Young Bull Elephant grazing in the early evening Mole NP

Young Bull Elephant grazing in the early evening Mole NP

Whether it is a herd light-footing across the savannah during the fresh hours of early morning or quietly observing a silver-back gorilla on forested lowland slopes, there is something profoundly endearing and magical about seeing wildlife, unrestrained in their own habitat. Noting with effusive surprise, several species living side by side, which from the design of zoos had always presented them as separate, kept apart for their own sake. A family of elephants, drinking from a watering hole next to a dozen gazelles, zebras and wildebeest, while a solitary jackal cuts through the dry parchment grass not far behind. Africa is a kaleidoscope of animals, birds, insects and aquatic life, and the sheer variety almost makes other continents seem empty in comparison. Whether you are watching through binoculars a pack of lions carefully stalking a young giraffe or feel intimidated by a super-herd of buffalo nudging each other closer, you never tire of these casual but illuminating traits of behaviour. In fact, just going in search of them affords great excitement, regardless in some cases of the hot, sweaty trek to locate them. Through the jungle, along escarpments, up mountains, down rivers, across lagoons and coastal seas, over wind crafted dunes and empty deserts, there is wildlife in the most surprising of places. Adapted and thriving in a frenzied circus of activity like termites, bee-eaters or squadrons of bats shadowing the sky in their colossal threatening numbers. Or, to the other extreme, solitary, until the burgeoning demand for breeding brings them into a temporary alliance. Many of my high-lights in Africa have come from quietly watching the wildlife go about its business. It need not be from predators roaming the grasslands, but just as much from a kingfisher, perched on a reed with eyes glued to the silvery waters below.

He jumped from the vehicle and pursued a trail through the undergrowth like a bloodhound on the scent of a fox. Reappearing minutes later, doused in perspiration with his hand gesturing for us to leave the vehicle.

Cheetah shaded under a tree in the Masai Mara Kenya

Cheetah shaded under a tree in the Masai Mara Kenya

Electricity pulsed through the gathering, bursting those final few seconds of wild anticipation and excitement reminiscent of a great act walking on to the stage. This was an exceptional moment, not just to observe such a beautiful, highly intelligent animal grazing in its habitat, but to be so close and on foot. For no more than five metres from the roadside was a single bull elephant, pushed from the herd to stand on his own four feet. For those in the group who had never seen an elephant in the wild, you couldn’t supersede this. Up close and personal as you could possibly be. The circumstances would surely be different if a matriarch were involved, perilous if calves were nearby and leaving the vehicle would be out of the question. This great land leviathan casually moved through the foliage, using its trunk to grapple and rake in another mouthful. Quite at ease with six foreigners, who were incongruously dressed, rebelling against sense and fitting in. Perhaps, the very lack of camouflage may have addressed the unthreatening eccentricity of us spectators, for the clowns had come to see the ring-master! The entire cinematic presentation had been exemplified again by the perfection of the late September light now dousing the performance in warm, highly saturated tones. A precise, momentous, superlative gathering of light, action, and drama that could not be attached to the same level twice. The guide, wiping his brow, emitted a low but tired sense of relief.

Male Kob bending under a bush Mole NP

Male Kob bending under a bush Mole NP

The group, on return, showed an effusive manner towards the guides selfless actions, complimenting him with additional gratuity. There was only one more thing to do to keep the fervid atmosphere on a form, and that was to celebrate with an ice-cold ‘Club’ beer back at the park’s motel. Complementing the view over the two large watering holes from the observation platform.

Mole National Park, situated in the woodland & savannah of Ghana’s north is a rare gem for wildlife enthusiasts. Not just accessible but highly affordable, offering bush walks and game drives through its 5000 km sq habitat. With around 600 elephants, warthogs, crocodiles, baboon and vervet monkeys, five species of antelope: kob, bushbuck, waterbuck, hartebeest, and roan. The chances of sightings are incredibly high. Birds are prolific here, as much as anywhere found in East Africa, filling in the voids between mammal sightings. Long tailed-glossy starling, yellow-crowned bishop, woolly necked storks, the murderous screams of the hadada ibis and the fantastically busy red-throated bee-eaters. Most are here on their long migratory routes, but Mole does have its permanent residents.

From the biggest and mightiest to the smallest and adroit come the termites. They are easily overlooked by the big game and the colourful birds that dart amongst the trees.  A formidable mud fortress grew up and around a single tree. On a human scale, it would be the equivalent of the Empire State Building in New York for height and girth. The ranger leaned in and broke a small piece of the exterior wall away.

Kingfisher on pole above lake Kenya

Kingfisher on pole above lake Kenya

“Now watch.” he mused while half a dozen pairs of eyes waited for movement. With the alarm raised, scores of soldier termites came pouring out to inspect the damage and find the cause of their attack. The culprit, six-foot-tall in forest green with Wellington boots to match, explained that shortly the workers would appear, summoned to administer immediate repairs in sealing off all exposed tunnels. The rapidity and coordination of the team operated to military discipline. Each termite fulfilled its duties to a communist idea of ‘hard work for the greater good’ in their specified rank. The order had no lenience for idlers, certainly not in times of emergency. I asked the ranger if the Queen was already aware of an apparent invasion. ‘Surely so’, was his reply and she was probably delegating orders or being briefed by advisors much like a Sovereign nation. The fortress resembled an iceberg, in greater proportions beneath excelled those rising above. Another shrewd investment of the termite in its understanding of temperatures. Cooler below, warm above which would dictate where nurseries and food stores were located. The first of the construction termites had appeared, but they didn’t leave the mound like the soldiers. They were tiny in comparison, befitting their rank, establishing themselves at the very edge of the honeycomb damage. The ranger brought his middle index finger right up to the wall, clarifying the emerging process now underway.

Lioness in deep grass Ngorongo Crater Serengeti Tanzania

Lioness in deep grass Ngorongo Crater Serengeti Tanzania

“You can see the workers now? They are secreting small mud balls along the edge. They will continue with this until a new wall is formed, sealing off the tunnel and ultimately sealing off the entire section. By morning the work will be completed, they won’t stop until its finished.”

Though I wondered if they operated on a shift system, surely there were millions of construction termites resting inside. I asked the guide if the termites ever abandoned their fortress. “Certainly, as both the wet and dry seasons brought about their challenges which under exceptional circumstances could not be repaired. As the fortresses always used a tree for stability, it was vulnerable in bush fires while the rains could easily flood the surrounding ground. Then the termites had the bane of ant-eaters which would invoke termite genocide, hoovering them up as their claws bull-dozed vast sections.”

Such an intrusion went against ‘safety in numbers’; it implied the opposite. Your chances might be improved if you were singular and easily overlooked. But such numbers, millions in their mud metropolis were, by natures rule, going to be placed low on the food chain.

Looking out towards the large watering hole and sunlight over woodland Mole NP

Looking out towards the large watering hole and sunlight over woodland Mole NP

The Facts:

Mole NP entry fee: 40cd paid at the gate. (Current rate of exchange £1=6.44cd. 1$=5.48cd. 1Euro= 6.03cd)

Entry with your vehicle: 20cd

Tel: +233 027 256 4444, 024 431 6777

www.molemotelgh.com

Mole Motel:

Tel: +233 027 756 4444, 024 431 6777

www.molemotelgh.com

Facts: Mole Motel Rates 2019: Chalet – Queen sized bed with a/c 515cd

Standard twin bedroom with a/c one person 300cd, double 400cd

Family: three bedded room with a/c single 300cd, double 400cd, triple 510cd.

Family: three bedded with a fan. Single 180cd, double 280cd, triple 360cd.

Budget room: 4 bunk-beds. 100Cd per person.

Additional bed (roll-away) 100cd.

(NB – The staff and rangers will advise you to keep your room locked at all times. Even when your inside. The baboons in Mole NP have learnt how to use the handles to open doors!)

 

Mole Motel accepts Visa and MasterCard payments, electronic only.

WiFi is available.

Restaurant and bar on site. Swimming pool free for guests. Good viewing platform over the two watering holes.

 

Campsite: 30cd per night. Shower and toilet blocks. Central tap with freshwater, stone bar-b-q points, two wooden pavilions with seating. (I planned initially to camp at Mole NP, but the guides advised packing up the entire tent, every-time I was to leave the campsite. The reason: baboons. After having destroyed peoples tents in the past in their quest to obtain food from inside.) Brugbani, 9 km further in is undeveloped. You need to be self-sufficient here: 20cd per night.

Can access by special bus from Tamale direct to the park or any public transport (minivans, shared taxis, & coaches) heading to Wa (30cd.) Disembark at Larabanga, 6 km from the gate. Can take a private taxi from there or negotiate a motorbike (roughly 15cd). Tamale has a domestic airport, so it’s possible to fly from Accra or Kumasi then take a bus from there. You can charter a private hire from Tamale as well, though the price will be quite high for the distance involved.

 

Activities:

Game drive: 200cd for 2 hours, split by the number of passengers. Plus 10cd per person, per hour.

Guide fee per hour, per person: 10cd. Children between 5-15 yrs: 5cd.

Birding: 50cd for the first two hours, 10cd for each additional hour.

Night Safari: Can only use the park vehicles. 100cd. 30Cd per hour for the guide.

If your commercial filming or into long term research they also have a directory of fees. Standard photography for private use is free.

 

Times.

Morning drives and bush walks start at 7:00

Midday (drives only – too hot to walk) 11:00 – 14:00

Afternoon drives and bushwalking: 15:30

Birdwatching: 06:00

Night Safari: Between 19:00 and 03:00

Drives and walks are two hours in duration but can be lengthened accordingly with the additional fee. Tips are at the guest’s discretion.

As the park kindly puts it: Rates and fees are non-negotiable.

All prices are for foreigners. Ghanaians pay a lower fee.