Thousands of people from all over the world gather to the sleepy Ghanaian towns of Kwahu and Atibie every Easter weekend for a paragliding festival and Easter carnival, which inhabitants hope will establish Ghana as a hub for extreme sports.
After the Covid-19 pandemic prompted organisers to postpone the previous two years’ festivities, the festival returned to its yearly schedule this year.
According to Tourist Board estimates, almost 400 individuals registered for tandem flights with expert pilots, outnumbering some of the festival’s most popular years. To fly solo, plenty of people brought their own gear.
Participants who were looking for a rush tied themselves into their harnesses and ran down a ridge on Ghana’s second tallest mountain. Pilots and passengers alike were catapulted into the sky as their kites found wind.
Jonathan Quaye, a 40-year-old Ghanaian paraglider, flew for the first time in 2006, the festival’s second year, as a passenger on an American paraglider. Since then, he’s been paragliding.
He is the only Ghanaian at the festival who is certified to take others into the skies, having earned his tandem qualification during the pandemic.
“People believe it is not a safe sport or believe it is exclusively for white people,” he added after landing. “However, all those who say that have never been here.”
Quaye was one of just four Ghanaian paragliders to fly solo at the competition this year, two of whom live outside the country. However, the scene is expanding, thanks in part to the sport’s inherent ability to promote community, according to Quaye.
Stephen Owusu Asamoah, a Ghanaian resident in the United States, came to his hometown of Kwahu – about 150 kilometres north of Accra – earlier this month with his own kite and gear, eager to join in the event after learning to fly last year.
“Seeing individuals like you doing what you want to achieve gives you confidence that you can do it as well,” he remarked. “I believe this will inspire a large number of people.”