Imagine that you had time off and wanted to explore West Africa. Regular readers know this is one of my favourite regions of the planet, one I have visited on no less than four separate tricks. But it often doesn’t rate much of a mention on many people’s radar – it’s out of the way and doesn’t have many ‘big name’ type tourist attractions.
But it is beautiful, challenging, different. It’s a place where life goes on despite the rest of the world not necessarily thinking that much about it. There are countries to avoid if you travel to the region, and things you need to be aware of. But here are three countries you could travel to to taste a bit of West Africa in relative safety that have a lot to offer.
I have to admit it – Ghana was far from my favourite West African country. For a variety of reasons. It was my first taste of the area, and well, I was out as quick as I could run away! Having said that, if you’re in a better frame of mind than I was back in 2006 (and that’s not a high bar to jump over) then I still fancy it’s a good country to begin your West African adventure in.
The capital is quite nice, leafy in parts, good market, a chilled vibe, and Cape Coast is similar but far smaller and more chilled. Pop along and visit other fishing villages. Ghana has English as the official language, which is going to help all English speakers, and there’s plenty to see and do from learning the slave trading history of Africa’s Gold Coast, to walking above the jungle. And there is so much I didn’t get to seeing. Who knows, maybe one day I will?
I heartedly recommend Benin to visitors to the area, and this might include Lome, the capital of Togo, in it too as if you’re coming by land from Ghana, well, it’s in the middle!
Benin is, like Togo, a long thin country, and has a wonderful village on stilts called ‘Ganvie’ you can visit by boat. Ouidah is on the coast, and you can learn about the colonial history there with a fort-museum, a trip to the beach where boats left for the New World carrying slaves (and a moving monument) and also there’s the python centre (for tourists) if you fancy a little dip into Voodoo. Which, you know, you probably wouldn’t.
Cotonou is not the world’s greatest city, but a busy, useful place to base yourself. I was staying in an area where outdoor BBQ chicken places abounded, a great choice for a cheap but delicious dinner!
Well, it had to be Cameroon, didn’t it? This is the one country I got to properly explore – bar Mali, which didn’t make the three as it’s not so secure at present – over just under three weeks. Cameroon is the most expensive of the three, but that didn’t really matter, just a good idea to not be alone all the time as single rooms can really weigh your budget down.
There were some nice beaches in Kribi, a great out of the way little place where I took a boat into the jungle for a bit. Great place for chilling in the south. Limbe is further north, another coastal town with a gorilla sanctuary worth visiting. Also a great leaping off point to get mountain climbing – Mt Cameroon!
The Ring Road is further north and inland, a really beautiful part of the country. You might meet a local king if you pay a visit to the palace in the small town of Bali, he often receives travellers as visitors!
Then the capital Yaounde is pleasant, and like many West African cities (Lome is another example) it has some interesting architecture to say the least, inspired by the oil boom of the 70s.
Those would be my three for people headed that way in 2018. To be honest, part of me still wishes I headed to Chad, even for just a night, just to say I’d been there. And there are more countries in the region I haven’t visited such as Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Cote D’Ivoire that sound very interesting. Have you been to the region, if not, does it hold any interest for you? Please comment below – and May the Journey Never End!