West Africa is known and referred to during this day and age as the final frontier of travel. It is the least toured, let alone visited, place in Africa. Unfortunately, the destination area has gained an intimidating reputation and scared off most travellers who considered visiting it. If able to look past its outlaw stature, West Africa is filled with vast adventures and gems like their finest national parks. In this article, captain Jako Hall, an avid traveller, reflects on his experience while in West Africa. Hall shares insight and guidance on what any person journeying there should expect as well as the top National Parks in West Africa everyone should make time for during their stay there.
West Africa, located on the west side of the continent of Africa, consists of a group of neighbouring countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Analysts view West Africa more and more as the next part of the world to possibly find prosperity due to its predicted urban economic growth as one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world.
What to Know Before You Go
The best time to travel to West Africa is during the dry season, from November to March. Travel is better during the dry season because the wet season adds time to already extended travel time. A twenty-hour route in the dry season will turn into forty hours during the wet season. During the wet season, many ways also become inaccessible to travel.
It is vital to check out where to get visas for every country visited along a trip through West Africa and figure out a plan of action of how to obtain them before going anywhere. Depending on the country, travellers can purchase visas at the airport upon landing or purchase before the trip. In some instances, those travelling can only receive a visa after applying to the embassy. Travel experts recommend purchasing Nigeria’s and Ghana’s visas well before the journey to West Africa.
Travellers should look into what inoculations are required to enter the country, or countries, in West Africa they wish to visit. According to Africa CDC, sixteen countries in Africa require travellers entering the country older than nine months to have the Yellow Fever vaccination certification updated and present upon arrival.
When planning a trip to West Africa, travellers should start researching what airport has the highest number of incoming flights in their destination country to find more possibilities of direct flight options. A strategic move when travelling to West African destinations such as Bissau (Guinea-Bissau), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Monrovia (Liberia), and São Tomé & Príncipe that offer very few flight availabilities is to look into the next closest international airport.
The best airport in all of West Africa, and the fourth-best in the world, to fly into according to the Airport Council International (ACI) Africa is Ghana’s Kotoka International Airport. Other key airports in West Africa that are considered a great option to fly into include Blaise Diagne International Airport, Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport, and Murtala Muhammed and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
What to Bring with You
In a travel bag to West Africa, it would be wise to include a filter bottle for drinking water. Unfortunately, the price to buy water in West Africa is high, so travellers will save both money and time by bringing a filter water bottle. It is common to find tap water unsafe to drink in some regions of West Africa, so travellers should avoid drinking water that is not filtered or does not come bottled.
Also, those adventuring to West Africa should not forget to pack a power adapter. Individuals who plan to bounce around West Africa might benefit from purchasing an international universal travel power adapter that covers adapter needs in one hundred and sixty countries.
As most travellers already know, plastic is not always to be trusted when travelling. ATMs in West Africa might not always work or often run out of available money to dispense, so it is a good idea to keep plenty of cash (preferably crisp bills for a smoother currency exchange experience) on hand for the adventure.
National Treasures of West Africa
West Africa hosts some of the most beautiful national parks in the world. Though not as famous as certain national parks in South or East Africa, the parks in West Africa often offer less expensive and less crowded safaris to see the same amount of diverse wildlife.
Claimed to be the best park in West Africa by travel experts at Lonely Planet, Parc National de la Pendjari in the country of Benin is nestled in an area surrounded by the Atakora Mountains. Much of Africa’s wildlife can be observed in the Parc National de la Pendjari, including big-ticket animals a part of the “Big Five.”
According to National Geographic, Africa’s “Big Five” (lions, leopards, elephants, African buffalo, and rhinoceroses) are the top five animals tourists primarily try to see when travelling to Africa. The Parc National de la Pendjari has baboons, hippos, leopards, elephants, cheetahs, lions, monkeys, crocodiles, African buffalo, various antelopes, and a large number of birds.
An extremely affordable and accessible national park in West Africa is Mole National Park, located in Ghana. Walking safaris are seen as standard at the Mole National Park, even though safari by vehicle is an option. For those willing to spend a little more money, the Mole Motel overlooks the park plains and offers unbeatable views of the wildlife. Guests can enjoy the swimming pool and observe birds, baboons, antelope, elephants, and warthogs from the hotel.
Along the Moa River is an island unique to its inhabitants. This wildlife sanctuary found in Sierra Leone is a rarity in West Africa. Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary is home to eleven primates species, including chimpanzees and endangered primates like Diana and Colobus monkeys. In addition to being one of the only places in West Africa to see these monkeys, Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary also has over 130 species of birds and the endemic pygmy hippopotamus.
About Captain Jako Hall
Captain Jako Hall is an experienced mariner and a former naval officer known for his strong work ethic and ability to lead and motivate crews. He pursued Maritime Studies at the University of Technology in Cape Town and has received the highest level of training in Navigation and Seamanship during his years in the Navy. After 13 distinguished years in the Navy, Jako joined the superyacht industry, following his passion for creating unique and exclusive experiences for high-net-worth clients. He’s managed multi-million euro projects that required attention to detail and efficiency and has a proven track record of operating at sea in remote and unsupported areas.