When you are staying overnight in Wechiau, you should really make sure you see the sunrise here. When you sleep on the platform, you will probably be woken up by the sun anyway, but it would be a shame if you miss the sunrise itself here.
The environment is very peaceful, and the skies are almost always cloudless: perfect ingredients for a great sunrise. The sun rises between 5 and 6 in Ghana. When I was there around 5:30. Pretty early, but really worth it!
The part of the Black Volta River close to Wechiau, is a popular spot for hippo's to come to in the dry season. In this part of the river there are a lot of shallow parts in the water in this time of the year. These shallow part can be rocks or tree brenches, and are used to rest. Especially the young hippo's need these parts to rest.
The dry season in Ghana starts in the end of November and end somewhere in May. This period (especially January and February) is the best period to go to Wechiau if you want to see the animals.
If you want to see the hippo's, it is impossible to do that from the banks of the river. Everywhere they are covered with high and rough bushes and trees, that are impossible to cross. The only -and nicest- way to spot them, is with a canoe.
A canoetrip can be arranged even when you are inside the park already: you don't need to plan it at the Information Centre in the village. Just inform the guide that accompanies you, and he will contact the "boatsman" who owns the canoe. For 40.000 cedis an hour ($ 4,-) they take you for a great trip over the Volta River. When I was here in October, it was not a great time to see the animals, but I was very lucky to spot some of them already (too bad they were too fast to be able to take pictures of them...). But even without the hippo's it's a great trip through an amazing environment.
When you leave from Wechiau somewhere late in the morning or in the afternoon, you will not be able to make it to the Metro Mass bus in Wa anymore. Instead you can take a Tro-Tro to Wa and try to arrange a Tro-Tro back to where you came from. Another adventurous option is to take the shortcut:
From Wechiau you can ask for the Tro-Tro to a small village called Ga (no, not Wa) that is located along the mainroad from Wa towards the south. A trip to Ga costs 12.000 cedis and takes about an hour. This trip is just as extreme as the trip from Wa to Wechiau: very, very bad road, very, very full and very, very old vehicles.
When you get to Ga, you should arrange some traffic to the nearby town called Sawla. This is a bigger town at the junction of the north-south road towards the east (Tamale). From Ga you can just take all the traffic going to the south, because any of these will pass through Sawla. It should never cost you more then 10.000 cedis ($ 1,-). I took a bus from here (with about 20 living goats on the roof) that only took 20 minutes to get to Sawla.
And when you finally arrive in Sawla, you will find traffic towards all directions here. North (Wa), south (Kumasi/Sunyani) and east (Tamale). Here I had to wait for about an hour before a fast pick-up arrived that took me to Tamale. The only thing that you really have to do here is ask, ask and ask again, because there is no structure at all here in Sawla. The final ride to Tamale took about 4,5 hours and costed me 40.000 cedis.
When you arrive in Wechiau, you still have to drive 15 kilometres to the Hippo Sanctuary, which is situated that far outside the village. There is no public transportation to there, but there are two ways to get there that can be arranged at the Information Centre in Wechiau.
The first way is the cheapest: you can rent a bycicle. For one day you pay 30.000 cedis ($ 3,-) per bike, so when you want to spend the night at the Sanctuary you should pay 60.000 when you come back. The problem is: 15 kilometres in Europe or America may not seem that long, but in the burning Ghanaian sun it is very hard! It will take you at least an hour to get there, and then you still have the problem of your luggage that you have to take with you.
According to me, the second option is much better. You can also charter a Tro-Tro to get you there and pick you up. For a Tro-Tro ride you pay 80.000 cedis ($ 8,-) per person. This Tro-Tro is just as bad as the one that took you to the village, so it's another adventure before you get there. After you arrive you have to make an appointment at what time you want to be brought back the next day. In my case I still had to wait for 1,5 hours before it arrived, but that's Ghana...
The most important way of transportation in Ghana is the Tro-Tro. A Tro-Tro is every vehicle that is bigger then a normal car and smaller then a bus. It can be anything: vans, pick-ups, small busses...
Every trip in a Tro-Tro is an adventure. The vehicles always are at least 20 years old, they are extremely uncomfortable, and very, very packed. But the Tro-Tro is the cheapest possible way of transportation, often it is the only way to get somewhere, and it is the perfect way to get to know the real Ghana and the real Ghanaians.
The most extreme ride with the Tro-Tro I had on my way to and away from Wechiau. The vehicle that had to bring us there was a very old pick-up truck with a roof that was completely packed with people and luggage. On the frontseat next to the driver I had to sit together with my travelbuddy, and in the back there were about 18 Ghanaian women and children. All the luggage was tightened on the roof.
The road was very, very bad: the pick-up got stuck in the mud twice and even had to cross a river. The gears didn't work properly anymore and the car had to be fixed first before we were able to depart from Wa.
From Wa to Wechiau is about 25 km. but still it took 1,5 hours to get there! This trip costed 15.000 cedis ($ 1,50) and for that money I got the most extreme ride I had in my life (so far)! If you don't think you'll like a ride like this, you simply can't go to Wechiau. This is the only transportation heading there. This Tro-Tro departs from the central Tro-Tro station in Wa, several times a day.
When you are going to spend the night in the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary, you should make sure you take enough food and drinks with you! Inside the park there is nothing you can get. And in the village of Wechiau there is hardly anything to buy either -except on marketdays- so it's wise to buy it when you leave in Wa.
I didn't, so I had to find everything in Wechiau. I had dinner with bread and boiled eggs, some water to drink and with some roasted corn we got from the canoe-man who is a farmer in this area too.
Make sure you have a lot of water, because during a long day in the heat you should drink at least 3 liters of water!
Before you can enter the park you always have to go to the Information Centre in Wechiau-village first. You can find this centre at the end of the mainroad you'll be dropped off at by the Tro-Tro. In this small concrete building you can find some information about the area and about all the possibilities of sleeping places, activities and over-night trips.
It can take a while before someone shows up, because the Sanctuary is not that popular with tourists that the Centre is always open. But as soon as you arrive there, there will be dozens of people coming to you and helping you by finding the right person for you. This gives you the chance to get to know some of the locals. This way I had to learn the names of at least 15 children that gathered around me...
When the right person finally arrives, he can explain you everything that is possible to undertake. Nothing is compulsary except the entrance fee of 40.000 cedis per person ($ 4,-). All the other thing you need to pay afterwards, but you do have to plan it on forehand here. This is also the place where you can arrange the Tro-Tro service to take you to the Hippo Sanctuary.