If anyone had asked me, just a few years ago, to do an appraisal of the tourist destinations and attractions in Nigeria, I would have said there was nothing to write home about. But after exploring some of the popular attractions over the past few years, I can cross my heart and confidently say that there are some tourist destinations in Nigeria that are worth visiting. Here are my top six.
1. Obudu Mountain Resort
It is remarkably very beautiful, it is very scenic, and it is Obudu Mountain Resort. If you're looking for a fun place in Nigeria where you can be in a perfect sync with nature, it is here. Formerly (and still popularly) known as Obudu Cattle Ranch, Obudu Mountain Resort is by far the most beautiful and scenic tourist destinations in Nigeria. It is not just a tourist attraction; it is a tourist destination offering a complete range of pleasure and business activities in a serene and secluded environment.
Obudu Mountain Report is located on the Obudu Plateau, close to the Cameroon border in the Northern Cross River State, approximately 110 kilometres east of Ogoja town and about 332 kilometres from Calabar, the capital city of Cross River State. The Mountain Resort is said to have been developed in 1951 by Mr McCaughley, a Scottish rancher who first explored the mountain ranges in 1949. According to history, Mr McCaughley had camped on the mountaintop of the Oshie Ridge on the Sankwala Mountains for a month before returning with Mr. Hugh Jones, a fellow rancher, in 1951. The two teamed up with Dr Crawfeild and developed the Obudu Cattle Ranch.
The fun at Obudu Mountain Resort is endless as activities are never in short supply. Perhaps, the fun begins with the breathtaking drive to the ranch, which is a tourist attraction on it's on. It reminds me of the drive to the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary in the Ho region of Ghana. Some of the activities at the Obudu Mountain Resort include the cable car ride, swimming, horse-riding, golfing and hiking. Other activities include canopy walk, mountain race, and general sightseeing adventures. If you work up you appetite in the course of your adventures, there are restaurants offering local and international cuisines where you can dine while enjoying beautiful natural scenery and jaw-dropping view of the mountains.
At Obudu Mountain Resort, there's a conspiracy between nature and man, both of whom came together to deliver a perfect getaway destination. The awe inspiring landscape, the picturesque mountain views, and the coming together of the clouds and the earth, are literally out of this world.
Indeed, the Obudu Mountain Resort is one of the few places in Nigeria where you can maximally mix pleasure and business. Although it was (and even still) referred to as Obudu Cattle Ranch, there's absolutely no reasons to be afraid of herdsmen, because there aren't any. So get up, pack your bag and go!
2. Lekki Conservation Center (LCC)
My first time at the Lekki Conservation Center was in November 2017 during the post event fam trip organised by the Nigeria Travel Week. It wasn't my first time of being to a conservation centre or a nature reserve, but it was my first time of full-time exploration.
From its origin and establishment in 1990 by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Lekki Conservation Centre (LCC) has grown into one of Africa’s prominent and most-diverse urban Nature Parks due to its high species richness. It is located in the coastal environs covering an approximate land area of 78 hectares, extending from kilometer 19 along the Lagos-Epe Expressway and ends up a very close distance to the Atlantic Ocean near Okun Ibeju Village, Eti-Osa Local Government Area in the Eastern district of Lagos State.
There are many fun things to do at the Lekki Conservation Center, but the Canopy Walk is perhaps the most exciting. The 401-metre long canopy walkway is a scenic attraction reputed to be the longest canopy walkway in Africa. It is an engineering feat and an amazing suspended swinging bridge walkway through the mosaic of vegetation types characterizing the LCC Nature Park. It has the entry & exit portals connecting six towers treating visitors to unique experience/unforgettable chance to explore the Nature Park and get a bird’s eye/panoramic view of the habitat types and sight the unique wildlife that inhabit the Lekki Conservation Centre. I must confess that as exciting as the canopy walk was, I did it with some level of fear.
Besides the canopy walk, other exciting activities at the Lekki Conservation Centre are picnicking and animal spotting including rare birds like peacocks and ostriches. If you're feeling sporty, you can also play a game of chess with family or friends. To give players all the space they want, the chessboard is designed on the floor of the reserve giving players that sense of being in charge of their games.
Lekki Conservation Centre is open to guests every day (including weekends and public holidays) from 8:30 am and closes by 5:00 pm. If you're in the mood for extreme adventures and or family picnic, the Lekki Conservation Center is a nice place to visit.
3. The Kajuru Castle
Let me start with a true confession. Even as a Nigerian who had been in the travel and tourism media, I hadn't really heard about or visited the Kajuru Castle until late 2018 when Abuja Jabamah featured a tour to the castle. That's a shame, isn't it?
Kajuru Castle is a privately owned luxury villa and a tourist destination tucked away on a mountaintop in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State in north-central part of Nigeria. It is located about 45 kilometres from Kaduna city, the capital of Kaduna State. Don't be fooled by the term 'castle' which suggests ancient, old, desolate and abandoned. Kajuru Castle is not an ancient monument. It is in fact, new, relatively modern, and very much alive.
The medieval-styled castle was built between 1982 and 1989 by a German expatriate who lived in Kaduna at that time. It was supposed to be a private residence. Without making too much effort, one can easily notice the heavy influence of European architecture on the castle. It is very European and particularly German. Built with thick granite stone in a fanciful Romanesque style, Kajuru Castle is adorned with turrets, and features a baronial hall complete with armory suits as well as a dungeon.
In the pecking order, Kajuru Castle is easily the most beautiful tourist destination in Kaduna State and one of the most beautiful in Nigeria. It has to be up there! Your visit to the Kajuru Castle will definitely go beyond tourism, you'll witness the exclusive meeting of style and luxury in an alluring fashion. It hasn't been described much as a resort, but that's what it is, although it can be a lot more. The uninterrupted scenic views of the virgin countryside is unarguably, the best Kaduna has to offer.
Although Kajuru Castle is privately owned, it has the capacity to host up to 150 guests for a day-time event. Sadly, it can only accommodate 10 persons per night for an overnight stay in its 5 rooms. The castle also features an eco-friendly swimming pool, underground gym, dinner pavilions, saunas, crocodile ponds, barbeque spots, billiards and much more. The Kajuru Castle is very popular for company retreats, family or group vacations, honeymoon getaways and private pool parties.
4. Olumo Rock
When I first visited Olumo Rock over 15 year ago, it wasn't an attractive tourist destination as it is today. It was just a set of connected rocks where people meandered through and hopped on and took photographs. It wasn't more than that. But today, all of that has changed. Today, Olumo Rock has become a very popular (or perhaps, more popular) tourist destination, thanks to a massive technological transformation.
Located in the ancient city of Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State in the western part of Nigeria, Olumo rock is a massive outcrop of granite rocks of primitive formation from which Abeokuta the capital of the state derived its name (Abeokuta means 'under the rock'). The highest point of the rock is 137 meters above sea level with existence of a muster tree growing for over 200 years and surrounding caves.
The rock is an historical monument which served as shelter and fortress for the original inhabitants - the Egba people - who found refuge at the Olumo Rock during the inter-tribal wars in the 19th century. According to history, the rock acted as sanctuary to the Egba people as well as a vantage point to monitor the enemy’s advance. The rock is said to be a monument of Faith, Unity source of strength and unfailing protection for Egba people.
In 2006, the Olumo Rock complex underwent a massive renovation which saw the introduction of a number of modern facilities including an elevator, a water fountain, a museum, restaurants, conference hall, garden, and parking spaces. No, you won't get stuck in the elevator in case of public power failure as there's a standby generator. The heavy duty glass elevator runs through the different levels of the rock with a well-constructed stair way designed particularly for visitors who have phobia for height or for climbing mountains.
Although the elevator is available for use and comes at a cost, tourists may still take the usual traditional stressful routes to the top. But that's where the fun lies. From the top of the rocks, one could view almost the entire city of Abeokuta dwarfed in the background below. The view from the top is panoramic, uninterrupted and scenic.
If you like your adventures 'rocky', you would definitely love it at Olumo Rock. And if you're interested in the study of rocks and anthropology, you even have a more compelling reason to be here. Most tourists plan a day visit to Olumo Rock, but if you're planning to spend a night or two, there are nearby hotels and guest houses including Park Inn by Radisson (formerly Gateway Hotel) and Olumo Guest House.
5. The ‘100 Steps’
It's probably not as popular as the nearby zoological garden and the Jos national museum, but the '100 Steps' to Afizere Settlement in Jos, Plateau State is another tourist attraction worth trying out. I tried this outdoor adventure in October 2017, and it literally took my breath away; it wasn’t like anything I had done before that point. The ‘100 steps to Afizere Settlement’ consists of 100 flights of staircase carefully carved out from natural and pre-existing stones and rocks leading to the top of a hill. The hill is historically said to be the ancestral home of the Afizere tribe when they migrated from Chawai in Southern Kaduna to what is known today as Plateau State.
The first striking thing about the 100 steps is the symbolic entrance gate on which the sign, ‘100 steps to Afizere Settlement’ is inscribed and through which you must begin your expedition. The steps are steep, irregular and crooked, giving the climber tough time and difficulty while ascending and descending the hill. As you climb and panting, you’d feel like you're doing the Nigeria’s Guilder Ultimate Search reality TV show. Once on top of the hill, you could have almost a full glimpse of Jos city centre including the popular terminus market. According to the locals, Joggers and those looking for six packs who live around do not need to use the gym as they frequently come to the steps in the early hours of the morning or in the evenings to exercise and work out free of charge.
Forget it, climbing the ‘100 Steps' to Afizere Settlement is not the kind of thing you do with just physical strength after gulping down one or two bottles of energy drink. Don't get me wrong, you need a lot of physical energy, but you also need a lot of mental and emotional strength. Yes, if you climbed the ‘100 Steps' to Afizere Settlement and it didn’t take your breath away, then you didn’t do it well.
6. Yankari Games Reserve
In the African context, when certain phrases like Games Reserve, Safari and Big Five are mentioned, people's minds usually wander to places like Kenya, South Africa and even Rwanda. Not many people think of Nigeria, not to mention Bauchi State. But the truth is that Nigeria also has Games Reserves and Big Something, maybe not the Big 5, but definitely Big Something. Yankari Game Reserve is one of them. It may not immediately ring a bell when mentioned in the international community of tourists, but it's very popular among Nigerians and West Africans.
Yankari Game Reserve is a large wildlife park located in the south-central part of Bauchi State in northern Nigeria. It is Nigeria's biggest wildlife oasis covering an area of about 2,244 square kilometres. Yankari National Park is largely made up of savannah grassland with well-developed patches of woodland. It is also a region of rolling hills, mostly between 200m and 400m. The games reserve is home to over 50 species of wild animals including elephants, buffalo, lions, hippopotamus, roan, monkeys, crocodiles, bushbucks, ox, bushbucks and many others. Yankari Game Reserve is also home to several natural warm water springs, as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna and over 350 species of birds. In fact, the Yankari Games Reserve is known to have the largest population of surviving elephants in the whole of West Africa.
Yankari National Park also features four warm water springs including the Wikki Warm Spring which is the largest and the most popular spring and is about 13 metres wide and 1.9 metres deep. The Wikki warm spring is open for swimming 24 hours a day.
Yankari Games Reserve offers a variety of accommodations ranging from budget to hostels up to luxury chalets. There are restaurants, bars, and conference centres for meetings. There is also a well stocked museum which doubles as a conservation centre for displaying hunting gear and traps taken from poachers. Security at Yankari is guaranteed as it is protected by a ranger force of around 80, managed and supervised by officers of the Ministry of Environment of Bauchi State.
For maximum fun, the best time to visit Yankari is the dry season between February and April. The prevailing warm temperature and dryness allow you to see a wider range of animals during the safari. If you're thinking of exploring the Yankari Games Reserve, just stuff your backpack with your camera, sunglasses, drinking water, comfortable shoes, safari kit, some cash and you're good to go.
Chidozie Uzoezie is a Travel and Tourism Blogger, Content Creator and a Feelance Writer. He's the CEO of The Afritraveller, Africa's trendy travel and tourism blog.