In this feature we accompany tourism students to tourist sites in the northern half of the country. However, instead of viewing still pictures I am going to be engaging with the Head, Department of Tourism, CCTU, and my Guest, Mr. Michael Kissi. I must warn that since the creative part of me puts me on the edge whenever I am visiting a tourist site in Ghana, my questions may seem to have a punch.
HOST: Here we are again, Mr. Kissi. Thank you for your time. This time I guess in a more relaxed environment. I will refer to you as HoD, if you don’t mind. We are at Paga Crocodile Sanctuary and the date is Sunday, 17th March 2019. First, let’s enjoy it.
HoD: The Paga Crocodile Pond is significant because of the way the history of the people of Paga is closely linked with the crocodiles. It is amazing how the People of Paga have lived in harmony with the crocodiles with no reports of attempts of the crocodiles attacking any citizen of Paga including the children.
Visitors are received at a reception centre, where they are charged a fee before they are taken to the lake or pond where the crocodiles are found. In addition, the visitors have to purchase a chicken which the Guide would use to call out the crocodiles for visitors to take pictures with or touch without the crocodiles being aggressive or harming them.
HOST: I have been to the Paga Crocodile Sanctuary about three times in the past. The last time I was there was in 2003. Looking at these pictures, the place has not changed. Let me correct myself. The first time I went there, there was no reception center. I observed a reception center on my third visit. But I find it still heartbreaking, to find it in this state. What in your opinion, could be done to make a onetime visitor to want to go there again and again and again?
HoD: Essentially, the Paga Crocodile Sanctuary is an eco-tourism attraction; and therefore needs to be maintained as such. This means that, facilities, recreational activities, and services we may want to add to the attraction must be ecotourism-friendly and must be in-tune with theme of the sanctuary, which is, how the Paga Community has lived in harmony with the crocodiles in their community over the course of their history. Specifically, we could add to the sanctuary, a well-resourced museum and research centre in relation to the different species of crocodiles found in the area, their characteristics and unique features and so on. This would attract special interest tourists and biologists interested in the study of crocodiles to the area. Again, complementary attractions, entertainment facilities, hotels and guesthouses in the area could be improved and added on to ensure that visitors to the area may be attracted to repeat their visit subsequently.
Another important factor, we should pay attention to, is sanitation and specifically at the Sanctuary. This would ensure that visitors keep a positive image of the area and of the sanctuary. I am sure if the above are done, it would ensure that visitors are motivated to make repeat visits to the area and the sanctuary.
HOST: Thank you. Kindly introduce the next site.
HoD: The next attraction is the Mole National Park. Mole National Park is Ghana’s largest national park and wildlife refuge. The park is located in the Savannah Region of Ghana and on savanna and riverbank ecosystems at an elevation of 150 m. The vegetation is pristine Guinea savanna with gallery forests along the rivers and streams. The park has some 742 plant species. It has a sharp escarpment forming the southern boundary of the park. The park’s entrance is reached through the nearby town of Larabanga. The Lovi and Mole Rivers are transient rivers flowing through the park, leaving behind only drinking holes during the long dry season.
The park is home to over 93 mammal species, 33 reptile species, nine species of amphibians, and about 300 bird species. The large mammals of the park include an elephant population, hippos, buffalo, and warthogs. The park is considered a primary African preserve for antelope species including kob, defassa, waterbuck, roan, hartebeest, oribi, the bushbuck, and two duikers, the red duiker and yellow-backed duiker. Olive baboons, black-and-white colobus monkeys, the green vervet and patas monkeys are the known species of monkeys found at the park. Of the 33 known species of reptiles found at the park, slender-snouted and dwarf crocodiles are included.
The park has a headquarters developed near its main entrance on its southern side. It also has a lodge and related-visitor facilities, including an animal viewing area. You can have a safari-tour of the park which would enable you to enjoy and explore a greater expanse of the park.
HOST: This is a tourist site which I know pretty well and have fond memories of―the Mole National Park. I still think a lot more could have been done here over the past years. I will like to share my pictures with you if you don’t mind (pictures taken during the lockdown, 2020).
HOST: What are your views of the Mole National Park in respect to enhancing the tourist experience, mindful that these pictures are already breathtaking images of just a peep of the animal kingdom!
HoD: Indeed, a visit to the Mole National Park is interesting, exciting, and gives you a peek into how it feels to be in a wilderness environment. In terms of enhancing the tourist experience at the park, more Safari vehicles for visitors’ tour of the park would be good. In my opinion, an upgraded reception centre and a well-resourced ecological museum to provide relevant information on the diverse plant species and wildlife found within the park could be provided.
Also, the roads or trails within the park should be maintained adequately to facilitate visitors’ experience at the park. Again, consistent capacity building and training for the staff and the site guides on quality service delivery and on maintaining the quality of attractions, experiences and activities offered visitors, would be in order. Further, more viewing platforms strategically sited within the park for animal viewing should be provided for visitors’ use, including the provision of telescopes for visitors. The foregoing when implemented would also greatly contribute to enhancing the quality of visitor experiences at the park.
HOST: The best periods to visit the Mole National Park are May to August and December through February. When was your visit?
HoD: Our visit was in March, which is also part of the dry season in the Savannah Region.
HOST: What is the next stop on our itinerary? Kindly introduce it to us.
HoD: The next stop on our itinerary is the Larabanga Mosque. It was built in the Sudanese architectural style in the village of Larabanga, Ghana. It is the oldest mosque in the country and one of the oldest in West Africa. It has been referred to as the “Mecca of West Africa”. It has undergone restoration several times since it was founded in 1421. The World Monuments Fund (WMF) has contributed substantially to its restoration, and lists it as one of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world.
The mosque has an old Quran, believed by the locals to have been given as a gift from heaven in 1650 to Yidan Barimah Bramah, the Imam at the time, as a result of his prayers. The mosque, built using West African sun-dried bricks or adobe, has two tall towers in pyramidal shape, one for the mihrab or the niche in the wall which faces towards Mecca forming the facade on the east; and the other as a minaret or slender tower with balconies in the northeast corner. These are buttressed by twelve bulbous shaped structures, which are fitted with timber elements.
The mosque is located in the Islamic town of Larabanga, close to Damango in the West Gonja District of the Savannah Region of Ghana. The town is situated about 15 kilometers north of Damongo, and 4 kilometers south of the Mole National Park entrance.
HOST: Did you get the opportunity to enter the Mosque? What could be introduced here to make a tourist want to come back?
HoD: Even though, it is popularly said that visitors are not allowed into the mosque, we were given the rare privilege to enter the mosque. In my view, the way of life of the people of the community could be packaged such that, visitors to the mosque and the community may want to come back for repeat visits.
HOST: What are the department’s expectations of the students who participated in this field trip?
HoD: The Department expects our students to appreciate the tourism attractions in Ghana, and to see how they can relate the theories, knowledge and principles they are taught in class to contribute to their enhancement; and also to appreciate the perspectives of tourists who visit Ghana’s attractions in order to be able to come out with unique measures and strategies for quality of visitor experiences at Ghana’s tourist attractions.
Again, there is no way students, who are the future professionals to manage and advance the industry, can do so effectively, if they have no firsthand experience of the tourist attractions and products they are expected to contribute to managing and marketing to both domestic and international tourists.
We would want to conclude by appreciating your Honourable Self for the opportunity you’ve granted our department to be featured on your well-known blog. We thank you very much.
HOST: Thank you too for this presentation. We will drop a few more sites as we engage with your alumnus in the coming series.