Thursday, Apr. 02, 2009

Kakum National Park, Ghana

The Upper Guinean rainforest in Ghana is vanishing fast, farming and timber having claimed more than 80% of its original expanse. That's tragic for the unique species that depend on the forest, including the rare Diana monkey and the forest elephant, along with some 300 kinds of birds and 550 types of butterflies. If you want to see them while you still can, the best place is Kakum National Park in Ghana. In the mid-1990s the park installed a canopy walkway 131 feet in the air — a swinging skyway suspended amidst the rainforest tree tops — that is straight out of Swiss Family Robinson. The walkway and the visitor center (+233-0-42-33278), which has an educational exhibit, shops, cafe and a campground, have helped boost attendance to the park, from about 1,000 per year in 2001 to nearly 90,000 in 2000, according to Conservation International. Kakum's guests are, unusually for an African reserve, over 80% Ghanaian, not foreign. The park is about 105 miles (a three-hour drive) from the capital of Accra and close to the beach resort town of Elmina, but if you want to stay overnight here, bring a sleeping bag and a tent.

See pictures of species on the brink of extinction.