Nigeria: Human-faced Zuma Rock, Oporoza Island, Mount Patti, IBB Golf Club, Eleyele River, and the problem with national parks highlight 10th N7W webinar

12
Dec

On August 21, 2020, the Seven Wonders of Nigeria® held its 10th episode of the weekly Zoom Conference, and once again it was another explosive package featuring a line-up of interesting panellists,

Among whom were the Vice President of NATOP, Ime Udo; CEO of Hotel Rosebud and past president of FTAN, Chief Tomi Akingbogun; Chairman of the Board of Trustees of FTAN, Chief Sam Alabi; travel journalist and President of ANJET, Omololu Olumuyiwa; and Dein Gbabo of Akwaaba African Travel Market.

The show opened with the host, Ambassador Ikechi Uko welcoming everyone as usual, while reminding them of the need to maintain the safety procedures, such as use of face shields, and or masks, hand sanitisers to stop the spread of covid-19. He expressed delight with the incredible level of awareness the virtual conference has created in such a short time about domestic tourism in Nigeria.

He had good news for all as he announced that there is goodwill from the Ministry of Information, with the agreement to let Seven Wonders of Nigeria® use the new ultra-modern Lagos-Ibadan Railway line for the group’s planned tour of Oyo State.

Going back memory lane, Amb. Uko recalled that in 2017 as part of Abuja Jabamah, there was a trip to Kajuru Castle and the group had taken a similar train ride. He promised to reveal more about the proposed tour of Oyo State once the final details have been taken care of.

Afterwards, a short video of the Lagos-Ibadan was then played

Right after that, Amb. Uko announced that the weekend tour packages to Abuja will commence next week, following the tidying up of the final details of the deal.

The weekend getaway to Abuja comes with either a 3-star or 4-star accommodation offering rates for single and double occupancy. It is an all-inclusive package – flight, accommodation, meals, transportation. Departure from Lagos will be on Friday afternoon/evening, while Departure from Abuja is on Sunday afternoon. Presently, Dana Air has signed on as the partner airline.

He, however noted that tiny details regarding having children on the trip is being worked out.

Afterwards, Amb. Uko introduced the first speaker of the day, Dein Gbabo. Before she started her presentation, a short clip of an undisclosed destination was played, and the audience later found out that destination was nowhere else but Oporoza Island in Gbaramatu Kingdom, in the Niger-Delta area where the speaker comes from.

Starting with a one-and-a-half-hour boat cruise from Warri, Delta State, that costs about N2,000 per person, the journey to Oporoza Island is a beautiful experience for the intrepid adventurer to explore the isles, beaches, creeks and canals; the culture and cuisines of the Niger-Delta and shatter the misconception about the people, being militant and inhospitable.

Things to do on Oporoza includes, a 2-hr walking to see the entire island, observing the locals as they go about their daily lives. You can enjoy canoe rides on the canals, touring the creeks; enjoy fish barbecue, and pay visits to the crocodile pool and palace of the king.

The palace is a grand spectacle built with gold and gold trappings.

During festive periods, especially Easter and Christmas and traditional festivals like Amaseikumo, a lot of Izon diaspora return to celebrate.

Visitors are welcomed and each person gets a fish which can be kept in a pond for you or killed and frozen, so you can take it with you when you’re leaving. There are beautiful dances, cultural displays, and masquerades, and boat regatta. Amaseikumo festival is a 7-day long event, held for the deity of peace and progress.

You have the chance to live with a local and enjoy the warm hospitality of your host, which saves you money. You can also explore the nearby isles and end your adventure by spending a night or two at the 911 Beach Resort at Escravos.

A 20-room exquisite accommodation with lovely facilities, offering an active nightlife with live DJ.

Amb. Uko announced that from the previous 9 sessions of the N7W Zoom conference, a total of 139 destinations and attractions had been mentioned so far – and with the presentation by the first speaker, the number went up to 141.

It shows how blessed Nigeria is and how much we have to offer in the world of tourism. He then went on to list the top 20, with Obudu Mountain Resort sitting comfortably at the summit of the most mentioned on N7W webinar.

It was the turn of the VP of National Tour Operators (NATOP), Ime Udo, and she hit the ground running.

Expressing her delight to be on, she started her presentation sharing her Obudu Mountain Resort experience. Established as a ranch in 1951 and situated on at about 1,700 feet above sea-level, the resort offers an all-year round beautiful climate.

It accessible from Calabar and Enugu, but the journeys are quite long, lasting as long 8-9 hours from former, and 5-6 hours from the latter. Sadly, there is a non-functional airstrip, which if it is made functional will save a whole lot of stress and trouble.

But that’s where the downside ends. Everything else is super. To get to the resort, there are two options: the cable car or the regular car. The drive up the mountain offers an exciting experience as the car manoeuvres along the winding road.

On the other hand, the cable car – the longest in the world from point to point, offers a breath-taking bird’s-eye view. The air is fresh and pure and it immediately affects you as you go higher – to go live in the clouds.

There is accommodation for every pocket, and so much to do from hiking, swimming, etc. there is a canopy walkway, golf course, tennis and squash courts, etc.

Not to forget, the resort started as a ranch and the livestock are still there. Recalling her experience, the NATOP VP remembered two very robust cows she saw there.

Her second destination was Mount Patti in Lokoja, Kogi State; a location of historical significance to Nigeria.

It was upon Mount Patti that Lady Flora Shaw, coined the name “Niger-area” as she beheld River Niger rushing down to confluence with River Benue. The road up Patti is snaky with the corners and turns so sharp, your heart starts racing from the excitement. Along the way, you will hear birds chirping and singing sweetly as if urging you on to get to the top.

At the top, you will find a baobab tree, claimed to be over 500 years old on which you will see names engraved upon – names of those who surmounted Patti, and subsequently etched their names on the tree and into history.

Once you get to the summit, you will understand why Lord Frederick Lugard chose to build a rest place up there. Down below the weather is humid and hot, but up, it is a different affair, as the air is cool and invigorating. Like Obudu, it is an “excursion in the sky” going up Mount Patti.

From there, Madam VP took the audience down to La Manga Beach Resort, a 5-star luxury accommodation along Ilashe island axis in Lagos. Accessible via a 15-20min boat rides from Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki, the facility has five beach-facing rooms and it is self-catering.

It is high-end, has superb amenities, and lovely ambience with coconut trees.

Madam Udo rounded off her presentation with a quick look at Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi. One of the top game reserves in the country, Yankari has five springs, of which the most famous is the Wikki Warm Springs with clear turquoise water.

It also boasts of several big games like elephants, lions and other wildlife species.

Right after her presentation, Amb. Ikechi Uko announced the Top 10 States within the past 12 calendar months who have done a lot for the tourism industry. According to him, these are not the only states, but they have done more and the honour is to encourage them, while challenging others to do more.

The list included: Lagos, Cross River, Ekiti, Plateau, Osun, Rivers, Kebbi, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Enugu states.

Also, the names of the partner hotels for the Abuja weekend getaway were revealed as Hotel Rosebud and Hawthorne Suites, while as stated earlier Dana Air is the partner airline. With that said, it was time to bring on the next speaker, the president of ANJET, Omololu Olumuyiwa, who began his presentation by stating his excitement with the new ultra-modern Lagos-Ibadan railway.

For him, it will accessibility between both locations faster and easier, circumventing the perennial issues of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

Omololu Olumuyiwa who is also the publisher of TravelScope magazine, stated that his destinations are all within Ibadan. He noted that Ibadan is a city of firsts among which are: University of Ibadan, the first in the country; Cocoa House, the first skyscraper in the country; and the first TV station in West Africa. With that, he unveiled his first attraction – the Eleyele River.

According to him, the average Ibadan man has reservations about water, following the tragic incidence of 1980 known as “omiyale” – which literal translation means flooding – when the Ogunpa River overflooded it banks, causing a monumental destruction of lives and properties. However, a Lagos-based boat operator saw Eleyele River, and decided to put explore the potential of having cruises on it.

Soon, it caught on and it has become a major attraction.

Olumuyiwa stated that the operating company is very thorough and professional. The boats are good, and they have standard safety procedures in place with lifejackets, lifebuoys, etc.

In addition, you can experience the culture and sample the famed “amala” and “gbegiri”, popularly referred to as “abula,” and even go on a fishing tour. He however called on the state government to invest in putting up an international standard resort or accommodation close by.

Next on his list was the Agodi Gardens, which in his words is “an ultra-modern resort for maximum relaxation.” It is a family friendly place with nice ambience, good restaurant, waterpark and swimming pool where you can engage in water activities. You can also enjoy horse rides and so many leisure things.

From there, he moved on to the National Museum at Aleshinloye, which has four galleries on; pottery, Yoruba culture, masquerades, and Aso-ofi.

However, poor network reception cut short his presentation before he could tell the audience more, and also about the famous Cocoa House.

The fourth speaker of the day was the CEO of Hotel Rosebud, one of the partner accommodations for the Abuja Weekend Getaway! Remarking that Abuja is the best planned city in West Africa, Chief Akingbogun stated he has lived in the FCT for about 20 years now, and had always visited prior to that when the city was still in its developmental stages.

His first attraction was the IBB International Golf and Country Club, named after the former military president Ibrahim Babangida who pushed for the establishment of the facility.

The club is located on Aso Drive in Maitama District, and it is rated as one of the best in West Africa. It features an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, hiking trails, and footpaths.

A river runs through the property and there is a crocodile sanctuary.

IBB Golf and Country Club is exclusive, but guests are welcomed, if they are brought by a member, while a fee of N5,000 is also required. It is also a great place for birding.

Next, Chief Akingbogun talked about the 3-Arms of Government, a reference to the official buildings housing the Executive (Aso Rock Villa), Legislative (Senate and House of Reps buildings) and the Judiciary. These are beautiful landmarks.

He however would like the police and security operatives to be more civil, and to stop harassing tourists. They need to be educated that tourists are not spies.

His third attraction was Zuma Rock, the human-faced monolith on the outskirts of Abuja.

As early as the 15th century, the rock had been identified by the Zuba people who settled there and called it “Zumwa” – a place for catching guinea fowls. The rock is about 725 metres high and 3.1km in circumference, and is good for hiking.

It served as a rampart and protection for the people and they have attached some spirituality to it.

There is actually a phenomenon where fire starts burning atop the rock, during the rainy season. This is actually a geological occurrence, caused by lightning striking the top of the rock and setting the vegetation there ablaze.

The final speaker of the day was the Chairman BOT of the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria, Chief Samuel Alabi. Taking a different approach, Chief Alabi talked about the challenges inhibiting the profitability of the national parks, citing that in 2015, over N30b was invested by government while just N24m was generated as revenue.

Using the Kainji Lake National Park as an example, he talked about how the 5,000km² wildlife haven, bestriding two states – Niger and Kwara – is seriously under utilised. First, access is an issue. It is 167km from Ilorin to New Bussa, while from Abuja, 300km. Besides this, the roads are so bad and is a huge discouraging factor.

Second, animal census has shown that the wildlife is decreasing due to poaching and migration of animals to unprotected areas. Third, the park is short-staffed, poorly trained and under-equipped.

Few safari Jeep or game trucks, with most in bad shape – so, picture a vehicular breakdown on a game drive. No GPS tracking. No vet clinics. So, it is easy for sick animals to infect others. There is need to improve conservation and maintain exotic plants. He also added that, there are no good accommodations in or around the national park.

These, according to Chief Alabi, defeats the purpose for the setting up of the national parks, which he believes “hold the key to the future of tourism in Nigeria.”

Therefore, more needs to be done.

Mr. Basil Agboarumi, SAHCOL responded to the issues raised by Chief Alabi, although he admitted that he was there at Kainji during his youth service days. He however agreed that poachers are doing a great disservice to the nation with their activities.