Thursday, 9 July 2015

Elmina, West Africa’s Oldest Slave Post……

Built by the Portuguese in 1482, Elmina is the oldest European Building in Sub-Saharan Africa, though its infamy is much more noted as the most famous Slave Port on the Gulf of Guinea, located just west along the coast from Cape Coast as you drive towards Takoradi.

I paid a visit here (another UNESCO World Heritage Site) and was given a guided tour which gave the long and (let’s be honest sad) history of this castle.

St. George’s Castle was used for almost 200 years as a key Trading Post from Africa to the New World, and in its time was governed by the Portuguese, Dutch and also the British prior to Ghana’s Independence in 1957, when it became a Police Training Centre.

A walk into the Dungeons has a very foreboding feel, a real sense of a place where the walls could tell stories, some 500 slaves at a time were crammed in here, and you can feel the humidity and can only imagine the smell and heat in these small spaces in those dark days. Many died here long before they ever got close to the boats and were simply thrown into the sea. 

Slave traders brought slaves to Elmina from as far away as modern day Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Burkina Faso for “export”.

In the Inner courtyard, a cannonball was used to tie up misbehaving slaves in the open sun and without water, others were taken to a cell in another part of the castle where they were left to die of starvation, and of course the lucky ones eventually got taken the short walk to the “Door of No Return”, where they were taken to waiting ships to commence their journey to the cotton fields in the New World of the Caribbean and the America's.

Door of No Return
The Tour Guide provides an excellent and very honest narrative of the Castle and its Slave trade history, and also goes on to show the soldiers quarters and also the small school that was established at Elmina, for the children that were born there of colonial parentage.

An eye opening visit and well worth doing, even if it makes you feel upset, its provides a good understanding of the heritage of Africa and indeed further afield.

Isolation Cell

Sunday, 5 July 2015

A Walk in the Rainforest at Kakum National Park, Ghana….

An early morning start from Accra, heading west along the coast towards the city of Cape Coast, a long drive, though in reality, only made long as the roads in Ghana also double up as Market’s in small towns and major junctions, which slows down the traffic significantly. After four hours driving, we turn north from the city of Cape Coast and head to Kakum National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (

Kakum is a tropical rainforest, with a very famous suspended canopy walkway, that allows you to walk among the treetops at a level of 40m above the ground.

The greatest sensation you get here is the sounds of the forest, its alive below you as you walk along the rope bridges, monkeys , birds, a cacophony of sound all around, and of course the humidity hits you also.

Some pictures here to show you canopy walk, a super trip and a great experience.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Jamestown, Accra....

The origins of old Accra I was told is the area known as Jamestown which sits right by the Ocean in a little Fishing Village, not far from the bustling shopping area of Osu, so I took myself down there on a sunny Saturday morning in late February last, in fact it was much more than sunny, it was seriously hot and humid.

Stephen is a driver I have used a number of times here in Accra, a native of the city and a really helpful and friendly man. We arrived at the Old Lighthouse at Jamestown and there was met by a local “tour guide” Godfrey, who is also in fact a teacher in the local school for children orphaned by fishermen lost at sea.

We took a walk down to the shore where there were traditional fishing boats cut from trunks of trees,
and carved with motifs, the waterfront doubling up as an open workshop for building boats.

Jamestown is a shanty town of approximately 5000 people fitting in a small triangle of land surrounded by the sea of two sides and the old Fort on the other side, its actually hard to believe that so many people live in such a small space.

As we walked through the narrow lanes, it was clear how simple these people lived, the community is essentially supported by the sea, the men, Godfrey explained to me go out to sea as far as Ivory Coast to the west and Togo and Benin to the east to fish in these simple craft, so can be absent fathers for long periods, and sadly some do get lost to the Atlantic on these trips, thus the schools for children who have lost one or both parents.

Jamestown is alive and active on this Saturday morning, Fishermen are fixing nets, boys are swimming in the sea and screaming with delight, fish are laid out to dry and being smoked over barrels and everywhere there is chatter, music and football being played. It’s a real community here, and though there is poverty, it’s also a way of life , as they’ve existed here while Accra has grown to become one of the fastest growing cities in West Africa around them. It’s a fascinating place.

We finished the tour with a visit to the school that Godfrey teaches in and also a quick visit to the Fort where slaves were once held and sold to the new world and where Ghana’s founding president Kwame Nkrumah was once held, and we finish with a climb up the lighthouse accompanied by another local named “Nice One”, yes that’s really his name….. 

Jamestown Lighthouse, Accra, Ghana

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

And then Africa…….

I write this from my new Apartment on the 7th floor of an Residential Block in the Msasani Area of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I’ve been on a bit of a journey over the past six months that has brought me from the Middle East to East Africa via West Africa.

In that time, I’ve rather neglected “Sun Tan”, primarily, as I have gone through an extremely busy time and moved twice in that period to two new countries, Ghana and Tanzania, and I guess I also felt it was a time when I was either extremely busy or just not in the right frame of mind to sit and write.

So I’ll leave you with this great photo of Kilimanjaro from my seat on the flight from Nairobi last week and this other image of a “Bajaj”, a preferred form of transport in Dar es Salaam and I’ll look forward to posting a few more pieces very soon……