Studded with sandy palm-shaded beaches and jungle-fringed aquamarine lagoons, Ghana's long tropical coastline, though far from being a mainstream resort area, is arguably its biggest draw card for independent travellers. Inland of the coast, Ghana sets out its credentials as a dream destination for ecologically-minded tourists, with a range of habitats embracing dense rainforests in the south, savannah in the centre, hiker-friendly mountains dotted with dramatic waterfalls in the east, and relatively arid sub-Sahelian plains in the far north.
Many of Ghana's individual national parks and game reserves are rather small compared to some other African countries, but the network is extensive and ecologically varied. The expansive savanna of the ever-popular Mole National Park, in the far north, is still home to elephants, a variety of antelope, and small numbers of lion, spotted hyena and other predators.
By contrast, the forested Kakum National Park and Ankasa Resource Reserve, both within day tripping distance of the coastal resorts, support half a dozen species of tree-loving primates, along with other forest dwellers such as the massive bongo antelope and myriad butterflies. Colourful tropical birds are particularly numerous in Ghana's forests, but are well represented in most other habitats too, with more than 750 bird species recorded in total.
Community ecotourism projects protected sacred or taboo creatures play an important role in conservation as well as in offering tourists an opportunity to see wildlife at close quarters. Most famous perhaps are the crocodile ponds at Paga, where these fearsome ragged-toothed giant reptiles are so habituated and used to reverence that they can be touch as they lie next to the water mouths agape. Also very popular are the community monkey sanctuaries at Boabeng-Fiema and Tafi Atome.
For history buffs, the Ghanaian coast has been the site of 42 forts and castles built by various Europeans powers from the 16th to 19th centuries. Collectively inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these old buildings are in varying states of habitation - some are now ruinous, others almost entirely vanished, but many remain fully intact, most notably Elmina and Cape Coast Castles on the coast west of the capital Accra.
In almost every town small or large a traditional open market evokes sounds and sights of the African bazaar. The far north is scattered with curvaceously beautiful West Sudanese style mud-and-wattle mosques, as well as adobe villages noted for their flat roofs and colourful wall paintings.
Kumasi, the ancient capital of the Ashanti Kingdon, is surrounded by active 19th century fetish shrines (like the coastal castles, protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and it remains the residence of the Asantehene (Ashanti King) who holds court at his palace every sixth Sunday - one of many colourful traditional festivals, full of pomp and pageantry, that can be can still be seen throughout the country. By contrast, the capital Accra is a forward-looking and modern coastal city, hosting one of the most vibrant restaurant and bar scenes in West Africa.