Weather: Ghana, Benin, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Togo

Ghana's climate is the most distinctive among the small nations clustered along the Guinea coast of West Africa. The land is distinctive, too: huge tracts of virgin rainforest have disappeared, with more savanna than you'd expect so far south. Yet even without the hand of humanity, the ecosystem of Ghana, along with nearby Togo and Benin, wouldn't be the same as that of their neighbours. The Guinea coast angles from southwest to northeast from Cape Three Points to Lome. The prevailing southwest winds diverge as they parallel the coast, and cool ocean waters rise to the surface in the summer. Thus, Accra's rainfall averages less than 750mm/30in a year – August is as dry and mild as January – and a stiff sea breeze year round helps keep temperatures a touch cooler than in nearby cities like Lagos or Abidjan. The rains are almost twice as heavy only an hour's drive inland, and this morestandard regime covers most of Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Liberia, with southern Togo and Benin getting just a bit less rain. The ITCZ brings a single wet season in summer to the north, but spring and autumn rains across the south. From late autumn through winter, visibility-slashing harmattan dust storms may interfere with travel and make sightseeing difficult. They're most frequent across the northern parts of the Guinea-coast nations; they can extend as far as the coast on a few days each winter, especially in Togo and Benin, although each year varies greatly.