African safari: exploring Ghana's Mole National Park
Accessed by a bumpy dirt road in the north of Ghana, Mole National Park is situated in a vast savannah which is home to elephants, kob antelopes, buffalos, warthogs and baboons, as well as around 300 bird species.
For many of us, a safari holiday is a dream, a honeymoon holiday, a luxury. Part of Mole's appeal is its affordability, offering close animal encounters at a fraction of the price.
Whilst Mole cannot compete with the game parks of Southern and East Africa, its accessibility and animal-sighting odds - elephant encounters are pretty much guaranteed between December and April - are not to be downplayed.
As Ghana's largest wildlife park, Mole is an unforgettable place.
Mole Motel is situated upon a hilltop overlooking the dusty plains and a calm watering hole. You may see many animals down below, but there's nothing stopping them venturing to meet you. We found this out when we caught a family of green monkeys rummaging through our luggage, emerging triumphantly with a packet of Hobnobs... These monkeys are unusual in that they spend a lot of time on the ground, rather than swinging through the trees.
Down at the watering hole, you can expect to find animals drinking or bathing to cool off. In between December and April, water is scarce, so animals flock to this supply like clockwork. We arrived as three elephants emerged from the water and walked leisurely past us towards the bush.
The park also offers canoe rides down the river, where nesting birds and buzzing insects abound. Floating beneath the trees and under the shadows is an ideal way to escape the heat of the sun.
In the morning, we woke to find elephants outside our room, poking their trunk into our bus and eating branches from the trees. The elephants here are inquisitive, and the ones we came into contact with certainly not aggressive. Had we met a bull in musth, this may have been a different story.
Curious olive baboons patrol the pathways, verandas and poolside at the Motel (no doubt searching for scraps of food, as we were warned by various members of staff). As one of the larger primates, and certainly not to be messed with.
Walking safaris brought us even closer to the elephants than we could have hoped for. We were told that there are around 600 elephants in the park, and we were lucky to spot males, females and youngsters.
Seeing these majestic creatures up close made their beauty even more apparent to us. That such huge beasts are slaughtered for their ivory is disastrous. Elephants are intelligent, social, and deeply complex, and it is devastating to think that we may not have a chance to find out all we can about them before they become extinct.
We slept soundly, content at seeing so many magnificent wild animals in their natural habitat, and watching the sun rise over the savannah the next morning was breathtaking.
If you want to tick the safari off your bucket list without breaking the bank, visit Mole National Park and you won't be disappointed.
Mole Motel's accommodation is expectedly basic, with prices starting from around 12 pounds for a bed in a four-bed dorm. There's an onsite restaurant which serves various curries and stir fries, and a swimming pool for you cool off.
Admission to the park is 8 pounds. Mole offers safaris by foot as well as by vehicle, with hikes starting at around 3 pounds per person.
Public transport to Mole National Park runs from Tamale, although some tour companies may be able to assist if you want private transportation.