Among the Treetops
By Gina Masselli and Josué Moreno
New Britain, CT, United States
Ghana is a country on the coast of western Africa that is approximately 92,099 square miles in size. In 2017, Ghana had an estimated population of 28.83 million people.
Ghana was the first African country south of the Sahara to free itself from colonial rule. Known as the Gold Coast while under British control, Ghana became an independent nation on March 6, 1957.
Ghana is very rich in culture, and its history is quite extensive. For example, it contains one of the approximately forty “slave castles” built along the coast of Africa. This historic landmark is located in the city of Cape Coast, the Central Region’s capital, so it is known as Cape Coast Castle. Built in 1555 by Portuguese traders, the fort came to play a major role in the transport of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean.
Protection for the Park
Near Cape Coast is one of Ghana’s seven national parks. In 1931, local activists successfully petitioned the government for the headwater region of the Kakum River to be protected as a forest reserve. Logging finally ended there until 1989.
Kakum National Park is situated 33 kilometers north of Cape Coast and 170 kilometers west of Ghana’s national capital, Accra. The drainage of Kakum is very rich so the park has several rivers and cascades. The Kakum River supplies water to Cape Coast and surrounding areas.
The key attraction of the park is its tree canopy walkway. This series of seven suspension bridges enables you to walk in the tropical treetops for almost 500 meters. To protect the trees, some of which are hundreds of years old, the walkways hang securely without any hardware penetrating the bark. From 40 meters above the ground, visitors experience a unique view of the rainforest ecosystem.
As you meander among the treetops, you’ll be tempted to look down at the ground. If it’s not too scary, though, keep your focus on the canopy around you. More than 500 species of butterflies and 250 species of birds will dazzle you with their color and activity. The park also provides a habitat for primates such as the endangered Diana monkey.
Some lucky tourists may catch a glimpse of the African forest elephants that live in the park. Because mammal sightings are rare during the day, you might stick around and take a later tour or even camp overnight. Predators such as leopards venture out in the dark to hunt for their food.
No matter what flora and fauna you’re able to see, after your visit to Kakum National Park you’ll hear the phrase “bird’s-eye view” and smile at the memories it evokes.
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Learning Activity for Middle School: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division
Social Justice Question
The World Health Organization has studied the air quality in Ghana and found it to be the fourth worst on the continent. A dump in Accra burns tons of electronic waste, creating toxic smoke that spreads for miles. Given that Kakum National Park is only two hours away from this polluted air, how concerned are you about the health of its ecosystem?
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