Ghana: Getting Out of Accra

So we've told you how to spend the perfect weekend in Ghana's capital Accra, soaking up the best of the cities foodie spots, shopping and nightlife but sometimes all you really want to do on a Sunday is get away from it all. Some of our favourite memories of Ghana were on our day trips out of the city so we've rounded up our top five places to go when you need to escape the city and still be back in Accra in time for dinner. 

1. BOJO BEACH - APPROX 30 MINS drive FROM ACCRA 

Bojo Beach Accra Ghana Things To Do Whats On Travelling
Bojo Beach Accra Ghana Getting To Things To Do Whats On
Bojo Beach Kiran Yoliswa Accra Ghana Things To Do Whats On Travelling

Not far out of the city but on the Western side of Accra is the rustic and simple Bojo Beach Resort, located in Bortiano. Bojo is perfect for a Sunday afternoon as it's not too far, pretty clean, easily accessible and the gate fee is much cheaper than some of the other more upmarket beach resorts. When you arrive a little canoe ferries you across the Densu River, encouraging you to leave your cares and worries on the bank as you cross over to a blissful day of gentle waves and sandy walks. The downsides are that the militant bag checkers at the gate won't let you bring your own food and let's just say that the shack-chic restaurant isn't a renowned foodie hotspot. They also have big speakers that were playing an inexplicable selection of sad R&B love songs on the day we went, but if you sit far enough away you can ignore it. The upsides are it doesn't get too packed, you can order drinks from the comfort of your beach towel, and whether you're in a big group or just reading on your lonesome, the vibes are relaxed and low key. It's not number one on Trip Advisor's Things To Do in Accra for nothing! 

2. Aburi - approx 45 mins/1 hour drive from Accra 

Aburi botanical gardens

Aburi botanical gardens

sba co-founder, kiran yoliswa, in aburi botanical gardens

sba co-founder, kiran yoliswa, in aburi botanical gardens

poolside at the lansdown ibru heights, aburi, ghana

poolside at the lansdown ibru heights, aburi, ghana

Aburi is North of Accra in Ghana's Eastern region, and is where people spend weekends escaping Accra's sweltering summer heat or the dryness of the harmattan, where the cool wet mountain air and dramatic views across the surrounding landscape provide relief.  We spent one memorable Sunday walking along the palm lined pathways that fill the Aburi Botanical Gardens (024 877 2227) which were planted in 1890. As we wandered through with our very informative guide, we passed many friends gathered over lazy picnics, couples reading to each other in the shade of the trees while the more energetic  bonded over frisbee games or power walks across the lawns. Despite the people, the gardens are big enough that it all still feels very peaceful, with nearly 100 acres of natural forest to explore. If it's your first time we highly recommend doing a walking tour with one of the guides who give insightful yet humorous histories of the trees and the surrounding area. If you want to take it at a faster pace, hire bikes from the Aburi Bike & Hire Tours found just outside the gardens. 

On the drive back into the city we stopped for lunch at the Lansdown Ibru Heights- a neighbouring boutique hotel with stunning views across the valley and a poolside feast that made all the walking around the gardens worthwhile. Hidden away in the hills, it's quieter and more exclusive than the nearby well known Hillbury hotel. They do make you work for it, you'll find it at the end of a long and winding dirt road, but once you arrive there's no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than with some grilled fish, a glass of crisp white wine and an expansive pool from which to watch the clouds fumbling across the mountains. 

Top tip: It's worth calling ahead and they can 'WhatsApp' you directions (026 960 1541) and make sure to go there with enough time to leave before it gets dark and in a car that can handle dirt roads. 

3. Akosombo- Approx 2 hours drive from Accra 

Akosombo Maritime Yacht Club Volta Dam Accra Ghana Things To Do Travel
Akosombo Ghana Accra Yacht Club Maritime Jet Ski
Akosombo Volta Royal Senchi Ghana Accra Things To Do

Also in the Eastern region, further up from Aburi is the equally lush green highland of Akosombo. This part of the Eastern area is dominated by the Volta lake, one of the world's largest man-made lakes, created by the construction of the Akosombo Dam as a source of hydroelectric power under Kwame Nkrumah. To celebrate a friend's birthday, we gathered up some friends, filled up our car boots with drinks and snacks and drove out to spend the day at the Akosombo Maritime Yacht Club which overlooks the lake. This is definitely a place where you need to bring the party rather than hope to find it there waiting for you, but with the right company it's the perfect place to enjoy a lazy day catching up with friends by the lake and dancing on the patio. If sun lounger lazing gets too sedentary for you, hire one of the boats or jet skis for a spin down the river. Another place in the area to spend the day or make a weekend of it is the The Royal Senchi resort, which while we didn't manage to visit was highly recommended to us. 

4. Ada Foah- Approx 2 hours drive from Accra 

Further down at the estuary of the Volta river to the Atlantic Ocean is Ada Foah Beach. Many of Accra's wealthy have weekend getaway homes along this shore and it is known to be where Ghana's rich and famous like Fuse ODG get away to play at the weekends. It's also known for it's water sports and fishing so we took a 30 minute speed boat for 150 cedis along the river, stopping off at some of the islands and passing quiet villages. The Volta region is one of rolling hills and valleys, rivers, lagoons and waterfalls so the beaches along this Volta estuary are some of the best in the country, but the sea currents make swimming a little dangerous. While in the area we checked out the new Aqua Safari Resort whose pool and restaurant looks out on to the River Volta, so you can watch the fishermen glide by on the water while you relax on the bank. 

There are private islands where knowing the right people might get you an invitation to one of their frequent parties or check out Marathaha Beach Camp - we didn't get a chance to but 'Flying Fourchette' has a great review here of the more relaxed campsite. Next time we've been also told to check out Wli Falls, Ghana's highest waterfall (east of Hohoe next to the Togo border) and have a hiking adventure up Mount Afadjato (880m), Ghana's highest mountain.  

Ada Fuse ODG Aqua Safari Resort Accra Ghana Things To Do
Ada Water Sports Jet Ski Accra Ghana Kiran Yoliswa Styled By Africa

5.  Cape Coast - Approx 2.5 hours drive from Accra  

Cape Coast Ghana Accra Things To Do See Michelle Obama Slave Castle
Cape Coast Slave Castle Ghana Accra Visit Things To Do
Cape Coast Castle Ghana

We took a two and a half hour drive from Accra to Ghana's central region to visit the Cape Coast castle in the former capital city of Cape Coast. A World Heritage Site, the castle held African slaves before they were shipped to the Americas or the Carribbean. It's an important yet sombre visit, with knowledgable tour guides who spend 45 minutes showing you through the dark dungeons. Walking through the Door of No Return took us to a beach teeming with fishermen's boats and children playing in the sea, yet it is with a heavy heart that we walked back through, mindful of our ancestors who were unable to. A plaque at the entrance commemorates the visit of the Obama family in 2009 where Michelle Obama's great-great grandfather is said to have been held in the castle before being shipped to Virginia as a slave. It's worth spending the rest of the afternoon exploring the museum and the town centre, or take a half hour drive to Kakum National Park and raise your spirits walking the 40m high canopy walks through the forestry.  

What have we missed? Let us know your favourite places to get out of Accra in the comments below. 

Author: Kiran Yoliswa, Co-Founder SBA


A Weekend In Accra

Like many African capitals at the moment, Accra is undergoing rapid transformation. Not a week goes by without a new restaurant or boutique opening, mall after mall being built and blocks of new apartments springing up across the city. Returning diaspora and international entrepreneurs are flocking to the city keen to tap into the rising middle class and unexplored opportunities that more saturated markets can't take. 

Increasingly friends in London are giving up the grey skies and cold nights for more exciting job markets, and Accra is high on the list of where to begin a new adventure professionally and personally. So if you've been following our Instagram of late you'll have noticed that 2014 was the year we fell in love with Ghana in a big way, having travelled there three times over the past few months for a mixture of work and play. We've even casually started calling people 'chale' (an endearment meaning friend), craving kelewele at odd times of the night, and learnt to azonto with the best of them, so we feel somewhat qualified to give advice on how to spend a few hours should you happen to find yourself in Accra.

Accra is often described as a soft landing into West Africa- it's the much calmer more relaxed little sister to nearby West African powerhouses Lagos or Abidjan. Yet it's not to be underestimated as it's remains the West Africa HQ hub for many international companies with the laidback lifestyle drawing in young professionals from across the region giving the city a relaxed cosmopolitan vibe.  It does however still feel like a small city. The nightlife revolves around one or two places each day of the week, it's very easy to bump into acquaintances regularly, and there's that sense that somehow everybody knows each other. However when that intimacy all gets a bit too much, just an hour or two drive outside the city you can find yourself on the whitest of beaches sipping on coconut water. While infrastructure hasn't kept pace with growth making traffic jams and 'lights off' still major problems for the city, a new generation of entrepreneurs are bringing a buzz of creative energy to the city that can't help but be contagious. 

Whether in town for business or pleasure, these are our favourite tried and tested Accra hotspots that are worth adding to your itinerary. 

Friday

2pm: Lunch with Maman Africa 

If for some God forsaken reason we only had time for one meal in Accra, it would be at Chez Clarisse (aka Maman Africa) in Osu (On 8th Lane, past Mamma Mia pizzeria 0242984828). An unassuming, plastic chairs on a street corner kind of place, what matters here is the food. As soon as the grilled chicken and tilapia hit the table covered in a glorious onion and tomato salsa, with some soft but still crispy kelewele (plantain) and attieke (a couscous like side dish made out of grated cassava), it was every woman for herself. Don't bother with cutlery, this is a job that needs your full attention and both hands to complete efficiently. I'm pretty sure I saw elbows being used in the fight to get to the last piece of this chicken at the opposite table, so if in doubt it's probably safer to just order two. Afterwards wander down to Oxford Street and explore Accra's main high street. 

6pm: Coco for Cocktails 

Warm up that Friday feeling at Coco Lounge in the new three-storey Icon House Stanbic Heights building which is set up cafe style by day and an informal but elegant cocktail lounge by night. Think higher end comfort food with hearty quesadillas, delicious rice bowls and fun inventive cocktails set to the beat of energetic latin music. I made the mistake of ordering the lentil salad which while delicious was not generously sized so if you're going to go healthy don't be afraid to order like a greedy healthy person. Still this instantly became an Accra favourite- you just can't dislike a place that gives out 'free shots for the happy tables' on Tequila Thursdays. 

For more cocktails and chilled vibes head to Kaya in Labone just in time for happy hour at 9pm, an old colonial style house that's been converted into a restaurant and bar. The cocktails are just as delicious and extend playfully beyond the classics which you can sip while lounging on the open verandah or lush garden sofas. A versatile venue, come by on Monday evenings for movie nights in the garden or a farmers market on Saturday mornings.  

By now you'll be in the mood to dance and Twist is the place to do it. Twist is that place everyone loves to hate but somehow everyone still ends up there at the end of the night. A friend summed it up best as the "hangout of the wealthy Ghanaians and a few in the know expats that want to mingle. You should go here once but after midnight and dance the night away to Kanye and Jay Z, for the comedic value of how seriously everyone takes themselves if nothing else." Anywhere we can dance until the sun comes up to afrobeats and has a pizzeria in the garden is fine by us. 

Saturday 

10am: The 'About Last Night' Breakfast 

The only cure for last night's antics is an early breakfast at french bistro Bread & Wine, another SBA favourite. We'd prescribe a light breakfast on the garden terrace, or if you want to get straight into the day grab a coffee and croissants to go from the in situ bakery. However to be honest B&W is perfect any time of day. Their dinner menu is an exquisite list of French classics and perfect for an intimate dinner over a bottle of wine,  or come for the ambience for some poolside cocktails. Last time we were in the city we checked out their Thursday night poolside BBQ and cocktail party where you're sure to bump into Accra's business and creative crowd looking for a relaxed yet entertaining evening. 

11am: Retail Therapy

In the same neighbourhood of Osu, is one of our favourite places to freshen up our wardrobe with some local design- the Christie Brown boutique. Christie Brown is one of Ghana's most well known brands. While you can't get up close and personal with her runway collections which are made to order only, the ready to wear pieces that are available are a fun mix between the recognisable wax prints and silkier fabrics. You can also pick up some colourful fabric from nearby Woodin or the famous Makola market and take them to a tailor to create you something bespoke like the local fashionistas. If you have any money left after leaving Christie Brown, spend it next door in Pinocchio on the best ice cream you'll find in Accra to get your energy levels back up.  

2pm: Art Centre Market 

You'll need bargaining skills of steel for the the Art Centre in downtown Accra- a maze of stalls selling handicrafts from all over the region and the best place to pick up gifts and souvenirs. You'll find everything from shoes, bags and jewellery to interiors and paintings. For first time visitors, the vendors can be a bit overwhelming but don't allow yourself to be pushed around and you'll bag yourself a bargain. You might need to negotiate some extra baggage allowance too though. 

4pm: Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park 

A short walk from the Art Centre market is the peaceful Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, honouring Ghana's first President at the very spot at which Nkrumah declared independence in 1957. At the centre is the final resting place of Nkrumah and his wife making it an interesting place to reflect on Ghana's history as you wander through the calming grounds.

 

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6PM: DINING IN STYLE 

Saturday nights are relatively quiet in Accra as most people have church the next morning- no small feat in a country like Ghana where it can last for most of Sunday. Start with dinner at Santoku which is said to be Accra's best restaurant, serving Nobu style Japanese food.

Afterwards you can't go wrong with  a few akpeteshie cocktails from Republic which are made with a local Ghanaian palm spirit served in flavours like hibiscus and the cassava fries the perfect accompaniment. The party spills out on to the street where the DJ and good vibes will keep you entertained for the whole night. It's an expat haven but a favourite of the local cool kids too- and was top of the list of everyone giving us Accra recommendations. There you're sure to meet some people who'll tell you where the next party is and party hop with them as most people do in Accra, otherwise we recommend checking out Shisha Lounge, Bedouin or Firefly too. 

Sunday

9am: Beach Brunching

A perfect Sunday in Accra would begin with the buffet brunch at the Labadi Beach Hotel which trust me when I say is the stuff of dreams, offering pretty much everything you could possibly feel like from healthy to indulgent. Even if you're not staying in the hotel, you can visit the restaurant as an outside guest and then languish by the pool resting your food baby. Just behind the hotel the beach also comes alive on a Sunday afternoon with beach cafes each hosting their own party or you can even horseride along the shore.   

 

There's still so much that we didn't get a chance to see but we can't wait to get back to Ghana to do some more exploring and uncover some new spots. If you've come across somewhere amazing on your travels through Ghana let us know in the comments! 

Written by Kiran Yoliswa, SBA Co-Founder 



Senegal: Lac Rose, The Return

lac rose senegal pink lake rufisque

Back in February, I visited Senegal's famous Pink Lake to celebrate the 30th birthday of a friend, only to discover that at that time of the year the sea while beautiful doesn't quite live up to it's 'Lac Rose' fame. Later in the year is the best time to see its vibrant pink colour, so in April some friends I went back to Pink Lake (Retka Lake) to finally admire this marvel of nature. 

After almost 4 months of a 25 degree “winter” in Dakar, we headed 40km out of the city to Rufisque for some fun in the sun. We started off with a few drinks on the terrace bar of a very nice resort called Keur Salim, which has a swimming pool surrounded by little huts and hammocks which are perfect for post-cocktail naps. 

 

keur salim rufisque senegal dakar lac rose
keur salim rufisque senegal dakar lac rose pink lake retka

The resort also offers other activities including a 1 hour quad bike tour of the area which we decided to take. Our guide took us along the lake side, stopping to explain how the lake is a natural resource of white gold which creates employment opportunities for the surrounding communities.  The pinkish colour of the lake is due to a unique bacteria present in the water and the strong concentration of salt. Depending on the sun’s rays the pink colour varies in intensity which is why its best at certain times of the year. 

keur salim senegal rufisque dakar pink lake lac rose
dakar senegal lac rose pink lake rufisque claudia giglio

We continued our tour, not without a few incidents – there is something about a quad bike that makes my driving a little crazy and my passengers very scared! The scenery is amazing, moving between high dunes and fields of palm trees. At one point of the tour the desert landscape met with the North side of the Atlantic sea creating a stunning view. Then it was back to the resort for delicious food, refreshing drinks and more of that nap, of course!

Love and Laughter- Claudia x 

Author: Claudia Giglio is a marvellous mash up of Burkina Faso and Italy, but also describes herself as 'a Nigerien at heart, and a Londoner in spirit.'  When she's not arguing over political issues, she's globe trotting, studying conflict, photo taking, food adoring, shopping or laughing with someone somewhere. She recently spent a year in Dakar working at Action Aid International. Follow her on Linked In 

dakar senegal pink lake lac rose

Senegal: From Dakar to Dindefelo Falls

Hello SBA, I'm back with more of my #DakarDiaries. I hope they are inspiring you to come and visit this beautiful part of West Africa!

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I needed to get out of Dakar to rest and clear my mind, so one early Saturday morning I headed for the “Gare Pompier” looking for a taxi to head out to Kedougou, in the South East of Senegal. Since my arrival in Senegal my haggling skills have been improving, now they even say that I am worse than a Senegalese woman. It took 10 mins to haggle down the price of my sept-place then we headed out of the city on a beautiful drive into lush greenery. It was winter in Dakar, but out of the city the sun burned forcing everything to slow down into a time machine. In between Dakar and Kedougou, we stopped for a break in Tambacounda. Waiting under a shelter, I met with a stunning Pula woman who surprisingly let me shoot her with no shyness in her eyes.

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It took us all day to reach Kedougou late in the night, so we stayed over in a remote but friendly hostel where I have never been so happy to see deliciously frozen water and AC. The next morning we set off in search of a motor bike to reach the place I was looking for and what this part of Senegal is famous for, Dindefelo Falls near the Niokolo-Koba National Park. Being a light skinned girl with big hair looking like a Pula woman asking around for a motor-bike is not something they see everyday, so I got plenty of stares. But the people I met were lovely, some of whom went out of their way to protect me and others wanting to marry me (at least I have some proposals, ha!).  After another hour of haggling I was on the back of the bike, riding on and realising how much I had missed this reddish colour of the earth and the sincere greetings from walkers. 

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At Dindefelo, it's another easy 20 minute hike before reaching the falls but the destination is totally worth the temporary fatigue. The falls are majestic and the atmosphere peaceful with only the sound of the water falling down and the laughs of children jumping in the water. After joining in to let the water cool down the afternoon heat, we lay down on the rocks to soak up some Vitamin D before heading back to Kedougou. 

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Dindefelo Falls Senegal.jpg
Dindefelo falls senegal.jpg

When it was time to return to Dakar I decided I wasn't done with my adventure. I jumped on the top of a truck headed to Fouta Djallon in Equatorial Guinea, where the women are said to be among the most beautiful in Africa. But that is for another blogpost...

Love from a sunny place, Claudia, x

 Author: Claudia is a marvellous mash up of Burkina Faso and Italy, but also calls herself 'a Nigerien at heart, and a Londoner in spirit.'  When she's not arguing over political issues, she's globe trotting, studying conflict, photo taking, food adoring, shopping or laughing with someone somewhere. She recently spent a year in Dakar working at Action Aid International. Follow her on Linked In

 

 

Senegal, DAKAR: Pink Lake

claudia lake.jpg

Please meet Claudia Giglio. Our dear friend, originally from Burkina Fasso and Italy, who has recently escaped London for the sunnier skies of Dakar, Senegal. In exchange for her disappearance from our daily lives, we've asked her to keep us up to date with her West African adventures as an SBA contributor.  

"One of my friends recently decided to mark her entry into the 30ies by walking 30km with 30 friends. The destination, Pink Lake, which lies just outside of Senegal's capital Dakar. Why not, I thought, everyone has their own way of coping with the big 3-0, until I learned I'd have to wake up at 5am for the minibus to pick us up for this little trek.  After  an hour and a half drive with 30 people squashed into a 24 seater bus, with a good dose of humour we finally arrived at Lac Rose. 

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This was my first time at Pink Lake so I was ripe and ready to shoot it's pinky waters from every angle but I was to be disappointed. Admittedly it was a bit foggy, but it was still clear that there was not a ray of pink in sight. Seeing my frustration, the lovely people living beside the lake felt sorry for me and explained that this is not pink season and I should return again (but that bus!) in the high summer (July). So, I swallowed my initial disappointment, enjoyed the fresh morning breeze, the spectacular scenery, played with the baboon mascot of the place and got ready for the long walk. I am planning a "Pink Lake, The Return!", and the next time I am determined to mesmerise all of you with amazing pictures of the pinkest lake you've ever seen."

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Author: Claudia Giglio is a marvellous mash up of Burkina Faso and Italy, but also calls herself 'a Nigerien at heart, and a Londoner in spirit.'  When she's not arguing over political issues, she's globe trotting, studying conflict, photo taking, food adoring, shopping or laughing with someone somewhere. She recently spent a year in Dakar working at Action Aid International. Follow her on Linked In