Home » Africa: Nigeria’s Old Oyo National Park courts tourist with cultural and spiritual tourism

Africa: Nigeria’s Old Oyo National Park courts tourist with cultural and spiritual tourism

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Nigeria’s Old Oyo National Park is probably one of the parks in the country with a rich reservoir of cultural and spiritual relics, with a blend of indigenous flora and fauna for tourism exploitation by tourists.

According to the Conservator, Old Oyo National Park, Joseph Assam Ntui, the park is the most unique of all the National Parks in the country because it is the only Park with dual prospect of both ecological as well as cultural/historical tourism.

Ntui who spoke at the 14th Seven Wonders of Nigeria webinar at the weekend while making a presentation said the park has the largest concentration of archaeological remains of the former capital city of the ancient Oyo Empire.

He said the park boast of four concentric defense walls around the former ancient city, Esu and Ogun shrine, Antete shrine, Asabari shrine, Aafin (palace) of Alaafin , and Akesan market, tomb stones, Ibuya pool (a pool of River Ogun in the park), the royal cemeteries at Igboho and Bara among others.

Joseph Assam Ntui presentation reads:

Ecotourism Readiness Of Old Oyo National Park

Ecotourism is considered the fastest growing market in the tourism industry, according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO) with an annual growth rate of 15% Worldwide and representing 6% of the World Gross Domestic Product. 11.4% of all consumers spending is not a market to be taken lightly, Omomona & Kayode (2011)
It can also be referred to as a responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves well-being of local people.

It also aims to preserve natural habitat, protect native wildlife, ensure visitors travel responsibly and contribute to the well-being of local communities (Honey, 2008) Generally, Ecotourism is being practiced in all the National Parks in Nigeria including Old
Oyo National Park. Among the Parks, Old Oyo National Park is the most unique of all the National Parks in the country because it is the only Park with dual prospect of both ecological as well as cultural/historical tourism.

• Old Oyo National Park is one of the seven national parks in Nigeria, It was initially created under Decree No. 36 of 1991, which was later repealed and replaced by Act 46, Cap 65 Laws of Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2010 which established two additional National Parks, namely Okomu and Kamuku National Parks. The park was carved from two contiguous forest reserves: Upper Ogun and Oyo-ile Forest Reserves which were gazatted in1936 and 1941 respectively.

• Due to high abundance and richness of fauna species diversity in the area, the two forest reserves were merged and converted in the late 1970s by the then Western Regional Government to form the Upper Ogun Game Reserve.

• The game reserve was equipped with a few infrastructural facilities to facilitate eco-tourism. These included five patrol posts, a 28km access road to the Base Camp at Ibuya and four rustic chalets for tourists and researchers. The Park covers an area of approximately 2,512 km2 , making it the fourth largest national park in Nigeria after Gashaka Gumti, 6,731 km2, Kanji Lake 5,340 km2 and Cross River, 4000km2. The park is about 120km long from the southwest to the northeast and about 50km wide at its widest point in the south and is shaped like a saxophone.

• Old Oyo National Park is located in Oyo and Kwara states in Southwest and North Central Nigeria respectively. It lies between latitudes 80 10’ and 90 05’ North and longitudes 30 and 40 20’ East. The nearest national parks to it are Kanji Lake and Okomu National Parks. The Head Office of the park is approximately 300km from Lagos, 45km from Ibadan, 105km from Ilorin, 660km from Abuja, 660km from Kaduna and 910km from Kano.

•A network of fairly tarred roads surrounds the Park, making it possible to reach all ranges of the park with relative ease. Visitors from the Southeastern part of Nigeria and Lagos can travel through Ibadan-Iseyin-Sepeteri to enter the park at Ajaku gate. Visitors from Abuja, Kaduna and Kano axis can travel through Ilorin-Igbeti route to enter the park at Jokoro,Tessi-Garuba or Apata gates.

•Those from Borgu Emirate can travel through Kaiama – Kishi-Soro route to enter the park through Soro gate, while those from central Benin Republic can travel through Yashikira – Kosubosu-Igboho to enter the Park at Alaguntan gate. Some of these routes are however inaccessible during the rainy season.

• The distance traveling from Head Office (Oyo Alaafin Town) through Iseyin to the Park is approximately three (3) hours drive (135.3 km). In the same vein, distance from Head Office Oyo through Ogbomoso -Ikoyi-ile – Igbeti- Igboho is approximately four (4) hours drive (228km).
The road condition is bad from Oyo – Iseyin (40km) while from Iseyin to Ago-Are – Sepeteri, the road is fairly good. Therefore, trip to the Park requires 4 wheel drive vehicle.

• To protect, preserve, conserve and manage representative examples of indigenous flora and fauna of the south west geographical region of Nigeria.
• To encourage general interest and education among the public in the knowledge of wild fauna and flora in order to gain their support for conservation
• To preserve the cultural, historical and archeological features in the abandoned sites of the former capital city of the ancient Oyo Empire at Oyo-ile, Bara and Koso
To encourage the public to visit the National Park in order to enjoy and appreciate the aesthetic, spiritual and ecological values of nature etc

FLORAL RESOURCES (Friendly Environment)
The entire park lies in the southern part of the guinea savanna and consists of four sub- vegetation complexes:
• Dense woodland and forest outliers in the Southeastern part.
• Mixed open and dense savanna woodland in the central part.
• Outcrop vegetation in the northeast and
Riparian grassland and fringing woodland occupying the forest plains and valleys along River Ogun

The abundance of cultural artifacts within and around the park makes it an ecological and historical park. Oyo-ile, in the Northeast corner of the park, was the capital of the ancient Oyo Empire. This empire was one of the first states to emerge in the forest and coastal region of West Africa. It reached its peak between the 17th and 18th centuries. Several other sites associated with Oyo –Ile are Igboho,Ipapo-ile and Koso. At one time or the other, these sites served as the capital of the empire under different Alaafins. Alaafin Sango is believed to have committed suicide at Koso.

• The largest concentration of archaeological remains is found at Oyo-ile, of which the following relics have been identified:
• Four concentric defense walls around the former ancient city.
• Mejiro industrial site (consisting of black smithing, iron forgery and grain milling sites).
• A large water reservoir for dry season utilization
• Esu and Ogun shrine:
• Aafin (palace) of Alaafin together with the village square and Akesan market.
• Other relics found around the site are grinding stones, potsherds, snail and cowry shells, heaps of ash and charcoal, mud walls and tomb stones.

Various colourful annual cultural festivals are celebrated all over the Park’s environs
They include:
• Oranyan festival (annually) – September.
• World Sango festival (annually) – August.
• Oro festival (annually) – May/June.
• Bebe festival (annually)
• Ifa festival
• Orisa funfun festival (annually) etc.

Other cultural sites include:-
• The royal cemeteries at Igboho and Bara.
• The Antete shrine at Ikoyi-ile (a pot containing honey bees which were used to sting enemies of Ikoyi-ile to death during tribal wars). The pot is purported to still be active today
• The Asabari shrine
• Ibuya pool (a pool of River Ogun in the park). It was believed to cure various ailments when a patient takes his/her bath in the pool on Fridays.
• Yemoso Hill (site of old settlements at its base). It harbors a lions’ den

Conference/Event Holidays
• Multipurpose Hall.
• Activities’ centers both at the Head Office and Ikoyi Ile.
• Animal Orphanage (Duiker, Ostrich, Tortoise and water turtle).
• The staff/Tourist Canteen, Bar and chalets at Administrative Head Office at Oyo.
• Nature trails/Jeep tracks

Standard accommodation complete with potable water, electricity and satellite television service is available at Akoto Tourist
Camp. These include:
• 10 Nos. VIP Suites.
• 8 Nos. Executive Chalets.
• Students Hostel (40-60 bed spaces).
• Camping ground with tents.
• Standard room at Ibuya.
• Restaurant (60-120 seating space).
• Bar (Mini).
• Indoor games.
• Swimming Pool.

Gymnasium Hall.
• Table Tennis.
• Snooker Board.
• A Cycling.
• Changing rooms etc.

o Poor road network to the Park and into the Park.
o Low income and zeal of Nigerians in leisure and tourism.
o Poor qualities of tourism infrastructure.
o Poor served tourist location.
o Under development, poor Management or underutilization and mismanagement of tourist resources.
o All protected areas for Ecotourism in Nigeria are economically dependent on either the Federal or state government.
o General insecurity

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