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CENTRAL REGION


Cape Coast, the capital of the Central Region, is just about a 2-hour drive west of Accra. The region is famous for its ancient forts and castles, beautiful coconut palm shaded beaches and for a peculiar elegance of attitude which is recorded and celebrated in literature. Apart from Cape Coast, Elmina is the next well-known destination for tourists. However, the Region is rich in other fascinating historic places such as Anomabu, Abandze, Komenda and Moree.


Castles And Forts
Three of the castles have been designated World Heritage Monuments by the World Heritage Foundation under UNESCO. They are Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle and Fort St. Jago.

Most historians believe that Cape Coast Castle was originally built as a small trading lodge which was subsequently added to and enlarged until it became a fortification. In 1637 the lodge was occupied by the Dutch. Then, in 1652, it was captured by the Swedes, who name it Fort Carolusburg. For a time, both the local people and various European powers fought for and gained possession of the fort. Finally, in 1664, after a 4-day battle, the fort was captured by the British and re-named Cape Coast Castle. The Castle served as the seat of the British administration in the then Gold Coast (Ghana) until the administration was moved to Christianborg Castle in Accra on March 19, 1877.

Like most ancient fortifications in Ghana, Cape Coast Castle played a significant role in the gold and slave trades. Also, as a result of the European influence here, two significant contributions were made that are still evident today: the arrival of Christianity in the country, and the establishment of the first formal education system through "Castle Schools".

A guided tour of the Cape Coast Castle will acquaint you with its many interesting features including Dalzell Tower, the graves of Governor George Maclean and his wife Leticia Landon, the slave dungeons, "Palaver Hall", and the cannons and mortars used in the Castle's defence.

Guided tours of Cape Coast Castle are available from 8:30am - 4:30pm daily. The general admission fee, includes a guided tour. There is also a nominal charge for taking photographs or for using a video camera.


West African Historical Museum
The Museum is located inside Cape Coast Castle and contains a growing collection of art and cultural objects from various parts of West Africa, for example ceremonial drums, old muskets, shackles from the slave trade and ancient pottery. The price of admission is included in your castle entry fee.


Elmina Castle
Just 10km west of Cape Coast is the township of Elmina, the first point of contact between the Europeans and the inhabitants of Ghana. A visit to Elmina Castle is both memorable and moving, for within these walls significant events took place which contributed to the shaping of the history of the world.

In 1471, a Portuguese expedition arrived, led by Don Diego d' Azambuja. Because of the vast amount of gold and ivory they found here, they called the area "Mina de Ouro" - the gold mine. Elmina soon became the centre of a thriving trade in gold, ivory and slaves, which were exchanged for cloth, beads, brass bracelets and other goods brought by the Portuguese.

In 1482, the Portuguese built St. George's Castle (Elmina Castle). This vast rectangular 97,000 sq ft fortification is the earliest known European structure in the tropics.

As the immensely profitable trade in gold and slaves at Elmina increased, it began to attract the attention of other European nations, and a struggle for control of the Castle ensued. Finally, in 1637, after two previously unsuccessful attempts, the Dutch captured Elmina Castle and it remained in its control for the next 274 years.

A guided tour is offered daily. Admission fee is charged. The Castle also has a gift shop for the sale of books and souvenirs on the history of the castle.


Fort St. Jago
Fort St. Jago is within walking distance of Elmina Castle. It is from this vantage point that the Dutch launched their successful land attack on Elmina Castle. Unlike other area forts, St. Jago was not used for trading activities. Its primary purpose was to provide military protection to the Castle and to serve as a disciplinary institution for European convicts and malcontents.

Bring your camera along, for this little Fort and the hill on which it stands also provides an excellent view of Elmina township and the Castle.


Dutch Cemetery
In the centre of town, near the "Posuban" Shrine (you will recognize it by the life-size statues and high-decorated facade) is the Dutch Cemetery.

Built in the 19th century, it contains the graves of many former residents of the Castle and of important to local citizens. You cannot help but be a little startled by the very young age at which so many of these people died. A mausoleum in the centre of the Cemetery was reserved for the tombs of the Castle's Governors.


NATURAL ATTRACTIONS

Beaches
Beach lovers are assured of a relaxing experience on the Region's beaches. There is 12-hours of sunshine nearly every day (especially from January - June and October - December) and a surf that varies from absolute calm to sizeable waves. Some of the best beaches in the Central Region are listed below.


Brenu Beach
Between the villages of Ankwanda and Brenu Akyinim, about 15 minutes by car from Elmina, is a 3km stretch of palm-fringed, virgin beach where the water is clean and cool and excellent for swimming.

There is also a peaceful lagoon nearby which is the Winter home of hundreds of migratory birds. To reach Brenu Beach, travel 10km west of Elmina on the Accra-Takoradi Highway. Turn at the sign, and follow the beach road for 5km to its end.


Winneba
A 1-hour drive west from Accra will take you to Sir Charles Beach Resort. The resort has a hotel and restaurant and is a favourite spot among international tourists. The 4km stretch of beach adjacent to the hotel has gentle waters that are ideal for swimming.


Gomoa Fetteh
Just 30km from Accra, this interesting coastal settlement is hidden away at the end of a 13km beach road off the Accra-Takoradi Highway. Its lovely, undisturbed beach is perfect for picnics and the mild surge is safe for swimming.


Kakum and Assin Atandanso Nature Reserve
30km north of Cape Coast, on the Dunkwa-On-Offin Road at Abrafo, is the newly established 350 sq km nature park. This reserve was formed to protect one of the last vestiges of Ghana's rapidly-vanishing tropical rain forest and the rare wildlife it contains. If you are one of the growing numbers of people around the world who are concerned about the environment, then you will appreciate the importance of the Kakum and Assin Atandanso Reserve.


Guided Nature Tours
Trained park guides provide 2-hour nature tours, on one of several trails, that will acquaint you with more than 40 fascinating plants and trees, such as the "Strangling Fig", that silently embraces its host - to death, or the "Otuwere", whose huge thorns were removed, then carved and used like rubber stamps in the past.

Besides a description of the economic and cultural uses of many of these trees, guides also explain their medicinal value. The forest provides ingredients for treatment of a wide variety of ailments - from serious ones like leprosy, small pox or tumors to simpler problems like an upset stomach or a toothache. (For your comfort and protection against minor scratches and fire ants, bring along walking shoes, socks and long pants).

Guided tours of the reserve are available daily from 7am to 3pm. Since groups are limited to eight people each, advance reservations are recommended.
Please contact the Ghana Tourist Board
Tel: 233-042-2934 or CEDECOM Tel: 233-042-2288 to confirm availability.


Wildlife Tours
Since 1992 there is an established additional tours which will take anyone deeper into the 350 sq km reserve to discover the habitats of some of the world's rare and most endangered wildlife species, for example; the nearly extinct Mona Monkey, Bongos, Royals Antelopes, Duikers, Forest Elephants, Giant Forest Hogs, Honey Badgers, African Civet Cats and Forest Buffalos.


FESTIVALS AND CULTURAL EVENTS IN THE REGION

The Central Region's culture is depicted through many interesting and colourful festivals throughout the year. These annual festivals serve a variety of purposes, such as purification of the "stools", cleansing communities of evils, ancestral veneration and supplications to the deities for prosperity and unity.

The festivals' major highlights include drumming, dancing and firing of musketry. Chiefs, adorned in rich Kente cloth and bedecked in gold, are paraded through the town in palanquins, shaded by huge and colourful parasols.

These celebrations attract many visitors. It is therefore advisable to reserve a hotel at least one month in advance. Some of the most well known festivals are:


Bakatue Festival
Literally translated to mean "opening up of the Benya Lagoon into the sea", Bakatue symbolizes the beginning of a fishing season, which is the main livelihood of the people of Elmina. It is celebrated annually in Elmina on the first Tuesday in July and originated centuries ago, long before the arrival of the Europeans. The splendid ceremonies include a durbar of chiefs, a colouful regatta of canoes on the Benya Lagoon and processions. A solemn "net casting" ceremony symbolizes the beginning of a new fishing season, and the catch is offered to the deities of the traditional area. You are invited to take part in the regatta and merry-making.


Edina Buronya Festival
This is the native version of Christmas which is exclusively celebrated by the people of Elmina (Edina) on the first Thursday of the new year. The festival was influenced by the Portuguese settlers who celebrated a similar event every January. For the people of Edina, it is a period of purification, sacrifices to the gods, remembrance of the dead, and the welcoming of a new year. Families pour libations and invite friends to participate in dining, and merry-making, throughout the town.


Aboakyir (Deer Hunt) Festival
"Aboakyir" literally, means, "game hunting". This popular festival is celebrated on the first Saturday of May by the chiefs and people of Winneba. The festival begins with a competitive hunt between two traditional warrior groups in a nearby game reserve, where each tries to catch an antelope live. It is an adventurous event to test the strength, bravery, determination and intuition of the two rival groups. The winner presents the catch to the Paramount Chief who sits in state with the sub-chiefs and subjects. The antelope is sacrificed as an invocation for good harvest and a bountiful fishing season. A durbar and procession of the chiefs and warrior groups in their colouful regalia is the highlight of the celebrations. Brass bands, dancing, performances of folklore and parties make this an unforgettable event.

Formerly involved capturing a leopard barehanded, the toll on human life eventually became so prohibitive that the divinity to whom the leopard was sacrificed was beseeched to accept a less dangerous substitute, and the leopard was replaced by an antelope.


Fetu Afahye Festival
It is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of September by communities in the Cape Coast Traditional Area (Fetu). It is characterized by a durbar of chiefs and processions of Asafo Companies (traditional warrior groups) and numerous social organisations. Every member of the group is adorned in rich and colourful clothes, thus creating the grandeur of this festival which literally means "adorning of new clothes". A procession of the 7 "Asafo Companies" in their unique costumes depicts a fusion of the Fante and European cultures, (typically, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish and British, which have been sustained over many centuries). Customary rites include the slaughter of a cow to the 77 deities in the area to obtain their blessings.


Odambea Festival
"Odambea" is celebrated on the last Saturday of August by the "Nkusukum" chiefs and people of the Saltpond Traditional Area. This event commemorates the migration of the Nkusukum people centuries ago from Techiman (500km away) to their present settlement. "Odambea" means "fortified link", a name resulting from the role played by the "Nkusukum" people in keeping the migrant groups in touch with each other following their exodus from Techiman. A special feature of the festival is the re-enactment of the ancient life styles of the people, which will provide you with a unique opportunity to learn more about their past.


CRAFTS VILLAGES

You will enjoy discovering the villages and the craftsmen who produce many of the items you will want to take home as souvenirs of your visit to the Central Region.


Winneba, located on the main road to the township, they are famous for their unusual and beautiful dishes, vases, decorated tiles, ashtrays, dinner sets and much more.


Gomoa-Otsew-Jukwa, located about 5km from Winneba towards Cape Coast. A village of pottery makers, who produce unglazed black and terracotta pots and bowls, which come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.


Enyam Maim, located 6km from Mankessim, the highly-skilled craftsmen of the village produce carved wooden handicrafts in the form of fish, animals, fruits, vegetables and decorative staffs.


Ajumako Oware, located 30km from Mankessim, the village is the home of renowned master craftsmen who specialise in carved royal regalia - stools, linguistic staffs, walking sticks, swords of state and clan totems. The symbolic, traditional hieroglyphs in these carvings are very similar to those of ancient Egypt.


Duakwa And Mensah Krom located 10 km from Agona Swedru (en route to Akim Oda where you can see the largest tree in West Africa) are a host of carvers who specialise in making traditional stools and ceremonial staffs.


HISTORICAL TOWNS AND THEIR ATTRACTIONS

Winneba
Traditionally known as 'Simpa'; Winneba is 90km from Cape Coast. This historic settlement was once the country's port during the colonial era and still remains a fishing harbour today. In fact, if you are hoping to take great close-up pictures of the traditional fishing boats, the fisher folk repairing their nets and little stands full of brilliantly coloured fruits and vegetables, Winneba is the right place. There is also a beautiful beach west of the township, and hotel facilities in the area.

Make plans to join in celebrating "Aboakyir" Festival in May, or the unique festival of masqueraders in January every year.


Agona Swedru
20km north, off the Accra-Takoradi Highway at the Winneba Junction, is the bustling, commercial metropolis of Agona Swedru. A stroll down the main street reveals an endless variety of tiny shops and stores full of different types of merchandise. This town is especially well known for its lively brass band groups which perform during community picnics and other celebrations.


Kromantse/Abandze
These twin-fishing villages, 19km from Cape Coast on the Accra-Takoradi Highway, were once important trading centres for the English, and the Dutch. In Abandze, you can visit the site of Fort Amsterdam, which was built by the Dutch in the 17th century. The late, great, jazz musician, Louise Armstrong traced his ancestry to this settlement, after years of research.


Mankessim
Located 44km from Cape Coast, Mankessim was the birthplace of the "Fante" people in Ghana. The town's rich history is told in the form of statues and imaginative fold-art on the facade of the impressive "Posuban" shrine in the centre of town. If you are interested in learning more about this shrine, just ask to see Mr. J.F. Baiden, the Raconteur, or his assistant. He will tell you all about the art and statues and their meanings. The fee for his services is based on the size of the group.

Mankessim is a major commercial centre. Its market, the largest in the Region, sells items ranging from foodstuffs to clothes and traditional utensils to craft items. The best time to visit is on market days - Tuesday and Thursday.

If you are planning to stay on overnight there are various hotels to meet every pocket.


Saltpond
Indigenously known as "Akyemfo" this historic town is located about 30km from Cape Coast. It played an important role in Ghana's move toward independence.

A lively and colourful "Odambea" festival is celebrated in Saltpond on the last Saturday of August each year.


Posuban Shrines
A unique attraction, peculiar to the "Fante" communities along the southern part of Ghana is the "Posuban". "Posuban" is a combination of English and Fante words; "posu" meaning post and "ban" meaning fortification. They are the religious centres of the Fante military organization of warriors known as "ASAFO". "Sa" means war, and the suffice "Fo" combines to mean warriors.

"Posuban" shrines are fanciful buildings, lavishly decorated with fold-art, emblems, and a remarkable array of life-size statuettes. Each ornament unfolds the history, victories in battle and the general military experiences of the Fantes. These shrines are usually located on sites where an important enemy was slain or a famous battle was fought.

You may visit any Posuban to learn about its interesting history. It is customary to present libation (usually Peppermint Schnapps) and some token fee to the chief of the village or town where the Posuban is located.

These shrines abound in the Fanteland; there are about a hundred in the region. Apart form those we have mentioned, some other important Posuban are located in Anomabu, 9km east of Cape Coast; Gomoa Otsew, 90km west of Accra; Apam, 96km west of Accra.


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