Saturday, June 23, 2007
Shai Hills, a Unique Forest Reserve
TODAY we feature one of the rarest forest reserves in Ghana.
Shai Hill Resource Reserve, covering a total area of 51 km square and situated on the Accra Plains, is approximately 50 km from the capital city of Accra.
The reserve is a small, protected area of savanna plains surrounding a range of southern outlier inselbergs that reach an elevation of 290 metres. This unique and beautiful location has some of the most exquisite views of the Accra Plains and makes a perfect day trip from Accra and Tema.
The hills are covered by undisturbed low, dry evergreen forest. The plains surrounding the hills consist of short grass savanna with shrubs and evergreen trees. To date, there has been a total of 402 species of vascular plants including trees, shrubs, grasses, herb, climbers and epiphytes identified with the reserve!
The dry evergreen forest, found on the hillsides of the reserve, is the driest forest type found in Ghana. Because of this, the reserve is ecologically and floristically unique and of high conservation interest.
Shai Hills Resource Reserve is located within the Shai Traditional Area and was occupied since late Stone Age times (10,000 BC to 500 BC) by hunter-gatherers.
In 1892, the British colonial army expelled the Shai people from the area by force.
In 1962 the area was declared a forest reserve by the government.
You can take a step back in time and visit one of the numerous historic archaeological digs and remains on the hillsides.
The most important traditional religious shrines of the Shai people are located within the reserve.
There is a circuit road in the reserve that allows visitors to travel and explore the entire range of the outlier hills.
There are various stops along the way to allow you have a closer and more intimate look at the natural and cultural richness of the reserve.
Make the effort to climb to the topmost lookouts the views are totally rewarding.
Shai Hills harbours typical savanna antelopes such as kob, bushbuck and savanna duikers.
Primate species within the reserve include green monkey, lesser spot-nosed monkey and olive baboon.
Look up into the trees and see if you can find one of these primates carefully hiding behind a branch.
While at one of the stops along the way, look carefully for a monitor lizard sunning itself upon a rock or a snake resting peacefully high up within the safety of a tree. Turtles and crocodiles are present within the reserve as well.
Avid bird watchers will want to bring their binoculars along. Shai Hills boasts of a wide array of brilliant and colourful resident and migratory bird species present within the park. This is one of the best birding locations nearby to Accra!
If your experience at Shai Hills brings you into the evening, watch out for a colony of tomb bats living in the Sayu cave. Serval and genet cats represent other nocturnal animals at Shai Hills. You can reflect upon the rich cultural and archeological artifacts seen during your exhilarating day as you watch the sunset. At the end of the day you can fall asleep while listening to the calming songs of the many frogs and insects calling with the coming of the night.
The reserve headquarters is located just inside the southern gate. At the southern gate you will find the visitor information centre and a simple, yet comfortable dormitory for group overnight stays. Those staying overnight will enjoy an authentic and unique experience of Shai Hills; however there is a need to be relatively self-sufficient. There are also several hotels near the reserve for those wanting an alternate choice.
The reserve can be approached from the main Tema to Aksombo road. The reserve’s two entrance gates open onto the main road at the north and south ends of the reserve.
A circuit road in the reserve allows visitors to travel around the entire range of the outlier hills with various stops along the way. It is advisable to use a (4 x 4) vehicle during the rainy season as the road can be harder to pass during this time.
THE SPECTATOR - Saturday, June 23, 2007 Page: 19