they separate the groups. If there are people who wish to go on a private safari, it can be arranged [although I wanted to do it twice and was unsuccessful :P; on the other hand, I did make friends J]. After paying [bring cash], you are allotted a ranger and the tour starts. The minimum (and regular) duration of a safari (either by foot or by car) is 2 hours. There is also an 11am safari drive that should be arranged in advance. The same goes for night safaris, which are the most expensive of all, and which should be confirmed in the afternoon. These are more spectacular in the dry season; the wet season gives the animals plenty of opportunities for a sip of water, so they are scattered around the park.
New friends (and elephants) in Mole National Park, Ghana
Compared to Kenyan rates for safaris, a Ghanaian safari is a bargain and you should take advantage of that! For example, a safari drive would include the car costs (GHS 200, to be split between the participants or be fully paid in case of private safaris) and GHS 20/pp for the guide [these are the rates for 2 hours]. In the case of the walking safaris, you will only pay GHS 20/pp for the guide [also for 2 hours]. It is true, there isn’t as much diversity as in the parks of East Africa, but I loved the cosiness of Mole, I truly did!  
Tip: I later found out that there are some canoe safaris, as well. Feel free to ask the rangers for more information rather than take an overpriced tour with one of the Larabanga boys – I’ll explain later on. Also, in the dry season, you can see many-many animals, even elephants, during the walking tour – and you don’t even need to go on a safari drive (they gather around the watering holes and the river, which are close to Mole Motel). During the wet season, I would recommend a morning and an afternoon drive – they can be quite different; plus, the light will be different. Also, the walking safari is an experience in itself.
Morning safari drive, Mole National Park, Ghana

Afternoon safari drive, Mole National Park, Ghana

Morning walking safari and Mole River, Ghana

The animals
They are wonderful! We visited mid-October, the dry season should have already started in the north, but… yeah… climate change. So, everything was still lush and green – I love safaris in parks that are like that.
The main attraction of the park: its elephants; about 600 call Mole their home.
Elephant encounter, Mole National Park, Ghana

Elephant encounter, Mole National Park, Ghana

Elephant encounter, Mole National Park, Ghana

Elephant encounter, Mole National Park, Ghana
We also saw different types of antelopes (impala, waterbuck, etc.), different types of birds and monkeys, while warthogs and baboons are to be found all around Mole Motel and are not afraid of humans. On the contrary.
Impala, Mole National Park, Ghana

Waterbuck, Mole National Park, Ghana
There are also hyenas, leopards, and porcupines (mainly spotted at night) and lions are also said to exist, though have been very rarely seen.

Some things to consider
-        Once you enter the park and pay the entrance fee, you can stay for a whole month (entering and exiting as you please).
-        If you believe that a ranger or a member of the staff was extremely nice to you without expecting anything, do tip them – they will be glad.
-        Try to bring cash – there’s a surcharge for the card payments at Mole Motel.
-        Don’t feed the animals. You must not encourage them to eat differently than they should. I was attacked by a baboon. They can differentiate between men and women and normally find us, girls, to be more vulnerable. He was used to food carried in bags, as he rapidly ran at me, snatched the bag from my hand (and scratched me in the process), and ran with it. He also wanted to grab my backpack (I didn’t have ANY food on me), but I fought for it.
Post-baboon attack, Mole Motel, Mole National Park, Ghana
-        Baboons learned how to knock, so make sure to ask when you hear somebody at the door (and keep them all locked), before you get your room ransacked and your passport stolen.
Mole Motel, Mole National Park, Ghana
-        Always listen to the indications of the ranger. Never stand alone around an elephant – it could trigger a charge. Also, listen to the rangers’ stories; you could learn a lot of new things. Our John was amazing – he was the first to get us to the elephants; as he understood their behaviour, he let us be as close to them as safely possible.
John, Mole National Park, Ghana
-        Wear sturdy shoes during safaris. You may be required to walk even during safari drives.
Walking during a drive safari, Mole National Park, Ghana
-        Pay a visit to the local store – if you are patient, you can find some great handmade items to take home.
-        Do visit Larabanga Mosque [you cannot enter if you are not of Muslim faith], because it is beautiful. However, you should only pay the photography fee (GHS 10) at the time of our visit, by writing down your name in the register. You will be asked for donations (mainly for schools). Give if you wish, but know that they already have 3 schools. Both children and adults would come off as aggressive while asking for money, which puts the whole mosque experience in a bizarre light. Plus, there are stories of bezness around and they are all connected to the men of Larabanga village. Some of them enter Mole during mealtime (mainly breakfast), disturb guests and try to sell them overpriced tours (mainly connected to visiting the mosque and a traditional village and going on a canoe safari). I didn’t feel a good vibe and later found out that Larabanga boys (and men) don’t like to work, so hustling for a living is the desired option, in their case.
Larabanga Mosque, Larabanga, Ghana

In the end, was it worth it?
I’d head back there in a heartbeat.  

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