The Green Turtle Lodge on Akwidaa beach have read the ecotourism manual and ticked all the boxes. Sustainable buildings? Check – recycled materials, local designs, even compost toilets. Sustainable energy? Check – all solar-powered. Locally sourced food? Check. Local employment? Check. Conservation? Well, the name tells you everything.
They have even managed to keep the journey authentically rustic. The lodge lies several miles along what is a strong contender for the ‘worst road in Ghana’ title. Rutted doesn’t come close; at times our taxi was picking its way over medium-sized boulders scattered over a 45o slope. This would act as a barrier to many businesses, but the Green Turtle’s reputation ensures that the guests – mostly backpackers and volunteers – flock here year-round.
Hannah and I made the journey from Accra via Takoradi to enjoy a pre-Christmas break. Upon arrival, we saw why people loved it – a palm tree-lined beach stretching for miles in either direction, with the lodges hidden back in the trees as well as a bar made from an old ship. Four days was not going to be long enough.
The lodge runs one of the growing number of turtle conservation projects along the coast, and we booked to go on a turtle hike on the first evening. Along with several other visitors, all young enough to remind me it was 10 years since my volunteering days in Kefalonia, we set off along the sand. Five species of turtle nest in Ghana – green, loggerhead, olive ridley, leatherback and hawksbill – but they were all hiding that night. The walk was still enjoyable though, with phosphorescence sparkling in the waves under the bright full moon.
Life at the Green Turtle ambles by easily in a lazy haze of books, swims and delicious meals – a selection of different dishes are made each day. But by the third morning, we needed something active and booked a canoe trip along the river behind Akwidaa village.
Fufu, the Green Turtle’s dog, led us to the village where we met Ben, a local student who leads boat trips to save money so he can finish school. I was surprised when he started towing out a rotten old canoe that I’d assumed had been dumped there. This turned into to mild alarm when he fetched a small bowl. “To bail out the water”, he cheerfully explained.
The first stretch of river passed me by, as I made doubly sure that I could remove the water faster than it entered, whilst not removing the tiny hermit crab that was wandering around the boat to avoid the scoops.
Once satisfied, I relaxed and started to enjoy the mangrove forests. Ben’s keen eyes picked out cormorants, hornbills, kingfishers, toucans, and even two salamanders that slipped silently into the water. It was easy to imagine that there were plenty more species out there, hidden from view by the thick foliage.
As we entered a narrow side channel, we spotted hundreds of the red and black crabs that live in the mangroves. “Delicious”, remarked Ben, briefly forgetting his role as a wildlife guide. Still, it looked like there were plenty to go around.
We passed fishing villages on the way back, the residents waving as they cast out their nets from the bank. Ben dropped us back at Akwidaa and we walked back along the beach to the Green Turtle Lodge, content in the knowledge that all we had left to do for two days was sleep, eat and drink.