Ghana # 13

Posted on January 11th, 2011 in General,MAPA expeditions by Administrator
BLOG 13
Travel journalist Mark Eveleigh is volunteering for MAPA in Ghana and this is his latest post.
BLOG 13
Since our dramas in the mudhole at Ankasa we have made a good few miles along the coast and mapped a few places that are rated (for good or bad) among Ghana’s prime tourist sights.
We went out in a canoe at dawn to map Amansuri Wetlands and the famous stilted village at Nzulezo. This little community of about 450 people turned out to be by far the least hospitable and friendly place we have visited on this trip. Probably we have been spoiled by now by the ever-present Ghanaian smiles of welcome that line every road, even in the dustiest, poorest backcountry villages. Things have obviously gone far astray with tourism management of Nzulezo. It is said to be the number one earner for the Forestry Commission and yet the community are obviously feeling very little benefit and many of them openly resent the constant intrusion of tourists (50 to 60 visitors a day is not unusual…someone said even 120!). Somewhere along the way it seems that a greater share of this revenue will have to go to the people who deserve it most if Nzulezo is even going to survive as a tourist sight. It could be a great cultural experience but at the moment it is just sad and we were happy to leave.
We moved on along the coast that same afternoon and then enjoyed a well-earned day off at the beach in Busua (only our second day without mapping – the other being in Kumasi). I had long wanted to get a chance to at least surf a few waves in Ghana and was delighted to track down a board and a three foot swell at Black Star Surf Shop.
On our way up here to Kakum National Park we stopped to ‘revisit’ Elmina Fort (I last visited about 35 years ago!). Elmina is said to be the biggest and oldest slave-trading fort in tropical Africa and an estimated fifteen million slaves passed through here during the years of what is justifiably described as an African Holocaust. It is a powerful and disturbing place to visit. We spent the night at One Africa Lodge – owned by a New Yorker of Ghanaian descent who returned home here to set up this very pleasant beachside lodge, and a museum of slavery that includes some exhibits which are nearly as powerful as some of the things at the fort.
The famous canopy walkway in Kakum National Park does not leave nearly so much of a lasting impression. It is fair to say that your experience here would probably vary with the time of day you do the hike. A group of birdwatchers I met here told me that they had gone at dawn (in a group of only 4) and had seen lots of birdlife and no less than four species of monkeys. We arrived from Elmina mid-morning (One Africa is famous for not doing fast food and a tardy breakfast had scuppered our plan to hit the road at 7). I did the walkway in a group of about 25 tourists and, of course, saw zero in the way of wildlife. The canopy itself is made up of seven separate swing bridges between treetop platforms and stretches 350 metres with a maximum height of 45 metres. For those with a bad head for heights it would be a complete nightmare. I have done other more adrenalin-fueled canopy tours (a zipwire, flying fox system in Costa Rica for example) and others that were far tamer (a sturdy steel walkway in the forests near Victoria’s Great Ocean Road). Kakum’s walkway is just enough of an adrenalin jolt so that I did my best to scamper from platform to platform without making unnecessary pauses along the way.
I breathed a sigh of relief to get off the end of the walkway…and another when I realized I was free to stroll back down to the visitor centre without a convoy of 25 tourists.
Travel journalist Mark Eveleigh is volunteering for MAPA in Ghana and this is his latest post.
BLOG 13
Since our dramas in the mudhole at Ankasa we have made a good few miles along the coast and mapped a few places that are rated (for good or bad) among Ghana’s prime tourist sights.
We went out in a canoe at dawn to map Amansuri Wetlands and the famous stilted village at Nzulezo. This little community of about 450 people turned out to be by far the least hospitable and friendly place we have visited on this trip. Probably we have been spoiled by now by the ever-present Ghanaian smiles of welcome that line every road, even in the dustiest, poorest backcountry villages. Things have obviously gone far astray with tourism management of Nzulezo. It is said to be the number one earner for the Forestry Commission and yet the community are obviously feeling very little benefit and many of them openly resent the constant intrusion of tourists (50 to 60 visitors a day is not unusual…someone said even 120!). Somewhere along the way it seems that a greater share of this revenue will have to go to the people who deserve it most if Nzulezo is even going to survive as a tourist sight. It could be a great cultural experience but at the moment it is just sad and we were happy to leave.
We moved on along the coast that same afternoon and then enjoyed a well-earned day off at the beach in Busua (only our second day without mapping – the other being in Kumasi). I had long wanted to get a chance to at least surf a few waves in Ghana and was delighted to track down a board and a three foot swell at Black Star Surf Shop.
On our way up here to Kakum National Park we stopped to ‘revisit’ Elmina Fort (I last visited about 35 years ago!). Elmina is said to be the biggest and oldest slave-trading fort in tropical Africa and an estimated fifteen million slaves passed through here during the years of what is justifiably described as an African Holocaust. It is a powerful and disturbing place to visit. We spent the night at One Africa Lodge – owned by a New Yorker of Ghanaian descent who returned home here to set up this very pleasant beachside lodge, and a museum of slavery that includes some exhibits which are nearly as powerful as some of the things at the fort.
The famous canopy walkway in Kakum National Park does not leave nearly so much of a lasting impression. It is fair to say that your experience here would probably vary with the time of day you do the hike. A group of birdwatchers I met here told me that they had gone at dawn (in a group of only 4) and had seen lots of birdlife and no less than four species of monkeys. We arrived from Elmina mid-morning (One Africa is famous for not doing fast food and a tardy breakfast had scuppered our plan to hit the road at 7). I did the walkway in a group of about 25 tourists and, of course, saw zero in the way of wildlife. The canopy itself is made up of seven separate swing bridges between treetop platforms and stretches 350 metres with a maximum height of 45 metres. For those with a bad head for heights it would be a complete nightmare. I have done other more adrenalin-fueled canopy tours (a zipwire, flying fox system in Costa Rica for example) and others that were far tamer (a sturdy steel walkway in the forests near Victoria’s Great Ocean Road). Kakum’s walkway is just enough of an adrenalin jolt so that I did my best to scamper from platform to platform without making unnecessary pauses along the way.
I breathed a sigh of relief to get off the end of the walkway…and another when I realized I was free to stroll back down to the visitor centre without a convoy of 25 tourists.

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