Into the Rainforest

I had never seen a rainforest before Kakum. On the last night of our stay in Ghana, two friends and I went to Kakum National Rainforest to spend the night and go on its canopy walk in the morning. We got a cab outside the port entrance and headed on our sleep-inducing two-and-a-half-hour ride to Kakum.

Not soon after we left, the sun vanished over the horizon and rain started to come down as if it were Miami in hurricane season. At this point, I was beginning to fully appreciate the versatility of Ghanaian weather. It would be bright and sunny one moment and pouring rain the next. This particular night the rain seemed to have its way, splashing endlessly across the narrow pavement ahead. The ominous clouds added to the affect that we were headed towards something immense, perhaps a challenge that would test our mettle. The driver seemed as though he was late to his own wedding, passing every single car we got behind. This made me a bit nervous, but we were going to make it to Kakum, crazy driver or not.

We got to Kakum at around seven that evening. Our plan was to spend the night inside the rainforest on a platform they offered along with a mosquito net. Unfortunately there were no platforms available at the time, so we had to stay in the lodge. As we were paying for the lodge, six other Semester at Sea students approached us and asked if we wanted to come check out their platform. We enthusiastically agreed.

I told my buddy Luis to wait up for me as I went to the bathroom in the lodge. Garrett and Luis had tossed their packs onto the beds and were waiting outside with the six other students. After using the restroom, I tried to get the key out of the door in order to lock it, but the key was jammed. I started twisting and turning in every direction possible, but nothing seemed to work. I began pushing and pulling with a lot of energy, sweat slowly trickling down my temple. I was worried they were going to leave without me. Finally I realized that the key had to be taken out horizontally and not vertically like in the States. I took it out, shut the door and locked it, and rushed outside.

They were all gone. Damnit! I thought. They left me! I started to run out in the direction they went hoping I would catch up with them. After about a minute of tireless jogging, I saw everyone heading into the forest. I tried to hurry towards them, but I was too late. They were engulfed in the blackness, and I was left on the outside with no flashlight.

A flashlight! I thought. I had one in my backpack. I walked back to the lodge, got my flashlight, and returned to the entrance of the forest. It was so dark that I could only see about two feet into the forest before all light disappeared into what seemed like a black-hole. I turned on my flashlight and headed into the dark abyss. I was excited and scared all at the same time. I was alone in a foreign land headed into the heart of a rainforest.

This place was home to numerous creatures including snakes, elephants, foxes, rats, and monkeys that I could only hear. They screeched and screamed and cackled throughout my walk into the forest. I could barely hear my footsteps they were so loud!  For some reason, the thought that at any moment an animal could attack got me excited. It was like a scary movie or video game, except that everything was heightened to an even further level. This was the real deal! I had a sense of my surroundings unlike any previous experience. I could feel the adrenaline kicking in, my heart pounding, slow and loud. I was careful, cautious with each step, looking for snakes on the vines ahead.

The hike took me about five minutes before I found my friends, but it was a long, exhilarating hike. I was proud of myself when I reached them. No sights (or lack thereof) or sounds stopped me from making my way through this Ghanaian forest. My courage and determination proved greater than any fear I had of the dark and the creatures that lay within the forest.

The next morning we woke up at six, got our packs ready, and headed to the canopy walk. The walk was about a quarter-mile on a plank that overlooked the whole forest. We could see the insects swarming plants and the fog rolling in from the west. We could taste the warm, fresh air that emanated from the vegetation around. It was a beautiful sight, yet it simply did not parallel the dramatic events of the night before.

After the canopy walk, we headed back down to the entrance of the park where our taxi waited. I turned back to give the rainforest one last look before I left. Kakum is a secret, beautiful world waiting to be discovered by those who wish to climb outside their comfort zone. The gorgeous sights and sounds are not often replicated in nature. We were able to experience this rainforest from the heart of it, all of its terror and wonder right at our fingertips. I was able to roam through an unknown world, surrounded by darkness and noise, and come out a stronger and more courageous person because of this experience. This is something I will never forget.

— Joshua Kohansamad

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