Ghana - A daytrip to the slave castles

The most brutal dungeon that kept thousands of slaves

The plane to the capital Accra was almost empty and therefore a very pleasant flight. The whole planning for the visit to Ghana was easy because the country is relatively well visited by tourists and therefore a lot of information is available on the internet.

My plan for Ghana was to spend a day in Accra and then visit the Cape Coast with the slave castles. The castles are unique and very well preserved or restored and visitable for tourists.

If one does not have too much time one wonders if it is possible to visit the major slave castles in a one day trip from Accra. There are tour operators who do this, but I wondered if this is not too stressful.

Visit the cape coast castle on a day trip from Accra? 

Better not. I asked around when I arrived in Accra and also the staff in the hotel. Basically, they all say yes, but much it would be too stressful to do this in only one day. Even too stressful for western tourist and travel behavior, which is generally too high-paced and packet anyway. However, they told me:

If you organize it perfectly in advance and spend loads of money on private transport and then run through the castle quickly, and then drive back to Accra in the dark, with tired drivers on unexposed roads, then yes, you could do that.

Then I decided to visit there by shared minibus and stay one night in Cape Coast. Which was very easy and pleasant, and in addition, very cheap. So basically said it was 24 hours trip to the Cape Coast and surroundings.

Day 1 - Arriving in Accra

I landed at 10pm. SIM cards for data were available at the airport for $1. Was picked up directly by the hotel staff. After asking all the questions and stressed the great patience of the staff, I was prepared for tomorrow to walk Accra.

Ghana has very nice beaches and the crime rate is very low compared to its neighbor Ivory Coast. This makes it a suitable country for masses of people who want to travel to West Africa.

Map of Accra:
Things to see in Accra

Day 2 - Visiting Accra in one Day

One day in Accra. After breakfast, I started Google Maps to check the pins that I planned to visit. My hotel was next to Oxford street and therefore most central to Accra.

There are not too many sights here in Accra, but by African standards it's OK. One day in Accra was not stressful, especially because the transport was very comfortable. Also taking photos is no problem here, unlike in their neighbor Burkina Faso.

From A to B and C and D and... with Uber

Uber is almost free by western standards. Quite a few kilometers can be driven for 1$. However, I noticed that the payment with a credit card was not desired by any of the many Uber drivers and therefore it only worked with cash. So if I waved an Uber with cash, the drivers came within a few seconds.

Compared to conventional taxi drivers, Uber was extremely! cheap. While waiting for Uber, many other normal taxi drivers have asked me how much I pay for Uber and I felt a little sorry when I showed them what low price Uber demands.

Things to see in one day in Accra

I don't know why but before planning for Accra, I had the feeling that Accra is a city with many things to see, a somehow famous city. There are indeed some things to see, although I thought there was more than the following.

Walk along the "Oxford Street"

As my hotel was just around the corner I walked this street from north to south. It was a great place to get started (and get good forex exchange rates with cash).

It was hot already in the morning and a long road, but I enjoyed seeing the mix of modern buildings and the local street vendors and communities and goats. Everyone (including police) is friendly and respectfully, not a problem at all.

Oxford street is my base camp for my visit in Accra
It's full of shops, banks. For sale in Accra Oxford StreetThere are some nice restaurants and hotels on this street.The centre of tourism with some traditional Ghana housesOsu Eben-ezer Presbyterian ChurchOsu oxford street is expensive. Be warned it’s an expensive part of town.

See the impressive "Black Star Gate"

Nice is that big triumphal arch at the Independence Square with a Ghanaian star on it.

There were some guards trying to collect the entrance fee. However, the gate and the complex were free for everybody including the white tourist. That day was a public holiday and on the square a huge church service taking place, with dozens of white dressed Ghania women and men singing with full power some church songs.

The square was right beside the beach.

Symbol representing the freeing of Ghana from british colonisation
Entrance door do the Black Star StadiumThe beach in the background makes the Independence square even nicerPeople against waste is happening even in GhanaThe independence square. Normally used for national events since it's an important place for Ghana.At the independence square people sing with full powerThey can sing very loud at the independence square

Interesting building in the "Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park"

This thing is made for an important Ghanian. The park is nice. Behind the tower is the museum. The museum consists of a single room, with photos and a few rotten pieces of furniture. In the corner a coffin wrapped in plastic foil. In the "souvenir" shop are yellowed books and some other things (the seller dozed on the floor and just lifted his head when I greeted him...).

Wedding at the memorial park in Ghana
This is a beautiful park with fountainsVery interesting and informative.Sven in GhanaThey beheaded the statue because it was too tallThe president is burried hereKwame Nkrumah Park celebrates the life and achievements of Ghana's first president.

African people-watching in the "Moccala Market"

Next to the Memorial park was this market. It was loud there but unique, here beats Ghana's heart. It's not a tourist market but safe to walk around. Although it might be a bit too much hassle for TUI or Neckermann tourists.

I went to one of the higher floors of the buildings along the streets to watch the scenery from above. And it was fun to watch African people doing their business.

I didn't find any proper restaurant in the market area and continued walking to the north, where I found a busy but good fast food restaurant called Champion Dishes, that seems to have proper food for "Europeans".

Everyday its busy at the heartbeat market of Accra
Very old sewing machines were sold for real. Thats the latest shit in Ghana.At the Moccala Market its busy with many people.Feeling the pulse of Africa is best done in a market like Accra Moccala Market.Accra busiest market is closes on SundaysAccra has a busy market and its great to watch people in their habitatLove it or hate it. The typical black African markets, like the on in Accra.

With the Uber to "Jamestown Lighthouse"

Directly from Champion Dishes, another Uber brought me down to Jamestown.

The driver didn't recommend me going there, because people are notorious for not being the friendliest and finest people of Accra and that they don't like visitors flocking in and walk through their neighborhoods.
Indeed, when passing the lighthouse and walking towards the beach to the fishermen settlement by the sea, some strange characters told me that it's not possible to walk to the beach without a guide. I friendly declined but it didn't work.

You must have a guide to continue walking to the beach!

I must have a "guardian" to continue walking? The guy was a bit stressful and I didn't want my afternoon getting annoyed by a so-called guardian, so I took a look from where I was and continued walking the other direction.
It’s a fishing village And it’s one of the poorer towns.
When is the lighthouse open? NeverOne in the road of JamestownJamestown is not the friendliest part of GhanaIn Jamestown the poor people of Accra are livingBuildings in Jamestown beside the Lighthouse are colonialJamestown is full of fishing people but they dont like visitors

In Korle Gonno, watch the street art festival "Chale Wote Street Art Festival" 

On the way to the lighthouse in Jamestown, I saw many people with costumes or preparing for it and artists walking around with artifacts. Found out that this weekend is the Chale Wote Street Art Festival, which takes place every year.

It was located around the area in Jamestown in different places. I went to Korle Gonno which is a short ride from Jamestown and there was one whole street dedicated to these artists and painters. It was like a carnival with lots of African dances. Unfortunately, I arrived on time in the afternoon which was a break and so didn't see much of it.

One festival is dedicated only for art and music
 People who perform art, music, dance and performance out into the streetsRight on the street to Korgle GonnoFrom Korle Gonna the lighthouse is visible too

Day 3 - The Cape Coast and the Slave Dungeons

At breakfast I tried to get an Uber bringing me directly to the Cape Coast, so I requested and also one accepted, but when he arrived and asked where exactly I wanted to go he just replied with a smile:

Cape Coast? Are you a crazy white man? No Uber will take you there, because in Cape Coast is no Uber.

He thought I put the wrong location on the request. So instead, he brought me to the taxi stand called "Kaneshie Lorry Station" (Ford minibus station). Many huge Ford minibusses serve as common public buses. From there the Ford minibusses go to Cape Coast. However, it can take up to 1 hour until these 9-seats were filled, but they even had A/C and the ride only was about 5 Euro.

Once filled it starts and takes two hours to the Cape Coast.

Cape Coast is no big city but also not a rundown town. It had a few bigger hotels and restaurants for relatively cheap, but it is not really an area where I would have wanted to spend several days. Apart from the slave castles, there's not much to see.
Its two hours from Accra
Its quiet place and not many restaurantsIts calm in this area beside the CastleIn Cape Coast are many boats captured in artRiding a shared taxi in Accra. This is how it looks like.Not much to see except of the castlesSeen from the castle balcony

Cape Coast Castle

First briefly to the hotel and then with one of the very cheap taxis to the first slave castle.

The castle was massively bigger than I had expected. A white temple appears at the end of the road and the ticket counter right next to the front door. There are many slave castles in Ghana along the coast, but this was the best known of them all.

A MUST VISIT for all visitors
The place where slaves were asortedThe cape coast castle has a great locationResort in Ghana. The slave castles are 5 star restortsPointing towars the fishermenCapes Coast castle is literally at the coastSven in Ghana. Me on the Cape Coast castle

In the castle itself, a certain strange atmosphere came up quite fast, especially at the thought how thousands of black people were deposited here in the dark dungeon in the underground and were held for several weeks in such a way, without light, sleeping place or normal food.

One day their door opens and a few dozen of them are sorted out and shipped overseas. From the dungeon, there was direct access to the ramp which led to the ship. The slave castles were also called Point of No Return because once there, this was the last time on native soil. Gross stuff.

Entrance is free for slaves
The slaves had a big room all for themselvesIn the morning the sun didnt disturb the slavesUsed to protect the slaves

In the upper and above-ground parts of the castles, the slave masters and the nobility live, with beautiful rooms and rooms with a perfect view of the sea and the beach.

The french and portuguese knew how to build canons
This area was the shopping mile for the governorsHuge canons in Ghana to protect the slave masterCape Coast castle with nice view on the beachThe slave masters were welcoming new buyers in this areaLocal sits between two big canonsGreat view to the fishing village in the backyard5 star hotel in Cape CostThe architects in Cape coast were herosThrough this door the slaves were brought to the Cape Coast Castle

The coast in Ghana is called the "Gold Coast". But not for everybody as even in high season, the fishermen get no more than 100 Euro per month.

Village lives solely from fishing
Cape Coast is poor but at least the slavery has stoppedThe castle offers some great view along the Ghana CoastThe boats in ghana unique

Above the fish market is the "Fort Coenraadsburg"

Before entering the Elmina castle I went to visit the town and fish market just next to it. Above the fish market is another castle overlooking the town. This one is a Dutch castle.

Just beside the Elmina
Selling fish for everybody including touristsWith a big bucket on hear headGhana has thousands of fishing boatsThe boats in Ghana are made for fishing purposeWalking beside the slave castleFishes are sunbathing in Cape Coast

Elmina Castle

Elmina Castle is a half-hour taxi ride from Cape Coast Castle. There are many shared taxis and they cost practically nothing. Elimina Castle was also much bigger than I thought. But the castles from Cape Coast and this one are quite different, also because they belonged to different nationalities. Portuguese, English, Dutch and French were down here in Ghana and each brought their own furnishing styles and applied them to the castles.

Arriving by taxi, this is a stunning view
Its quiet and not many restaurants but only a short walk to Elmina CastleGhana locals playing with footballThe Ghanians are skilled fishermen

Compared to the Elmina Castle, the Cape Coast Castle was much bigger, but the Elmina Castle is more pleasant to walk through and also has a better view of the beach.

Also here the passage through the dungeons is quite frightening. The large dungeons and bars are all still there, including the floor hatch to feed the hundreds of slaves.

Only a few meters into the dungeon and already it was pitch dark, whereby this was only the beginning and the further it led the more gruesome it became, above all if one considers these walls have witnessed this.

Slaves standing on the courtyard, to be selected.
Point of No Return is approachingBuyers went through this front door to buy some slaves.Nice backyard with locals building boats on the back of Elmina

The misery is somehow still perceptible. Also, some stuff still sticks at the walls and other walls were scrubbed off from back then when the tired slaves were sleeping to it.

I also wondered for how long probably illnesses and epidemics at these walls still survived, and/or whether there are still sticking at the walls e.g. if there are niches in the wall with cholera.

Similar to in the Cape Coast Castle, there was a door at the darkest end of the dungeon which was opened on day X to lock the slaves onto the ships for distribution around the planet.

The horror cell of Elmina.
No one gets back to normal after put in the cell here.No light for the slaves and no bedsThe owners had to sleep by hearing their slaves shouting for food

The owners and masters living- and bedrooms in this castle were separated from the dungeons by several floors, but as there were no soundproof rooms, doors and windows and all the yowling of the slaves had to be heard day and night.

But even without hearing screams, noise and misery one wonders how the masters could fall asleep and drink their coffee the next morning with a clear conscience.

Elmina castle in Ghana is a architectural masterpiece
This is where the slaves were welcomed by the ownersWaking up in the morning with a cup of coffe right from the Elmina Castle200 years ago the slaves were collected from all over Cape Coast

Around the castle, there is room for the boat builders. They still build their quite big fishing boats like hundreds of years ago, out of pure wood and normal nails, with a hammer and saw. I've never seen anything like this before, especially not in real, or wooden shipbuilders who sail around in the sea to earn their money. Pretty interesting to watch them building the boats.

Crafting a new boat to transport slaves
Man is crafting his own boat in GhanaGhana has many boats and they build it solely of woodSlaves had to build the boats for the fishermen 150 years ago

Day 4 - Back to Accra. Nigeria I'm coming.

This afternoon was my flight to Nigeria. Same as on the way down here, I drove back to Accra with the comfortable Ford minibus. Again it took a while until the 9 places in the minibus have filled with passengers.

Two hours later I had lunch in Accra and then went with the practical and cheap Ghana Uber to the airport. The Uber taxi driver asked me where it was flying to. On my answer "Lagos" and that I do "Holiday" there, he just meant:
You going to holi-what??? Holiday??!!!! Hahaha... who the hell is going to Lagos for Holiday?

From then I knew that even down here in Africa, Lagos doesn't have a reputation for being a holiday destination and even Africans try to avoid going to Nigeria.

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