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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
TOWNS AND THEIR ATTRACTIONS
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.