We did a 9 day trip in Ghana ,Togo and Benin organised by TravelLocal's Ghanaian partner. We had a great trip the trip being made by our driver who was outgoing, fun, friendly and knowledgeable. He also seemed to know everyone and facilitated so many interactions and experiences that would have been impossible without a local conduit.
I very much liked the idea that they were a local eco friendly company, family run and are investing in tourism in Ghana (they have their own eco lodge) Cindy was sensitive to my concerns about a gay couple travelling together and how this might impact on our accommodation and itinerary. Any questions were answered reasonably promptly and Cindy incorporated my suggestions into the itinerary as I had visited the region 30 years previously. Also we were given the wrong accommodation on arrival in Ghana and a refund was organised by Cindy as well as a refund on a Benin visa which had been incorporated in the cost of the tour.
The success of the tour depends primarily on the driver, his responsiveness, knowledge, and availability. Our driver was required to find his own accommodation and budget for his own meals. I don't know if this is standard practise in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa. I feel that it is in the best interest of the clients that driver stay in the same hotel as guests in case of any problems. I say this for a number of reasons, including language difficulties and because of problems with wifi. In half of our hotels wifi was either non existent or problematic. If there is any issue overnight it is then impossible to make contact with the driver. It may be that this has to be budgeted seperately or the total price increased. The itinerary was possibly a little ambitious and we didn't do some of the things that were on it. This is not necessarily anybody's fault as such but it should be emphasized that some degree of flexibility is essential in tour planning. In saying that our driver introduced us to numerous local spontaneous experiences such as stopping in the middle of Togo and visiting a small local school where we stayed for an hour. Experiences like this can be priceless and are what memories are made of. One extremely minor thing is perhaps water could be included as part of tour.
Our driver guide was fantastic. He was the highlight of the trip in many ways. He had a larger than life personality ,was fun, had a great sense of humour and seemed to know everybody. He initiated many spontaneous experiences some of which were the highlights of the trip. He was extremely knowledgeable and although not necessarily relevant build like a bodyguard in case anyone might have thought of looking at us askance.
Ghana, Togo and Benin are not necessarily big on must see sights. The highlight is the people and the culture. Don't be too ambitious with the itinerary. We would have liked to have spent an extra day in two or three places. Don't expect everything to have hot water or wifi. Relax it's Africa and don't get upset that things don't work in the same way as the West. Try to experience eating in the local "chop houses "in all countries rather than the hotels. Some of our best meals were had in these places.
The charm of the people, the culture, spontaneous celebrations gatherings or introductions we were privy to or happening whilst we were there. The hilly forested country around Kpalime in Togo, Abomey, Ganvie and Ouidah in Benin. Learning about voodoo culture and slavery. Our driver who was fantastic and created a lot of special experiences and memories.