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I traveled to Ghana in October 2014 and while there, I visited Mole National Park for three days. I’d been very keen to visit Mole since my first trip to Ghana in 2011. It’s the most well developed national park in the country, and the website states that they have many animal species, including elephant, hippo, buffalo, various antelope species, baboon, several monkey species, and others. In 1958 the park’s lands were set aside as a wildlife refuge and in 1971 the remaining small human population was relocated and the area was designated as a national park. The park occupies an area of approximately 4840 square kilometers. Poaching is a problem, with poachers going 50 km within the park boundaries. The government does not adequately fund the park and there are not enough rangers to patrol the area. As an example, the Wikipedia page on Mole, updated in April 2014, states that the elephant herd numbers 800. However, the ranger that led the safari tour I took stated that the most recent count was 440 elephants. The website for the Mole Motel states there are also leopards and lions within the park; while this may be true, there have not been any sightings of these species in over ten years, according to the ranger. Mole is located in the Gonja region of Northern Ghana, the nearest town being Larabanga, and the nearest place to get public transportation to the park being Tamale (about 146 km away). The main visitor area and hotel are on an escarpment that overlooks one of the large watering holes. My partner and I stayed in the Mole Motel, which is the only lodging option available at this time. There is also a campsite if you want to brave the baboons. An American owned company is in process of building an eco-lodge within the park boundaries; this will be a private concession and will no doubt be much nicer accommodations than the government-run Mole Motel. Sadly, the Mole Motel looks like it hasn’t been maintained in decades. The workers were bemoaning the fact that the new eco-lodge will take away business. The Mole Motel prices are rather steep for what you get as well. We paid 150 cedis for an air conditioned room (larger than what we needed but the only one available) – about 50 USD per night. Personally I kind of like “funky” lodging and this was pretty “funky” – the water was turned off at dusk (there were three large containers of water for flushing the toilet); the curtains were rotting away from lack of washing, the air conditioning kept going off and on due to the rolling blackouts in the whole country. Speaking of baboons, one night we were awoken by loud footsteps running on the roof and the door being shaken back and forth – a group of baboons (a congress? A troop?) was trying to break in to the room! It was a little freaky. Then the next day, baboons attacked a lady right outside the hotel – she wasn’t hurt but was pretty shaken up. They also apparently break into the hotel kitchen from time to time and steal food. There were also monkeys hanging around the hotel, looking for ways to break into vehicles… We saw Patas and Green monkeys; the Patas monkeys were more common and gregarious and the Green monkeys stayed back in the bush and were not so easy to see. There were also lots of warthogs, both close to the hotel/visitor area, and out in the bush. I had never seen a warthog close up and I found the way they kneel down and scuffle along on their knees to eat quite endearing. We were at Mole at the tail end of the rainy season, which means that the animals can easily get water out in the bush, so they are less likely to use the watering holes in open areas where they can be seen. If you want to see elephants, the best time to go is during the dry season (November through March) when the elephants sometimes come right into the visitor’s center. I didn’t see any elephants when was there. However, the group that took the afternoon safari saw one elephant. According to the guide, the herd of 440 elephants travels back and forth between Mole Park and southern Burkina Faso. I was not able to find out the subspecies of elephant making up the herd (Savannah or Forest African Elephant). The most prominent animals were several species of antelope – kob, roan, waterbuck, and bushbuck. According to Wikipedia, Mole is a primary reserve area for antelope species. We saw numerous species of birds; unfortunately I don’t have any good photos. The largest bird we saw was a saddle-billed stork; quite an impressive bird! There are several ways you can view wildlife at Mole. There’s a lovely viewing area overlooking one of the large watering holes and an open expanse of grassland in the visitor’s center complex. You can take a guided hike on a couple of different trails, each of which cover several miles out into the bush and the open grasslands. Or, you can go on a safari vehicle that will drive out onto roads that cut through the bush. The weather when we were at Mole was very hot and humid (in the 90s F) and a real bonus was being able to relax in the swimming pool in the afternoons. The food at the hotel restaurant was pretty basic and also rather pricey for the quality. They did a decent job with typical Ghanaian fare. One of the highlights of the visit to Mole was our hiking guide inviting us to have dinner at the staff canteen (his wife was the cook). Two of our companions were vegetarian and they ordered what must have sounded rather strange to the ranger’s wife (beans and boiled eggs) – but she cooked it very well and we all enjoyed it! As previously mentioned, it is possible to get to Mole by public transportation (taxi or tro-tro – a tro-tro being essentially a terribly overcrowded minivan) that could be accessed from Tamale. You can fly from Accra (the capital) to Tamale. So potentially you could get to the park even if you didn’t have a vehicle to drive. To drive to Mole from Accra is a pretty straight shot north through Kumasi (the second largest city in the country). The roads are a bit rough in places but the roads leading into the park from Larabanga are quite good. My partner has made the trip into Mole numerous times and said that it’s only been recently that the roads are being graded and paved; in the past the short distance into the park took many hours of slowly dodging potholes. The area of Ghana in which the park is located is interesting to visit from a cultural perspective also. Larabanga’s claim to fame is the oldest mosque in Ghana, built in the 1400s and still used for worship. There’s also a “witch village” not too far away – a sort of concentration camp to which people accused of witchcraft are banished. The villages in the northern part of the country are the traditional round mud and thatched roof buildings and are very picturesque. All in all I think Mole National Park is a place worth visiting. I would definitely go there during the dry season though, when the animals are more visible.
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