Some countries in Africa that have leveraged on tourism as source of foreign exchange revenue often do so through promotion of their tourist attractions with safaris photographs showing exotic floral and fauna.
Kenya is today famous for its safari and large number of national parks that attract tourists as majority of tourists visiting the country often plan safaris even if that is not their main reason for travelling to Kenya.
Nigeria with her with rich and unique array of ecosystems, and a great variety of wild fauna and flora can attract such tourists too, if only the national parks in the country are promoted as tourist destinations.
Each of the national parks in the country namely Chad Basin, Cross River, Gashaka Gumti, Kamuku, Okomu, Old Oyo and Kainji, all have their peculiar animal and plant resources.
Nigeria’s National Parks have wide variety of interesting sites, for example, cultural, historical, archaeological unique ecosystems, and other biophysical attractions for all types and classes of visitors including scientists and researchers.
Today, Travels and Tourism presents some of the unique features of some of Nigeria’s national parks.
Cross River National Park
It covers a total area of about 4000sq km of mainly primary moist tropical rainforest ecosystem in the North and central parts, and mosaic vegetation on the Obudu Plateau. It is Nigeria’s last Great Rainforest Reserve, and the closest to the Mangrove Swamps on the coastal region.
Wilderness experience: A trip to the Park is primarily important for exploring one of the oldest rainforest in the world. The dense canopy, the tree trunks with their huge buttresses, the coolness of the environment, the freshness of the air and the sweet songs of the forest can never fail to lift even the most casual visitor into that tranquil realm of the soul.
The 12km Erokut jeep track and nature foot trails at Erokut – Akamkpa have been specially developed for this experience.
Gorilla tracking: Of the many animal life forms in the Park, the most important is the Cross River Gorilla a sub species that is endemic to the Park in all of West Africa. Those wishing to track down the gorilla must be prepared however to camp in the Park for a minimum of one week at least.
Game viewing: Visitors to the Park may be lucky to view animals while on a visit to the Bashu salt lick in Okwangwo Division or Mfameyin salt lick in the Oban Sector of the Park or Erukot Gate near the Park Head Office, Akamkpa.
Mountaineering/Hiking: Active tourist can dare the Mbe Mountains by climbing to the summit or they can make the long haul trekking/climbing from Butatong through Balegete to the summit of Obudu Plateau.
Bird watching: The montane grassland and relic forests of the Obudu Plateau offer opportunity for bird watching. There are over 200 species on the plateau.
Botanic garden and Herbarium: The well laid out botanic garden and herbarium in Butatong are open nature classrooms, which offer opportunity for environmental education and biological research.
German fort: This place was once part of the German colony before the Allied Forces ran it over during the Second World War.
Okomu National Park
Okomu National Park is the smallest of the seven National Parks in Nigeria. The Park is a rainforest ecosystem gazetted from the former Okomu Forest reserve in 1935. Today, the Park is a good habitat for numerous endangered flora and fauna species.
Okomu is a home of forest elephants, buffaloes, red river hogs, chimpanzees, leopards, bush baby, putty nosed guenon, porcupine, pangolins, duikers, antelopes among others.
The white throated monkey which is one of the rarest monkeys in the world today is found at the park as well. Butterflies and birds are abundant making it one of the best places for bird watching in Nigeria.
The two tree houses (Old and New) the old tree house built on a 140 feet Silk Cotton tree, while the new tree house with 110 feet height also has 30 meters walkway. Both tree houses were to facilitate sighting, from which a panoramic view of the Park could be observed.
There are network of nature trails leading to all areas of interest in the Park. The nature trails afford visitors a walk through a scenic forest ecosystem that facilitates sighting of wide range of plants and animals species.
With over 200 species of birds recorded at the park, Okomu National Park is very rich in birdlife. The bird hide enables avid bird watchers snipe at unaware avifauna that are wading through the pool overlooked by the hide or foraging within the vicinity.
Boating: Boat cruising can be done on Okomu River within the Park or the Osse River at Park boundary in Inikorogha village.
The Okomu River provides an ideal venue for sport fishing.
Gashaka-Gumti National Park
It is located in the mountainous region of north-eastern Nigeria adjacent to the international border with Cameroon, and immediately to the north of Mambilla Plateau. The park is the largest and most scenic of all the seven National Parks.
The Park experiences varying pleasant weather conditions, depending on one’s location within the Park.
Fishing sport: Gashaka-Gumti has ideal spots for sport-fishing, one of which is at Mayo Kam near the Hippo-pool. In the dry season the water is crystal clear and one can easily see different varieties ranging from Tiger, Cat fish, Nile perch ,Tilapia fish gliding in the water.
Gashaka Sector of the Park has rugged undulating mountain terrains, excellent for mountaineering and cave exploration. It contains the highest mountain summit in Nigeria the “Chappal Waddi”, which literally means “ the mountain of death” standing at an altitude of 2,400 meters’ above sea level. It is located in the Gotel mountain range. It is characterized by steep, forested slopes, deep plunging valleysand waterfalls.
Forests in Chappal Waddi, Chappal Hendu, Chappal Yumti, Chappal sirgu and Kwano forest are good primate strongholds. One is sure to sight chimpanzees here or at least hear their calls or see their nests.
Gashaka-Gumti National Park , wild and scenic areas are accessible only by footpath and only by trekking can one savor the tranquility through the forest canopy ,rare fauna, crystal clear forest streams, waterfalls and picturesque mountain views. It has about 500km of road network and several Ranger posts at strategic locations to facilitate effective visitor reception and Park protection.
MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY:
The Park has museums of Natural History located at Bodel Head Office Serti and Toungo Range office. Exhibits include wildlife specimens, fishing gears, old hunting equipment ,carved footprints of some animal species etc. These specimens are representative of the abundant fauna resources the Park harbours.