Indiana-Jones-style, our bus struggled over the rough muddy roads and fought against the stormy rains that further complicated our journey. Only an hour ago we had been delighted by a large family of baboons that ran around our bus across the still-paved street. Having high hopes, we didn’t expect to it to become such an arduous adventure. Nevertheless, after enduring the jarring potholes and watching our peers push a van out the muck, we made it to Wli Falls!
Located in the Volta Region, Wli Falls is the highest waterfall in West Africa. It measures 400m tall, and lies in the heart of the Agmatsa Wildlife Sanctuary between the Ghana-Togo border. These majestic waterfalls consist of the Upper Falls and Lower Falls, but due to the rains and unsafe climbing conditions, we could only visit the Lower Falls. To get to the Lower Falls, we took a short 45-minute trek through the luscious green rainforest, full of graceful butterflies and insects that we had never seen before. The multi-layered green rainforest with its towering trees and hanging vines complemented the orange-brown path we hiked on.
After crossing several bridges and hopping over streams by carefully stepping on sturdy stones, the air became increasingly hazy with water vapor. In the distance, we could hear the water roaring as it fell. Before we could say more, we quickly changed into our swimsuits and rushed to the waterfall. It had stopped raining, but the sky was still gloomy. However, at this point, we couldn’t avoid getting wet since the mist drenched us even from a great distance. Carefully walking towards the waterfall, we entered the murky brown water. The icy coldness of the water shocked our legs, but we soldiered on. At first, the rocky ground frightened me since I couldn’t see through the water, but holding onto my friends, we waddled towards the waterfall itself. What an experience! I could barely open my eyes because of the mist. Splashing around in the water, we tried to get closer to the waterfall itself, but because the water fell with such force, the water droplets felt like glass shards pricking our skin. Seeing African nature in its rawest form, I was in awe of how the power of simple gravity and water could form such an astounding physical formation.
The next day, we visited the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary, an hour south of Wli Falls. At the sanctuary, there were hundreds of True Mona Monkeys. Mona Monkeys are Old World monkeys that live throughout West Africa. According to the villagers at Tafi Atome, these monkeys were considered messengers from the gods, and were thus sacred. Our tour guide explained that it was bad luck to see a dead Mona Monkey. If one were to happen upon a dead monkey, they would immediately call the head chief of community, who would perform a burial ritual for it. After understanding how respected these monkeys were, we set out into the rainforest.
Smelling the bananas we all had in our hands, the monkeys cautiously popped out their heads. After we got accustomed to our surroundings, they leaped on us from the trees without fear and devoured the bananas we had. Everyone bought a bunch of bananas, so we spent a good hour interacting with the monkeys. The monkeys had surprisingly clean fur, and wide sparkling brown eyes. As one munched on a banana from my hand, its small rubbery black fingers clasped mine. Their eyes darted back and forth against their soft faces, gray and pink. It was a surreal experience to see a monkey in real life, like meeting a celebrity on the street. Playful, but shy, the Mona Monkeys only came to us for the delicious yellow goodness in our palms. Just as our tour guide had warned: “The monkeys will play with you. You won’t play with the monkeys.” (Click on the link to view a video of a True Mona Monkey!)
Overall, our adventure to the Volta Region was quite an amazing one. I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the astounding nature of Ghana, and it made me feel closer to this country. Going on this trip and marveling at the beauty of Africa’s rainforests made me feel like a true traveler. Before the end of the semester, I hope I can visit more of Ghana’s natural wonders.