To say that Ghana is endowed with so many tourist sites is to state the obvious.
This weekend, in the company of family and friends, I took off to Akosombo to visit the Dodi Island on board the cruise boat, Dodi Princess.
As usual of many Ghanaians with respect to lateness, the take of time of 9 a.m. was delayed as passengers were left hanging around for more than an hour.
No explanation was given for this lapse. Once on board, however, the good music provided by the King’s Anchor Band based in New Akrade in the Eastern Region seemed to soothe the disappointment of having waited for so long.
Soon passengers got into a different rhythm as we chatted, tried to get to know one another and danced to some real Ghanaian highlife music.
The food and drinks provided on board were good and adequate to go round the about 150 paid up passengers on board.
The journey to the Island took about two hours and as we cruised along the Volta River, the breath-taking sites of greenery and water, tilapia farms and the stretch of mountains protruding into the skyline created a greater expectation of what lay ahead on this Island.
As the boat docked and passengers disembarked, a cultural troupe welcomed us with good traditional drumming, singing and dancing.
Many of the passengers couldn’t help but join in the fun. As we moved along the path lined with stones onto the Island, a very sad spectacle greeted us.
Children, some as young as two years old, had lined up the path in the scorching sun, with bowls in front of them.
They created music with sticks as they sang and clapped with sullen faces and begged for alms.
My heart broke!
Children begging for alms on the streets in our cities is not a new phenomenon, but institutionalising such begging as part of a tourism package is very unfortunate.
Is this what we have been showing tourists? This is totally unacceptable and must not be allowed to continue.
We cannot bring up our children with this culture when we all know that that is not the way to go in making a meaningful life in future.
Why can’t operators of the tour factor a token into the total cost to take care of the handful of islanders without portraying them as beggars?
Going forward, the tour operators should be thinking of a bigger boat to provide passengers the very needed space to move about and dance freely.
Earlier, as we disembarked from the boat, I asked one of the staff how long we would be on the island and he said 30 minutes.
I found the time too short but when I moved onto the land, only to be greeted by a cage with a few birds, including one lonely ostrich, I understood why the time was that short—there was virtually nothing on that Island to see! Not surprising also, there was no tour guide.
So in no time, passengers out of disappointed were back on board and with neither head count nor roll call to ensure that no one had been left on the Island, the boat set sail again for another two-hour cruise back to base.
As we headed back, I kept thinking of what great potential this island held as a well-organised tourist site, with play-grounds for children, a properly populated zoo perhaps, restaurant, swimming pool and other facilities we see in other countries which are earning them so much by way of revenue.
For how long would we keep paying lip-service to this sector which we have identified as something that would give us the revenue needed for our very development?
I noticed that many of those on board were Ghanaians, an indication that Ghanaians would want to explore their own. We could derive a lot more revenue not only from foreigners but domestic tourists as well once we put the necessary structures in place.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable trip worth the time and resources spent.
The only snag is that the sad faces of the disheveled little children, begging for alms as they sang, have remained on my mind and it seems like a bad dream that won’t go away.