One wouldn’t typically associate safaris and luxury game lodges with West Africa, more specifically Ghana. But since opening in 2015, Zaina Lodge has been challenging this notion by offering what has traditionally been the domain of East and Southern Africa.
Touted as West Africa’s first luxury safari lodge, and winner of the 2017 World Luxury Hotel Awards, Zaina Lodge takes full advantage of its prime location within Mole National Park, the largest nature reserve in Ghana. Blending environmentally conscious and sustainable eco-tourism with world-class luxury, Zaina Lodge is Ghana’s first foray into this new but rapidly expanding niche.
Located in Ghana’s Northern region, Mole National Park was set aside as a wildlife refuge in 1958. The savannah and grasslands are home to a variety of animals and bird species. Over 90 mammal species have been identified within the park, including various antelope, hippo, warthog, water buffalo, hyenas, monkeys, baboons and crocodiles. But the main attraction is undoubtedly the 800 elephants residing within the park.
Split over three levels and strategically perched above two busy watering holes, the lodge’s unique position and raised vantage point provides front row seats for observing the wildlife that frequent these watering holes throughout the day.
The architectural design of the lodge’s exterior draws inspiration from the nearby Larabanga mosque, built in the traditional Sudanic-Sahelian style and the interior décor is influenced by distinctive nuances typical of Northern Ghana. The entertainment spaces, including the reception, bar and dining area, seem to blend seamlessly into the surroundings, thanks to an open-air set up, offering unobstructed views stretching out to the horizon. The idea is to create a natural flow between the lodge and the natural environment. The sparkling infinity pool overlooking the landscape below is the perfect spot from which to appreciate the daily sightings of elephants drinking and bathing, only meters away. The elephants have even been known to wander into camp and surprise guests with upclose-and-personal appearances!
Accommodation comprises of 25 individual tented chalets, complete with private balconies as well as both indoor and outdoor showers. The air-conditioned rooms are beautifully decorated with locally crafted furniture and touches reflecting the region.
Gastronomy lovers will appreciate the varied menu, offering guests the opportunity to try local dishes including favourites such as Waakye, Jollof rice and even guinea fowl. All dishes are creatively plated and served with a contemporary twist. Your stay at Zaina can be as action-packed or as relaxed as you like. Take it easy, lounging all day by the pool or partake in a variety of activities offered by the lodge.
These include daily walking or vehicle safaris, a canoe trip down Mole River, and visits to the neighbouring Mognori Eco village, where you can learn more about the local Shea butter production process.
A visit to the neighbouring Larabanga mosque, the oldest mosque in Ghana and one of the oldest in West Africa, is not to be missed and if you happen to stay over a weekend, an outing to the Saturday market in Damongo is also well worth the short drive. During the cooler months, what could be better than sitting by the fire pit, listening to the sounds of nature by night! Massage treatments are also available for those looking for the ultimate in relaxation. The magnificent Zaina sunsets can be enjoyed from the privacy of your own balcony, at the Z bar or from the inviting waters of the swimming pool.
Zaina Lodge takes the concept of sustainability very seriously – it’s not merely a buzzword here. Local materials feature throughout the property, from the locally harvested grass and stone, used in the roofing and construction of the exterior surfaces respectively, to the wood used for the furniture pieces.
In addition to sourcing local materials for construction, the lodge implements a number of other sustainable practices. The entire water system is solar powered and in order to reduce electricity consumption, LED lighting features throughout the lodge. As part of their initiative to eliminate plastic water bottles, the lodge serves their very own filtered-to-international- standards water, sourced from a borehole on the property. Staff employed at the lodge are mostly local, from nearby towns and villages and the local Shea butter, for which Northern Ghana is so renowned, is used in amenities such as the soaps, shower gels and body lotions found in the chalets.
Zaina Lodge is a shining example of how luxury and sustainability can be combined to create a winning formula, not only for the Ghanaian tourism industry, but also for local communities bordering the lodge who stand to benefit from the subsequent employment opportunities created. Going forward, Zaina Lodge looks set to put Ghana on the map for sustainable safari and eco tourism.