An unlikely boost to tourism in the form of this highly extreme sport, but it shows how destinations will welcome a boost of visitors anytime, anywhere, even if it’s mountain jumping.
Every Easter weekend, thousands of people from around the world flock to the sleepy Ghanaian towns of Kwahu and Atibie for a paragliding festival and Easter carnival that locals hope will turn the West African nation into a hub extreme sports.
This year marked the festival’s return to its annual calendar after the Covid-19 pandemic forced organizers to postpone events from the past two years.
Around 400 people signed up for tandem flights with professional pilots, rivaling some of the festival’s most popular years, according to figures from the Tourist Board. Dozens brought their own gear to fly solo.
Adrenaline-hungry participants strapped into their harnesses and raced down a ridge to the top of Ghana’s second-highest mountain. When their kites caught the wind, pilots and passengers were launched into the sky.
Ghanaian paraglider Jonathan Quaye, 40, first flew in 2006, the festival’s second year, as a passenger on an American paraglider. Since then, he has been paragliding.
Having acquired his tandem certification during the pandemic, he is now the only Ghanaian at the festival certified to carry others to the clouds.
“People think it’s not a safe sport, or have a mentality like it’s only for white people,” he said after landing. “But all these people who say that, they never came here.”
Quaye was one of only four Ghanaian paragliders to fly solo at this year’s festival, two of whom live outside Ghana. But the scene is growing, thanks in part to what Quaye said is the sport’s innate quality of fostering community.
Stephen Owusu Asamoah, a Ghanaian living in the United States, returned to his hometown of Kwahu – about 150 km (90 miles) north of the capital Accra – with his own kite and equipment earlier this month, eager to participate in the festival after learning to fly last year.
“When you see people like you doing what you want to do, it lets you know you can get into it too,” he said. “I feel like this is going to really motivate a lot of people.”
(Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Bate Felix and Raissa Kasolowsky)
This article was written by Cooper Inveen and Francis Kokoroko of Reuters and has been legally licensed through Industry Dive Content market. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].