Feature Article of Saturday, 4 June 2005
Columnist: Debrah, Richard Kwame
The Aburi Botanic Garden is one of the most beautiful, peaceful and fascinating places in Ghana. Opened in March, 1890, and covering 64.8 hectares and overlooking the Accra coastal plain from an elevation of 370 to 460 metres above sea level, the Aburi Botanic Garden is a must experience for every Ghanaian as well as visitors to Ghana.
The beauty and uniqueness of this garden stem from its relatively bracing, relieving Climate and the lushly scenic setting. Its serenity makes it an ideal place for the stressed who wants relief, the writer who wants solitary to write, the thinker for reflections, newly weds for honeymoon, campers, nature lovers, recreationists and sanatorium for the recuperating. It is also an excellent place for picnic activities. Butterfly and bird lovers would love Aburi Gardens for the presence of many species of butterflies and birds that would come so near as if wanting to perch on one?s head. Another delight of Aburi Botanic Garden is the blossoming mixture of indigenous and exotic trees of global importance, aesthetics and medicinal properties.
How to get there. It is easy to go by public transport as mini busses or trotros can be boarded at Tema Station in Accra central, or at Odawna station near Kwame Nkrumah Circle, and also at Madina. Aburi is just 35 Km away from Accra and probably less than an hour?s drive.
Driving your own car, from Accra makes is even easier, you will have to go through Achimota, Dome, then through Kwabenya town, then drive straight through Brekuso village and within the next 10 minutes you find yourself at a T-junction, then you take the left turn and in 10 minutes you find yourself in the Aburi town where you cannot miss the entrance to the beautiful garden. Just look up and you will see the huge matured royal palm trees lined up along the street that seems to be welcoming you.
It is interesting to note that there are no mountains to climb when you drive through the Kwabenya route but a few low hills, you will hardly notice. The road is coal tarred, smooth and without potholes and you will not find much traffic on it. The Kwabenya road was constructed as an alternative route to access the Paduase Presidential Lodge without climbing the steep Akwapim hills as Mrs. Fathia Nkrumah, the wife of the first president of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, was not comfortable traveling on the main steep winding Aburi road.
The small Brekuso village you will find on your way itself has an interesting piece of Asante related history that l wish to chip in here. There is a shrine in Brekuso where lives a deity called Otutubanase. History has it that Nana Obiri Yeboa (1660-1697) who was once Asantehene had only one sister called Manu. In Akan custom, when a king dies, his sister?s son succeeds a him. Manu who was expected to produce the next king was not having a child, so when they heard that the deity Otutu could be of help to them, Manu traveled all the way from Asante to Brekuso then part of Akwamu kingdom, to pray for a child. Her prayer was granted and she had a son called Osei Kofi. She also named him Tutu obviously after the god. So Osei Kofi became Osei Tutu who succeeded Nana Obiri Yeboah as Asantehene and really built the Asante Empire with his friend Komfo Anokye. The present occupant of the Golden Stool of Asante kingdom Otumfuo Osei Tutu II took his stool name from King Osei Tutu I.
Today, Brekuso is under Akwapim jurisdiction, certainly the powerful Akwamu empire had expanded to the area at that time. A visitor to the Otutu shrine would see a hole covered with a metal case, within that is a sword that is said to have been planted there by Komfo Anokye. Is that mere coincidence? Or is it that Osei Tutu might have visited the shrine with his friend? There is also the belief among some historians that Brekuso must have been the place where Komfo Anokye and Osei Tutu met for the first time.
At the entrance to the garden, visitors are greeted by a tour guide who will do the welcome palm walk with you after you have paid a cheap gate fee. The palm walk is an avenue of elegant palm (Roystonea regia) of about 274 metres long stretching from the main entrance of the garden to the car park. The knowledgeable guides do well to educate visitors, about the origin, age and medicinal properties of most of the plants in the garden
Among the many exciting attractions within the garden are The Bush House, The Rock Garden, The Pergola or Lovers lane, The Ficus tree, the retired helicopter, and the school of horticulture. The bush house, which is a relic of history is an open shed with thatched roof supported on stone pillars. The floor is made of mud and decorated weekly with red clay as is practiced in rural Ghana.
There are two bamboo groves one on either side of the house. These have formal bamboo hedges and in front of the house are collections of species of exotic flower plants so beautiful that you will forever keep remembering them even long after you have left the garden.
On the lawn surrounding the Bush House is the very sensitive plant called mimosa pudica. When you visit the Bush House, remember to touch any of the mimosa and look at what happens. The famous Ficus tree, that was first discovered in 1906, has successfully strangled its host and has now taken its place. For the evidence, ask for the Ficus tree when you find yourself within the garden.
There are also many species of medicinal and economic plants reserved to be managed for conservation of plant genetics.
The array of personalities who have pilgrimmed to the garden and have planted many plants there is worth mentioning. Notable among the dignitaries who have planted trees to commemorate their visit to the garden include: Queen Elizabeth 11, in 1961, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo in 1979, Prince Charles in 1977, Gen. I.K. Acheampong in 1973, etc
Aburi?s attractiveness to adventure tourist has been greatly enhanced recently with rental bicycle for tours on the mountain. There are marked out three self-guided mountain bike trails of 2 to 3 hours? duration in the vicinity of Aburi, as well as a network of guided trails of up to five days in duration.
Just take a weekend, away from the noise and the pollution, to Aburi Gardens and you will experience the magic that comes from the relaxation your body has desired for a long time. Of course, you don?t have to worry about accommodation and food, as there are enough food and drinks joints as well as accommodation for the size of your pocket.
The Aburi Gardens Rest house is housed in a former sanatorium inside the garden. This accommodation has TV and fridge. You can book for your room in advance on telephone number: 0876 22037.
There are other guesthouses and hotels dotted around the garden where you can stay for a few days.