This post is sponsored by Aqua Safari Resort. All views and opinions are of our own. We like to appreciate and share dopeness.
Since my arrival in Ghana, the universe has allowed me to meet some pretty exceptional creatives. One of these creatives is Elroy Salam, a young Ghanaian content creator, marketing and brand strategist and entrepreneur that I of course met through the gram. We connected nearly immediately after my arrival in Ghana, met up for some street food and tilapia, and discussed some of the projects that we had in mind. One of them was this one.
In September 2018, Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo announced 2019 to be the “Year of Return” as it marks 400 years since the end of the slave trade in Ghana. The declaration has been a historic move to commemorate the history of Africans both on the continent and abroad, while inviting Africans and the Diaspora to unite and return to the Motherland.
Both Elroy and I wanted to not only explore but also celebrate Ghana – everything from her music, culture and food, to the people, tribes and history that make her the heart of the Motherland. We decided to collaborate and bring together our different perspectives for a project that would do just that – celebrate Ghana and promote local culture, tourism and businesses, while documenting the stories we capture along the way.
This is what brought us to Ada, a small coastal town located in the Greater Accra Region in the Southeast of Ghana. It is home to where the Volta river meets the Atlantic Ocean, making it one of Ghana’s more well-known tourist destinations. Once a trading post opened by the Dutch in the 17th century, then later a slave trade port ruled by the Brits, Ada is now a peaceful place – erased of its physical colonial structures as the buildings, ports and factories have eroded over time and washed into the sea. Only the memories and stories remain.
Elroy and I partnered up with Aqua Safari Resort to explore what truly makes Ada a paradise.
Aqua Safari was built in 2010. Initially used as the owner’s home, the building and property were then converted into a resort in 2013. The concept behind Aqua Safari Resort was inspired by the words ‘aqua’ and ‘safari.’ In Swahili, Safari translates to ‘journey,’ but over time with the word being popularized by tourism in East Africa, it has also become synonymous with expedition, trip, experience. That is exactly what Aqua Safari offers – an experience.
From the lush decor in and out of the resort and animals roaming freely, to the sunbathing, bottomless buffets, watersports, boat tours and horse riding, the place itself really is an experience. Its amazing location on the river – inspiration for the word ‘aqua’ – gives the resort an air of serenity. Many people come to the resort on day trips, that way they can still enjoy the incredible environment, excursions and food if time does not permit or staying at the resort itself may be outside of their budget.
Unfortunately, we could not do everything because we were only there for the weekend. But we did have a few highlights.
To be honest, I haven’t ridden a horse in years – even then, it’s probably only been a couple times. From what I remember, I’ve never ridden a horse by myself. I was excited and nervous to be riding a horse again (I know, I’m a child) and it was nice to just interact with them. But when Elroy told me that the horsekeeper was going to make me ride on my own, my childish grin quickly transformed into my “I’m-about-to-shit-my-pants-face.”
I was especially nervous because I got paired up with Sass Queen Nina. Nina was being fed when we came around and was not happy to be interrupted. And you know what, all I could think of was, “Girl, I get you.” I mean imagine – you being in the middle of your meal, enjoying life. This might be the only goddamn moment you have to yourself all day and you gotta put your hay down because some smelly human wants to ride you. No, I would not be having any of that.
I apologized to Nina incessantly as I attempted to woo her, caressing her as softly as I could, whispering naughty things into her ear. All I could see is her side-eying me. This could go badly.
Of course, everything went smoothly. My spirit animal did not dropkick me in the face or crush my back. I walked away from the experience alive and, well, walking.
Before leaving, I had the opportunity of meeting King Safari. King Safari is the OG of the stable, the big baw$$, the godfather of the pen. Despite his age and unrivalled wisdom, he is warm and gentle.
Staying at Aqua Safari Resort allowed us to explore the surrounding areas. We headed to Ada Foah, a subregion of Ada, to cool down and check out the beach. It was extraordinarily quiet, which was a nice change since we had the whole beach to ourselves.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch the cigar-enthusiast events that Aqua Safari hosts. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the timing right, so we headed to Normansfolly to check out the cigar lounge itself.
At Normansfolly’s Cigar Lounge, we were welcomed by the lovely Kevin and Elorm. The couple, both Ghanaian, met here in Ada, although Kevin was raised in the UK. He opened the business six years ago
Before arriving in Ghana, Kevin worked as a commodity trader in London and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He became a devout and passionate cigar aficionado after spending days on end in cigar lounges across Europe and parts of Asia cutting deals. He then immersed into cigar culture around the world, and decided to launch his first lounge in Ada, Ghana. He chose Ada as a location because of its serenity and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. “The amalgamation of coconut trees, good quality air, river, and sea combined with a good cigar and aged libations makes Ada – a paradise,” he shared.
Since its opening in 2013, the lounge has seen great success without any marketing. And for good reason, the place speaks for itself.
Upon first arriving, I fell in love with the surroundings. From the old jazz and Billie Holiday records to the assortment of books and quaint decor, the lounge makes you feel like you have escaped to another world. I felt at home, at ease.
I got handed a glass of Johnnie Walker Black (black Walker for a black Walker), and a Montecristo Edmundo cigar. Elorm did the honours and showed me the 3-step process to lighting a cigar. “It’s a ritual and must be approached as such,” she explained. “First comes the Cutting of a cigar, which can be done in 3 ways – the punch, V-cut and the Guillotine. And then, “toasting” of a cigar, which is then done by tilting the cigar at an angle of 45 degrees and using a butane lighter to roast the foot of the cigar into red flame, this then starts the burning process. The last stage is to sit back and slowly draw the many flavors infused in the cigar to help your palate discern subtle and enjoyable notes.”
As the cigar world is mainly male-dominated, it was refreshing to see a woman handle a cigar and do it with such poise.
You can easily tell that Kevin and Elorm put their hearts into the cigar lounge from the way that they take the time to sit down with their guests and get to know them. The place has memories, feels, soul. It is unique but not out of place.
All in all, we loved our trip to Ada. As Elroy and I both lead busy lives during the week, our stay with Aqua Safari made it the perfect weekend getaway. Our experience in Ada reminded me to approach life the way I would enjoy a cigar – by being present, paying attention to detail, and enjoying all of the subtle notes that come your way.
How to get to Ada
If you’re heading to Ada and are somewhat on a budget (I mean, who isn’t?), you can opt out of hiring a driver and travel to Ada via public transport. It won’t necessarily be comfortable or easy, so if you’re looking for a smooth ride this is not for you. If you are however looking for a bit of an adventure even before arriving to Ada, then listen up!
In most big cities in Ghana, you can travel by trotro or loading taxi.
Trotros are essentially large vans that have been converted into minibuses. They follow specific routes and you can hear the ‘mates’ (people that work on the trotros) yelling the major destinations that the trotro will be passing through or arriving at. Loading taxis work essentially the same way as trotros do but in smaller sizes. They will depart when they have fully loaded. It can be a bit confusing navigating a new city with trotros and loading taxis if you’re not accustomed using them, so I’d recommend traveling with someone that knows what they’re doing before venturing out on your own.
Take the note that Big Ada and Ada Foah are two distinct subregions within Ada. Aqua Safari is located in Big Ada while Normansfolly is located in Ada Foah. Be sure to clarify where you are going to avoid confusion.
Leaving from Accra mall, take a loading taxi to Tema roundabout (not Tema station). You can find loading taxis outside of the parking lot at the main entrance (gate 1) – Cost: 5 ghc Duration: 10 min
It will drop you off at Total filling station. Cross the street in order to find Tema roundabout station (also called Pram Pram station).
From there, you can grab a trotro to Ada Foah. Tell the mate that you will descend at Big Ada. Cost: 11 ghc Duration: 1h 30 min
You can the take a motorbike taxi to Aqua Safari. Cost: 2 ghc Duration: 10 min
If you are foreign, prices may swell. Bargain when you can but remember that some bargains are just not worth the effort.
Google Maps can still be helpful in terms of guidance but may also get directions wrong due to inaccuracies.
If you decide to drive on your own, there are big signs for Aqua Safari along the way as you leave Accra – need not worry.
Want to stay with Aqua Safari Resort or make a reservation for a tour? Check out their website here to find the latest rates and information.
WORK WITH US!
Are you a business owner or creative? Let’s collaborate. We take on projects that are aligned with our mission and vision of celebrating diversity, culture and creativity. To take part of our Year of Return series, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.