21 April 2006

Ghana: Old Canoes At Nzuleso, a Danger to Tourists

Accra — The use of "over-aged" dugout boats to convey tourists to the Nzuleso Island posed danger to the lives of visitors to the tourist site.

Apart from their small sizes, most of the dugout boats leak profusely and tourists have to collect the water to keep them afloat, while paddling is still done manually.

These were the observations of a GNA reporter, who travelled with a group of tourists, who visited the island on Easter Monday.

The boat services were provided as part of the Amanzule Conservation and Integrated Development (ACID) Project, which started in 1996, and is being managed by the Ghana Wildlife Society (GWS), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) with support from the Dutch Government.

The first phase of the ACID project, which ended in 2003, has not been renewed even though a baseline survey has been completed for its continuation.

Mr Jonathan Goka, Tourism Development Officer of the GWS, who spoke to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview at Beyin said, each boat carried a maximum of eight people and the movement to the Island is restricted to avoid any accidents and to safeguard the local buildings at Nzuleso.

Mr Goka however, said some tourists, who travelled to Nzuleso engaged locals to convey them and this could result in accidents.

He explained that currently the GWS has only 12 boats and 18 life jackets, which it used to convey tourists to and from Nzuleso.

Mr Goka said that sometimes groups had been prevented from embarking on the after an hour-long trip, due to limited boats and lifejackets.

He said, there were only three staff members of the GWS supervising the ACID project, while eight other locals had been trained as tour guides.

He said the Amanzule River is the only non-polluted wetland in the country and also served as nourishment for fish stocks in both the sea and the river.

Mr Goka said the ACID project covered 10,000 square kilometres and involved six beneficiary communities.

They are Beyin, Ngelekasu, Ekabeku, Megyina, Ebonlowaa and Nzuleso.

He said as part of the project, the GWS was mandated to educate the communities on the importance of the marine turtle to the sea and tourism development and to discourage them from collecting both eggs and turtles from the beaches for food.

Mr Goka said to ensure compliance, local task forces had been established in all the communities to prevent and protect marine turtles from looters.

This he explained had not yielded the necessary change in the people and to reverse the trend, a small-scale enterprise development fund had been established.

"The fund provides capital for communities that posed great danger to the turtles, as loans for alternative livelihood projects" he added.

Mr Goka said 4,800 tourists visited Nzuleso in 2004, while in 2005, 3,200 Ghanaians and 2,700 foreigners visited the island.

Mr Goka said the poor nature of the road had contributed to the decrease in the number of visitors expected around this time of the year.

He appealed to the government to come to their aid, to ensure the early completion of the main road after river Elloine to Beyin to facilitate travel.

Mr Goka said the road, if constructed would facilitate the movement of goods and services.

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