Article by Mr.Gabriel Adukpo
LOUD, shrill noises from female students filled the air that afternoon. One of them burst into a popular gospel song: “Under the canopy of God……….My Saviour will come to lift me up”. It was one Friday in May when I alighted at the Bunso Arboretum to experience the thrill of being aloft on a canopy walkway. The girls were merely expressing a mixture of joy and trepidation on that occasion.
The walkway is an added attraction to the arboretum that also serves as a gene bank for the Plant Genetic Resources Research Centre of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). It was opened in 2014 and has come to boost ecotourism started ten years earlier.
Initially, the 40-acre land was a forest reserve. In 1935, it was acquired by two British nationals who built a guest house there. Before David Gillet and Frank Thompson – the Britons – left the country, they released the land to the National Research Council, now the CSIR. The forest is home to several species of plants, birds and butterflies.
Trails were created for people interested in nature to go round and watch rare local and exotic plant species. Some of the indigenous plants are Garcina kola (twepea in Twi) having health benefits, Okure – used for dug-out canoes and alpha and omega tree for local sponge (sapowie). Monkey nut and Brazilian nut are some of the exotic species. As a gene bank the arboretum serves as a conservation centre for plant species all over the tropics.
Not far from the gate is the butterfly sanctuary. Flowers like alamanda, bougainvillea, rose and hibiscus were specifically planted to host the butterflies. These beautiful creatures are observed at specific times of the day but reach their peak populations in October.
There is also a bamboo village close to a small stream at the southern boundary of the arboretum. Groves of yellow and green-coloured bamboos adorn the area. Their canopies completely cut off the sun’s rays and the place is cool and airy. Nothing can stop people holding meetings and parties there except rainfall.
When the authorities opened up the place for ecotourism, only small groups of people who cherish quiet and serene environments patronized the site for their wedding receptions, outdoor camping and other activities. But the full potential of the place was yet to be realized. It took the ingenuity and experience of an engineer and businessman to spot the possibility of a canopy walkway in the forest.
The man, Kenneth Akuffo Asare, has worked with Canadian counterparts to establish the first canopy walkway in Ghana at Kakum in the Central Region. With over 20 years’ experience at Kakum, Mr. Asare has successfully mounted a longer and higher walkway at Bunso in the Eastern Region.
With large steel cables tied high up the trunks of huge tropical trees, technicians have created suspended pathways using strong nylon ropes woven on the two-rail cables. Wooden boards were used as staircases and floors of the walkway. The path between two trunks is known as a bridge. Between two bridges and around the supporting trees are wooden platforms or stations.
It was an exciting experience up there walking between the clouds and tops of trees in the forest. The slight swinging of the walkway can be intimidating especially to those faint-hearted girls.
Surprisingly, a ten year old boy walked boldly unaccompanied from the opposite end. As the path is very narrow and does not favour a two-stream flow of human beings, we advised the boy to return and go along with us, which he did.
A number of activities were going on at the arboretum. They included printing of photographs, food and drink vending, popcorn roasting and live radio programme with children. Cashiers and tour guides were also busy serving visitors.
According to the development plan of the place, there will be a gym, a spa and a tree-top camp that can accommodate 18 people at a time. I will definitely go back to Bunso arboretum when the tree-top camp is ready. It should also be in October when I can encounter the butterflies in the air.
165 km from Accra
3 km from Bunso junction on Accra-Kumasi road
300 butterfly species
600 tropical tree species
110 bird species
320-metre long walkway