Weather: sunny and partly overcast
Air Temperature: 28 C
It was an early arrival in the port of Takoradi in Ghana. Weather was partly cloudy, with high temperature and humidity, a typical day in the African tropics. The clearance of the ship by the local officials was done very quickly and so the planned excursions were able to leave on time.
Two buses were heading over to the castles of Elmina and the other two buses made their way to the Kakum National Park and in the afternoon to Elmina castle. As it was primarily a natural history excursion, my colleagues Will Wagstaff, Richard Sidey and I were assigned to the National Park. Escorted by local police, 39 guests, the photographer on board and two Expedition Team members were looking forward to see a typical West African rainforest. For more than 45 minutes we drove through the town of Takoradi and its neighborhood, getting a first impression of this country.
After a two-hour drive, passing by the Castles of Elmina and Cape Coast, the busses reached the entrance of the national park. Equipped with pink badges, our guests were split up into three groups each guided by a local forest reserve employee. The first part consisted of a walk through the forest on the ground. The local guide explained the different trees of the forest, which are also used by the people living in the region. Lucky as we were today, we saw a chameleon crossing the path. After this 30-minute walk through the forest, enjoying its beauty, the tour came to the starting point of the canopy walk.
When for the first time some of our guests saw the bridges for our walk, they had some doubt if they could make it. The canopy walk in the Kakum National Park consists of seven bridges connected to each other by emergent trees, which reach far over the normal canopy layer. At the highest point you are about 35 meters above the ground looking on the canopy and where there are some gaps in the canopy you can even look down to the ground.
After some steps on these swinging bridges, one got used to it and actually I think most of our guests enjoyed it very much to have such a different view of this beautiful ecosystem.
From the wildlife point of view, there was not much to see, as it was around 10 in the morning and the sun started to heat up the air. The walk across all seven bridges took approximately 35 minutes and gave us a really fascinating impression of this national park. On the way back to the visitor’s center, it started to rain for a short moment, a typical short and warm tropical rain shower, and our picture of the rain forest was completed. After a quick refreshment and an opportunity for the guests to buy some handicrafts, we continued the tour to our next stop – Elmina Castle.
At Elmina Castle, local guides were waiting and they took our guests not only on a tour through the castle but also on a tour through this dark part of European history in Africa. It was sobering to hear the treatments that the slaves received and to see the living conditions under which they had to suffer. On the other hand, it was also good to be guided by an intelligent young man, whose ancestors maybe were among the slaves, and to see how well informed he was on this subject and how objectively he passed on this information to our group.
After one hour more driving through Ghana, the buses reached again the port of Takoradi and the pier where the Prince Albert II was alongside.
The day finished with a recap were my colleagues Dr. Conrad and Olga Stavrakis spoke about slavery, Will Wagstaff about the birds we saw today, Robin Aiello about her impressions on the fish market and I about forest canopy in general. This was followed by a briefing of our Expedition Leader Robin West about the next day’s activities on board.