Three-time WT Adventurer Donovan Wong has been enamored by West Africa since his first trip to Mali in 2004, and was thrilled to experience a new region of this great continent with our Tribal Ghana, Togo, and Benin adventure. Take a look at some of his colorful and fantastic photos.
This trip was truly a journey through a land that still has to find a foothold in the world of mass tourism. We started in bustling Accra, Ghana and took a circular loop heading west to the Cape Coast and then north to the remote parts of Ghana before heading east to Togo and Benin. While the landscapes and historic buildings were impressive, it is the people interactions that will be my lasting memory from this journey. This photo was taken at a village described as the “castles of clay.” We were greeted by the village elders in front of their home and they enjoyed seeing us try on some hats!
This platform is 120 feet above the forest floor and quite a popular attraction in Kakum National Park, Ghana. A few of us on the tour had a touch of vertigo but we all mustered up the courage to tackle our fears and make sure we checked off this experience in the itinerary. Credit goes to our Trip Leader, Sena, for coming to the park early before the school kids arrived, because they are known to shake the bridges while running across it and screaming frantically. Kids will be kids!
The word “funeral” conjures up thoughts of a somber moment, but in the Ashanti culture it is a time of celebration. Once we were accepted as guests, it was possible to take photos of the attendees. These young ladies were waiting for their turn in the ceremony as gift bearers to the chief, village elders, and family members to honor the deceased.
During the Akwasidae Festival in Kumasi, Ghana, the Asantehene (Ashanti King) is seated on his throne awaiting the receiving line from his subjects and local chiefs who are there to bid him honor. It was a great spectacle with hours of pageantry and rhythmic drum beats from the local bands surrounding the courtyard. While the king looks stern in this photo, his face was full of smiles at the end of the ceremony when he started dancing with his guests before returning to his palace.
The Sacred Monkey Forest in Ghana is on the way to Tamale in the North. In certain areas, monkeys are considered as brothers and sisters to the village and therefore treated as co-inhabitants and not pests.
On the way to the floating village of Ganvie, Benin, we came across these young men. I didn’t realize that Ganvie was the largest stilt village in West Africa with a population of around 25,000! The village is only accessible by boat. While cruising along, the pair of boys joined us in the channel for a quick hello and race!
To break up one of the long travel days, our Trip Leader, Sena, stopped at a small village market on our way to Dassa, Ghana, to show us some of the local wares to get a better understanding of what day to day life is like. The level of curiosity was high on both sides where locals stopped what they were doing to eye us while trying to entice us to make a purchase in their local dialect. Luckily some aspects of sign language are universal! During our walking tour, a rather shy girl approached me from a distance. With a friendly gesture to my camera and an affirmation nod that it was OK to take her photo, I was able to capture this image before she skirted off in the market labyrinth to sell her wares.
The Yoruba tribe in Benin schedules annual ceremonies in honor of the dead known as the Egun Masked Festival. The costumed figures are known as the Egun and each character represents a different aspect of the ancestor’s life. The identity of the masked participants is a carefully guarded secret and it is considered bad to have them touch you outside of a blessing. This twirling individual appeared to be under a trance.
Fresh seafood was a delight on this tour during lunch and dinner, and every day the fishermen head out in pirogues (fishing boats) to bring in the daily catch. My favorite were the langostines. When the boats return in the afternoon, they are lined up for cleaning and maintenance until the next day.
For those who wish to visit a unique place that has yet to be tainted by the large, impersonal bus tours, I suggest you consider this trip sooner than later. As the author Anais Nin stated, “we travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”
—Text and photos by three-time WT Adventurer Donovan Wong, Tribal Ghana, Togo, and Benin.