3 Spots on Sunday – Countries in West Africa

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.

Fishing boats line up on the Cape Coast beach, Ghana.

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.

  1. Ghana

Colonial building in Accra

Football Guernseys for sale in Accra, Ghana

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.

Houses and buildings of Cape Coast

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?

  1. Benin

Houses on Lake Ganvie

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!

Monument to the slaves on the Beach, Ouidah.

Beach near Ouidah

Falling apart, but this building with its shutters really caught my eye,

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.

Street of Cotonou

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!

  1. Cameroon

Les Chutes Lobes at Kribi

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.

Marina area, Kribi

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!

Looking out over the bay in Limbe

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!

Yaounde

Open-air museum in Yaounde

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.

Bamenda view

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!

 

2 comments

  • I’ve never been to Africa (well Cape Verde during my flight attendant days doesn’t really count as I was staying at an all-inclusive hotel and sunbathing, I didn’t really get to see anything)… In theory I’d love to go, but as I get older I tend to get more scared… of unsafe places, ebola, malaria and other health issues, and just more and more interested in pampering myself with comfy, easy travel in boring European cities that all look alike 🙂
    I did know some people from Chad and Gabon though, when I lived in Paris… and one of my uni teachers was from Ghana. I always figured there was a reason they left, as interesting as it would be to visit those places.

    • I think there is a sense of achievement sometimes in surviving the places I go! But really, some were harder than others. I really enjoyed Cameroon. I actually DID get malaria the first time I went to the region. It’s been 12 years now. Still, life is about experiences…

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