The Coast

KOKROBITE

Many travellers looking for a little R&R from Accra, only 32km away, or the rigours of travel elsewhere in the country swear by the long stretch of white sand and the laid-back backpacker/Rasta vibe at Kokrobite.

The renowned Academy of African Music & Arts (AAMAL) offers courses (from two hours to three months) in traditional African music, drumming, and dance and live performances on some weekend afternoons.

It's not advisable to walk on the beach with valuables at night.

A home away from home for many volunteers and West Africa overlanders, the basic concrete cottages with shared bathrooms at Big Milly's Backyard (Wendy's; §r)607998;www.bigmilly .com; camping with own/rented tent USS2.70/3.80, s/d without bathroom JSS7/11, r US$16; (0) are fine, though most people spend their days and nights at the 24-hour bar and restaurant or the beach. Drumming, dancing and music happen most weekend nights. Just across the dirt road from Sobamba, Andy's Akwaaba Lodge ( s 277261; www .akwaabalodge.com; r with/without bathroom US$14/7.50; IP]) offers five basic concrete rooms set in a pleasant, small grassy compound where you can also camp with your own tent for US$3.30.

A beautiful 20-minute walk along the beach from Big Milly's - a road goes here as well -takes you to the seemingly abandoned Kokrobite Beach Resort (AAMAL; B1380854; s/d US$10/12; (P)) famed for the attached music school. The large rooms are old but the warped wooden floors somehow make it charming. A low-key alternative to Big Milly's and just down the road, friendly Sobamba Coastal Resort ((HI 683084; r US$20; (PI) has four basic tiled rooms with modern bathrooms.

Tro-tros (US$0.60,45 minutes) to Kokrobite go from the western end of Kaneshie motor park (Donsoman Station) in Accra. Depending on your ability to negotiate, a taxi from Accra will cost from US$5.50 to US$11.

ANOMABU

As far as tourists are concerned, Anomabu means an excellent resort on a beautiful beach. However, residents of this very unpicturesque, cramped fishing village about 18km northeast of Cape Coast live in fairly makeshift squalor. Fort William, on the seafront in the town centre, was built by the British in 1753 and is now an unphotographable prison.

The Anomabu Beach Resort (gl 91562; www.an omabo.digitafrica.com; camp sites own/rented tent USS4/13, hut with/without air-con US$38/20; (P)) is the perfect weekend getaway from Accra. One of the few places in Ghana to embrace low-key native architecture rather than big concrete eyesores, it has cosy bungalows set within a sandy and shady grove of coconut palms. But you'll spend most of your time lounging on the beautiful white-sand beach or chowing down on seafood at the exquisite wood pavilion restaurant. For a bird's eye view of the ocean and town below, Weda Lodge ((D 806958; r with fan/air-con US$26/33; IP]), perched high at the top of a hill, is a nice alternative to the beach resort. There are spectacular views from some of the rooms; it's off the same road and within walking distance of the Anomabu Beach Resort.

From Cape Coast, take a tro-tro (US$0.50, 15 minutes) from Kotokuraba motor park heading for Mankessim and ask to be dropped at the Ebeneezer Rest Stop for Anomabu town or at the turn-off for the beach resort, which is about 2km west of the Ebeneezer. From the turn-off, it's about 500m to the resort gates. The main tro-tro and shared taxi stop in Anomabu is just east of the Ebeneezer and plenty of vehicles run in both directions along the coastal road.

CAPE COAST

The centre of Cape Coast, the former British colonial capital, is lined with neglected, faded buildings. Their ages are irrelevant in this now-vibrant town, whose history - Cape Coast was the largest slave-trading centre in West Africa - only becomes apparent after a

visit to the massive Cape Coast Castle (adult/student USS7/4, still/video camera fee JSS0.50/1.10; H 9am-5pm) in the heart of town, overlooking the sea. Extensively restored, the whitewashed castle now houses a superb and moving museum. A guided tour is offered with your admission and should not be missed; allow a minimum of an hour for the tour.

Sleeping & Eating

Sammo Guest House (®l 33242; Jukwa Rd; r US$8) Backpackers flock to Sammos, a compound within walking distance of the city centre, to the east. There are simple but clean fan rooms of various size, and a rooftop terrace restaurant popular for the sunset views and social scene.

Oasis Guest House (@ 35958;[email protected]; s/d without bathroom USS9/13, bungalows US$22; (0) The only beachfront place in Cape Coast, Oasis has several comfortable rondavels set in a grassy compound. Dancing and drumming classes are held, and the restaurant (mains US$3.80) and bar areas are some of the best places to meet other travellers in town.

Mighty Victory (I® 30135; [email protected]; Aboom CI; s/d with fan USS18/21, r with air-con US$24; ®) The Mighty Victory has a tranquil garden out front and is far removed from the noise of the centre; however, the rooms aren't a big step up qualitywise from Sammo.

Prospect Lodge ((D 31506; [email protected] .com; s/d US$25/35; ® (E) This new hotel perched on a hill up a steep driveway off Commercial St is easily the nicest place in the city centre.

Rooms here are small but modern and have cable TV. It also has a restaurant (mains US$4.40 to US$6.50) with good views of town.

Castle Beach Restaurant (mains US$3.30) There's no more pleasant spot to hang out and grab some food and drinks than this wooden pavilion overlooking the beach next to the Cape Coast Castle.

Getting There & Away

The VanefSTC bus station is in the Coil petrol station at Pedu junction, about 5km northwest of the town centre. There are buses twice daily to and from Accra (ordinary/luxury US$2.70/4.20, three hours) and Takoradi (US$1.30, one hour), and once a day to and from Kumasi (US$7, four hours).

The Kotokuraba motor park, near the market, has tro-tros serving destinations around Cape Coast, such as Anomabu (US$0.50, 15 minutes), Kakum National Park (US$0.70,45 minutes) and Takoradi (US$1.40, one hour). Shared taxis to Elmina (US$0.40,15 minutes) leave from the station on Commercial St, opposite the Cape Cafe.

kakum national park

Gingerly sliding across a rope bridge at dizzying heights is not for the agoraphobic. But for an easily earned adrenaline rush, the canopy walkway at this national park (§§ 33278; admission US$0.20; S 8am-4pm), 33km north of Cape Coast, shouldn't be missed. The park, together with the neighbouring Assin Attandanso Resource

Reserve, protects 357 sq km of diverse and dense vegetation and is home to varied wildlife, about 300 species of birds and a staggering 600 varieties of butterfly. However, don't come expecting great wildlife viewing, since you'll almost certainly be disappointed.

The 350m rope and cable canopy walkway (adult/student US$10/5.50) consists of seven viewing platforms linked by a circuit of narrow suspension bridges, along which you sway, 30m above the forest floor.

A guided hike in the park costs US$4.40/ 2.20 per hour for adults/students. Guided night walks need to be arranged in advance; call H 30265 or fax 33042.

Most people visit Kakum as a day trip from Cape Coast, but if you want to stay you can sleep on a tree platform at the camp site near the park headquarters for US$9 per person; equipment hire (sleeping mat, sleeping bag, flashlight and mosquito net) costs US$5.50.

The Kakum Rainforest Café (mains US$4.40) serves basic continental breakfast and Ghanaian dishes for lunch.

From Cape Coast, tro-tros (US$0.70, 45 minutes) that go past the entrance to the park leave from Kotokuraba station on Governor Rowe Rd. It's a five-minute walk from the main road to the park headquarters. Alternatively, you could charter a taxi for about US$16 round trip.

ELMINA

Much more picturesque than Cape Coast, its neighbour 15km to the east, the small town of Elmina is the site of St George's Castle (adult/student US$7/4, still/video camera fee US$0.50/1.10; S 9am-4.30pm), built by the Portuguese in 1482 and the oldest European structure still standing in sub-Saharan Africa. It was expanded when slaves replaced gold as the major object of commerce, and the storerooms were converted into dungeons. It is now a Unesco World Heritage Monument.

Facing St George's Castle across the lagoon is the much smaller Fort St Jago (admission US$1.10; S9am-5pm), also a Unesco World Heritage Site, built by the Dutch between 1652 and 1662 to protect the castle.

Just past the Elmina beach resort, the Almond Tree Guesthouse (§ 37365; www.almond3.com; r from US$30; (P) g)) is highly recommended and has several large rooms with wicker furniture. Another good choice found opposite St George's

Castle is the Coconut Grove Bridge House (@ 34557; Liverpool St; d US$30-50; g]). It's a converted old mansion that would blend in on a narrow London street; rooms are comfortable and modern. A good restaurant is attached.

As you'd expect, the Castle Restaurant (mains US$3.80) is within the castle walls and serves Ghanaian dishes - slowly.

The main taxi and tro-tro station is outside the Wesley Methodist Cathedral. From here you can get tro-tros to Takoradi (US$1.10) or shared taxis (US$0.30, 15 minutes) to Cape Coast.

TAKORADI

While Takoradi lacks any tourist sights and the beach is narrow, rocky or nonexistent, there are several good hotels and restaurants, and it's the transport hub west of Cape Coast.

Centrally located SuperStar Hotel & Restaurant (§§ 23105; Ashanti Rd; rwith fan/air-con USS18/24) is an oasis of air-conditioned calm amid the hot and dusty market area. It has a good modern restaurant on the ground floor. Well located at the edge of central Takoradi, the Taadi Hotel (§§ 31104; Wiawso Rd; r US$20; ® (g) stands out because of its friendly and attentive service. The Raybow International Hotel (§§ 25438; [email protected]; r US$50; ® (g (D) has chalets with high-quality amenities and the charming restaurant serves some of the best food in town.

The Akroma Plaza Restaurant (Accra Rd; mains US$3.80), a cross between a large banquet hall and an institutional cafeteria, has a big menu. Seafood is the speciality at Captain Hook's Bar & Restaurant (Africana Roundabout; mains US$7.50-22), probably the best and certainly the most expensive in Takoradi.

STC buses leave for Accra several times a day (ordinary/luxury US$4.20/5.50, four hours), and regularly go to Kumasi (US$7, six hours). At the top of Axim Rd, near the traffic circle, is a tro-tro park serving destinations west of Takoradi; for tro-tros to the east head to the station north of Market Circle.

For information on trains between Takoradi and Accra or Kumasi, see p355.

BUSUA & DIXCOVE

These two fishing villages, only 30km or so west of Takoradi and an easy drive from Accra, boast some of the nicest beaches in

Ghana. Busua, the more developed of the two villages as far as tourism goes, is blessed with a long, sandy stretch and water that is ideal for swimming and even a little surfing. There is now even more reason to head down this way thanks to the addition of two low-key bungalow hang-outs near Dixcove, also the site of the picturesque Fort Metal Cross (admission US$1.10, camera fee US$0.50; ® 9am-5pm), which overlooks the port.

If you head east along the beach from Busua, after about 2km you will reach the settlement of Butre, site of the ruined Fort Batenstein.

Sleeping & Eating

Green Turtle Lodge ((D 893566; www.greenturtlelodge .com; camping with own tent US$2.70, dm US$5.50, r with with/without bathroom US$22/11) The ecologically minded Green Turtle is on a palm-lined beach and has spacious, clean bungalows with showers open to the sun and stars. Green Turtle is 10km west of Dixcove near the village of Akwidaa.

Ellis Hideout (@ 290456; www.ellishideout.com; camping with own tent US$2.70, dm US$5.50, bungalows US$20) A few minutes from Butre, separated by a short canoe ride, this beachfront mini-village has beautifully crafted bungalows and a restaurant serving up good food.

Alaska Beach Club (rondavels with/without bathroom US$22/9.50; (0) The oddly named Alaska (considering it's on a beach and it's always hot) is the best value in Busua. Each of the simple round huts and shared bathroom facilities are kept clean.

African Rainbow Resort (H 32149; www.africanrain bow.net; s/d with fan US$45/50, with air-con US$60/65; (g) Across the street from the beach, the African Rainbow has large, clean rooms with balconies, plus a rooftop bar and a nicely decorated ground-floor restaurant.

Getting There & Away

Busua and Dixcove are each about 12km from the main coastal road. There's no direct transport to and from either Busua or Dixcove; you have to get to Agona junction on the main road and then take a tro-tro or shared taxi from there. From Takoradi, regular tro-tros (US$0.70, 45 minutes) leave for Agona junction. From Agona junction there is frequent transport (US$0.30) to Busua and Dixcove. A private taxi between Busua and Takoradi will cost around US$9.

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