Safaris are a brilliant way to spend a holiday. Where else in the world can you see such a concentration of beautiful, often severely endangered animals in their natural habitat? To make it even better, you can see the animals in comfort and safety, knowing that your impact on their lives is minimal.
One big problem, however, is that a lot of people immediately associate the word ‘safari’ with prohibitively high costs. And it’s true that entry fees can be enormous for some of the more famous parks. Add to this the cost of flights, the high accommodation costs if staying on site, as well as food and drink, and you’re in for one expensive holiday.
Where a lot of people go wrong is limiting themselves to the well-known parks. When most people think of safaris, they think of Central and Southern African countries like South Africa, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. While it’s absolutely true that these places contain some great safari parks, they also have some of the most expensive.
If you’re on the lookout for a more affordable, but still highly enjoyable safari, then you should look no further than West Africa. This section of Africa is undoubtedly a less popular destination for tourists than say South Africa, but this is an unfair reflection of what is one of the most stunning and interesting areas of the planet.
The fact that West Africa is comparatively poor, even for a continent like Africa, makes it a very worthwhile place to visit, knowing that you can make a big difference with the money you spend there. There are also a lot of great opportunities to go to extra mile, such as organisations offering the chance to volunteer in Ghana working in a National Park.
Safaris in this part of Africa can offer a different kind of experience due to distinct differences in the landscapes, a climate which is generally more humid and tropical than the Mediterranean climate of the south. The flora and fauna can also vary quite noticeably from other areas, offering a fresh and exciting experience even for those who may have been on safari in the past.
Here are 3 of the best and most affordable in this lesser-known area of the continent. Give them a try. They won’t disappoint.
At over 4,500km2, Mole national park is the largest wildlife reserve in Ghana. It is located inland, close to Larabanga town. It was established over 50 years ago and has become the most visited reserve in the country in that time.
The high rainfall of the region means that large areas of the park are blanketed in lush vegetation for part of the year. This can be a welcome departure from the images of arid savannah that can come to mind when one thinks of Africa.
Entry fees are enticingly affordable, at only around $10USD for adults. Brilliant walking tours, led by an armed ranger, offer an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the fantastic creatures, which include elephants, antelopes, hippos, and many varieties of monkeys. 4WD tours are also available.
Over to the east of Ghana, in the northernmost area of Benin, lies the majestic Pendjari national park. Hugging the border to Burkina Faso, Pendjari is actually 1 part of a trio of national parks collectively known as the WAP Complex. This complex is made up of Pendjari in Benin, Arli in Burkina Faso, and W national park which spreads across Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The rather worrying geopolitical ramifications of a complex of national parks set across 3 historically unstable African countries are immediately forgotten when you step foot into any of the parks. Pendjari is no exception to this, as it is one of the most alluring areas in the region.
Set in almost 3,000km2 of unspoiled natural beauty, the park is inhabited by a dazzling array of animals. Lions, elephants, and monkeys are just some of the species that call the park home, along with a famously rich population of birds.
To top it all off, Pendjari is great value for money when compared with parks in many other parts of Africa.
Follow the coast over to Senegal to find Fathala wildlife reserve. The reserve is located very close to the border to The Gambia, making day trips from an easy option and very popular with tourists.
The park can offer sightings of all the classic animals that you’d expect from an African safari, such as giraffes, lions, elephants, and zebras. Again, the park offers this for significantly less than many others, making it a great option if you find yourself in the area.
Consider a West African Safari for your next trip!
I hope that this short list has convinced you that West Africa can be a great destination for safaris, and could potentially save you a significant amount of money. If you are ever planning a trip to Africa, make sure to take a look at this wonderful, and often overlooked region.