Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Global Connections: Day 4

Sunday was a day for us to be tourists. Our first stop was the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary home to several troops of mona monkeys. According to our guide the population of mona in the sanctuary has increased from less than 50 monkeys in the 80s or 90s to more than 500 today. Historically, the monkeys in the region were revered and considered sacred, but after the introduction of Christianity the people in the area sought to destroy those things that were sacred in their old religion, including the monkeys. Interestingly, both Nii and our guide at the sanctuary discussed the value of a tabu over a law. It is their belief that laws protecting the monkeys and their land are ineffective, that people will always find ways around laws (particularly ones that are hard to monitor and enforce). However, when the idea of the monkey and the land as sacred was re-introduced, people became less destructive.

The monkeys in the sanctuary are quite friendly and tame. We were provided bananas and instructions on how to hold the bananas to encourage the monkeys to it on our arms and shoulders. It was quite the opportunity for selfie fodder.

Whether or not the Wiki Travel entry is true, it claims that Tafi Atome is "one of the most popular and well run ecotourism projects in the Volta Region of Ghana." This is surprising to me, as there was very little to the operation from my perspective. We were led only a short ways into the forest before we encountered a troop and spent the bulk of our time off-loading bananas and taking photographs. The hike continued on only briefly where we were shown a palm tree being consumed by a ficus tree, which is a common thing and something I saw in Kenya too. I see a great deal of opportunity there to develop the eco-tourism efforts, hopefully with out overly developing the land.

Other interesting notes from the Wiki Travel entry:

  • It indicates that the operation was developed in partnership with a Peace Corps Volunteer. A quick Google indicates that this is a common belief, but on one seems to have more details. The various sources cannot agree on the year the sanctuary was started (between 1993 and 1996) or how the Peace Corps was involved.
  • The entry notes the government was preparing to construct a road in 2012. I think we may have actually seen that start while we were there. When we arrived, there was a dirt road and while we we were in the visitor center trucks went through and laid road tar and gravel.

Our second stop that day was at the Wli Falls, something the internet seems to know very little about. According to Nii, it is also a sacred place where people formerly were not even allowed. We had a 45-minute hike in the woods (jungle?) to the base of the falls. In addition to the spectacular view, the rock face on either side of the falls are lined with bats. On our arrival, the local guide banged a machete against a rock to create a echo that sent them to the sky. It was a impressive amount of bats, particularly for someone who still hasn't gone down to Lady Bird Lake in Austin to see the bats come out at night.

Once again, I thought to late to turn on my recorder, but I do have a bit of Nii's information on our two visits for this day.

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