I was pretty disappointed with Wechiau and the hippos sanctuary. At the time, I thought I had just been spoiled by seeing wildlife in places like Ranch de Nazinga Wildlife Sanctuary and Mole National Park before. However, the farther I got away from it the more I was annoyed. Here is a project that has been helped by the zoo of my home city. It’s meant to be put in place to build the tourism infrastructure in the area as well as protect the hippos. Instead, the place is in shambles, nothing is really done to protect the hippos, and the people associated with the project in Wechiau seem to be putting all the money into their pockets. I’m all for projects like this, but after visiting all I could think was: “this is a zoo trying to make itself look like it cares about the environment by funding this, it’s a show and nothing more.”
My recommendation: don’t visit. Spend your money on parts of the country that actually want and need tourism money, not this town that has taken millions of dollars and spent it on, well, I don’t really know what.
Time Needed: 1 Day
Backpacker’s Budget: 40USD per day
Things to Do and See in Wechiau
Obviously people come here for the hippos. The Wechiau hippo sanctuary is about 20 minutes away from town along the Black Volta River. There are really only two ways to see them. The first is by taking a canoe ride out to see a couple in the water. Don’t expect to get anywhere near them. You’ll be lucky if they look anything more like rocks in the water. The other way is by sitting in a hippo hide. Again, don’t expect to see them very well here. The hides are essentially tree forts with no view of the river. You might hear hippos at night, but that’s about it.
Beyond the hippos, you can also head into the villages and have a look around. The is a little Hausa community inside the hippo sanctuary, and the people there are extremely friendly.
Before you head to the hippo sanctuary you have to check in at the offices in the village. Be warned that isn’t always someone there and you may have to wait.
Where to Eat in Wechiau
There is no restaurant out at the sanctuary, and the only cooking facilities you’ll be given are a traditional fire. Before leaving Wa, be sure to head to the store and pick up some things. I’d recommend maybe just bringing a bunch of bread and some things like cheese and sardines to put on them. You can also bring pasta and make sauce for dinner.
Where to Stay in Wechiau
Again, the hotel at the hippo sanctuary is shocking. They got funded loads of money to build the infrastructure and the hotel, if you can call it that, is basically a set of ruins. It’s so nasty, I decided to sleep up a tree instead. If you’re planning on staying here, bring camping gear instead. The hotel is full of mold, dust, and doesn’t look like it has been cleaned since it was build. The rooms are rough. Skip it and set up a tent or sleep in one of the hippo hides.
The alternative is to stay in the town of Wechiau instead, but then again, you came here for the hippos not the town.
Getting to Wechiau
It’s fairly easy to get to Wechiau. Just head straight west out of Wa and then up the road that passes the Upland Hotel. The road will head west and then south until you reach the village of Wechiau. After stopping in at the visitor’s center in Wechiau, you’ll have to go another 15 minutes or so on a dirt/sand road to get to the hippo sanctuary itself.
Any form of transport to major destinations elsewhere you’ll need to head to Wa to catch first.
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