The settlement of Nzulezo, the “Village on water”, is located 90 kilometres west of Takoradi in the Jomoro District of the Western Region of Ghana. Nzulezu is a Nzema word which refers to “surface water”. This very unique village is built on stilt in the Tandane Lake. Nzulezo is one of the Amasuri Wetland, a ramsar site and the largest inland swamp forest in Ghana. The Wetland is a habitat for a variety of animals like monkeys, crocodiles, marine turtles and fishes. Nzulezu also represents an outstanding interplay between man and the environment.
Oral history has it that the village was constructed some five (500) hundred years ago by migrants from Walata, a city in prehistoric Ghana Empire which was the earliest of the Western Sudanese States. It is believed that the the early settlers or the ancestors were led there by a snail. The snail is therefore a totem and revered by the people of Nzulezo. The only other people in the West African Sub-region who live on a stilt village are the Ganvie people of the republic of Benin.
The Nzulezu stilt village has a total population of about 600 people. The main occupations there are farming, fishing and the brewing of local gin (Akpeteshi). The village is ruled by the chief and elders who set out rules and regulations to guide behaviour in the village. The chief preside over criminal offences and other unruly behaviours in the community. Nevertheless, felony crimes are referred to the formal courts system for adjudication. The tribe at Nzulezo are very conservative and do not accept intermarriages with other tribes.
Since the year 2000, the commencements of tourism activities in the Amanzuri wetland, a number of infrastructural developments have been carried out which though have been designed for tourism growth, have turned out to be public goods. These include the construction of 1.4 kilometre of a 2 kilometre canal from Beyin to Nzulezo; a paved landing bay of granite stones, grassed banks and a 140 metre wooden walkway from the main road to the landing bay. In addition, these facilities facilitate school attendance and transport of goods from and to the market. The re-construction of the 312 meter main walkway in the stilt village using durable timber including Borassus palm and Kussia and the creation of nature trails in the wetland are other developmental efforts undertaken. The Nzulezo Village Amansuri Conservation and Integrated Developemt (ACID) Project currently functions under the auspices of the Ghana Wildlife Society and Ghana Tourism Authority.
Key Features Of The Village
Nzulezo stilt village is linked by a canal which opens into a lake. The banks of the canal are made of different trees and the lake is covered with lilies and fringed with raffia palms and lush jungle. The Nzulezo community is a purely indigenous one where everything including the buildings, mode of transport etc. is made from natural materials.
The Most striking feature that catches the eye at Nzulezo are the wooden accommodation facilities hanging some five feet above the lake level. These accommodation facilities are constructed from bamboo (very had rainforest wood) with thatch roofs. The houses are supported by strong wooden pillars which are buried deep in the basement of the lake. Accordingly, these wooding pillars are changed after every eight years.
The buildings within the village are connected to one another by a number of walkways which enable residents and visitors to freely move from one end to the other. Another thing that will catch your attention is the many canoes floating on water. Almost every household has a canoe which is used a major mode of transport to the Beyin. This canoes or “water cars” bear inscriptions like “Nyame dea” meaning “God’s own”, “To God be the Glory” etc. It will not be surprising to see pregnant women paddling their canoes to go and access medical care. Little children can be seen swimming in water and never get drowned – amazing! You may also see these children playing football or ‘hide and seek’ on this facility. The serene ambience of the surrounding land cover in addition to the general activities of life attest to the dynamic union between man and nature.
The Nzulezo stilt village is now connected to electricity but what do you see? There are a significant number of television poles attached to almost every home in the village.
There is a traditional court which also doubles as community centre for gatherings. Visitors to the village are welcomed by the chiefs and people in this facility. Tour guides also use the facility to interact with visitors who will have the opportunity to relax in plastic chairs while enjoying a cool breeze from the lake. All activities pertaining to normal life chores such as pounding of “fufu”, schooling, worship and burials are done on the lake – unbelievable! There is also a basic school in the village for the kids to attend. Like every other society, the Nzulezo community is not homogenous per say but made of different religious affiliations including Christians, Muslims and Traditionalists. Each of these religious sects freely carries out their worships in the community. For the Christians, you will have the occasion to see the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal church. You will see sign boards showing directions to any of these communal facilities in the hamlet.
Are you interested in bird watching or going fishing with a local fisher man? At Nzulezu you will have the opportunity to watch different kinds of bird species as the ramsar site attracts them. You may also see different fish species especially when you decide to go fishing. You can stay overnight at Nzulezo, have a feel of how the night looks like on a lake and also have the occasion to interact with the local community. A guesthouse gives you the opportunity to stay overnight. Home stay accommodation facilities are also available for those who wish to interaction with a host family. Food can be provided at affordable rates if ordered in advance.
It is very important to note that visitors (both locals and foreigner) are not allowed to visit the stilt village on Thursdays as the day is revered as a sacred day for the gods of the lake which day settle on. The Lake is believed to be preventing natural disasters like flood and storms as well as fire out breaks. The Lake has always served as a pivot for the community’s togetherness. New born babies are baptized in the Lake.
For tickets, you can buy your tickets at the reception centre in Beyin on the mainland. Canoe trips run from 8am to 3pm. But those staying in the guesthouse can have their time extended. Boat rides for foreign adults cost GH¢20, foreign students GH¢15, Ghanaian adults GH¢10 and Ghanaian students GH¢5. For those who would wish to have a detailed history of the place, you are entitled to pay GH¢7 only. For your safety on the lake, you are given a lifejacket. Gin and other tips are welcome as by community leaders. You may also give a tip to your tour guide after a tour.
How To Get To Nzulezo
To get to Nzulezo is one easy task. It is just about 90 kilometres west of Takoradi in the Western Region of Ghana. You can get there by a rented car, taxi or tro tro from Takoradi. From the capital Accra, you can get the STC, Metro Mass Transit or Ford bus to Takoradi. You can also get a direct tro tro or taxi to Beyin in just two hours. Be part of this terrific experience! And have the occasion of rowing your own canoe.