Long before our wedding day, my bride asked me where I would take her for the honeymoon. It’s often a simple, inevitable, but tricky question. And it must be answered carefully, with utmost tactfulness.
“Where do you want me to take you?” I asked.
“Dubai,” she said and looked at my face as if in an attempt to read the answer before I uttered it.
“Well, it depends,” I told her. “It depends on the availability of the means.”
Women are sometimes like children. Leave the home penniless and promise her an airplane and she will ask you about her plane when you return. For this reason, it is safe to leave the door open when you are promising them. Don’t give firm assurance if your chance of delivering is 99.9%. And don’t start what you can’t end. Don’t initiate what you cannot sustain. Don’t just promise what you can’t deliver.
Some of them, like mine, are very rational. They will understand you. Tell the truth. Be frank with them. And you will be free. Did the Bible not say “ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set thee free?”
Then she asked for an alternative in case our financial position was not strong enough to take us to Dubai. Only one place came to mind: the Northern Region of Ghana. And Mole National Park, to be specific.
Lawyer Yonny Kulendi asked where I was taking my wife for the honeymoon. We had just been pronounced husband and wife and during the reception, Mr. and Mrs. Kulendi walked up to us to congratulate us.
“The north,” I told him.
“No! No! No!” he protested before I had time to give him the details. He was not prepared to listen. “As for this one, I won’t agree. We are from there and we can always go there anytime,” he added. And we laughed. Besides her rationality, my wife was too happy to pay attention to Mr. Kulendi’s protest.
Today, we were on our way to the Mole National Park. The last time I went to Mole, the road from Tamale to the Mole National Park (especially from Fufulso to Mole) was very terrible. I had set off from Tamale with the Metro Mass Transit bus at about 1:30 PM, but I got to Mole at 7 PM.
Today is different. The National Democratic Congress (NDC) government has chalked a big success in the road infrastructure here. The road has been done and driving from Tamale to Mole took us an hour and 45 minutes.
The road to Mole National Park is one of the best in the country
The journey was fun. The balmy breeze overshadowed the effect of the blistering savannah sun above. The spectacular landscape provided a feast to the eye. The vast grassland of the savannah appeared like an enormous golf course, in the rainy season, especially where there are no trees. As you enter Gonjaland, you are greeted with a thick vegetation cover, with vast farms of maize, groundnut and in some cases, millet.
And there was no vehicular traffic, except a convoy of speeding vehicles we followed from Yapei. It was the convoy of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who was campaigning in the area. They stopped at Fufulso and we continued.
Ooops! I nearly forgot to tell you about the sumptuous fufu and guinea fowl meat we ate in Tamale at Favour Restaurant and Bar at GRIDCo near Chogu Roundabout.
I was the tour guide of my beautiful princess from the Western Region. This was her first time in northern Ghana, and I showed her places and told her stories behind the environment, architecture and answered some ridiculous questions as well:
“Ei so is that how yam is grown?” “Does the groundnut fruits appear on top of the leaves?” Sometimes when some of the city people call you a villager, you don’t know the appropriate way to answer them when some of them think groundnut is harvested on top of trees.
We were welcomed to Mole National Park by a moderate downpour. Less than five minutes after we got to the Mole Motel, she hugged me, gave me a kiss and asked me to promise her one thing:
“Promise me you will bring me here every year,” she said, visibly impressed with the environment.
“You haven’t seen anything yet,” I said in my head and smiled broadly. I had made the right choice after all. She would be blown away when we got to Zaina Lodge, where I consider the most luxurious place on earth.
Baboons will welcome you to Mole
The Mole National Park covers an area of 4577 square kilometres. It was set aside as a conservation area in 1958 and declared a full national park in 1971. The park is home to 94 species of mammals, about 360 species of birds, nine amphibians, about 96 species of trees and 742 species of herbs. It is said to have more than 400 elephants. One does not see buffalos on daily safari and sighting of lions is even rarer. But most of the animals you see on National Geographic are here in their numbers.
When you get to Mole National Park, you see the animals at the Motel, information centre and at the entrance to the park even before you embark on your first safari. This explains “Serwaa’s” elation even before we settled for our stay at Mole.
Wildlife or pets? Warthogs in the house of one of the workers of Mole National Park
The sun was going to roost, and we ordered a meal. At the Mole Motel, food is not prepared in advance. When you order, it is prepared for you. There was a loud scream from where half a dozen white tourists were seated around a table eating dinner. We rushed to see what was happening.
Two baboons had come to steal their food. Workers at the Motel came out with sticks, but the baboons, after dipping their hands into the food, bolted away before anybody could reach them.
As daring and adventurous as my frightened wife thought I was, I went beyond the swimming pool to see where the baboons were. The two food thieves had joined a troop of baboons that were returning to their sleeping place after a day’s trek. And they made noise as they descended the hill on which the Motel is situated.
Zaina Lodge – the citadel of luxury
You may have heard about Zaina Lodge. But I have experienced it. For you, it may connote a hotel or a lodging place, but for me, it connotes luxury and an experience that is out of this world. Yes, indescribable. You pay more than you pay at the Mole Motel to be at Zaina Lodge, but I tell you the experience is worth every cedi spent.
So my wife and I arrived at Zaina Lodge and were welcomed by the ever-smiling Lucy Evelyn Ayamga and her team of high-spirited staff. Zaina Lodge is more than 4 kilometres from the Mole Motel. It is deeper into the forest and is located on the edge of a high hill overlooking the endless vista of flora and fauna. Depending on the strength of one’s eye, one is able to see kilometres of lush greenery and its spectacular melting point with the azure sky, far and far away.
“Wa should be beyond those hills,” I pointed to a direction, not very sure if that would take me there.
Down the hill is a pond where elephants come to swim and spread mud on themselves to keep away biting insects. On our visit to the pond earlier, there were nine of them, nine gigantic mountain-like creatures floating effortlessly in water. And I wonder why I cannot swim without serious practice.
As the elephants took charge of the northern side of the pond, splashing water violently and playing a game they alone seemed to understand, a crocodile moved away to the far end of the pond. Unlike those at Paga, these crocodiles are harmful, but they won’t move out of the water to attack tourists. Like the other animals in this park, they only attack when they are threatened. Call it self-defence. At Zaina Lodge, one can see the elephants swimming in the ponds. When the weather is warm, they frequent the ponds all day but in the rainy season, each group that swims here comes at least one in a day. There are many such ponds in the vast park.
Sometimes, they visit the lodge to graze around and go back.
Zaina Lodge welcomed us in a special way
Zaina Lodge is built with the architecture of Northern Ghana. The thatched roofs keep the place cool. The brick and tent houses are detatched. On the outside, they appear ordinary, but inside, they have everything a 5-star hotel anywhere in the world would offer you. And everything you see there has a touch and feel of the northern Ghana culture. Even shower gel and body lotions are served in small gourds and your welcome drink of lime juice is served in a calabash.
Chef P. K. and his team never disappoint. Here, the menu changes every day but irrespective of your continent or preference, you get to eat something special.
For lunch shortly after we arrived, we were served herb rice and Ghanaian style vegetable stew, crispy eggplant, dabudabu (not duck) salsa and papaya salad. Never mind if you have not heard about these before.
As we ate, an armed soldier came scrutinizing the area, as if he was searching for a hidden bomb. At the far end of the restaurant, an armed policeman took up a position as if one that has sensed an impending danger. What could they be doing? Is the place dangerous? No! Vice President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur was on his way to Zaina Lodge. He was campaigning in that part of the Northern Region and would be spending the nights there until he leaves.
In the evening was real tuo zaafi (TZ) with ayoyo soup and guinea fowl. Visibility was restricted to the few metres the light could see. The park was enveloped by darkness. The animals and the birds had retired for the day, except the nocturnal ones. The silence was broken by the songs of frogs downhill. At the Zaina Lodge restaurant and bar area, the xylophone music from Alexis Gbenneh filled the still night air.
Zaina Lodge is a citadel of luxury
While we ate, I asked my wife what her answer would be if she were asked to choose between honeymoon at Mole National Park and Dubai?
“Mole, of course!” she said without hesitation.
“Yonny Kulendi should hear this,” I said. And we broke into a hearty laugh. “When I meet him I will ask where he took his wife for their honeymoon,” I added. I’m sure I am more romantic now than he was when he got married. Please read that sentence again. I used the word “WAS!” He is one of the most romantic men I have seen.
“But you still owe me Dubai,” she added after we had both agreed that Mole was the best destination for our journey to the moon.
“What do you want in Dubai?” I asked.
There is no nightlife in the heart of wildlife so it’s good to go with your wife. We had to retire bed. Because of the rains early that day, the night was exceptionally cold. Serwaa held me tightly as we walked through the dimly lit pavement to our room. She was both cold and frightened. And I liked the warmth.
After all, it was our honeymoon. And a night in Mole puts one in the right mood.
The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni is a Senior Broadcast Journalist with Joy 99.7FM. His email address is [email protected]
Below are some scenes from Mole National Park captured by the lenses of Manasseh Azure Awuni.
Mole National park has a conference centre for meetings and conferences
The view from the Mole Motel
Some tourists at the Mole Motel
The following photographs are by courtesy of Zaina Lodge
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