Takoradi Monkey Hill - A tourist haven
Joe Isaac Haizel Daily Graphic - Accra March 2002
In the heart of Takoradi, amidst the bustling and hustling of a city, is a rare natural eco-tourism haven that is unrivalled in its geographical position and its potential for adventure.
This exclusive eco-tourism edifice is a silent goldmine that is itching to be explored and developed to generate the much-needed revenue for the metropolitan assembly. In this eco-tourism destination, rare monkey species defy all odds and perform breath-taking aerobatic displays that can rouse the envy of Olympic gymnasts. As if in true Olympic spirit, these monkey-gymnasts are cheered and chirped on, by spectator birds that perch comfortably on Olympic size trees. This eco-tourism marvel, to be precise, is the famous Monkey Hill, atop a hill like sentry to New Takoradi, in the Western region. No visit to the twin-city for tourism purpose would be complete without a trip to Monkey Hill.
On Monkey Hill, the acrobatic monkeys seem to form an unbroken thread sewing animals, birds and nature together in a symbiotic existence. There is no doubt that any tourists who tastes or drinks deep from the fountain of Monkey Hill, even in its present undeveloped state would never feel the same again. This is why such an exclusive natural landscape, with its array of gymnasts and feathered choristers is worthy of immediate attention, development and investment. If the much-lauded prospects of tourism as a potential leading foreign exchange earner, is to gain currency, then this rare opportunity, like manna from the heavens needs to be grasped with both hands.
But even before identifying the relevant stakeholders and investors, necessary to transform and market Monkey Hill, there is the urgent need to delve deeper into how Monkey Hill can be developed, nurtured and sustained to fetch the much-needed foreign currencies for the development of the twin-city and the Western region in general.
Eco-tourism, which is the practice of sustaining and managing natural areas and resources for the admiration, study and enjoyment of tourists, is fast becoming a discipline to beat in the tourism industry. Eco-tourism has been the main backbone of many renowned tourism cities in Africa. Countries such as Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia have over the years operated viable eco-tourism programmes.
If Monkey Hill is to follow the success story of these countries then there is the urgent need for the Shama Ahanta East Metropolitan Assembly (SAEMA), Ghana Telecom, Ghana Tourist Board, Ghana Wildlife Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other local investors, to co-ordinate resources and ensure that the unique tourism resources of Monkey Hill are tapped and harnessed.
To effectively accomplish this task, the legal process of acquiring the 10-hectare tropical semi-deciduous forest on the Monkey Hill needs to be initiated. Since Ghana Telecom owns Monkey Hill it is the principal institution to consult. Other stakeholders worth roping into the development process are, SAEMA, Wildlife Department and the traditional authorities.
According to Mr. Jacob Oti-Awere, Western regional manager of GTB, the best way forward is to set up a company and cede the land to it. He further suggested that when the owners of Monkey Hill are properly identified, a land title deed should be secured. When that is done it is important for viewing points to be built to attract the monkeys for perfect viewing by tourists. This can involve building water holes and the cultivation of fruit trees in the forest.
Considering the fact that the monkeys and birds can be better viewed without disrupting their attention, it would be advisable to create walkways that need to be free of dried leaves. This would serve as shock absorbers for footfalls of visitors.
To assure tourists of acceptable accommodation and meals whilst basking in such natural paradise, Monkey Hill has lodging and meal facilities already in place for visitors. The Oklu Lodge on the hill can do with some renovation and extension to boost its image.
Sporting and recreational facilities such as a gymnasium, swimming pool, soccer pitch and a games room could be added. Who knows, the place might blossom one day into a showpiece in the sub-region. Souvenirs, postage stamps and clothings can also be produced for visitors.
Personally the unique position of Monkey Hill in a city centre is a blessing in disguise. Currently most of the cruise tourists perform whistle stops during their stay in the city. Why not present a rejuvenated Monkey Hill to them to whet their appetites.
When the sporting and recreational facilities are considered, sight must not be lost of the need for a vigorous media and promotion campaign to rope in more domestic and foreign visitors.
It is obvious that any funds sunk into Monkey Hill will multiply or triple in due course. Apart from job openings for the youth of the twin-city, the financial advantages would quadruple, and eco-tourism would be the winner.