After a few weeks in the sweltering heat of Accra, a day trip to the cooler hills north of the city was a very welcome treat. Just 45 minutes drive away, the town of Aburi not only has a ‘chilly’ climate all year-round, it is also home to the famous Aburi Botanical Gardens, a favorite weekend getaway of Ghanaians.
One of the most peaceful place in Ghana, the Gardens have been opened since March 1890 by the British on what was initially the site of a sanatorium for government officials. Although they’ve since lost some of their former glory, it’s still one of the most beautiful place to wander around and one can’t help but be taken by the grandeur of the Palm Walk which stretches from the main entrance to the car park.
The Royal Botanical Gardens Restaurant is a pleasant venue to grab lunch outside surrounded by the lush vegetation and a plethora of birds and butterflies flying by.
A slow walk around the grounds is the best way to enjoy the fresh and much cleaner air and fully appreciate the enormity of the trees surrounding you which are for the most part ginormous!
A few decrepit buildings add to the mystery and charm of the place.
Look at those roots!
One of the main attraction here is the ‘Strangler Ficus Tree’ which you really can’t miss walking on any of the main paths.
An old sign explains that, back in 1906, a parasitic plant took over a larger tree “Afzelia Africana” and successfully ‘strangled’ its host, taking its place since.
What’s left is a pretty cool looking hollow tree big enough for you to step inside.
Other exotic specimens fill the grounds reminding that the Gardens were originally an agricultural research station and a habitat for plants from around the world.
You can take a guided tour around the Gardens learning about the medicinal purposes of the plants and trees or you can freely walk on the lawns and make your own assumptions from reading the aging signs and taking a close look. Although not very well kept, some of the edible species are still producing and you can see star fruits (below), papaya, pineapple, bread fruit, etc.
While some buildings have been left untouched and only to be admired from afar…
…others have found another life like this old and charming colonial hotel smack in the middle of the Gardens.
Little paths branching out offer shade and magnificent serenity with splashes of rays through the leaves.
Looking up, you might be lucky enough to spot a hooded vulture, quite frequent in the Gardens.
This one was just begging to be climbed…
A carved tree is a true work of art, depicting everyday citizens “climbing” the tree to the leader/monarch to ask for support and help.
Another must in the Gardens: A 2nd World War British helicopter makes for great photos and a playground for the kids.
So whether you’re trying to escape the hustle and bustle of Accra, looking to cool off, have a nice little pique-nique on the grass or like to feel dwarfed by a group of giant trees, the Aburi Botanical Gardens are the place to be and by far the most beautiful place for nature lovers near the capital.