Though the Bunso Arboretum Ecotourism Centre located on the Bunso-Koforidua road in the East Akyem District, has been in existence for a long time now, very little had been known of the place.
Whenever tourism attractions in the Eastern are mentioned, two places, the Aburi Botanical Gardens and Boti Waterfalls take most of the credit. Now there is a third major player.
The Bunso Arboretum is situated about 165km from Ghana’s capital city Accra and about 3km from the Bonsu junction from the Accra-Kumasi road. It about 30 minutes’ drive from the Eastern Regional capital, Koforidua, and is sited close to the Seed Production Unit of the Ghana Cocoa Board.
Until recently, the centre was managed by the Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute (PGRRI) of the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and has been the habitat of some over 300 butterfly species, 600 tropical trees and over 110 birds, some which are rare and could only be found at this forest.
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Since February this year, the Bunso Centre has had an added attraction, thanks to businessman, Kenneth Akuffo Asare, who saw the potential of the place and decided to extend his expertise there and add value to the facility. Mr Akuffo Asare, who was involved with the Kakum canopy walkway in the Central Region, got the approval from the management of the centre to erect what is now the second forest reserve canopy walkway in the country. Ghana thus becomes, perhaps the only country in Africa to have two of such facilities.
The 320-metre long walkway has five bridges and six platforms where tourists can make stopovers to explore and soak in the breath-taking fauna and flora. The centre can also serve as venue for corporate games or outings where after a hardworking week, one can escape to the cool and natural environment at the centre to relax and have fun.
There are lots of experienced tour guides at the facility to conduct visitors around and give one the fascinating history of the place. One of such guides is Simon Akanyagle, a very calm gentleman who knows his job quite well and has the history of the reserve at his fingertips.
The 40-acre forest reserve that hosts the aboretum belongs to the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Council who leased it to a mining firm in the early twentieth century for surface mining before it was given to another company known as African Products Department for rubber and cocoa plantations in 1917.
After some years of operations, the company left and two British namely David Gillet and Frank Thompson bought and built a guest house in 1935. The guesthouse which is still there, is now serving as the official residence for the Vice Chancellor of the University College of Agriculture and Environmental Studies which was established by the Okyehene, Amoatia Ofori Opanin II.
In 1946, the facility was acquired by the Plant Genetic Resource and Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) which has been managing it ever since.
The forest reserve has some of the rare tree species including Garcinia Kola, known locally as Twepea, reputed for its health benefits. Researches conducted by scientists on the internet are replete with the wonders of this tree.
According to one the reports, “Garcinia kola is used in many tropical countries to fight infectious diseases and also known to possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antiviral properties.”
Other tropical tree species found at the centre include Okure, mostly used for dugout canoes and Alpha and Omega trees used for the local sponge (sapowie).
Mr Akuffo Asare said as part of the future development plans for the place, and to make it more attractive, he would be building two tree houses with the capacity of housing 20 people per room to make it possible for camping or longer stays at the facility.
Although relatively new, Mr Akuffo Asare said so far, patronage of the Aboretum has been very encouraging.
He said on July 1, this year, the facility recorded close to 5000 visitors from within and outside the region. He said patrons from Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Greater Accra and the Volta Regions including foreigners visit the place regularly particularly on weekends and public holidays.