Posted by Lynsey Rimbault (excuse the un-American english)
On Friday last week Bethany and I headed off for our first adventure in Ghana, a trip to the steamy rainforest of Kakum National Park! After about three hours, a mini bus and a taxi we arrived at Kakum. Once there we conducted interviews with the park manager and assistant park manager (we had to somehow justify our adventure!) and then into the rainforest we went. There are basically two accommodation options in the park, either the 20-or-so-metre high tree house or the dejected looking campsite. The tree house would have been great but on the two nights we were there it was filled with girls who screamed at the sight of a mouse and Bethany and I are much too hardcore to be hanging out with girls like that! We opted to break the mold and sleep in the forest with no guide and in whatever spot looked like a cosy home for our snug two man tent.
The trees in the forest are unbelievably tall and straight, they seem to go on uninterrupted forever. There are cool spikey trees with defenses that look like rhino horns spiraling up, getting smaller as they go, and on a hike we did we saw the biggest tree I can possibly imagine, the base was so wide it took five minutes to walk around! Many of the trees have angled bases that look like the sails of a ship.
At night the quiet rainforest comes alive with an incredible chorus of insects, the howling of monkeys and the shrill trilling of bush babies that sound as if they have been wound up (Click here to hear the forest at night). We went hunting around for cool bugs and I found a giant one that looked like an alien praying mantis. We were up close taking photos of it and it darted forwards making us squeal in fright, its movements were so un-bug-like! Bethany spotted a moth with glowing red eyes and after that we noticed that lots of moths had them. On our second night we went on a night hike with a wonderful guide who searched the undergrowth and tree tops for monkeys and pangolins, unfortunately they stayed hidden! We saw bush babies, a toad, snails, some type of squirrel and a massive rat.
The star attraction of Kakum, that has made it the most visited park in Ghana, is the canopy walkway. It was built in 1993 by two Canadian climbers and six Ghanaians and seven long suspension bridges link six tree top platforms. The canopy walk is visited in droves by tourists and groups of school kids and you can hear them shouting with excitement and fear all day long! One of our lecturers described it as the least peaceful rainforest experience he had ever had. Luckily we were forewarned and managed to organise our visit for 6am on Sunday morning. Our guide met us on the path near our tent and we took the twenty minute walk to the start of the canopy walk. Luck was with us and we were the only people there! The morning was cool and misty and as we tiptoed along the first bridge we felt like we were walking on clouds. The first bridge starts out relatively low, but by the third bridge the forest floor is forty metres below and the views are absolutely incredible. The majority of tree tops were beneath us and it was amazing to see the canopy from above, but the tall trees were all around as we floated through the air. About half way through it started to rain, which made the whole experience even better. I don’t think it would have been possible for us to love it more, we wanted to stay forever.
Our Kakum adventure was the perfect break from our research and we came back refreshed and ready for Monday morning!