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HIDDEN TREASURES OF THE GOLD COAST

?A LOOK AT GHANA?S UNTAPPED RESOURCES

?The worst thing about being a tourist is having other tourists recognize you as a tourist?, Russell Baker

Hidden Treasures revisits Nzulezu, the village on stilts, this week and this time, we bring you a real life experience of a visit to this unique village at the visitor?s account section of this page. Read on.

Nzulezu ? The Village on Stilt

The village of Nzulezu is located near the village of Beyin, roughly 90 kilometers west of Takoradi, in the Jomoro District of the Western Region of Ghana.

Nzulezu overlooks the Lake Tadane, and is entirely made up of stilts and platforms. In 2000, it was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is a major tourist attraction area.

This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on January 17, 2000, in the Cultural category.

The village was nominated to become a World Heritage Site for its importance in anthropology: in addition to being one of the few ancient settlements on stilts and platforms left in the world, there is a preserved wealth of local traditions connected with the cult of the lake.

HISTORY

The village?s name ?Nzulezu? in Nzema language, means ?surface water?. Oral history has it that the village was constructed some five (500) hundred years ago by migrants from Walata, a city in prehistoric Ghana Empire which was the earliest of the Western Sudanese States.

It is believed that the early settlers or the ancestors were led there by a snail. The snail is therefore a totem and revered by the people of Nzulezo. The only other people in the West African Sub-region who live on a stilt village are the Ganvie people of the republic of Benin.

Nzulezu was built over Lake Tadane. The settlement consists of stilt-supported structures integrated seamlessly with the water-dominated natural landscape.

The Nzulezu stilt village has a total population of about 600 people. The main occupations there are farming, fishing and the brewing of local gin (Akpeteshi).

The village is ruled by the chief and elders who set out rules and regulations to guide behaviour in the village.

Nzulezu is one of the Amasuri Wetland, a ramsar site and the largest inland swamp forest in Ghana. The Wetland is a habitat for a variety of animals like monkeys, crocodiles, marine turtles and fishes. Nzulezu also represents an outstanding interplay between man and the environment.

Nzulezo stilt village is linked by a canal which opens into a lake. The banks of the canal are made of different trees and the lake is covered with lilies and fringed with raffia palms and lush jungle.

The Nzulezo community is a purely indigenous one where everything including the buildings, mode of transport is made from natural materials.

The Most striking feature that catches the eye at Nzulezo are the wooden accommodation facilities hanging some five feet above the lake level. These accommodation facilities are constructed from bamboo (very hard rainforest wood) with thatch roofs.

The houses are supported by strong wooden pillars which are buried deep in the basement of the lake. Accordingly, these wooden pillars are changed after every eight years.

The buildings within the village are connected to one another by a number of walkways which enable residents and visitors to freely move from one end to the other. Another thing that will catch your attention is the many canoes floating on water.

Almost every household has a canoe which is used as a major mode of transport to the Beyin town.

Don?t be surprised to see pregnant women paddling their canoes to go and access medical care. You may also see children playing football or ?hide and seek? on this facility. The serene ambience of the surrounding land cover in addition to the general activities of life attest to the dynamic union between man and nature.

The Nzulezo stilt village is not connected to electricity but don?t be surprised to see a significant number of television poles attached to almost every home in the village. These are powered by car batteries.

For source of light in the night, inhabitants use lantern, flash light or rechargeable lambs to move about.

There is a traditional court which also doubles as community centre for gatherings. Visitors to the village are welcomed by the chiefs and people in this facility. Tour guides also use the facility to interact with visitors who will have the opportunity to relax in plastic chairs while enjoying a cool breeze from the lake.

All activities pertaining to normal life chores such as pounding of ?fufu?, schooling, worship and burials are done on the lake. There is also a basic school in the village for the kids to attend. Like every other society, the Nzulezo community is not homogenous but made up of different religious affiliations including Christians, Muslims and Traditionalists.

Each of these religious sects freely carry out their worships in the community. For the Christians, you will have the occasion to see the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal church. You will see sign boards showing directions to any of these communal facilities in the hamlet.

VISITOR ACCOUNT

We all hooked up with a British guy named Krys, after the eclipse, to go to the Nzulezu stilt village. You may have seen it on TV or in pictures. It is an entire village built on stilts above the water in a lagoon.

The car got stuck very bad in the mud on the way there. Suddenly, from nowhere, a whole group of people were there lifting the car up to put branches and palm leaves under the stuck wheel.

Getting dirty that way was just part of the excitement. We had to wade through mud and black water to get to the canoe that would take us to the village. And then paddled for 25 minutes to get there.

I let Jessie and Justice do the paddling. The village consisted of one long pier, referred to as Main Street. Off one side was the living quarters and on the other side were the businesses and school.

Jessie and Justice paddling the canoe.

This village elder caused Justice and Jessie a lot of grief by insisting that he appear in photos with them.

Village elder (Left) with Jessie and Justice.

SIGHT SEEING

Are you interested in bird watching or going fishing with a local fisherman? At Nzulezu you will have the opportunity to watch different kinds of bird species as the ramsar site attracts such birds.

You may also see different fish species especially when you decide to go fishing.

It is very important to note that visitors, both locals and foreigners, are not allowed to visit the stilt village on Thursdays as the day is revered as a sacred day for the gods of the lake.

The Lake is believed to be preventing natural disasters like flood and storms as well as fire out breaks. The Lake has always served as a pivot for the community?s togetherness. New born babies are baptized in the Lake.

If you want to witness and experience the perfect harmony between humans and the other elements of nature, don?t miss the opportunity to visit Nzulezo, where the dynamic union between man and nature is all around you.

Where to stay

You can stay overnight at Nzulezo, have a feel of how the night looks like on a lake and also use the occasion to interact with the local community.

A guesthouse gives you the opportunity to stay overnight. Home stay accommodation facilities are also available for those who wish to interact with a host family. Food can be provided at affordable rates if ordered in advance.

From December 20, 2014, visitors and tourists can also choose to stay at ?Karela? Beach Resort, a four star hotel with over forty (40) room capacity. It is located at Beyin, near the junction to ?Nzulezu? and also two kilometres (2km) from the Ghana Gas Processing Plant.

The resort is strategically positioned to serve as both resting and preparatory joint for tourists who desire to visit the Nzulezu village.  

The facility, which is open to the Atlantic Ocean with natural white sand beach renders both surfing services to clients as well as provide boat ride trips to ?Nzulezo? for both clients and tourists.

It has two restaurants, a swimming pool, a bar, a spar and gym facility, as well as a grill hut, where clients and tourists will have the pleasure of selecting from the pond, their preferred catch.

Under the current power rationing, the facility has a 450 KVA standby generator which will provide constant power supply and as such, visitors would not have to bother about ?dum sor?.

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