If you’re staying in Cape Coast, an easy place for you to go for a day or half a day is the fishing village of Elmina to see the castle. Of course, if you want to see a castle, you could just go to the one in Cape Coast, but sometimes it’s fun to go to a different area.
The most economical way to get there from the centre of Cape Coast is by shared taxi – basically a taxi that has a specific known route that it goes along, so it waits to fill up and then takes everyone there, with some people hopping out along the way if their destination is before the final one. Just ask anyone where to take the shared taxi to Elmina.
The journey in the shared taxi is 3 cedis 20 pesewas (approx. 40p in GBP) per person and it takes about 30 minutes and the views are pretty cool along the way:
Just tell the driver you’re going to the castle, and they’ll drop you really near and it’s obvious where to go in. It’s pretty busy outside, and there are quite a lot of sellers in the area right beside the castle who will try to get you to buy little paintings and other souvenirs.
Once you go in, you have to pay the entrance fee. For Ghanaians it’s 5 cedis, but for foreigners it’s 30 cedis (approx. £4.80) for students, and 40 cedis for adults. This price includes a tour guide, so you basically just pay and then go in and wait around for a few minutes until a guy appears and gathers up about 15 of the most recent arrivals to take you around the castle.
Normally I’m against anything that involves a guide and I always try and do things by myself, because I think things aren’t adventurous enough with a guide, but this was definitely different. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the castle, and he seemed very passionate about it too.
The tour goes around all the different rooms and areas where horrific things happened to the slaves who were kept there before being sent through the ‘gate of no return’ to other countries. Of course, we’ve all read about slavery, but honestly I found out things at the castle that never would have even crossed my mind before, such as the fact that the dungeons where these people were kept had absolutely no sanitation facilities, and that food was thrown down there through a hole.
Hearing about these disgusting things in such detail whilst actually being in the castle made it a lot more real than anything I’d read before, and although the guide gave the information in an appropriately serious manner, he also made the tour ‘fun’ at times, like when he got us to huddle into one of the cells where rule-breakers were put for punishment, and closed the door behind us.
The tour lasted about an hour, and the guide was very happy to answer questions at any point before moving onto the next area. I didn’t take any pictures of the dungeons etc., but this is the view from the top floor, up near the owners’/officers’ areas. It seemed strange to me to be looking out at the sea, which often gives a sense of freedom, from somewhere that signified the complete opposite:
As you leave the top area, there’s a shop selling craft items as well as a book and DVD about the history of the castle.
Overall, I would recommend visiting the castle and I’m sure most people would find it as informative and saddening as I did. It’s definitely something that will stick in my memory forever.
There were shared taxis passing the road below the castle, so we jumped in one of them because we were quite hot and hungry. We didn’t wander around Elmina itself at all, but judging from what I saw from the taxi, it could be interesting to just wander around for half an hour and find some street food or something.