By JIMOH BABATUNDE
FOR anybody that knows Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State before Donald Duke’s administration and the transformation that took place later will not doubt the will power to make a change.
It was the will power of the administration that has made Cross River a reference point in tourism development in Nigeria and a preferred destination. Same will power is playing out in Ekiti state where Kayode Fayemi is turning things around in another tourist attraction in Ikogosi.
Ikogosi warm spring, tucked away in the rustic and serene town of Ikogosi-Ekiti, is one of the tourist attractions that this country could be proud of because of the history and myth behind the attraction. What is mysterious about the Ikogosi Warm Spring is the fact that, flowing side by side the warm spring, is another spring, a cold one.
The warm and cold springs of Ikogosi originate from a close proximity, come to a meeting point, and flow onward together with each spring retaining its thermal identity. The warm spring has a temperature of up to 70oC at the source and 37oC after meeting the cold spring. The meeting point of the warm and cold springs is a unique attraction to tourists.
The meeting of the warm and cold water could be a pull to tourist, but to some the myth behind it could be a pull to others as tourists visit attractions for varied reasons.
There are a few legends surrounding the origin and discovery of the Warm Spring and have been passed down generations for centuries. One such myth says that the warm and cold springs were the two wives of a great hunter. One of his wives was said to be temperamental while the other was a quiet woman. One day, the two wives had a fight and after being rebuked by their husband, the temperamental wife changed to the warm spring while the quiet one turned to the cold spring.
Another legend has it that a powerful hunter, while hunting for animals in the forest, first found the warm spring. After the discovery, he went to town with the story and the townspeople on learning about curative powers of the spring, started to worship the spring.
Whatever is the true situation remains to be found out as the story of the Ikogosi Warm Spring is told elsewhere and nothing might be compared to taking a trip to this serenity place to see things for oneself. For those townspeople who formed the first domestic tourists to the site it was tortuous for them to reach the attraction and so it has been for modern day domestic and international tourists as it was hardly accessible; the roads leading to the warm springs were decrepit.
Today, as part of Governor Kayode Fayemi’s transformation package accessibility is now a thing of the past as the roads leading to the resort have been fixed. The road re-rehabilitation formed part of the larger plan to transform the resort to a destination that can attract tourists.
A drive into the resort for the zonal meeting of the Nigeria Union of Journalists during the week was an eye opener to the transformation that has taken place in the resort.
The architectural design of the entrance gate against the landscaping of the over 116-hectare resort was a reminder of the scenic beauty of Obudu resort from the base. With the security check done with, a drive into the resort reveal eye catching newly built chalets and a reception building. The major surprise was the landscaping of the resort matched with beautifully manicured flowers being tended to by gardeners.
Behind the reception is the newly constructed 1000 capacity amphitheatre, arts and crafts centre. As you moved towards the meeting point of the cold and warm water, you cannot but marveled at the ingenuity that has been brought to play with the construction of a walk trail. In the past, tourists wade through dirty paths and bush to get to the meeting point as well as the tiny source from which the warm and cold water spring forth.
A walk on the trail envelops one with that tranquillity one gets walking a nature trail as all you hear is the chirpings of birds and the coolness of a thick forest through which you walk through. Ikogosi resort could pass for an eco-tourism destination because of the preservation of the flora and fauna there.
Tucked within the forest, as one passes through the former zoo in the resort, is the newly constructed swimming pool with a cozy bar and an eatery for tourists to relax after a visit to the spring.
Great efforts had gone into making the star attraction at the resort, the meeting point of the cold and warm water as well as the source of both to remain clean. Workers were seen removing dirt and other particles from the spring. Done with the sightseeing, I raced back through the walk trail for my meeting unknowing that there was another surprise waiting. The conference hall is an attraction itself as it can seat over 600 people as it can boost of modern conference equipment.