The Ghanaian Shai Hills Resource Reserve is definitely worth a visit when coming to Ghana. Home to many animal and plant species, the reserve used to be home to the Shai people, a Ghanaian tribe. Today, you can watch wild animals, visit a museum and get to know the nature on a walk through the area.
Travelling to Ghana for six months, there is one thing you cannot miss: the Shai Hills Resource Reserve close to Accra. The area is the driest evergreen savannah forest in Ghana. Not only does the wildlife reserve offer a variety of West African flora and fauna to visitors, but it also has an interesting story to tell.
We travelled to Shai Hills in a group of ten and had a tour guide to tell us all about the amazing nature. At the entrance we were greeted by a couple of baboons that seemed to already be used to the tourists. After having recovered from the bus drive, we started to explore the area. Since it had rained the days before, the ground was pretty wet and slippery which made it hard for us to walk. But it was worth it: On our way, we could see a herd of gazelles in the distance.
After some time, we reached the rocks and began an adventurous climb. Holding on to a rope, we feared for our muddy shoes to lose grip, but eventually we reached the top. From there, you could enjoy the view over the wide fields and watch some animals walk through the landscape.
Meanwhile, our tour guide told us about the Shai people that used to inhabit the reserve. The tribe belongs to the Ga-Dangbe group of Kwa people who live in the Greater Accra region of present day Ghana. In some regions, the Shai people are also called Dangmes. They practice agriculture as well as bead-making. In an ancient tradition, the tribe used to send pre-pubescent girls up on the steep ascent as an adulthood ritual. This would show that the girls were finally mature enough to become a woman.
In 1892, the Shai people were forcibly expelled from the reserve by British colonial masters since they accused the natives of ritual murders. Finally, in 1962, the area was put under protection to preserve flora and fauna.
After having looked over the wide landscape from the top of the rocks, we climbed back down and admired the so called “tree of life” that grew from the hard ground. As our guide told us, this type of tree can grow very old and already stands at its place for several decades. On the way down, you could also see old caves that the Shai people used to hide in when it would start to rain or also when they were attacked by predators. After having reached the ground again, the tour guide showed us the cages where they hold zebras as well as an ostrich. Then we went to the Shai Hills Resource Reserve museum. You could look at the skins and skulls of multiple animals that inhibit the reserve, like savannah antelopes, bushbucks and duikers, but also a small crocodile, elephant and even the shell of a turtle.
The museum also shows some of the stones and necklaces that the Shai people used to make.
At the end of the tour, you could hold a non-dangerous snake or even put it around your neck. Then we had some rest before starting our way back home. Not only did we experience a unique tour through the West African nature, but also got to know some of the history of the Ghanaian natives.
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