The Southern Circuit: Butre, Akwidaa, Axim, Sanwoma and Beyin

The Southern Circuit of the Ankobra Gold Route starts in Butre in the Western Region. This is a quiet fishing village on the mouth of the River Butre. Here stand the striking remains of Fort Batenstein, a small fort built by the Dutch in 1656, and handed over to the British in 1872. Motivated by the promise of gold in the hinterland, Batenstein was intended to be a trading fort. In the end, however, Batenstein was mainly used for the repair of ships, carrying of timber upstream, and the provision of other services.

The fort is currently preserved as a ruin, and its structure was consolidated between 2010 and 2011. Batenstein offers wonderful views of the coast, lagoon, rock formations and forest. It was here that survivors fled to during the 17th century inter-European and inter-African conflict. Because of the quiet and sheltered nature of Butre, the fort was also used to repair ships and carry timber upstream.

While staying in or around Butre, adventure walks will take you to the beautiful rocky bed along the coast, called Tobolo. You will also be able to see local soap production and fish smoking. These two industries take place mainly among the women in the community, and their goods are sold locally as well as to other parts of Ghana. Butre is mainly made up of Ahanta people and currently has around 1,000 inhabitants.

Akwidaa is our next stop, situated further south on the western coastline. This is a fishing and farming community split into two by the Ezile River. While enjoying the fishing activity, you can watch for sea turtles on the beach during the turtle season. The ruins of 17th century Fort Dorothea can also be explored. In 1685, the Brandenburger Company built Fort Dorothea as a lodge, and the Dutch took over in 1690. It is said that the fort was once considered one of the oldest and most beautiful forts in Ghana. It now serves as a cemetery for the Akwidaa Royal Family, which means that appropriate respect must be accorded when visiting the site.

 As well as paddling on the lagoon, sea fishing or walking through the rainforests, you can hike to Cape Three Points. This is the southernmost tip of Ghana, and it hosts an inimitable lighthouse where you can receive a well-informed tour which tells the story of this headland.

Axim is the largest town on the tour, being home to some 10,000 people. It is situated in a natural harbour and is made up of both Upper and Lower Town. Axim’s Fort St. Anthony (also known as San Antonio) was constructed by the Portuguese in 1515, and it was the second oldest fort on the Gold Coast, after Elmina Castle. St. Anthony is a large triangular fort on a small promontory close to the River Ankobra.

Axim was the busiest port in Ghana before Tema and Takoradi were constructed. It was saw more gold pass through its hands in the 17th century than other communities. Today, the Fort hosts an exhibition of Dutch and Ghanaian relations with historical relics and artefacts, and it is highly recommended. You can also visit Boboewusi (or Bobo Yesi) Island, where the lighthouse stands proudly against the surrounding reefs.

The town of Sanwoma, also known as Ankobra, also belongs to the Southern Circuit and is situated on the estuary of the Ankobra River. A smaller settlement in comparison to Axim, part of the town is flooded daily during high tide. It is here that the ruins of Fort Elise Carthago remain. This fort was built by the Dutch in the early 18th century, at the request of the Azane people, to overlook the mouth of the Ankobra River to prevent invasion and harm to the all-important gold trade. Elise Carthago was originally a lodge, Dutch toll house, and a trade warehouse. Unfortunately, the gold industry collapsed during the inter-tribal rivalry wars. Elise Carthago was abandoned in 1711 and was burnt down in 1712 by Kone Kpole, a Wassa warlord. However, the fort’s ruins and place in history remain.

There are two shrines below Elise Carthago’s ruins, which can be visited and admired. The fetish priests of the god Akromozu believe that it is not possible to build on the hill without permission of the gods, so it is believed that the fort was never completed by the Dutch because of the lack of respect shown to the gods,. Another rumour suggests that an earthquake in the area caused the demise of the fort. You can decide how your spirit is led when you visit the fort site for yourself. You can pour libations to Akromozu or the other deities who live there.

While in Sanwoma, you must take a canoe ride on the Ankobra River, during which you can visit local markets, Akpeteshie distilling spots and more, in a small glimpse into the Middle Circuit of the Ankobra Gold Route. On your journey back, you can climb the steep Bakabo Hill and take part in a guided walk of local shrines and medicinal plants that are grown in the area.

The final stop on the Southern Circuit is Beyin, a small seaside village. Here you can see Fort Apollonia, the last fort built by the British in 1768. Apollonia was built as a trading fort, and was transferred to the Dutch in 1868, before reverting to the British in 1872. The fort has recently been restored. It houses the Museum of Nzema Culture and History, which was opened in 2010 (see

From here, you can travel and visit Nzulezu (the village on stilts) to meet some of its 1,000 inhabitants, and dance along the raffia walkways. Through the Town Tourism Development Committees (TTDCs) in these communities, you can experience first-hand the culture of the Nzemas, by attending funeral rites. These take place mainly over weekends, and unique tours can be arranged through the TTDCs. You can also arrange to gain a deeper appreciation of local culture by joining a guided tour of puberty rites, rituals and processes that are special to this ethnic group.







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