Geography & Wildlife
Coast, forest, savannah
Ghana has three main geographic regions:
- The coastal plain – where the natural vegetation is a mixture of scrub and grasses.
- The forest zone – covering the southern third of the country and with rain through much of the year.
- The northern savannah – a region of grassland and low trees (e.g. shea, acacia, baobabs) which are adapted to the hot arid climate.
An old river and a new lake
Running down the western side of the country is the River Volta. Flanked by mountain ranges to the east and west, the river widens out into the low-lying Volta Basin towards the south.
The construction of a dam at Akosombo led to much of the basin being submerged to form the 8,500km2 Lake Volta, one of the world’s largest man-made lakes.
Wildlife in Ghana
Forest reserves like Kakum National Park are of particular importance for their conservation work. Kakum is home to around 40 species of large mammals, nearly 200 species of birds and 400 of Ghana’s 1,000 butterfly species (in comparison, Britain has just 56). Visitors to the park can walk along a 40 metre-high walkway through the tree canopy to see some of the amazing birds which inhabit the upper levels of this evergreen rainforest. Many of these birds – such as the Great Blue and the Yellow-billed turaco – have feathers of radiant colours.
Ghana has 16 nature protection areas covering approximately 5% of the country.
The forest zone is of particular interest for the diversity of wildlife. However, only around a tenth of Ghana’s virgin tropical forest remains intact because of logging and clearance for farmland.
As well as the rare Nile Crocodile, Ghana is home to a wide variety of snakes (mostly very shy) and reptiles. Lizards like the common house gecko are far from shy. As its name implies, this gecko scampers over walls and ceilings in search of insects attracted to the light. Agama lizards can be found in the grounds of buildings and are striking in their colour combinations.
Not quite so easily seen, chameleons change from their typical green colour in the trees to browner hues when on the ground. They often move slowly enough to allow for a closer look.