Mole National Park
Mole National Park in the northern region is Ghana’s largest—over 1,970 square miles (5,100 km2) of savannah woodland—and, many feel, its premier reserve, with abundant wildlife and numerous trails from which they can be seen, either on foot or from vehicles. Large mammals include about 800 elephants, 1,000 buffalo, and significant populations of hippos, warthogs, antelopes such as Defassa waterbucks, kob, oribi, bushbucks, roan, hartebeest, gray and red-flanked duikers, hyenas, a few (rarely seen) lions and leopards, and five primates, most visibly olive baboons. Two kinds of crocodiles inhabit water holes.
Over 300 bird species include martial eagles—often an easily seen nesting pair— white-headed and saddle-bill storks, whitebacked and palmnut vultures, herons and egrets, and, beauties all, Abyssinian rollers, violet plantain-eaters, red, black and yellow Barbary shrikes, and red-throated bee-eaters, which have a nesting colony near a water hole.
To maximize chances, hire a guide and go in a vehicle (best bring your own—the park’s aren’t always functioning). But to absorb the wild feeling of the place and see smaller creatures, especially birds, guided walking can be best. A network of tracks crisscrosses the park.
Mole is 390 miles (626 km) north of Accra and 85 miles (135 km) west of Tamale. Busses go directly to the park.
Best times are drier November–May when wildlife gather around water holes and it’s easier getting around. Visitors can camp at the park or stay at the park’s comfortable Mole Hotel—water and power can be unreliable but it’s on an escarpment overlooking two busy water holes where elephants trumpet at night. There’s also a fairly comfortable rest house at Larabanga, location of reputedly Ghana’s oldest and holiest mud-and-thatch mosque and possibly its oldest building.
ALSO OF INTEREST
Bia National Park, an isolated 120-square-mile (305-km2) virgin rain forest west of Kumasi. More than 80 mammals include forest elephants, bongos, forest buffalo, leopards, giant forest hogs, many duikers, plus more than 235 bird species, 650 kinds of butterflies, 200-foot-tall (60-m) trees.
Buabeng-Fiema Sanctuary village north of Nkoranza in Brong Ahafo, where colobus and mona monkey colonies live in a sacred grove symbiotically with human community.
Digya National Park on western edge of enormous Lake Volta, with elephants, hippos, waterbucks, others.
Gbelle Game Reserve, 10 miles (17 km) south of Tumu, with herds of hippos, elephants, roan antelopes.
Keta-Angar Lagoon, important wetland breeding ground for migratory birds.
Volta River Estuary has many water-oriented birds, also nest sites for rare hawksbill, leatherback, and green sea turtles.
Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary, Upper West Region, also nesting red-cheeked cordonbleu birds (usually within a yard of a wasp nest) and possibly threatened crowned cranes. Most international travelers arrive at Accra’s jetport. Many hotels there can advise on rental cars, air travel around the country, taxi-guides, or use of the ubiquitous and generally reliable STC busses, also “tro-tros” (roughly any vehicle other than a bus or car).
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