When in Ghana: Hippopotamuses

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Photo credit: Cheryl Benton

Editor’s Note: Sheryl Kayne will be one of the panelists at our Renewal Summit on a panel titled “Building Your Thrill List: Travel and Food Experiences.”

Lately I have been receiving requests for more Immersion Travel possibilities around the world. I am most happy to oblige readers’ requests. I particularly like to encourage travelers to participate where you travel and give back however you can. Here’s a trip for the adventurous who do not mind roughing it a bit to see and experience some miraculous sights.

The Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary (WCHS) is a community-based conservation project, created by local chiefs in 1999, to protect and preserve the wildlife and environment within a 40km stretch of the Black Volta River, home to one of the two remaining hippopotamus populations in Ghana. It is a fascinating place.

Baby hippos are born underwater weighing 55 to 110 pounds and about 4 feet long. They must push through to the surface for their first breaths. The third largest land animal after the elephant and white rhinoceros, hippos are herbivores and semi-aquatic, relaxing in the river by day and grazing at night.

Plan to visit during the November to May dry season and plan to stay for a few days to enjoy both wildlife viewing and immersion in the local tribal life and customs. Visit a Lobi compound to learn about their traditions and way of life and drink the local beer while listening to old stories from the headmen and enjoying the xylophone. Choose between indoor sleeping arrangement with a toilet outside the room and a bucket shower for 10 cedis ($2.34) per person per night; or at the hippo hide, a platform in the jungle where you sleep on a mattress under a mosquito net where you might see the hippos grazing at night; or stay with a local family by special arrangement. I suggest that you plan to do both if possible.

There’s nothing quite like sleeping out under the stars. I also always find it worthwhile to stay with locals and live how they live. If you will be doing that, ask if there are certain foods or supplies they might need you to bring and how many children are in the family. I like to bring each child a small gift if possible. I usually pick age appropriate universal toys, such as yo-yos, jacks, and pickup sticks.

Bring your own supplies and food, including enough for your local guide. There is no electricity, but there are LED lanterns available. Ask your guide for the sunrise tour to greet the morning with the cacophonous sound and sight of more than 250 bird species including Violet Turacos, Kingfishers, Hornbills, Cattle Egrets, and Venecious Doves waking up in the bush. Make sure you have plenty of batteries for your cameras and charge up everything electronic before going out into the wild with the hippos. Get the details.


  • Sheryl Kayne is a writer, editor, educator, and motivational speaker. She is the author of travel guidebooks. Immersion Travel USA: The Best & Most Meaningful Volunteering, Living & Learning Excursions was awarded The Society of American Travel Writers Foundation’s Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Best Travel Guidebook 2009 and Volunteer Vacations Across America was named on Amazon’s list of best new travel books 2010. Kayne travels extensively and works and volunteers where she visits. She was the writer-in-residence at the Everglades National Park, Homestead, Fla. and a writing fellow at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, N.M. She has appeared on NPR, CNN, CBN, ABC Weekend Evening News, Lifetime Television Network, and MTV, among others. Visit Sheryl at: www.sherylkayne.com/

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