Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mixing Business with Pleasure on Obudu Mountain

One of my hobbies is travelling. As the saying goes, travelling is part of education. As I traverse the length and breadth of Nigeria in the course of my job, I always want to document anything of interest that I come across. It so happened that from September 10 – 13, 2013, my colleagues and I were at the Obudu Mountain Resort at Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross Rivers State for a retreat. It was not my first time there but when I first visited, also for an official assignment in 2007, I was in a different company entirely. I was one of the few who suggested that this year’s retreat should hold in Obudu, more for a selfish reason. I want to have another encounter with nature and also see if those state of the art facilities I saw in 2007 at the cattle ranch are still there.
I was not disappointed. My experience on Obudu Mountain was breathtaking, fascinating and newsworthy. As we navigated our way from Abuja, through Keffi, Akwanga, Lafia, Makurdi, Gboko, Vandeikya through to Obudu and down to the mountain top, I was full of excitement and suspense. I ran ceaseless commentaries for my colleagues who had not been there. As I told them about my prior experience, their curiosity was heightened and they kept bombarding me with questions during the about nine hours’ trip. Needless to say, they were delighted with what they saw. They described their experience in superlatives and had catalogues of pictures to show for the visit as many of us turned models in photo shoot sessions, posing endlessly for the camera.
What makes Obudu Mountain Resort unique and a place to visit? There are quite a few. The resort formerly known as Obudu Cattle Ranch is situated over 1,576 meters above sea level and visitors has options of travelling the snaky 11 kilometers road with 22 bends from the valley up the  mountain top via trekking, biking or in a car. Alternatively, you may choose to be airlifted by a cable car for a fee of N1, 000. The Obudu cable car is the first of its kind in West Africa and the longest in Africa. There is also the Bebi Airstrip. The resort has a temperate climate, thus the atmosphere is often cold with a lot of mist and drizzle. Hence, you have heaters in the rooms rather than the customary air-conditioners. Aside from the normal hotel facilities such as the gymnasium, games room, spa, restaurant, tennis and squash courts and conference rooms which the resort has, there are places of interest such as the Becheve Nature Reserve where there is Monkey Face view and Canopy walkway, there is a spring, holy mountain, beehive, golf course, a cattle ranch and water park situated at the bottom of the mountain, to mention but a few. The resort is also very close to the Cameroon border and visitors have a view of Cameroon from a section of the plateau. It also hosts the annual Obudu Mountain Race whose winner gets $50,000 cash prize, the highest in the world.
Even the way the 159 rooms were constructed is very fascinating.  There are African huts designed in a typical village setting, circular with thatched roofs.  There are mountain villas constructed in an European-style wooden three bedroom flats with a living room, balcony, and a well-equipped kitchenette. The roads are well-paved, tarred and illuminated with street lights.  Once on the plateau, it is a different world altogether as the atmosphere is serene and natural. There are six villages on the plateau and the villagers meet the needs of lodgers by providing goods and services such as transport, photography, and acting as tour guides.
Given the very tight schedule of our main business at the resort, which is the office retreat, we could not take in most of the tourist attractions but managed to visit the Canopy walkway, the water park as well as took a ride in the cable car. In addition, I visited the village market, used the banking service and played table tennis at the Games centre. I am not a stranger to Cross River State and have been a privileged guest at most of its tourist centres such as Tinapa, the Old Residency Museum, Marina Resort, Free Trade Zone, etc However, if the truth must be told, Obudu Mountain Resort thrills one best and one looks forward to going back as many times as possible.
Essentially, while at the resort, I wondered endlessly why Nigeria has not deemed it fit to fully develop her tourism potential especially as we continue to envisage a “Nigeria without oil” or better still, grow the non-oil sector.
There are countless tourist centres that dot Nigeria’s landscape. There is the Gurara Fall in Niger State; the Sere Hills and Jos Museum in Plateau State; the Mambilla Plateau in Taraba; Osun Grove in Osogbo, Erin-Ijesha Waterfall  and Oranmiyan Staff in Ile-Ife,  Osun State;  Ikogosi Warm Spring in Ekiti State;  Nigerian Civil War Museum in Umuahia, Abia State;  Bronze Carvers in Igun Street of Benin as well as the Oba’s Palace and Benin Museum in Edo State;  Bower’s Tower, Mapo Hall and Ibadan University Zoological Garden in Oyo State;  Yankari Game Reserve and Tafawa Balewa Mausoleum  in Bauchi;  Dye Pit of Kano, Mambayya House (Aminu Kano residence in Kano); River Niger and River Benue confluence point in Lokoja, Kogi State; Eyo festival, Bar Beach, Tarkwa Bay, Badagry slave trading point and first storey building all  in Lagos; Awo’s Mausoleum in Ikenne, Itoku Tie and Dye market  as well as the famous Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, Ogun State. This is just to mention but a few. I have visited many of the above mentioned tourist centres and sadly have to say that many of them have been allowed to rot. However, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State must be commended for his current effort at revitalising the Ikogosi warm spring.
Government needs to privatise or commercialise these tourist centres while providing regulatory assistance. Additionally, government can and should provide the enabling environment to enhance development of Nigeria’s tourism potential. Good roads, security, electricity are a few basic things that can enhance our tourism development. For instance, there are several bad portions on the road from Abuja to Obudu. Some of them are Akwanga to Nasarawa Eggon, the front of Air force base in Makurdi, Dangote Cement area of Gboko, and the link road from Vandeikya to Obudu Federal College of Education. These are a few of the bad spots which I think if quickly fixed can enhance patronage of the wonderland – Obudu Mountain Resort.