Ultimate Guide to Visiting Mole National Park in Northern Ghana

This video includes information from visits to Mole National park in 2003, 2019 and 2023.

To watch the Full Walking Safari Experience: https://youtu.be/xVrlz_PLmFY

This link goes to a full written post on our experience at Mole National Park in 2019.

Getting to Mole National Park

Most people will fly into Ghana’s northern capital of Tamale. Tamale is a growing city that is worth a few days exploration itself (see links below for fun stuff to do in Tamale). However if you’re short on time, you may want to head straight for Mole National Park.

Prices given are estimates as of August 2023. ghc=Ghanaian cedis

From the airport, a taxi to Tamale’s city center area is about 100ghc ($9usd). To go all the way to Mole National Park is 400ghc PLUS cost of fuel (possibly another 400-500ghc)

I’ll mention this because I saw it in someone else’s video about Mole Park. You DON’T need a special car, like a 4×4, to make the drive. The entire way is nicely paved. UNLESS you’re renting a car and plan to self-drive in Mole National Park – then you would want a 4×4. This is allowed, but you must take a ranger with you.

There was a time the only road out to Mole was dirt, and very bumpy, but that’s not the case anymore.

If you’re trying to save money you can get on a public bus, or a tro-tro, once you’re in Tamale. These are crowded and fun, adventurous rides. You will want to get off at Larabanga (where you can see the mud and stick mosque and the Mystic Stone I mention in the video). A taxi from Larabanga into Mole National Park is about 100 ghc.

You can contact my friend Abdullah (+233 024 051 9181) on WhatsApp. He’s a reliable and awesome tour guide and can provide any of these services, more tours into the Northern Region and excellent travel advice. Let him know that Trina sent you.

Once you’re in Tamale, here are a couple of videos to tantalize you into staying for a few days and exploring the town. The people here are awesome and will make you feel very welcome.

Best Things to Do in Tamale, Ghana

A Fun Day at the National Cultural Center in Tamale, Ghana

Video Transcript

Visiting Mole National Park

Welcome everyone. I am so glad you are here today because we are going to talk about Mole National Park.

Okay, so Mole National Park is the biggest tourist attraction in Northern Ghana, hands down. And I am not saying that just because it’s more than 1800 square miles of unspoiled, barely touched natural savanna landscape. It’s got all sorts of animals, all sorts of plants, and the big attraction, of course, are the elephants.

The cool thing is that you get to do, if you want, you can do a walking safari.

Most safari experiences in Africa do not allow you to get out of the truck and go walking around. I know there’s a couple here and there, but really it’s a very rare thing to be able to do a walking safari.

And of course, that makes sense because they don’t want you getting eaten by a lion or beat up by an ostrich. And so it makes sense.

But Mole doesn’t actually have any big predators. Sometimes you’ll hear a ranger tell a story of, oh yeah, I saw a leopard. And then you find out, yeah, it was somewhere really deep in the park, like five or 10 years ago. So there might be leopards in the park, but no one ever sees them.

So they don’t have any big predators. So you get to do this cool walking safari. So I’m going to take you through everything there from the walking safari to the driving safaris to why it’s good to stay at the motel to the really cool side trip. Larabanga and all the things you should do. So this is everything you need to know about Mole National Park.

Mole Park: Then vs Now

Okay, so I mentioned the elephants and yes, they are the stars of Mole National Park and I will get to them. But I will tell you that I have been to Mole National Park three times over a 20 year span. And I’m telling you this because I want to give you just a little bit of history.

My first time going to Mole National Park was in 2003. The town was pretty small when I was here the first time. And I mentioned that because the only bus to get to Mole was a public bus. And I didn’t entirely understand what that meant.

And it meant that I got a seat. I got a little ticket with a little number on it. And so that was my seat. And all it was, was an old school bus where they were squishing three people into a seat. But then what I didn’t understand about it being a public bus was that also meant they were going to cram people into the aisles.

And then all the way up to Mole, which at the time was a dirt road, a really bumpy dirt road, but we would stop every 20 minutes and then they’d let people off at that village. But not only did they let people off, but then they had to unpack the stuff and give them their stuff.

And then everyone got back on and it was this long, torturous bus ride to get out to Mole. I finally get out there, it’s after dark, and the only people left on the bus are people that work there.

And it turned out that I was actually the only guest there at the time.

When I first went, you actually had to be sort of a rugged traveler just to get to Mole National Park. Now it’s not like that anymore, don’t worry, it is all paved road. When I went by private car, it was actually just a little bit over two hours, and there was like one little quarter mile stretch of road that was being worked on.

Other than that, the road was beautiful and perfect and it’s all in good shape. So when you go now, it is a whole lot easier.

Places to Stay in Mole National Park

Let me tell you a little bit about Mole Motel. There are two places to stay that are within the park and the easiest and cheapest one is Mole Motel.

Now for what I usually like to pay for a hotel, it’s actually kind of expensive. The prices on the rooms range at the current exchange rate from about… $38 to $75 and the $75 are the chalets that actually overlook the watering hole. You literally have a little balcony and you’re overlooking the watering hole. You’re not hanging over the edge or anything, but you’re overlooking the watering hole where the animals gather.

There is however, a lookout area that you can watch a viewpoint that you can do the same thing from if you don’t spring for the chalet. It’s just that when you have it first thing in the morning, you can go out and see what the animals are doing.

Mole Motel is not fancy, but it’s comfortable.

I was a bad travel vlogger and I forgot to get pictures of the inside of the room at Mole Motel. Let me just tell you, they are perfectly fine rooms. They could use a little more lighting for my taste, but other than that, they are perfectly nice. Sorry, I forgot the pictures.

So there are some really good reasons to stay at Mole Motel. or Zaina Lodge.

I’m actually not sure what goes on at Zaina Lodge and I’ll tell you why in a minute. But Mole Motel, a lot of animals come up around the motel and you get to have a lot of interesting close encounters, not dangerous encounters, with animals just by walking around the hotel grounds. And that’s why I didn’t mind paying a little more than I usually pay for a hotel in Ghana.

Zaina Lodge, on the other hand, is a luxury experience. And… their rooms are $365 to $410 a night. Now that includes food. That includes food. The $410 includes a safari drive as well, but that’s definitely out of my price range.

And that’s why I don’t know how many interactions they have over there. I know that they, I saw a video where it mentioned that people had to get an escort to go from their room to like the lodge because they wanted to avoid unpleasant interactions.

It’s not like that at all at Mole Motel. Mole Motel is a little more Wild West. And I’ll tell you some of that when I get to talking about the different animals, the individual animals, I’ll tell you how they interact at the hotel.

The Walking Safari at Mole National Park

You really should start your trip with the walking safari. Yes, it’s a short walk over to the ranger station where you have to be at seven in the morning. It is worth it.

You want to take the morning safari walk because otherwise it can just get really hot. You want to be out there in the cool morning.

Plus it’s a lot easier to spot elephants in the morning almost any time of year.

The walking safari truly is a pretty hefty nature walk. Because you will go tromping through areas that don’t have a path. They follow the animals. If they get word that the elephants are over there or that there’s, you know, waterbuck over there, they will take you to them.

They have a rough path that they kind of follow, but they definitely will take you completely off-roading if that’s the way that makes sense to follow the animals.

And I will say personally, I had two spots that I needed help in the safari walk. There wasn’t a huge amount of help. I just needed a little bit of help.

And if you want to watch the entire safari walk experience, I have it on my second channel. I’ll put a link in the description, but my entire safari walk experience is in there from beginning to end.

Okay. So as I say, it’s a, it’s a hefty nature walk. And the walk lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. And you get to see, I mean, as I say, the chances of seeing elephants fairly up close while you’re walking is really good that early in the morning.

And you could see monkeys, you can see baboons, you can see, they have like three different kinds of antelope there. And they are just, you know, and there’s birds everywhere.

And on the walk, if you have a good guide, they will tell you about the various plants and the different things that they can do.

As our ranger mentioned at the beginning of the walk, is you have to see the safari as the whole thing. It’s not just the elephants, it’s not just the animals.

So you get to go tromping through nature and looking, and everyone’s watching, and it’s like, oh, look over there, oh, look over there.

And then, like on one of the walks, the one in 2019, I got to see a termite mound. The termite mound was like eight feet tall. It was huge, and it’s just amazing that it was that big. And there’s a natural salt lick where the animals come and it’s like a natural rock salt lick thing and as I say and he was explaining the plants but as I say the cool thing is spotting all the animals as you go.

The trickiest part, well, the cool thing is at the end you get to the watering hole. Okay, I think they all end at the watering hole and almost always they have it timed and they kind of know when the elephants are going to be there and you get to see the elephants playing at the watering hole.

Sometimes they’re really calm and sometimes they’re playing and sometimes they’re mating. At least that’s what it looked like in the water. And so you get to kind of end with the elephants at the watering hole. So it’s like this grand finale. Even if you didn’t see elephants on your walk while you were getting there, you were probably going to see them at the watering hole.

The tricky part comes when you have to finish because Mole Motel starts up here and everything is down from it. It’s on like an escarpment and everything is down from it, which means you’ve got to go back up.

And that watering hole is right below the motel. So you basically have to go up this fairly steep, it’s not like a cliff, not like a rock climbers cliff or anything, but it’s a fairly steep climb to get up there.

And that’s one of the points where I needed a little help because after an hour and a half of tromping through nature, my legs were tired. I was done up. and I knew, I told him right off the bat I was going to need help with that.

And so just be aware of that. You know, take water with you, stay hydrated. But if you need help, tell them that, you know, if you’re a good, strong, healthy young person, you’re not going to have any troubles and you’re going to go up the hill. And if you need help, ask for help. There is no problem with that.

But yeah, the walking safaris are really cool because you’re just right out there. And even though these are paths that have been used, they’re not so well trodden and they’re not paved and they’re not, there’s no manmade things involved here. It’s, it is all truly nature.

And that’s the cool part about Mole is there is nothing put on here. There are no animals that are habituated or they haven’t been imported because someone wanted to have giraffes at their private reserve. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Tim and I did a safari in Senegal at Reserve de Bandia. And they brought in some animals. And the reserve was laid out so that you kind of were guaranteed some good viewing of just about anything and everything. And that was fine.

Mole isn’t like that. Mole is completely natural. There are just the parts that they’ve carved out for the motel and the ranger station and the crew, the staff quarters. And that’s kind of as intrusive as it gets, as I say, and it’s like 1800 square miles. So it’s just this tiny piece where humans have just intruded a little bit and animals, the animals have run to the place for the most part.

The Driving Safari at Mole National Park

After the morning walking safari and you get a little time to recover. There is a late morning driving safari, but I don’t think most people opt for that. I think most people wait till the afternoon and it’s around three or three thirty that you have to be over at the ranger station and then they split the cost of the safari car between everyone who wants to go. I think it’s around forty dollars for two hours.

This has to be one of the most affordable safaris you will ever find and then you pay the guide fee as a little separate and it’s still not that much.

But so they split it up between everyone who wants to go and if you’re the only people want to go Then you have to pay the whole thing but hopefully you’ll find other people to go with you and then they basically go driving around which gets you further out than the walking safari allows.

You don’t get out of the car when you’re doing the driving safari not because it’s any more dangerous, it’s just there’s no purpose in it. The way the road is and the distance the animals are from the road You’re not going to see anything any better by getting out of the car to be really honest with you.

But the driving safari is cool because you get to go further out and you’ll see whole herds of antelope. And you might have seen that on your walking safari. That’s entirely possible, but you might see a whole herd of antelope.

Or even cooler is kind of they hear you coming and sometimes they take off and they’ll go leaping across the road. I mean these little antelope that just aren’t that big. I mean they’re not that big, but they just go spring and it goes across the road.

I mean watching the antelope jump is just amazing. You might think, oh, that’s an antelope. It’s boring. No, you watch them in motion and they are amazing.

The kob and the bushback are the most common that you’ll see on any of the safaris. The bushback has white markings on it.

But then when you’re on the driving safari, you might see the waterbuck, and they’re like a little bit bigger and a little bolder. And they’re just really cool.

Not to mention you can see baboons, you can see the green monkeys. There’s actually some red monkeys.

When I was there in 2003, they had just introduced a red monkey and her babies and the baboon troop had actually accepted them and taken them in. They were like refugees from a bad situation kind of thing. And now I understand, we didn’t see them this time. I understand that the red monkey population there is now, I think a couple dozen or more, but it’s nice to hear that the red monkeys are succeeding and the fact that the baboon troop took him in.

Actually, that was really cool, I gotta tell you this.

My first time in 2003, I was walking with the guide and we ended up walking right along with the baboon troop.

Okay, and you know, if you’ve seen the omen, that’s a little scary. But no, we were walking right along with the baboon troop and they just allowed us in.

Of course, then in 2019, the guide, the ranger, referred to the baboons as criminals, and he was very right about that, and I have a story about that one too.

Animal Hijinks at Mole Motel

One of the nice things about Mole Motel is it has a nice outdoor area where they have a pool if you do want to swim, but even beyond that is this wonderful gorgeous scenery that just looks out over the park. And it is absolutely gorgeous.

But where it starts to get really interesting is when the various animals start showing up.

Warthog Encounters at Mole Motel

So warthogs. I can almost guarantee you are going to see warthogs on your safaris. They are… just around everywhere. In fact, you might see the warthogs going through the trash at the ranger station. You might see the warthog on the lawn in front of your hotel room. And I say that because that’s when this little interaction happened. I saw the warthog from inside the room and I went out to try and get some footage of it.

Oh, come here. I’m happy to say hi. I’m not going to chase you away.

Even if you encountered one close up, you really don’t have to worry about it. Don’t be stupid about it. Don’t pick on it. Don’t do things to agitate it. But the warthogs, because they interact up near the things, they get chased off a little. You know, hey, go away. Stop knocking over trash cans. And but you don’t have to worry about encountering a warthog. And actually, they’re really cool up close.

Baboons – The Criminals of Mole National Park

And then you have the baboons.

The baboons are cool and that they’re entertaining. And they too will go through the trash cans at the ranger station or anywhere they can.

But they will also, they will also come right up into the hotel area and do things like this. You could almost see him watching them and calculating, are they gonna chase me off or am I gonna get a chance to do this?

And the other thing that they always forget to tell you or they neglect to tell you, when you check in, they should be telling everyone this is you need to lock your doors, even if you are inside the room, because the baboons will come around and test the doorknobs.

I mean, I am not kidding. They will test the door locks. And if it’s unlocked, they will let themselves in and start looking for snacks.

That actually happened to us.

When I was out on the walking safari, this is in 2019, when I was out on the walking safari, Tim stayed asleep in the room because there was no way he could do the walking safari. He was mostly blind and there was no way he could do it.

So he’s sleeping and because I had the key, I hadn’t locked the door. And so a baboon came in, it was a female baboon. She came in and we had snacks, of course. You always have snacks when you travel, right? And she found some cookies.

She pulled the snack bag down. And then she had a pack of cookies and she had opened them like she had sliced it with her claw, her nail. And she must’ve just been sitting there eating them.

And at some point, someone figured out that she was in there and they came in and chased her out.

Tim woke up groggily and he thought like, someone from the cleaning crew was there and that they had their dog with them.

But as I say, he was mostly blind and just waking up. And so that’s what he thought of the baboon.

And then I came back from the walking safari and I’m like, what’s this mess? You know, and I’m thinking that he spilled stuff and didn’t pick it up or something like that. And then he told me the story of the baboon that came in and stole our cookies.

And the thing is, as I said, we found the pack that she had opened and she had opened it really neatly.

I think she was just sitting there and having, wishing she had some tea, you know?

So the baboons will break into your room and you might think it’s cute, but it’s actually, I wouldn’t want to have that happen if possible.

The female was probably easy to chase out in that. But if you got like an adolescent male, they might get a little aggressive. And because they do have, you know, sharp, I don’t know if their nails or claws or whatever, and they do have teeth, they do have significant teeth.

I wouldn’t want to have to chase a baboon away if I didn’t have to, let’s put it that way.

So definitely if you go to Mole Motel, lock your doors even if you’re in the room. And you will hear, sometimes you’ll hear someone at the door and you’ll say, who’s there? Who’s there? And no one will answer. It’s the baboons checking.

And at least in our room, you could actually see them. If you went into the bathroom, you could see who was at the door.

And we definitely saw a few times. that there were baboons at the door trying to get in.

So that’s why the ranger that we had in 2019 called the baboons criminals.

Elephants Visiting Mole Motel

Okay, so now for the elephants. I’ve already shown you the elephants that you might see on your walk and you see them at the watering hole.

But this is another thing where being at the motel has its surprises.

I was sitting relaxing after breakfast and someone said, oh, there’s an elephant near the motel. Off the breakfast area, there was a bank of rooms, like four or five rooms over that way.

So I went over to see and sure enough, there was an elephant coming up out of the brush. So I was looking and they were over in the distance away.

But I went over to where those rooms were because there was a sturdy, sturdy railing. And I figured if I’m behind the railing, I’m safe. And it was still at least 30 meters to the elephant.

But then two more elephants came up. And they all just sat there eating. And I was filming and filming and filming. And they didn’t mind one bit.

In fact, one of the rooms behind me, the air conditioner turned on. And I’m like, oh, someone’s in there. And they don’t even know they have elephants in their backyard.

So I knocked on the door, because that’s actually the back door for their rooms. And I knocked on the door and said, hey, you got elephants back here. And they’re like, what are you, what’s going on?

And I was like, you got elephants. And they came out and did elephant selfies and, and all that thing.

And yeah. And I followed them around to the other side just to see. And then, and then they moseyed on.

But see, that’s the thing. The animals know this is their space. They know they’re protected. They know. that no human is going to hurt them. So they act, for them, they act completely naturally. They do what they wanna do.

The Mole elephants have a very good reputation for not being really aggressive.

It doesn’t mean some can’t get a little cantankerous now and then. In fact, the ones you see up by the motel are always the males. The females are off in another area and they avoid people.

And also you’ll never see the real babies. You’ll sometimes see like. smaller elephants that I’m sure are like adolescents. But you’ll never see the small babies because they’re with the mothers and the mothers pretty much only allow the guys to come around when it’s time to mate.

Other Overnight and Safari Options at Mole National Park

Oh, and I should tell you, there are options for camping. If you want to camp, they have a campsite and you can actually stay overnight in a place where they have an observation deck for hippos.

I don’t know if you really get to see the hippos or if it’s more about hearing them, but they’re more active at night and you get to experience hippos. If you want to go sleep in a tree in the jungle, you can arrange that. You will need some camping gear for that one, so be aware of that.

If you want to do some drive deeper in the park and go further, you can. You just have to be willing to pay for it and you need to arrange it with the rangers.

So besides the things I’ve told you about here, which are the most common ones, so what pretty much everyone does. There are even more options for going deeper and seeing more of the park and more animals if you want to take them.

By the way, I do have a full blog post right up on our 2019 Mole visit on the website, which I’ll put a link in the description if you want to take a look at that.

Larabanga Mosque and the Mystic Stone

The other thing you want to do when you go to Mole National Park is leave yourself a couple of hours to do the tour at Larabanga.

Larabanga is the town that is sort of the main town on the main road before you go off to get to the Mule National Park entrance.

Larabanga’s two sites are the Mud and Stick Mosque and the Mystic Stone.

It doesn’t matter which order you see them in, but their stories do tie together so you want to see them both.

The mosque is actually built in a Sudanese style. And so you don’t see a whole bunch of them in this area. Okay? So it is a unique construction in the first place. And no, unless you are Muslim, you are not going to be allowed inside. So you take all your pictures from the outside.

But the guides here will enlighten you as to the whole story of the mosque, how it was founded, how the guy who found it had this vision and he threw a spear and it… landed in the spot where the mosque was supposed to be and there’s a whole legend behind it.

And then you go over to the Mystic Stone.

My memories of the Mystic Stone are kind of cool because when I first went there, there was no wall around it. Okay, it was just the stone and it was on this pillar, even the pillar they’ve kind of reinforced now just for safety, and they’ve built a thing around it.

But the Mystic Stone is, if I’m not mistaken, it’s where the guys threw I have to review my notes, but it’s where the guy threw the spear from.

And it has this whole legend of, I think it was the British came through and they wanted to put a road in and they moved the stone out of the way and the next day it was back. And they moved it further away and the next day it came back. And it basically scared the crap out of everybody. And so they built the road in a whole other place.

Okay, that’s the outline of the story, but the storytellers definitely tell it much better.

And so you get this. great legend of these two places.

And one of the really fun things when you travel in Africa is almost everything has a story. And there’s almost always people that are just storytellers waiting to tell you the story. And yes, you should tip them. And yes, there’s a small fee for going in to see the things. A few dollars here and a few dollars there. It’s well worth it to get the story told to you and to be able to just go see these really cool sites.

One to two hours in Larabanga and it is definitely a side trip you should do if you’re at Mole National Park because it’s right there and it’s really cool and you are not going to find it anywhere else.

So from awesome trekking safaris to criminal baboons and cool elephants and legendary mud and stick mosques and mystic stones, this is the kind of experience you can expect when you visit Mole National Park. I hope you’ve enjoyed the video and I really hope you when you get there and go for yourself because I hope you do and I will see you next time.

Team Hazard

Old, fat and disabled and traveling the world anyway. Join Trina and Tim as they wander around the planet bringing you honest stories about the people and places they encounter.

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