As Accra boasts of being the nation's capital with lots of people, high-rise and beautiful buildings, one would expect that it would also have recreational and national parks.
This however, isn't the case. But as one moves away from the hustle and bustle of the city, just about 45 minutes from the central business district, is one of nature's beautiful places – The Legon Botanical Gardens.
Located at the University of Ghana, the Garden which serves as one of Ghana's recreational parks is more of an eco-tourism site. It offers visitors the opportunity to learn about plants, the environment and how nature interacts with its surroundings and people. Visitors also learn about the importance of trees and plants for life.
The Garden hosted over 105,808 visitors last year and is expecting about 150,000 people this year! The Legon Botanical Garden is a great sight to see.
It offers an opportunity for visitors to connect (or re-connect) with nature and provides an 'escape' from the hustle and bustle of the city.
A visit to the Garden last month was breath-taking. As one walks through the Garden, it is apparent to see some developments taking place.
Established in 1948, the 49 -hectare Garden is not new. Its cool weather and quiet nature offer a great advantage for those seeking a very calm place to relax or meditate.
Apart from experiencing its cool nature, there are many other reasons I will urge you to visit the gardens. First is its incomparable beauty which stems from its discharging environment and lushly picturesque setting.
The Garden is also an excellent place to enjoy a picnic and traditional activities such as bird watching and biking. Butterfly and bird lovers would admire the Legon Botanical Gardens for the presence of many species of butterflies and birds which can be seen and heard.
The Garden also has many facilities including a nursery, a 153-metre long canopy walkway, a high rope course, the Vaughan dam where you can have a canoe ride, and a playground. Other sections include the Fire Belt, the Rock Garden, the Arboretum, the Woodlands, the Royal Palm Avenue, the Shrubbery and Mango Lane.
The canopy walkway which was commissioned in March 2017, is one of the Garden's major attractions. At a height of 13 metres, a visitor can approach the limits and view plants and animals from a vantage point that would otherwise be inaccessible to people. The walkway is made of cargo net supported by aluminium and wooden ladders, and reinforced with planks.
The nursery and green house are among the beautiful places the Garden can boast of. It is even a place for cultivating plants for sale to the general public. The vegetation there include, palms, timber trees, shrubs, cocoa and coffee trees and other medicinal plants.
There is the Vaughan dam which has an outlet that flows into the sea. It joins other streams in Accra and flows into the sea. The dam takes its source from the mountains at Legon. Here, fresh water flows from up Legon into the dam, and then goes out and joins the others.
One paramount facility is the playground. It is one of the oldest facilities there compared to all the others. It covers about 2,000 square metres and is quite expansive. The playground draws a lot of crowds particularly children. “They love this area. In 2018, the playground alone recorded about 26,000 entries or usage,” Mr. Charles Amoako Asare, manager of the facility said.
It is fitted with high quality Zip lines, Bird Nest Swings, Carousel, Rotating Merry Go-Round, and a variety of other interesting play equipment.
Rising high into the sky and situated beyond the Playground is the 15 metre-tall high-rope course. One can reach the ISO Certified Rope Courses via a 30-inch-long wood-decked bridge. There is also a total of 52 games equally shared between the lower and upper levels. The high-rope course was commissioned in 2016 just toward the end of the year.
The Legon Botanical Gardens which was initially built for the purposes of education and research does not only serve commercial purposes. It also serves it research objective. It once served and still serves as a laboratory for the botany and zoology departments of the University of Ghana. It has a mixture of indigenous and exotic trees of global importance and medicinal properties. A visit to the place will enable tourists learn more about various species of the various plants.
The Garden is also home to animals such as squirrels, lizards and birds. In the dam, we have some fishes like tilapia, mud fish, and then other small fishes.
With respect to attendance, the garden can boast of yearly increases in attendance. For 2017 we had about 69,630 people visiting the gardens. And then for 2018, we had about 108,808 people visiting the gardens.
“The garden is for pleasure, leisure and education. We have a lot of schools coming here on excursions. Apart from the facilities, we have people coming in for social events, picnics, parties, and weddings. As a matter of fact, we have schools coming from as far as Nigeria; Lagos and Enugu States. They usually come between June and August. We see those numbers also quite increasing. It used to be far and few between but it seems the numbers have increased,” Mr. Asare said.
One may also ask; do Ghanaians really love the place? “In terms of patronage, I can assure you that more Ghanaians come here than any other group of people. It's not just meant for foreigners. One group of people that come here a lot is students from foreign countries particularly from French-African countries,” he further noted.
The Legon Botanical Gardens is a member of the Botanic Gardens Conservation International.
I must say that my visit to the Garden afforded me an experience like no other, and I was actually amazed at the variety of recreational facilities there and the effort managers of the place put in to keep the facility at a good standard. It certainly was not my last visit!