The Seven Wonders of Nigeria had its eight Zoom conference on August 7, 2020 and it was another exciting and revealing session as the day’s line-up of panellists showcased their favourite destinations in the country.
Organiser of the Seven Wonders of Nigeria project, Ambassador Ikechi Uko, wearing a face shield, opened the show with an advice to the people out there to stay safe, as the world fights on to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
He then expressed his delight at the fallout of the zoom conferences, which had spurred several state governments in the country into action, by embarking on developing new tourism projects and restoring some old sites and attractions in their states. He gave the example of a sky-ride project which the Enugu State government is set to build, and the rehabilitation of the Bower Tower in Ibadan by the Oyo State government.
Several other states were also commended for their efforts to drive domestic tourism, by takin ownership of the various sites and attractions within their territories. Some of these states include, apart from those mentioned earlier: Ekiti, Lagos, Plateau, Taraba, and Cross River which recently announced the cancellation of tourism levy up until the end of the year.
Straight on, the first panellist of the day Mrs. Olaniyi Balqees Olubunmi of OLABAF Travel & Tours took centre stage, leading the audience through the north central region of the country. After the exchange of pleasantries and appreciation for the opportunity to be part of the project, she kicked off her presentation in Kwara with the oldest museum in Nigeria, Esie Museum. Established in 1945, the museum is famous for Soapstone figurines, said to be the largest collection in the world.
According to oral legend, a group of settlers had tried to come into the Esie community, but they were refused entry. Subsequently, they settled on the border and began to make a nuisance of themselves, until the gods of Esie got fed up and turned them into figurines. The museum is about 45km from Ilorin the state capital, and a zoo is close by for exploration too.
Up next was the Kerang Volcanic Mountain in Mangu LGA, Plateau State, where the popular Swan Spring Water is sourced from. The environment is safe because of its proximity to an Air force base and it is ideal for hiking and other related adventures. From there, she took the audience to the Zuma Golf Resort, located to the famous Zuma Rock in Suleija, just on the outskirts of the FCT. The resort has lush landscape, with several animals such as horses, gazelles, etc to be spotted. Also, it is an ideal place to resort to after hiking the Zuma Rock.
From there, the CEO of OLABAF, went to Gurara Falls in Niger State, describing it as her favourite destination. There are several activities to be enjoyed such as canoe ride, swimming, hiking the rock, etc. She advised that the dry season was the best time to explore the destination, because during the rainy season, the volume of water increases and it becomes difficult to access or enjoy most of the activities.
She closed out her presentation with a visit to the Blucabana Restaurant, another exquisite place with a variety of scrumptious cuisines, swimming pool and event centre where one can unwind and spend quality time, or host parties, etc.
The second panellist was Ibiwari Uloma Kemabonta, CEO of Retz Holiday and founder of Africa Travel Information Platform. After observing the necessary protocols, she alerted the audience that her destinations were located within Abuja, FCT. Her first port of call was the Katampe Hill, claimed by some to be the geographical centre of Nigeria. The hill is about a 10mins distance from anywhere in Abuja, and is an ideal hiking destination.
She advised that it is better to access from the back of Aso Radio, although you may have to do some explanation to security forces around. Also, when coming from the back of Aso Radio, it is advised that the hiker should avoid the right side of the hill when climbing. Rather stick to the centre of left-hand side.
From there she moved to the Stadium Hills, a twin set of hills opposite the Abuja National Stadium and within proximity of Magic Land, a recreational facility. The hills are ideal for hiking, and camping activities. She then moved to unveil a mini waterfall in Karu, which is an ideal picnic spot and very picturesque.
Moving on to Kubwa, she talked about the Paze Mountain, a small range of hills which has two small cataracts. The location is very picturesque and has been used by many for wedding photoshoots, etc. Also, the spot is ideal for picnics, swimming and of course the Paze Mountains are there to be hiked.
Her next destination was the Sarius Palmetum Botanical Gardens which has over 200 species of palm trees. The place has a therapeutic appeal with its rich flora, and is an ideal picnic spot. It also has an event centre and hosts an office of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation NCF. After that, she closed her presentation with a visit to Cilantro, an exquisite Indian restaurant serving an assortment of cuisines, both local and continental.
Before the next panellist came on, Amb. Uko again took time to commend the efforts of the states that have harkened to the call being championed by the Seven Wonders of Nigeria® project to drive domestic tourism and take ownership of the sites and attractions within their territories. After this, he introduced the next speaker, the CEO of International Hospitality, Tourism & Eco Sustainability Forum, Chibukem Dialla.
Without wasting time, Mr. Dialla unveiled his first destination, the Mount Ned, the highest point in Delta State at 1,000ft above sea-level. Also known as Mount Delta, it has an architectural piece built on top of it called the Lily House. Located in Idumuje, about 40mins from Asaba, the state capital, the surrounding environment is lush and it is owned by Ned Nwoko. The place features a tunnel, cave, an Olympic-size pool and has an exotic collection of antiques as old as 400 years. It also has a range of animals such as: peacocks, crocs, snakes, horses, camels, monkeys and tortoises.
From there, he moved on to Oguta in Imo State to unveil the Crystal Lake Resort. The property is situated on a 53-hectare of land with beautiful lawns. It features an 18-hole golf course and has a couple of facilities for jet-skiing, boat rides, quad biking, and fishing. Located at about 30mins from Owerri, the state capital, Crystal Lake Resort is secure and safe with a police post nearby.
Dialla’s next destination was a community which protected a certain species of monkeys as their totems and sacred. According to oral legend, no one was sure where the monkeys came from, but there was a heavily pregnant woman that they helped whenever her husband had gone out to do his daily work.
The monkeys would help the woman with chores and even brought food to her. After a while, she had to tell her husband, and in recognition of the deeds of the monkeys, the community decreed that no one should harm them. Interestingly, the Sclater’s guenon, also known as Sclater’s monkey or the White throated Money as they are called are an endemic species to Nigeria. . It is an arboreal and diurnal primate that lives in the forests of southern Nigeria, mostly in Edo, Akwa Ibom and Imo State
From there, Dialla went on to unveil the source of Urashi River in Ideato LGA of Imo State. Urashi is one of the two rivers that form the Oguta Lake without mixing together. The river tumbles down a considerable height from its source and prior to the Nigerian Civil War, some expatriates had started some work to make it accessible.
A 54-step stairway was built but remains uncompleted since the ‘60s. Interestingly, the water is said to change colour on the 31st of December along with some rope-like materials in the cave which is said to go around the community. The river was a major waterway to access the hinterland in the old times for trade.
Up next was Anago James Osho, founder of Anago Osho Adventures & Heritage Preservation. Anago who is a famous tour guide with an excellent knowledge of the Badagry area wasted no time in settling and proceeding to unveil so much more about the coastal town, beyond the slave route that most know the place for.
Referring to it as the “Alluring Badagry,” Anago delved on the issues of safety and accessibility, pointing out that helicopter rides were available, as well as the waterways. For safety, there is community policing, while there are two military barracks and a naval barrack in the area. He then spoke about eco-tourism, narrating how the famous mangrove disappeared at one point because the locals believed smoking their fish with the wood gave the fish a golden colour and makes it more attractive. But Anago affirmed that the mangrove has return through concerted efforts by stakeholders.
He also talked about the various ceremonies and festivities that take place in Badagry; such as Zangbeto, Gelede, Egungun, and Coconut Festival. Anago took time to correct the notion that the famous Gberefun is an island. It is rather a peninsula, he clarified. Speaking further, he talked about the Ilaje fishing community and how they are presently embarking on a project to construct eco-lodges.
He also talked about some archaeological ruins in Topo, known as the Catholic Ruins, and a pottery centre. He mentioned the Collaborative Action for Sustainable Tourism (COAST) which eventually had Badagry chosen ahead of Calabar. It seemed Anago had so much more to say, and had to be interrupted after spending about 20mins, for the fifth panellist, Tina Nwanya, CEO of Nje Tours to come and make her presentation; while Anago was assured of rounding up afterwards.
Swiftly, Tina started with the McCarthy Beach Resort in Abraka, Delta State. The entire area is so fascinating with blue skies and white sands beaches that reminds one of Mauritius. There are several activities that can be enjoyed such as boat rides on the Ethiope River. McCarthy Beach Reosrt has been described as one of Nigeria’s best kept secrets. It was built by a British citizen who married a Nigerian and settled in the area. The gentleman who has since passed on was manager of several hotels in the country.
Tina spoke next of the famous Abraka Resort with its beautiful coconut grove and white sands. The Ethiope River runs through the property, offering boating opportunities and several water activities. Both McCarthy Beach and Abraka resorts are safe and secured.
Her final destination was Badagry, highlighting the famous slave route and boat rides. Anago then came on briefly to round off his presentation, talking about attractions Abeokuta in Ogun State, and the Takwa Bay in Lagos. For him, the beauty of Takwa Bay lies in the cultural history after discovering some underground tunnels, which were actually barracoons, implying that it was a slave route. Also, he pointed out that the oldest lighthouse in West Africa is on the island, while the Lagos state government is embarking on a project to build a Takwa Bay Coastal Resort.