Ghana:tracking the biggest tree in West Africa

Ghana tracking the biggest tree in West AfricaGhana is endowed with many tourist attraction sites and destinations. Nature has blessed us with many of its “goodies” – the water bodies, the forests, the rocks etc. History has also left us with some important structures that should be must-sees in the world – castles, a slave market at Salaga, a slave defence walls at Gwollu etc.

The question is, how many tourist attraction sites do you know in Ghana? And how many have you visited? Let me guess; you have visited the Kakum National Park, Cape Coast and Elmina Castles, Boti falls, Mountain Afadjato and possibly, the Umbrella Rock, or even less.

Did you know the biggest tree in West Africa is in Ghana? Akyem Aprokumasi, in the Birim South District of the Eastern Region – about 22 kilometres from Akim Oda to be precise? This ‘Big Tree’ as it is popularly called, has a diameter of 3.22 metres at 1.37 meters, 2.72 metres at 3.1 metres, making 12 metres in circumference and 66.5-90 metres tall. It also has a girth of 10.11 metres at 1.4 metres and 8.63 metres at 3.1 metres.

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When I was in primary school, my siblings and I visited ‘The Big Tree’ site with our dad. It was so gigantic we could not hide our excitement and awe at this magnificent creation of God.

On a recent trip to Akim Oda, I was excited to point out this amazing tourist site to some colleagues I was traveling with on the same bus. Before we got to that spot, I decided to ask if they had ever heard of it. Well, surprisingly, none knew such a place existed in Ghana.

They were shocked that Ghana actually had the biggest tree in West Africa on its soil. So to support my claims, I googled ‘The Big tree’ and showed it to a friend sitting next to me on the bus and he was impressed.

His question about why we haven’t we publicised this tourist site which has the potential to drive tourist traffic to Ghana and generating revenue, kept me thinking. I asked myself if it was because we didn’t care or we are busy looking to other destinations outside our borders.

Though I have seen the ‘The Big Tree,’ I must admit I have not visited more than four tourist sites in Ghana and true; I do not know majority of such places partly because they are in obscure places. But I am not alone. I am certain that majority of Ghanaians have very little or absolutely no knowledge at all about the numerous tourist sites that exist in our country.

The ones most of us are aware of are the popular Kakum Park with the famous canopy walk and the castles we hear about. Interestingly, I personally got to know of Wli falls in 2013 when Citi FM organized a trip to that site. Before then, I had not heard anything about it.

It is a shame that a country endowed with so many natural attractions is making little use of them to rake in the much needed revenue. We are always in awe when we travel and see what other nations have, yet, we are putting ours to very little use or should I say, no use at all!

We say we are the gateway to Africa, right? Wouldn’t it be nice for people to visit Ghana for their honey moons and vacations just as they go to Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and the likes? Ghanaians who hitherto would have gone to South Africa for their honey moon and vacations might just stay back home and visit our tourist sites. Are Kenya and South Africa not in Africa? Are they not Africans? Why should they be different? Why are such places the preferred destination and not Ghana? I think it is because they have local patronage and institutional support. The importance the locals attach to these sites make them talk about them to the rest of the world.

I must however, state that there is nothing wrong with taking a vacation and travelling out of the country and among other things visit a few historic sites, but there is everything wrong with a culture where we run-down what we have and take our baggage, travel only to have the same or similar satisfaction elsewhere at the expense of our economy.

Sadly in Ghana, people are eager to visit the biggest shopping malls in West Africa; the latest hotels and restaurants and just once in a while they choose a tourist destination and let me guess, if not the Kakum National Park, then it is the Cape Coast Castle. Because we fail to patronize such places, no funds are generated to maintain and preserve the sites as well as create employment for natives.

And why do citizens fail to visit such places? Is it because they do not know about their existence or the road networks to the sites deter people because they are poor? Do we even have a list of all tourist sites in Ghana to allow tourists and other visitors to easily locate and choose which sites they want to visit? Where is the ‘one-stop-shop,’ visitors can go to get access to all the information they need about places in Ghana?

This is where I turn to the authorities!

What are the bodies mandated to promote Ghana; Tourism Authority, the sector Ministry and Brand Ghana, doing to put things in place for easy identification and patronage of such sites? Do they even go round to check how the existing tourist sites are being maintained and managed? Or we want a white man to come and do that for us as well?

What will it cost the nation to pump in a few thousands of cedis to rehabilitate the roads, train tourist guides, solicit the help of the private sector to put up restaurants and hotels in communities with tourist sites so that patronage will be increased? We watch other countries on international media advertising and promoting tourism and driving the world to their countries. It cost money, but the returns are bigger.

Even the traditional sites of castles we have, how well have we promoted them to the world? Obama was in Ghana, he visited the Cape Coast Castle. What an endorsement! Can’t we package anything with this endorsement and strategically throw it out to the world? Patronage of these sites have been low in recent years because the annual PANAFEST celebrations have paused. We need a strategy to whip up interest in those areas of the economy. This strategy must heavily involve the private sector so it doesn’t become a central government burden. Central government, nonetheless will have to lead the way and provide access.

If we fail to act, many generations after us will not even know these sites exist and the exodus to go for recreation elsewhere will continue when we could do same in Ghana and call the rest of the world here. Citizens and authorities both have roles to play to make our country the tourist destination it deserves to be by virtue of nature’s blessings and history’s conferment.

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