Monday, 16 May 2011

Ghana Wildlife Tour IV- Sacred Monkeys

28- 30 March 2011
We had not given proper thought to the next leg of the journey. We were sure about spending some more days touring but were not sure about where to go after seeing hippos and elephants. The guide book came handy about planning our tour further. We zeroed in on Techiman, since it was the town with access to some forest based ecotourism ventures and also connected to the northern as well as southern part of Ghana by public transport system. It was convenient for Rahul to go to his place in the south as well as me to start my journey northwards to Bongo.
We started for Buipe, a town on the bank of White Volta and infamous for getting flooded every year. This is the place where our fellow VSO friend Cush lived. We enjoyed her hospitality and were fed with local Ghanaian cuisine by her. We also got an opportunity to see her workplace where they produce sachet water and process Shea butter in highly mechanized plant. Next day we headed to Kintampo very early in the morning.
Kintampo is a major town after Tamale and an important transportation hub. The major attraction at Kintampo is the waterfalls. There are two waterfalls there, of which we visited the one near to the town and also considered as major. They have created a picnic place near waterfalls. It is a system of three waterfalls where a small river falls off the cliffs at three places, which are very near to each other. The first waterfall had height of approximately 3 meters but it had an interesting features. The water had created a hole in the rock cliff and the water was falling off the cliff and then it was getting disappeared in rock crevices, before re-emerging after about 20 meters. The so called second waterfall was nothing but water falling from some small rocky surface and I did not understand why was that called a waterfall. The third waterfall was the biggest. The water was falling off the granite rocks having an interesting layered structure which I had never seen before near any waterfall. Generally at the waterfalls due to force of water falling down, rock surfaces tend to be very much smoothed. I enjoyed bathing under the waterfall.
Kintampo Waterfalls
After Kintampo waterfalls, our next goal was to reach Boabeng Fiema, the place famous for sacred Monkeys. We got to know from the book that one has to go there via Techiman and a town called Nkoranza. We found that there were direct trotros to Nkoranza available from Kintampo and we were lucky to get a one immediately after we reached Kintampo. The road to Nkoranza was a completely dirt road and passed through gently sloping hills covered with lush green vegetation. We were passing through forests and farmlands. I realized that Kintampo is a town that lies on the boundary of Ghana's North and South. The flat dry brown savannah plains in the north of Kintampo had given way to gently rolling forested hills of the south. And So had the culture and language. Dominance of Islam had given way to Christianity and northern languages had given way to Twi, the language of Akan ethnic groups from the south. Interestingly we learned from the guide book, that Kintampo is also the site for geographical centre for British colonial Gold coast, known today as Ghana.
While keeping ourselves busy changing trotros and to move as fast as possible, we had not taken any proper lunch and we had to keep our hunger out by eating Bofroot and boiled eggs sold by women on the streets. We arrived at Boabeng village at last and the driver of our shared taxi guided us to a spot and rushed further to Fiema where these taxis end their journey. We were introduced to a guide who claimed to be an official guide but then he asked if we would like to visit the office to which we answered “yes.” He took us in the forest and we came across large groups of monkeys, which were really beautiful. He called an official guide from the office, showed us a way to follow and went away. The forest had plenty of huge trees and it was very easy to get lost if we had gone on some trails which were starting off the main road. To our relief, we came across an old man on a bicycle who introduced himself as the official guide and took us to the office. We were surprised to find really helpful desk clerk, clean accommodation and a beautiful campus with Mango and Magnolia trees. The accommodation was not expensive at all and we immediately decided to stay there instead of heading back to Nkoranza or Techiman for the night.
The walk in the forest took almost two hours. Our guide, Edmund, an old retired tro tro driver, was a thorough gentleman who gave us a very informative tour of the forest. The monkey sanctuary is a community effort to preserve the forests and wildlife in this area. The belief in this area is that the local Bono people who first settled there were turned into monkeys to protect themselves from the war and they are considered as ancestors of the people in that area. There are ancestor worship rituals and monkeys are considered sacred. They have also created a cemetery for the monkey which they find dead. The monkey fetish priests, after their death, have also been buried in the same cemetery. The monkeys and their forest habitat are protected by the communities of Boabeng and Fiema, and the area has been converted into a sight for ecotourism.
The brown Mona monkeys live in a big groups of 20 with one or two male patriarchs with their number of wives. They are considered as male monkeys and they are really aggressive and easily visit the surrounding villages and steal food from the kitchens. Since they are protected and worshipped nobody harms them. The other species, called Colobus monkeys, is beautifully coloured in black and white. These are shy and considered as female. The species is. These monkeys do not leave their wild habitat and do not like to go near the humans and could not be captured in cameras easily.
Mona Monkey

Apart of monkeys this small area of 4.5 square kilometres protects huge diversity of birds and plants. We could see some beautiful birds there. A sacred river passes through the forest but only fetish priests are allowed to visit that part of the river in the forests. We could here the running water from the river at some places. We came across a huge Ficus tree which had spread over a large area. There was also an interesting formation of woody Ficus climbers where they had entangled one large tree which eventually became dead and was rotten away leaving behind the Ficus tree cage. Many of the trees in the forests were 400 years old and had huge diameters ranging from 1-2 meters.

Inside the Ficus cage

After the tour, we checked a souvenir shop in the village where they were selling wood carvings and I could not resist buying two beautiful wooden masks. We strolled on the main road near visitor centre where we were staying. The main objective of stroll was to find cashew apples. I had seen many cashew trees while on the way to the village from Nkoranza. Then I had realized that I had not eaten them this year and I would be missing them badly. We found some really sweet cashew apples and mangoes directly off the trees. It pleased our taste buds as well as spirits. Afterwards the cook in the centre served us nourishing and delicious spaghetti with tomato sauce and more mangoes, but this time beautifully cut and arranged on a plate. It was already very dark and time to go to bed and have a nice sleep in comfortable bed.