Kwahu Easter 2023: Paragliding records 166 flights in 4 days
The paragliding sport at Kwahu in the Eastern Region has continuously transformed Easter celebrations in the country into an international festival.
This is because for 15 years, the annual festival, which has become a star attraction for the celebrations, keeps attracting more patrons made up of both locals and foreigners.
For the bold and daring, it is usually four days of amazing aerial fun, ceremony and music as people show up as active participants or excited spectators, all in a welcoming atmosphere and a comfortable cool weather influenced by the impact of the mountainous area of Kwahu.
Despite the growing interest in the event, there are concerns that it was becoming an event for a certain class of people, given that one had to pay GH¢950 to be able to indulge in a flight.
This year’s event, also part of the activities to commemorate the GTA’s 50th anniversary, was considered very successful as it attracted more tourists who came as families or groups to have fun or participate.
Data sourced from the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) showed that this year’s paragliding festival, which took off with seven pilots, recorded 166 flights for the four-day period.
Though it was disrupted by rains and had fewer pilots participating, it was nonetheless successful and well patronised.
Over the four-day period, 36 people flew on Friday, 57 patrons flew on Saturday, 44 flew on Sunday and 29 flew on Monday.
Seven tandem pilots, mainly from the United States, Ghana, Peru, Japan and Columbia, flew the passengers during the period.
The festival was organised under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Ghana Tourism Authority, in collaboration with the various assemblies in Kwahu East, West and South and the Kwahu Traditional Authority.
Some of the personalities at the paragliding festival were the Eastern Regional Minister, Seth Kwame Acheampong; the Board Chair of GTA, Dr Seth Adjei Baah; the Atibiehene, Nan Barima Kwame Asante Bateani II, who represented the Kwahumanhene, Daasebre Akuamoah Agyapong II.
As part of the activities, Ghana’s domestic tourism campaign, “Experience Ghana, Share Ghana”, was relaunched with some activations on billboards
Paragliding was introduced as part of the Easter festivities during the tenure of then Minister of Tourism and Modernisation of the capital city Accra, Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey, after he visited the Kwahu ridge as part of his familiarisation tour of the country in 2003.
The festival is said to be the brainchild of Ferdinand Ayim, who was a special assistant to the then minister from 2002-2005.
The GTA has, therefore, erected a monument at the paragliding field in honour of Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey and Mr Ayim, who have both passed on.
The first Ghana Paragliding Festival in 2005, as part of the Kwahu Easter festivities, was launched by then Vice-President of Ghana, Alhaji Aliu Mahama.
Every year, the Easter festival brings together family and friends from the diaspora as well as indigenes of Okwahuman to have fun and experience the rich cultural and tourism sites within the Kwahu enclave.
Excellent for tourism but...
Whether as a participant or a spectator, it was an enjoyable time at the Odweanoma Field as people came out in their picnic mood with food, drinks and music creating real fun and euphoric atmosphere.
Some of the participants, who interacted with the Daily Graphic at the festival, expressed excitement saying the initiative promoted both domestic and international tourism.
A Lebanese tourist, who gave her name as Iraj, said she had been participating in Ghana’s paragliding festival for more than a decade and the euphoria seen this year showed a full bounce back after two years COVID-19 break.
Though patrons commended the authorities for the initiative, some of them who spoke to the Daily Graphic said it was priced beyond the pocket of most people and thus would not promote local tourism.
A patron, Daniel Yeboah, said although the flying experience was great, the cost for a flight was too expensive this year compared to previous years.
“The cost of flying must be reconsidered to make it affordable for many more people, particularly local tourists, to participate. This year, the fee was too high and if care is not taken, it will end up being an event for more foreign tourists and a few local tourists.
“However, I think it has to be affordable to attract both local and foreign tourists so that many more can patronise,” Mr Yeboah said.
Another patron, Samuel Asante, who agreed with Mr Yeboah on the fee being high, said since it was a venture still being developed, it must be not been seen as a niche event.
“Unless the event is being reserved for a certain class of people, as regard to the high fee, it means only a few people can afford and thus patronise, but it should be such that many people can afford to fly and thereby, boost the event,” he said.
As a side attraction during the period, some cyclists also came from Accra for a cycling competition, making it a real sporty Easter festival at Kwahu.
Despite the success story, the festival is highly dependent on foreign-based pilots since, currently, there is only one Ghanaian, Jonathan Quaye, who is a trained paragliding pilot.
To improve that and also get more Ghanaians involved, the GTA is establishing a paragliding training centre at the Shai-Osudoku District in the Greater Accra Region, to help train more Ghanaian pilots and build capacity to improve efficiency .
The training centre, when completed, will enable the authority to locally train Ghanaians, who are interested in paragliding piloting.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GTA, Akwasi Agyeman, said it was the vision of both the GTA and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to have more Ghanaian pilots flying at the Odweanoma Paragliding Field in the coming years.
Currently, he said, 12 dedicated Ghanaians were going through training, explaining that anytime paragliding pilots came to Ghana, those 12 people were taken through some form of training in order to build their competencies.
Despite the Odweanoma Field being for the festival, Shai Osudoku will be the training centre because it is more conducive for training as it has smaller mountains compared to the Odweanoma cliff, which is too high for training.
Mr Agyeman said a site had already been identified and that GTA was working closely with the Shai Osodoku District Assembly to get the place prepared for the training centre.
"We have identified a place at the Shai Osudoku area which is more conducive for training and we are already working on it so that all year round, training can go on.
"The Odweanoma Paragliding Field is too high for training exercises so based on the expert advice of the pilots for us to get a smaller mountain for the training, we took the training to Shai Osudoku," the GTA CEO explained.
Fixing the roads
The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Mark Okraku-Mantey, emphasised that the government was committed to completing rehabilitation works on the road leading to the Odweanoma Mountain at Kwahu paragliding site at Atibie.
He said fixing the road, which was not in good condition, was crucial to further boost the tourism fortunes in the area.
“We will also play our part as a government in fixing the road very soon,” Mr Okraku-Mantey said.
He said tourism was actually a marketing environment in which every one could benefit, including the entire country, for that reason every Ghanaian should participate.
Venture into paragliding business
The Chief of Atibie and Gyasehene of Kwahu Traditional Area, Barima Kwame Asante Betiani II, called on Ghanaians to venture into the paragliding business to help boost local tourism.
He said it was important for the eco-system to have a steady development to involve more local people to ensure that it became a more consistent event and not only during the Kwahu festivities.
“We need to have more locals involved so that as often as people want to, there will be an activity, it does not speak well of us to have it only during the Easter period with foreigners dominating,” Barima Betiani II said.