Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bobiri Forest Butterfly Sanctuary and Besease Traditional Shrine

A couple Saturdays ago (November 20th), we took a day trip to the Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary and the Besease Traditional Shrine, both of which are east of town on the Accra road (the road to Accra, not a road named Accra).  Now that we are five here in Kumasi on the weekends, we split into two cars, with Akmed (my usual driver) and David (someone Akmed found) as our drivers.  The trip out to the sanctuary took us through rolling green hills covered in lush tropical vegetation.  As with the trip to Lake Bosomtwe, the little villages along the road are an explosion of primary colors, with the bright paint provided by a range of major companies hawking everything from phones to mattresses to instant noodles (Indo Mie instead of Ramen).

On our way there, we missed the “clearly signposted” turnoff had to turn around.  From the other direction, we saw the sign and headed up a narrow dirt street between some small houses (what we in the US would consider to be shacks and sheds).  The little bit of civilization ended and we were headed off through the hills with thick vegetation on either side.  The 3 km road took quite some time to drive.  At multiple points in time I told Akmed that we could get out and walk, because I was sure that his car wouldn’t be able to climb back up the steep, muddy roads.  After a couple of these exchanges, Akmed told me to “cool down” as he would turn around if there was a problem. Given that he may have been driving here longer than I’ve been alive, I decided to trust his judgment and stop worrying.  We eventually arrived at the Forestry Resthouse in a lovely clearing in the center of the forest.  The lady caretaker showed us into the rustic visitors’ center where we paid our entry and guide fees—a very reasonable 4 cedis per person, especially given how well our tour went.  We then met our guide, Emmanuel, and headed into the forest.

Wearing a pair of leather thong sandals, Emmanuel took us down winding, jungle paths for about an hour.  During the walk, he told us about all the various trees in the forest and how they are used locally.  Even though I haven’t retained any of the tree names, I still found the whole experience enlightening.  One of the most magical moments was when we came upon the first large tree and saw gossamer strands dancing in the sunlight.  As we got closer, we realized that they were spindly bugs much like the ones we call mosquito hawks at home.  I could have watched them dance for hours.   

 After the walk, I wandered around the butterfly garden and the forest clearing on my own.  Many of you may know that I’m a huge fan of butterflies.  Spending a couple hours chasing them with my camera is my idea of a pretty wonderful day.  I got some pretty good pictures of the butterflies (more pictures are at this link).  We then spent a couple pleasant hours doing a whole lot of nothing.  I think that everyone except Steffi ended up taking a nap on the porch of the visitors’ center.  For me, it was a choice between food and sleep—since there was no food available, I took a nap instead.  (Something that many of you may not believe is that I made it 8 hours without food and I didn’t turn into a raging lunatic.  The nap really must have helped.)

Akmed and David had headed into town to get food, expecting us to call them when we were done.  Unfortunately, we all realized around 3 o’clock that we had no cell phone signal on MTN or Zain.  And I had even checked for signal on the road into the forest.  Since we hadn’t done much hiking, we decided to start the 3-km walk towards town.  As we were heading out, the caretaker asked us for our driver’s phone number so she could call him for us.  Apparently Vodafone is the best network to have when you’re in the middle of the jungle.  She let Akmed and David know that they should come to pick us up.  We started our journey towards Kebease, planning to meet them on the way.

On our walk out of the jungle, a lone obruni riding a bicycle and carrying his backpack passed us on his way towards the Resthouse.  If he was planning to stay there overnight, he was in for a treat.  The day at Bobiri may be the most restful, hassle-free day that I’ve had in Ghana.  I could see myself going back there again.

On our way home, we stopped by the Besease Traditional Shrine in—you guessed it—Besease.  During the time that the British showed up in Ghana, the traditional architecture in all the towns was much like this traditional shrine.  But as tends to happen with the influx of another culture, the traditional ways of building, which were well-suited to the environment, were lost in the push to become “modern” (read: Western).  Somehow this shrine escaped the ax and made it through to a time when preserving tradition became important.

Upon arrival, a little old man let us into the shrine to look around.  We were able to learn much about the history and the building materials from a series of signs on the walls.  The caretaker then brought out a grass skirt and put it on, followed by having us wear it.  I think it may have been an excuse for him to have his picture taken with obrunis, as he had a stack of similar photos that he showed us.  After our short visit, we happily paid him the 3 cedis per person plus 1 cedi per camera for our visit.  We wandered back out into the fading sunlight and headed back to Kumasi.

Editor’s note:
My blog will be going on hiatus for a few days.  As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post, we’re headed up to Mole National Park and Tamale this weekend.  I’ll be sure to tell you all about it when we get back.


  1. Akmed may be both the nicest and most dependable man in Ghana. :-)