Mole National Park: Elephants, Thieving Baboons and Relaxing by the Pool

I had been debating for weeks. Should I visit the north again? Would a trip to Mole really be worth it? It was a lot of time and money and the plans were getting more complicated by the minute… but I figured – “The heck with it… let’s make this an adventure!”

Earlier in the week I had spent a whole morning trying to do 3 basic errands. Get a bus ticket, get a plane ticket, and submit my visa for approval. The first stop at the bus staation said they had no tickets left – shit! Thankfully, the taxi driver knew of another station nearby where I got a ticket for Friday morning. Second step – Visa. Since I was going to be in the country past the 60 days allowed on my visa, I had to renew it at the immigration office. There was a lot of arguments involved… but in the end it was paid for and all the signatures were there (after a trip into the parking lot to “meet with my boss and get everything signed” – I cant believe they took it and they warned me to be more prepared next time – phew!). *fingers crossed* that I get it back before my weekend trip to Togo. Third stop – plane ticket… went just fine. Then headed to work.

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On Friday morning I caught a taxi to the station but the bus hadn’t arrived yet. There were lots of people sitting inside, and a few people outside with LOTS of stuff! I decided I wanted to check one bag (to give me more leg room), so I got in line for the scale… 2 cedi (60 cents) per 10kg. They wrote something on the back of my ticket and I went to pay my 2 cedi. Some people had bags of over 50kg… and there was even larger items like television sets, fuel tanks, a microwave, and even a motorcycle! I’ve never been the lightest packer before! Eventually the bus arrived and they started loading things underneath both sides. The motorcycle went in first and was leaking everywhere, so I decided to try my luck on the other side since I didn’t want my cloth bag sitting in gasoline. They put my bag nowhere near it (thankfully) and ended up taking out the bike to drain and try again on the afternoon bus. I got in and made myself comfortable for the 12 hour ride.

Mostly it was uneventful. We stopped 3 times, to get food and go to the bathroom every 3 hours or so. When we stopped in Kumasi the mechanic was supposed to look at a problem. I was thinking “Oh boy, this is going to be a long wait.”… especially since it was very hot in the sun and we were by the side of a busy road with nowhere else to go, and cars whipping by. Thankfully it was fixed in 15 minutes and we were back on the road! Once in Tamale I got a taxi to Lindsey’s house where her birthday party was going on. Everyone wad hammered by the time I got there, so I mostly just took it easy, had a few drinks, and chatted with the other sober people. We decided to crash there overnight since it was too late to wake up Yazan’s host family.

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On Saturday morning we woke up at Lindsey’s house and had a big brunch (sausages, eggs, toast with peanut butter, potatoes, etc.).  We were already running late (since everyone was so hungover and we also had to clean the house), but we managed to get a taxi back to Yazan’s house. Yazan quickly packed a bag while I switched my used books for new books I hasn’t read yet (Yazan had a whole shelf left behind by previous volunteers). We were told to arrive at the Metro Mass Transit station by 1:30pm so we had just enough time to stop at the ATM and hit up a store for a few snacks. At the bus station however there was no bus to Mole for at least 2 hours… Damn. However the bus to Bole was leaving now, we should get on. Okay why not? We paid 9 cedi each and hopped on the mostly full bus. A few minutes later we were on our way!

About 2 hours later, the guy in front of us let us know we were at our stop so we hopped off. We walked a short distance to check out the mosque… apparently the oldest in Ghana. It wasn’t very impressive. It had been recently painted (though not well). You can’t go inside… and I guess Kofi Annan was not allowed inside either so he gave them money to make a model so people could visualize it. They told us we were in a model but it just looked like a storage hut to me (some old lady was putting vegetables in the corner and there was a bike in the middle of it). It took all of 10 minutes, and didn’t even include the mystery rock. I give them credit for trying to start up some tourism though…. We paid for the “entrance fes’ at the beginning and then a tip for the guide and a donation to the local community. This is common on Ghana but it never ceases to stress me out as I never know what is fair or expected. I wish there was a standard entrance fee that includes paying the guide, maintenance costs, and a donation to the community *sigh*.

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From Larabanga we had to take a taxi 5 miles to the gate of the park, and then another few minutes to the actual hotel.  However, because there’s only a few taxis they all jack up the price, and it ended up costing us 30 cedis (which is totally ridiculous).  We signed our names at the gate, paid an entrance fee, and then took the cab to the hotel.  The sun was just setting and the view was gorgeous.  We noticed tons of warthogs just wandering around the property like stray dogs (pretty strange).  Even though we were 2 people, our cheapest option was a 3 bed room, so we had a random extra bed for no reason… oh well.  That night we just chilled, took a dip in the pool, had dinner, and drank a box of sangria.  Sometimes it’s nice to just get out of town to give yourself some time to relax.

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In the morning I overslept (oops), took a quick shower and then woke Yazan up. He was totally out of it but I was like “Go shower we’re late!”. I ran to get some bottled water from the canteen, and ran back to the room. Then I headed over to the info center to make sure they didn’t leave without us. The tours all start at 7am, and everyone decided a walking one would be a good way to start the day. We each paid our 20 cedi for a 2 hour guided tour of the park.  The guides all live in the park, and he carried an old rifle. Once we had all paid (and Yazan showed up) we got started on our walk. The first thing we saw saw a whole line of soldier ants crossing the road. Although they’re such small animals, they can terrify other animals because of their large group.

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We also saw a few monkeys scurrying about.  We walked along the road for awhile and then headed down the side of a hill into the valley.  We saw areas of rock where the elephants had broken chunks off so they could eat the salt inside.  We also saw elephant poo, so we were getting close. 😛

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When we got to the small river we saw a whole family of baboons on the other side.  There was at least 30 of them of all sizes, mothers with babies, big male ones, and other medium sized ones just hanging out in the grass.  Our guide helped us jump over the river at the skinniest part, which would have been impossible in the rainy season, since the water swells up much higher!

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And then all of a sudden, there they were, the elephants! There was a group of 4 of them walking through the grass near the treeline in front of us. We watched them from afar until they stopped and started munching and we headed to take a closer look.

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After watching them for awhile our guide said they were probably headed to the water hole to cool off, so we should head around the other side to see if we could catch a sight of them there.  We walked along the river and up through some trees.  There were tons of different monkeys hanging around (including the ones with the super weird butts).  My favourite were the little babies, especially when they hang onto the mothers belly while she’s running.  Then we spotted the elephants and just watched them for a good 20 minutes.  There was one on the shore and the other 3 were cooling off in the water.  I could have stayed and watched all day.  Eventually it was time to go back to the lodge, so we walked up the hill, and arrived back at the hotel.  It’s crazy that there aren’t any gates or anything you have to walk through, from safari to hotel in just a few minutes.

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The rest of Sunday was all about relaxing. I put on my bathing suit, some sunscreen, grabbed a few snacks and my book, and sat by the pool.  We ordered cold drinks from the bar, and alternated between the sun and the shade.  It was totally lovely. I had a grilled cheese for lunch, and then the baboons came! We originally have our meal at the restaurant because they warned us about sitting by the pool with food. However, when we finished and went back to the pool, the baboons came and grabbed things off the table in the restaurant.  At one point they even got into the kitchen but were quickly shooed away.  Eventually we went swimming and chilled again but then they were back.  A guy we met quickly jumped back in the pool (as did Yazan), while I was standing by a tablle full of snacks, oh no!  Quickly the baboon approached and was about 1 foot in front of me. I though he’d grab me and I was terrified, so I threw a can of pringles at him.  Someone came running to scare him away, and he grabbed a box of cookies and Yazan’s shirt and ran to the edge of the trees.  Thankfully he dropped the shirt so he could get it back, and we didn’t like the cookies anyway.  It was quite an adventure though!  Afterwards we paid our hotel bill, had some dinner, and I went to bed early… it had been a long weekend and we were going to get up stupid early.

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On Monday morning we got a knock on our door at 3am (ugh!) that the bus would leave in 10 minutes. We grumbled our way out of bed and hopped on the bus (which thankfully was right in front of the hotel). Once on the bus and I proceeded to pass out. At around 6:30 am we arrived in Tamale.  We decided to go to Yazan’s place and chill.  A few hours later the taxi driver came to pick me up and I was whisked to the airport – headed back to Accra!

Everyone says Mole is “the spot” to be in Ghana.  I would say it’s a bit of exageration. It’s difficult to get to and there aren’t actually many animals to see. If you’ve been on a safari in South or East Africa you will not be blown away.  However, it was a really nice weekend getaway if your goal is to relax by a pool with a friend, drink sangria, and perhaps spot an elephant or two. 🙂

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
This entry was posted in Ghana (2014) - Professional Fellow Placement (EWB), Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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