Larabanga is a small village in the north of Ghana with about 4,000 inhabitants, the inhabitants are predominantly Muslim and speak Kamara. There are three main attractions in the village; the mosque which is rumoured to be the oldest in West Africa, the Mystic Stone and Mole National Park. A tour of the village took an entire thirty minutes on foot and that is with a number of stops to admire the scenery. One thing you cannot fault Larabanga for is the scenery. The village is surrounded by lush green bushes and forests, with views that simply take your breath away. The Mosque in the centre of the village. A small white building with wooden spikes sticking out on the outside, it is rumoured to date back to the 13th century making it the oldest building in Ghana. You cannot see it from the main road as it is surrounded by buildings. I got a glimpse of it from a distance, the people hanging around were very aggressive, telling me (through my young tour guides) that I had to pay if I wanted to see it close up. The fee wasn’t high and I would have been happy to pay had they not been so hostile but I moved swiftly on.
The Mystic Stone is a just a stone by the side of a road surrounded by a stone wall. It isn’t anything spectacular and yet when we got there, I was hassled by two men sitting nearby for money so they could tell me its history. As we were about to leave, some other tourists came with their guide and just walked right in ignoring the demand for money. We heard everything they were told from outside the wall surrounding it. Apparently, as the road was being built the stone was removed and thrown away but when the builders came back the following day it was back in its original place. After this happened for three consecutive days the locals decided that the stone had mystic powers and therefore moved the proposed road further ahead and built a wall around the stone to protect it. As we were about to walk off the guys guarding it had a change of heart and told us to go in and take pictures if we wanted to. They told us that if you make a wish whilst touching the stone, your wish comes true. They didn’t say how long it took for it to happen though, I am still waiting for mine to come true.
Mole National Park, is Ghana’s biggest national wildlife park. The lodge where I was staying organised transport to the park, otherwise there is no public transport from the village. I was joined by other guests of the lodge. You can tour the park by jeep or on foot, I and a number of people decided on a walking tour as it was cheaper. As soon as we set off, we came across some elephants which was great because the French couple from the lodge, who had come the previous day, had only seen warthogs and monkeys. I was surprised by how close we got to them, and on foot too. I always thought that if you got that close they would charge at you. The guide told as that they were the second fastest animals on earth, given their size I find that hard to believe.
Unfortunately, there was nothing more exciting to been seen after the elephants. We came across a lot of warthogs, antelopes which we could only see from a distance, and a couple of monkeys here and there. The tour lasted two hours within which we covered a very short distance. The guard kept stopping to give us information about this and that plant or animal. It sounded like he memorised all the words by heart and he was just following a script so the majority of people looked really bored as he talked.
Mole cannot compete with the big game parks in East Africa, so I would not recommend it to anyone who wants to see wildlife. If you want to get up close and personal with elephants then definitely worth going to, although you have to have lady luck on your side because they don’t come out all the time. For proper safari experience go to East or Southern Africa where you will see many more animals. As for Larabanga, if you are looking for a scenic hideaway in the middle of nowhere then it’s definitely the place for you.