Though in the mind of many a traveler (and would-be traveler) to the continent, Africa equals safari, the truth is that the promise of gawking at majestic wild game is not true in the preponderance of the diverse continent. While the eastern and southern tips of Africa are characterized by numerous safari offerings in numinous natural settings, West Africa is better known as an enclave of cultural tourism where the main draw is the people and not the wildlife.
Perhaps it is for this reason that Zaina Lodge, located in Ghana, is the first Safari lodge of its ilk in West Africa. The lodge can be found inside Mole National Park, the country’s largest natural game reserve, in northern Ghana. The easiest way to reach the reserve from Accra, the country’s capital, is via a 45-minute flight on Africa World Airlines to the city of Tamale and then driving slightly south by hired car or hotel chauffer.
The 25-room lodge is comprised of individually tented chalets, all with rustic–chic en suite showers and outdoor bathing quarters for those that fancy their ablutions in the gaze of the elements. Its dark wood furniture is the work of local artisans and rooms are adorned with hand-woven baskets from the city of Bolgatanga.
Zaina’s restaurant serves cuisine both traditional and western and a separate pool-side bar is the ultimate spot to perch for a viewing of an epic sunset. The infinity pool overlooks the ceaseless savannah and a waterhole at which a pride of elephants can, if you are lucky, be seen bathing in the distance.
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The lodge offers both mobile and walking safaris, as well as specialized eco-learning safaris during which game such as waterbucks, kobs, bushbucks, hippopotami, warthogs, water buffalos, hyenas and baboons can be spotted, in addition to the majestic elephants for which Mole is famous.
No, you won’t see any zebra or giraffe on this safari. While Ghana specifically, and West Africa in general, can never rival the Maasi Mara or the Serengeti when it comes to wildlife, the existence of Zaina means that visitors to Africa who are drawn to its western tip for its rich history, spicy food and warm populace have the option to experience safari in addition to all else that the country has to offer.
2019 has been dubbed Ghana’s “Year of Return” by its government in acknowledgment of the 400-year anniversary of the Middle Passage. As such, there is no better year than this one to embark on an expedition to the country’s shores. Thanks to Zaina, though, you needn’t cease your exploration at the coast: you’ll have reason enough to travel north to the Sahel and experience another aspect of Ghana’s bountiful offerings.