No pleasurable experience at La Pleasure Beach

Wed, 28 Feb 2018 Source: Edmund Smith-Asante

Joel approached me and tried all he could to get us to ride on his horse as we readied ourselves to leave for home. He was so desperate to persuade us that he said he would allow us have free rides so that in his words, “you will become my customers”.

But my children and I had had enough and we were ready to head back home. Joel reluctantly agreed to our promise to look out for him and make it up to him when we visited another time.

Joel (the only name he gave us) was one of about a dozen ‘horse boys’ we met at the La Pleasure Beach who offers rides to patrons from one end of Accra’s most patronised beach to the other at a fee of GH¢20.

That surely is a lot of money, which is why the children and I were not even convinced that he was ready to let us enjoy a pro-bono ride, especially when we had paid so much just few minutes earlier.

We had gone to the beach last Saturday in fulfilment of a promise to my elder daughter and also to give her a treat on her birthday. The La Pleasure Beach is what comes readily to mind if anyone in Accra wants to admire nature as the waves splash along Ghana’s coastline, hence our decision to visit the famed beach.

A lot of surprises awaited us, some not too pleasant but others intriguing. After parking, a guide quickly appeared and ushered us to an unknown destination along the beach, ostensibly to give us the best spot which was cluttered with several joints or eateries.

We were only saved from that early experience when I ‘cried’ out to our male guide that we were very much Ghanaians and not tourists so he could allow us to explore the beach ourselves. Defeated and crest-fallen he allowed us to go, but that was only the beginning of our woes.

Invitations to dine

Just when we thought we were now free to enjoy ourselves with a stroll as we deemed fit, there came another self-appointed host who wanted to entice us to his spot to enjoy some delicacies he had listed for us. “We have chicken and chips with some salad,” he ranted.

We declined politely but we thenceforth experienced about four more ordeals involving both men and women inviting us to take a seat on any of their rows of wooden chairs under umbrellas to sample their cuisine, which ranged from rice, potato chips and chicken to kebabs and some drinks.

As if those bogging invitations to dine were not enough, we were also coaxed, cajoled and enticed to take pictures by a ‘paparazzi’ although it was visible we had a camera, and horse rides along the beach, of course at fees that could not be classified as moderate.

There were more invitations to ride than to eat, perhaps because they saw the three children with me and assumed that they would be thrilled to take a ride on a horseback.

Not only did we almost get angry because of their incessant demands, but some of the horses were not that attractive to want to hop on them for a ride – they did not seem well groomed. Some actually looked angry as their owners walked up and down the beach with them in the scorching afternoon sun looking for clients.

Sanitation and the horse’s excrement

At a point, one horse ‘pooped’ and with a deftness that could only have come with constant practice, its owner quickly dug a hole and buried the faeces, drawing a disapproving ooh from the children.

Of course, the horses eat and so they must defecate too, but we were surprised that their faeces are buried on the same beach where scores of people frolic and walk barefoot.

After that incident, walking along the beach was no longer interesting, as we were not sure when we would accidentally step into some horse poop; but that was only the tip of the iceberg.

We found to our dismay that the beach was strewn with rubbish and as the waves went over them and receded, they left a very unpleasant spectacle.

Is this really the La Pleasure Beach that many people – both Ghanaians and foreigners --patronise so much, especially during holidays? we wondered.

Well, although the beach was relatively quiet when we visited, the dozens of white-skinned bodies we saw confirmed that it was the same popular beach that drew thousands of patrons most times.

I was not the only one who was not impressed with what I saw. My 13-year-old daughter at whose behest we visited the beach shared the same sentiments with me. “Ah this place is not nice at all,” she re-echoed my thoughts.

Making the beach world-class

Ghana has one of the finest beaches along the West African coast and we can derive so much foreign exchange just from our beaches, only if we would not abuse that fine resource nature has bestowed freely on us.

The mention of the Bahamas, Hawaii and other world-class destinations only bring to mind one thing – fine beaches which we have in abundance. Can we treasure ours enough to stop the littering and open defecation?

Available statistics indicate that tourism is Ghana’s largest foreign exchange earner after gold, cocoa and oil.

At a stakeholders’ consultative forum of the Car Rentals Association in Ghana last year, the President of the Ghana Car Rentals Association, Mr Seth Yeboah Ocran, said: “For instance, the direct contribution of Travel and Tourism to Gross Domestic product was GH¢4,457 million in 2015 and was expected to rise by 2.7 per cent by the end of 2016. A total of GH¢7,449 million is expected by 2026.”

We can actually earn more if we do not only clean our beaches but also deliberately make them world-class by employing the best practices.

The fact that the La Beach has been made an individual affair, where people are trying to eke out a living through the eateries, horses and the riding of four-wheeled all terrain vehicle (ATV) motorbikes is itself not a bad thing – it is the crude way we go about things that is.

For instance, instead of allowing horse owners to individually look for patrons, tickets could be issued at the entrance for anyone who wants to ride one at the beach. There could also be tickets that would entitle patrons to other attractions or sports at the beach or better still there could be various types of tickets that could offer options or variety to visitors, so that what one gets to enjoy is determined by the type of ticket bought at the gate.

As there are no turnstiles to regulate people at the entrance, how are large crowds who visit the beach, especially during holidays, controlled?

Elsewhere beasts of burden such as horses that are tourist attractions are not allowed to defecate indiscriminately. A pouch is tied at their back which collects the poop as they defecate. Can’t we do the same with the horses at the beach instead of doing ‘dig and bury’?

People must make a living but it is not everyone who visits the beach that would want to eat. Too many eating places along the beach have taken over much of the space. No wonder when the beach is jammed during big events and holidays, people get drowned.

It would be better to have the eateries sited outside the beach perimeter so that more space is freed for sporting activities and for people to sunbathe. It would also limit the rubbish along the beach, especially when in addition hawkers are also not allowed to sell their food freely along the beach as they were seen doing during our visit.

There is the need for more sunbathing beds other than the wooden chairs that are clumsily cluttered along the beach.

The final straw, tip before you go

Someway, somehow I had an inkling just before we got back to the car to return home that I may be asked to pay for parking. Thankfully that did not happen but an attendant asked for “money for water”.

Is it a Ghanaian thing to ask for tips anytime? No, but that act does not speak well of us as a country. Elsewhere asking for tips from clients or patrons is strongly frowned upon and discouraged.

We can offer jobs to the youth by employing people to take care of cars that are parked at places such as the La Beach and instead of them asking for tips, there should be an official charge which will all go into a central pool to pay them at the end of the month.

We can use the La Beach as a test case to improve all our beaches to rake in more foreign exchange.

Columnist: Edmund Smith-Asante
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