The Seven Wonders of Nigeria team held the 11th session of its Zoom Conference on August 28, 2020 and as expected, it was another exciting period of discovery as new things about old sites were revealed, while new ones were unveiled.
Featuring a line-up of travel and tourism professional, such as Captain Emmanuel Great of Tourism Business Synergies, Aminat Akanbi of Triplisters, Taiwo Gideon Oludayo (Aeroport), Ifeoma Aneke (Allure Travels & Tours), and veteran travel journalist, Emeka Anokwuru, the audience was taken on a fascinating journey, as each panellist highlighted some of their favourite destinations.
One of the new destinations revealed for the first time on the webinar series was the sixteen hills of Igbeti by Emeka Anokwuru fondly referred to as Elder by colleagues and friends. Waxing lyrical about the destination, the travel journalist talked about the annual Jeans carnival that takes place during the Easter period at Igbeti. Already a popular event for those within that axis, the carnival is usually kicked off with a Juma’at service on Good Friday, while it is round off with a Christian service led by the King of Igbeti on top of Iya Mopo, one of the hills on Easter Monday.
Igbeti, surrounded by 16 hills, is about an hour drive from Ogbomoso, Osun State and shares boundary with Old Oyo National Park. Part of the Jeans carnival festivities includes a peace walk and several sporting activities with cash prizes, honours and awards. Revellers come clad in their T-shirts, Jeans and appropriate footwear for climbing the hills.
Owala Dam in Oba-oke, close to Okinni in Osogbo, Osun State was another new destination on the N7W virtual conference. According to Captain Emmanuel, the dam had been constructed as a reservoir for the Ede Power Plant by the Water Corporation of Nigeria. However, it has great potential to become a major tourists’ attraction, due possibilities of engaging in various water sports and activities. Neighbouring communities in the area, commute via canoes to get their children to school. Also, there are several rare species of monkeys that can be spotted and if well package, it can actually become a sort of Dubai, Capt. Emmanuel noted.
Another new discovery was the Ikare Kingdom, located on an island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lagos Lagoon. Speaking about the destination, Aminat Akanbi stated that Ikare is accessible via a 30-minute boat ride from CMS, Victoria Island or Ikoyi. It is also home to the exquisite resort, Kamp Ikare. Annually, the people host an Olokun festival in honour of a water deity in tandem with other parts of Yoruba land, especially Ife. There is a slew of islets around and during the rainy season, one can spot dolphins on their migratory journey.
Still on new destination, the Elder, Emeka Anokwuru added yet another when he talked about Okomu National Park in Ovia South LGA, Edo State. Measuring 19,720 hectares, Okomu was upgraded from a forest reserve in 1985 and is the smallest national park in the country. However, it is a “wonder of nature” rich with flora and fauna. In his words, Okomu is a “soothing balm of rainforest.” Some of the inhabitants of the park include: the endangered white-throated monkeys, mona monkeys, chimpanzees, elephants, etc. The park has a canopy walkway, nature trails and is ideal for hiking and birding.
Two rivers, Okomu and Ose run through the park offering opportunities for water activities like boating, fishing, etc. The park has a lodge with good accommodation, and a la carte dining at the restaurant. Also, 4WD vehicles are available for game drives. Reminiscing about his younger days, the travel journalist talked about going on expeditions to hunt bush meat, remarking that it usually took the community three days to go through a slain elephant. He, however asked forgiveness of the audience, admitting remorsefully those things were done out of ignorance, as he is now an advocate of conservation.
Other interesting places that featured on the episode included: Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, the famous rampart that served as a protection for the Egba people during the inter-tribal wars. Speaking about the rock, Oludayo or “Gidi-Boss” as he is fondly called, recalled he first came in contact with the rock as a 7-year old in primary school. Olumo Rock stands at 137m above sea level and offers panoramic views of Abeokuta from the summit. Apart from the natural climbing trails, one can get to the top via an elevator.
Gidi-Boss also spoke about the Lekki Conservation Centre in Lagos, describing it as an “urban nature park.” The place has some wildlife such as monkeys, birds, tortoise, peacocks, crocodiles and snakes. There is a picnic ground with giant board games; it also has a tree house and the longest canopy walk way in Africa measuring 400m. He also spoke about Tarkwa Bay.
On her part, Ifeoma Aneke spoke about the “amazing ambience” of the Ngwo Pine Forest in Enugu State. According to her, it is “surreal” and “magical” and a “perfect place for picnics.” Next to Miliken Hill, the location also has caves and a waterfall nearby. It is easily accessible, however, she warned that one needs to be smart to avoid being exploited by the locals around who act as guides. It costs at least N1,000 to get someone to take you to the waterfall. In addition, she added that a visit to the Museum of Memories, a themed-museum can be added to the package.
Speaking about Abuja, she highlighted the Usman Dam as a great place for picnics, photoshoots, hiking, canoeing among other. A visit to the Ushaffa Pottery Village is also advised, as well as the animal orphanage at the National park HQ and the Nike Art gallery in Abuja. Still on Abuja, Aminat Akanbi spoke about the National Children’s Park & Zoo. According to her, the place has great views and offers one a mini safari experience with some of the Big 5 available, as well as monkeys and some other game animals. There’s also a small lake within the park.
Ifeoma spoke about the Cross River National Park and the lowland gorillas. She then talked about Olumirin Waterfalls in Erin-Ijesa, located between Osun and Ekiti states. The 7-levels cataract which has a community living at the top has the lower levels situated in Osun, while the upper levels tilt into Ekiti. Captain Emmanuel informed the audience that Erin-Ijesa falls would be reopened on September 4, 2020.
Meanwhile, while touching on the theme for this year’s UNWTO World Tourism Day “Building Peace & Fostering Knowledge,” Captain Emmanuel announced that Osun State will be celebrating the day at the Kiriji Warm Memorial Site. The site has eleven caves and was the spot where a peace treaty was signed by warring Yoruba tribes to end their conflict. According to him, the site needs to be promoted to show that Africans can achieve conflict resolution without foreign help.
Captain Emmanuel also spoke about Idere Hills, the presently trending place in Oyo State, while Aminat Akanbi spoke about Jara Beach Resort, an upscale all-inclusive accommodation facility in Lagos, which gives her the “Santorini feeling.”
There was sad news concerning a helicopter that crashed earlier in the day at Opebi, a residential area of Ikeja. It turned out that the helicopter belonged to a friend of the house and colleague in the industry, FlyBoku.com.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Ikechi Uko, host of the webinar announced that he will be in Abuja for the first tour scheduled for September 4 to 6, which includes visits to Katampe Hill, Mpape Crushed Rock Site and Zuma Rock.
He added that the package is available for people in Lagos and Rivers states at the moment, but efforts are ongoing to get other partner airlines, so that people from other parts of the can enjoy the packages. Also, works are ongoing for the organising of tour packages to Calabar and Jos; while the audience should stay tuned for an opportunity to win an all-expense paid trip to Ogeyi Place in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.