An unlikely tourism boost in the form of this very extreme sport, but it highlights how destinations will welcome a visitor boost whenever and wherever — even if it involves jumping off mountains.
Every Easter weekend, thousands of people from around the world flock to the quiet Ghanaian towns of Kwahu and Atibie for a paragliding festival and Easter carnival that residents hope may establish the West African nation as a hub for extreme sports.
This year marked the festival’s return to its annual schedule after the Covid-19 pandemic forced organisers to postpone the last two years’ events.
Around 400 people registered for tandem flights with professional pilots, rivalling some of the festival’s most popular years, according to Tourist Board figures. Dozens brought their own equipment to fly solo.
Participants hungry for adrenaline strapped into their harnesses and ran off a ridge atop Ghana’s second tallest mountain. As their kites caught wind, pilots and passengers alike were launched into the sky.
Ghanaian paraglider Jonathan Quaye, 40, first flew in 2006, the festival’s second year, as the passenger of an American paraglider. He’s been paragliding ever since.
Having acquired his tandem certification during the pandemic, he is now the only Ghanaian at the festival certified to carry others into the clouds.
“People think it’s not a safe sport, or have a mentality like it’s only for white people,” he said after touching down. “But all those people who say that, they’ve never been 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 for fostering community.
Stephen Owusu Asamoah, a Ghanaian living in the U.S., returned to his home town of Kwahu — around 150 km (90 miles) north of the capital Accra — with his own kite and gear 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 that you can also get into it,” 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 from Reuters and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].
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Photo credit: Easter paragliding festival in Kwahu-Atibie. Francis Kokoroko / Reuters