Ghana’s forested south composes the easternmost extent of the Guinean Forest of West Africa – one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the African continent. The Upper Guinean Rainforest, where Kakum National Park is located, is disappearing at an alarming rate as agricultural expansion, growing settlements, and timber extraction have already claimed more than 80 percent of the forest’s original expanse. The small, scattered pockets of rainforest that survive in Ghana are testament to this rapid degradation, and conservation has become a crucial priority.
To combat the loss of rainforest, CI worked with a range of national and international partners and with financial support from USAID to create an effectively managed and sustainable new national park: Kakum National Park. Tourism development was essential in creating a financially viable protected area, and CI worked with national institutions to develop the physical infrastructure to make the park an attractive tourist destination.
Construction and Operations
Interventions included designing and building a canopy walkway that is in the park and that offers visitors a unique perspective and spectacular way of experiencing the rainforest. Additionally, a comprehensive visitor’s center, which includes a major educational exhibition, shops, restaurant, campground, and other public amenities, was created. The walkway, the visitor’s center, and the interpretive development were the basis for extensive growth in visitation and revenue. In 1991, the park received fewer than 1,000 visitors per year. By the year 2000, that number grew to almost 90,000 visitors, with several inbound Ghanaian travel operators handling travel arrangements for tourists. More than 80 percent of visitors are Ghanaian, which far surpasses initial expectations for domestic interest.
Transformation of a Community
The canopy walkway opened on Earth Day in 1995. On the same day in 1997, the new visitor’s center and exhibit, which highlight the cultural connections of the indigenous Akan people of southern Ghana to the natural world, were unveiled. This combination of activities has educated tens of thousands of Ghanaian schoolchildren and domestic and international tourists alike about the forest, its biodiversity, and its people.
In addition to park entrance fees, income generation through the sale of handicrafts, transportation, food, and lodging for tourists has had a substantial effect on the local economy. Visitation to Kakum has also led to an influx in tourists to nearby Elmina Castle (1482), Cape Coast Castle (1670), and Fort St. Jago, thus resulting in added revenues that have financed enhanced conservation of those World Heritage sites.
To ensure the long-term sustainability of the facility, CI helped with the creation of the Ghana Heritage Conservation Trust to operate and manage the walkway and visitor's center.
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Facilities and Tourist Information
- Transportation. Kakum is situated approximately three hours from Accra. Visitors can arrange the drive with a local tour operator or can rent their own vehicle.
- Canopy Walkway. The award-winning Kakum Canopy Walkway leads visitors through the treetops of Ghana’s Kakum National Park, offering a spectacular, unmatched view of the rainforest. The suspended walkway comprises 1,000 feet of swinging bridge and six tree trunk–perched platforms that do not rely on nails or bolts for support. Instead, steel cables are carefully wrapped around the trunks to provide the necessary stabilization.
- Visitor’s Center and “Hidden Connections” Exhibit. The innovative stone and timber design of the center – which has been based on local materials, crafts, and labor – has made it a model for other protected-area facilities and has become one of the park’s main attractions.
- Birdwatching and Wildlife Viewing. More than 250 bird species can be observed in Kakum, as well as more than 500 species of butterflies. Tourists may catch a glimpse of the rare Diana monkey, forest elephant, bongo, yellow-backed duiker, and many more large mammals.
- Afafranto Campsite. The campsite can accommodate 12 adults or 16 children, and visitors must bring their own tents, mosquito nets, and sleeping bags.
- Bamboo Orchestra. The Kukyekukyeku Bamboo Orchestra from Mesomagor, a nearby village, uses bamboo instruments to produce a melody of sounds accompanied by traditional dances.
- Mesomagor. Visitors to the village can experience typical, rural Ghanaian life, eat local Ghanaian dishes, see the distillery of local gin, visit cocoa farms, listen to "spider" stories at night, dance to the songs of the Bamboo Orchestra, and sleep in a wildlife-viewing platform in the park. Overnight stays can be organized with park management or local tour operators.
- Kuntan Trail. With an experienced guide, visitors to the trail can learn the secrets of the forest, including the uses of various medicinal plants and beautiful hidden areas of the rainforest.
- Kakum Rainforest Café. The site restaurant provides international and Ghanaian dishes such as Red Red, fufu, and banku, which are prepared to the highest standards with fresh local produce. There is also a picnic area for self-catering.
For more information, please contact:
To Contact the Park Directly:
Ghana Heritage Conservation Trust
Kakum National Park Visitor Center
Ghanaian Inbound Tour Operators:
Expertravel and Tours
Fredina Tours, Ltd.
Land Tours, Ltd.