Decisions, decisions. Do you want to go to the coast or on a safari? Would you prefer the beach or a national park? Is your heart set on seeing unique animals or colorful fish? Each time you travel to Africa, you have to make difficult choices. The continent is too big and hard to navigate to see everything in one trip. At least most of the time. There’s one country where you can visit both the rainforest and the shore on not only the same trip, but even in the same day.
Ivory Coast is a small West African country along the Gulf of Guinea. Despite political turmoil—a coup d’état and two civil wars since its independence from France in 1960—the country is prosperous (thanks to cocoa and coffee) and relatively easy to navigate. While the southwest corner, on the Liberian border, is home to Taï National Park and miles upon miles of sandy beaches.
Taï National Park is one of the last-remaining primary rainforests in West Africa. The 1,350-square-mile reserve was established in 1926. It later became a national park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and eventually a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s full of swollen rivers and swampland, dense greenery and colorful flowers, moss and ferns, fruit and fungi. Mont Niénokoué is the highest point. But it’s the animals that lure you to the park.
The park is home to five mammals on the red list of endangered species. They include the pygmy hippopotamus, a nocturnal creature that likes to bathe in forest ponds, and chimpanzees, who use stone tools to crack open wild nuts. Eleven primate species, including the vervet monkey and the black-and-white colobus swing between the trees. Leopards, African forest elephants, and lots of duikers roam the humid forest. While more than 250 types of birds have been spotted.
Less than 100 kilometers away, there’s a very different, but equally beautiful, spot. San-Pédro was once a tiny fishing village. It’s now the country’s second-largest port. Yet the golden-sand beaches and the flag-covered fishing boats just outside of the city remain the same. Check into Les Jardins d’Ivoire. The family-run hotel is five minutes outside of town and just two steps from the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy the freshwater pool, the overflowing flower gardens, and the delicious Italian pastries at Mann Restaurant. Then walk down to the beach, where you watch the waves, the surfers, and the kids playing in the sand. This little corner of Ivory Coast has everything you wanted to see.