THE UPPER WEST REGION INTRODUCTION
The Upper West Region has a land area of 8,842 square kilometres (3%) of Ghana’s total. The Dagarba, Lobi, Sisala, Vagla and the Wala, all of who speak distinct languages, inhabit this region. Total population of the region, which comprises five administrative districts – Jirapa-Lambusi, Lawra, Nadawoli, Sissala and Wa, - is 573,873. It is the gateway to Ghana from Burkina Faso, which is a traditional crossroads for the Trans-Saharan trade routes. An exciting introduction to Ghana, much of the landscape is broad savannah grasslands, dotted with the strange-looking baobab trees, or striking Sahel terrain. In the villages, with their distinctive round huts, communal activities go on as they have for generations.
The principal border posts from Burkina Faso are found at Hamale, Kapulima. Paga and Kulungugu.
The Upper West Region has a different feeling, as a more traditional region. The capital of the region is Wa which is also the seat of the Wa Naa, Paramount Chief of the Walas. The magnificent palace still stands as stately as it did when it was first built in the 19th century. The uniquely styled traditional village houses of round mud-walled structures connected by walls forming large compounds are well adapted to the demanding climate of this region.
Gbelle Game Reserve, located 17km south of Tumu, is an important sanctuary for endangered species of wildlife, as well as hippos, elephants and bucks. Birdwatchers consider this an important habitat for indigenous and migratory birds.
Although a great deal of development is taking place in these regions, access to outlying areas can be difficult at certain times of the year and during and after heavy rains.
Gwollu Slave-Trader Defence Wall 70km north of Wa, Gwollu has another poignant reminder of the ancient slave routes that led through this region. The wall was built in the 19th century by Gwollu Koro Limann as a defence against slave traders for the local residents of that time.
Wa Naa's Palace This 19th century palace skillfully blends Sudanese and Moorish architecture and still stands as stately and beautiful as the day it was built. The Palace has many compounds which accommodate the numerous clans who have occupied the throne. It is the official residence of the Wa Naa, Paramount Chief of the Walas. In front of the Palace yo
Sankana 19km from Wa is Sankana. This village is surrounded by scenic rock formations covering a four sq.km area. Under this rock formation is a network of caves, which served as bunkers for protection against slave raiders. Oral tradition is that women, children and the aged took refuge in the caves while the warriors posted sentries and laid ambush on top of the rocks and hills. From their strategic hilltop locations, the warriors of Sankana, with their bow and arrow weaponry always unleashed a hail of deadly long distance arrows that slave-raiding bands could never withstand.
In a pitched battle with the army of Samori the slave raider, despite their superior weaponry, the people of Sankana were victorious. The Chiefs and people of Sankana celebrate this victory with a mock war called the Fiok festival. As part of this event, arms captured from Samori's army, which are held in private possessions, are put on display.
| This is a historical village associated with the slave trade. A tree mysteriously imprinted with a human foot and wall with human fingerprints are said to date back to the period of slave trade. |
Other species from Mole National Park. Gbelle is however, particularly noted for the majestic roan antelope and for spectacular bird life.
Wa Wa is the regional capital and the gateway to the Upper West Region from the south. It has a number of attractions including the Wa Na's (King's) Palace. It is said to be more than 500 years old. Constructed of traditional swish materials, the Palace is a skilful blend of Sudanic and Moorish architecture and stands stately and beautiful. There is also an architecturally interesting mosque located at Dondoli, a suburb of Wa and another at the nearby village of Nakori. In addition to these ancient Sudanic mosques are modern ones, which are also of interest.
Also in Wa is the grave of a famous Ghanaian colonial figure, George Ekem Ferguson from Anomabo near Cape Coast. As an agent of the colonial government, he is reputed to have been instrumental in convincing the local chiefs in northern Ghana to sign treaties of friendship and protection with the British. In 1897, he was captured and killed by Samori's army, for aiding the British.
Hamile This is a border crossing to Burkina Faso and a gateway into and out of the Upper West Region. As you travel and take a tour of the Slave Route in the Upper West Region, you will no doubt come across craft villages. Mamgu, Babile and Nadom are noted for hand woven textiles and smocks. Lawra and Jirapa are noted for xylophones and for basketry. Pottery is an intensive activity in areas like Kaleo, Charia, Loho Lawra. The ancient crafts of iron extraction and smelting are still carried on in Bulinga, Daffiama and Lawra.
You will also come across highly developed and unique brands of traditional music and dance, religion, rituals and initiation ceremonies and ancestral festivals. These are open to anybody. There is also the well-known tradition of ethnic medicine, herbalists and healers. The efficacy of cures for fractures and mending of bones, jaundice and snakebites makes a strong argument for "alternative medicine". There are also well-developed and distinctive local cuisines
Lawra The Upper West Region, while created by the Ghanaian Government in 1983, was formally inaugurated in 1987. It is fast bridging the development gap between it and the rest of the country. The economy is mainly agricultural with high potential for animal, cotton, sheanut, and grain production. The administrative capital is Wa, which has a very beautiful mosque. The Wa chief, the Wa Na, also has an attractive palace. One can also tour the Gbede Game Production Reserve to the north of Wa. Other important towns Nandom, Tumu, Jirapa, and of course, Lawra.
The rural populations around Lawra live in settlements which consist of compounds made primarily of mud and thatch. Lawra is the district capital with approximately 10,000 people. Dagaare is the main language in Lawra.
Paragbiele Festival Thanksgiving to ancestors and Almighty God for guidance over the farming season. Farm produce is exhibited along music, dance and general merry-making.
Willa Festival Celebrated in 27st April, at Takpo, this festival is to thank the ancestral shrine 'Will' for guidance and protection and also to ask for continued blessing from the shrine and God Almighty.
Zumbenti Festival The significnace of the Zumbenti festical is to give thanks to ancestral gods, cleansing of the land of evil spirits and pacification of gods and re-unting of families. Considered the most opportune time to contract tradtional marriages.
Kobina Festival This festival is a post-harvest event to acknowldge the spiritual guidance of the traditional area by the ancestral gods as well as jubilate over the bountiful harvest. Dancing competitions are organized. This festival is celebrated in 1st week October at Lawra
Kakube Festival This festival is celebrated to thank family gods and ask them to bless the soil, protect the people during the farming seasons. It is celebrated in the last week of November - 1st week in December by the Nandom.
Gbelle Game Reserve The Reserve is located about 17km south of Tumu. It is a sanctuary for many endangered species of wildlife like hippos, and water bucks, elephants and birds of spectacular plumage. The Reserve's specialized activities are devoted primarily to conservation and reproduction in an effort to protect and increase the animal population. There is seasonal migration and visits of elephants and other species from Mole.
|Wechiau Hippopotamus Sanctuary|
| The Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary, a community protected area is located at the extreme north-western corner of the Upper West Region of Ghana. it consists of a 40-kilometres stretch down the length of the Black Volta River which forms the region’s western boundary with Burkina Faso. It is home to hippos, bats, chameleons, hedgehogs and many different types of lizards and snakes. The sanctuary is an excellent place to see birds with over 200 species identified and new sights seen regularly. |
The sanctuary contains much more than just hippos. We are an excellent spot for bird watching, including woodland savannah, riverine and forest shore bird species.
Trek through the many hiking trails, searching for monitor lizards, bats, hedgehogs, pythons, and even chameleons.
Two local styled tourist lodges are at the heart of the Lobi communities and offer many opportunities to meet local people. This relatively undisturbed Lobi area has distinct architectural designs, interesting marriage systems and funeral rites.
Spend the night in our Hippo Hide Tree House and experience one of the best dawn choruses (bird song) in all of Africa.
Drink some Pito, the local beer, with the headmen and hear stories of days pas or listen to the xylophone music.
Take a river safari on the Black Volta with a chance to see the hippopotamus, Violet Turacoes, Malachite Kingfishers and Vervet monkeys.
Enjoy a cultural tour, where you will visit a Lobi compound and learn about traditional practices and ways of life.
To get most out of your visit and experience all that the sanctuary has to offer, we recommend that your plans involve spending the night at one of our lodges. Morning and Evening River Cruises tend to give the best view of the hippos, birds and other wildlife. Afternoon can be spent trekking the trails, visiting local homes, and even relaxing in our Hippo Hide. It is high in the trees and an excellent spot for bird watching.
Come, see and experience the wealth of wonders and activities we have to offer. The best time to see hippos is in the dry seasons, usually November through June. June through August is a good time to see birds in all their colourful breeding plumage.
Getting to Wechiau is only the beginning of your adventure! Your first stop is Our Welcome Office, where you will find a local guide who will assist you with all your needs as well as provide information about our history, local culture and native plant and wildlife.
The Bat Sanctuary (Sombo), Sacred Royal Python Sanctuary (Jafiiri) These are successful traditional wildlife reserves. Other interesting attraction in the region are the smoothly polished mushroom-shaped rock formation leaning on their sides (Wuling), The Gothic stone cathedral built in 1936 at Nandom and the Ghanaian xylophone making at Lawra