Exploring Ghana’s Gold Coast
FromCapeTowntoCapeCoast, KarenWatkinsgoesoffthebeaten trackexploringGhana’sGold Coast
“GHANA, why Ghana?” asked my nephew on the way to Cape Town’s airport. The country’s tourism may be in its infancy but I soon found that three weeks was not nearly enough to see everything the country has to offer travellers.
Escaping the sprawling capital of Accra and visiting the world heritage sites of Cape Coast and Elmina Castles, I had a taste for more. In a
(minibus taxi) I continued west along the coastline of rolling forested hills dotted with fortresses, colonial buildings, long expanses of beach, protected bays and historical forts.
The map showed three villages of Busua, Butré and Dixcove in proximity to each other and not far from the main highway. I soon learnt they aren’t.
Foreign aid volunteers working in schools and hospitals had told me about the Green Turtle, an eco-lodge near Akwaaba. I lost count of how many I caught to reach the transport hub of Aguna Konte. Fr om t here we followed narrow tracks through numerous villages where families patiently sold oranges and other goods.
It was a bumpy ride, taking far longer than expected but eventually we glimpsed the coast t hr ough t al l pal ms. The Green Turt l e i s a cluster of wooden structures, i ncluding an open-sided bar and kitchen where the day’s specials were marked on a board, as well as rondavels and composting toilets.
It’s a laid-back place where beach-bums laze in hammocks strung from palms on the beach. No wonder it was fully booked.
The lodge runs a leatherback turtle rescue service. They compensate fishermen, whose nets break from accidental catches of turtles, discouraging them from selling the animals for the meat.
I needed to return to Aguna Konta so walked along the beach to the fishing village of Akwaaba, where I waited for a next to the lagoon fringed by mangrove swamp.
Back where I started, I took a share-taxi on the short ride to Busua Beach Resort. The manager, Bernard Adotey Saka, was impressive, pers onal l y e s c or t i ng me t o a r oom whil e explaining the place’s background. He told me Busua Beach Resort was established i n the 1960s by the late EK Dadson, a prominent native of the village. When he died, it was taken over by his children, who later sold it. When Golden Beach Hotels took it over in 1995 it was terribly neglected but has since undergone major redevelopment.
I learned the three villages may be close but getting to them was not easy. Imagine a fork with Aguna Konte on the handle and the three villages at the tips of the prongs, and no roads between them.
The best way to see them was by foot and so, with the day drawing to a close, I walked three kilometres east to Butré.
Butré is located in a sheltered bay split by an estuar y and l agoon, with well-wooded peninsulas at both ends. Fort Batenstein was built by the Dutch in 1656 and is perched above the village.
L a t e r, s i t t i ng outs i de a bar i n Busua, I enjoyed a Star beer and people-watching by candles and lamplight – there is no electricity.
Next morning I walked five kilometres west t o t he f i s hi ng v i l l age of Dixcove. Pass i ng through Busua we crossed a stream to follow a hilly dirt road where women and children filled buckets, bowls and bags with water from a well.
Ascending t he r oad l i ned with colonial buildings, we reached Dixcove on the shore of a rocky bay. The fishing village is dominated by the bright white, well-maintained Fort Metal Cross, built by the British around 1696. Dixcove has a natural harbour decorated with vibrantly coloured wooden boats bobbing on the waves and adorned with flags.
Sheltering in the fort from a tropical storm I learned Fort Metal Cross is owned by an English couple and survived more attacks than any other along the Gold Coast. It was captured by the Dutch in 1869 and renamed Fort Metalen Kruiz only to be returned to the British in 1872, with all the other Dutch forts.
The sea was so rough I was mesmerised by a fishing boat entering the bay, thinking it would crash into the lighthouse. On our return we detoured to the beach to see a man cleaning his teeth while another mended fishing nets.
It was time to return to Accra but not before a swim at the resort followed by breakfast overlooking the sea.
Future plans include a coastal heritage trail linking cultural sites from Butré to Ankasa Resource Reserve. Accommodation will be in eco lodges and campsites. But for now the adventurous can explore, go canoeing, surfing and swimming on the safest spot along the Atlantic.
Ghana is politically and financially stable; go now before tourism takes off.