Thursday, April 10, 2014

A tourist impression of Ikogosi warm spring

Beautiful! Awesome! Scintillating, are some of the adjectives I used to describe my experience at the Ikogosi Warm Spring during my visit to the tourist site on Friday, April 4, 2014. I did not have it in my plan when I left Abuja on Wednesday, April 2 to attend the national conference on how to ensure credible governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States as well as during the   2015 general elections. Organized by the Centre for Civic Education better known as Transition Monitoring Group, the conference was held at Fountain Hotel, Ado Ekiti on April 3. It attracted wide range of participants from the academia, civil society, media, political parties and the Independent National Electoral Commission. We deliberated and came up with potpourri of recommendations which we believed will lead to the conduct of credible gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun States come June 21 and August 9, 2014 respectively as well as the February 2015 general elections.

With the day’s event over, a friend, Biodun Oyeleye who is the Executive Director of New Initiative for Social Development, a non-governmental organization based in Ado-Ekiti baited me with the idea of a visit to Ikogosi Warm Spring. He offered to take my wife and I there free of charge. Biodun kept to his promise. By 9am he was at my hotel. Promptly, we set out on the about 40 minutes drive to the flagship of Ekiti State tourist centres. As we left Ado, the state capital, we passed through Ilawe and Erijiyan-Ekiti before we berthed at Ikogosi where the warm spring is located.

The sight that beckoned to us as we passed through the gate of the Ikogosi Warm Spring was breathtaking. Uniform security men, well paved lawn, street light, and warm reception by the management and staff we came in contact with settled us in. Biodun played the role of a tourist guide. His organization, NISD, has held several workshops and conferences at the centre and he was well known by the managers of the spring. An official guide and a cart were later assigned to take us round the resort.   We were shown the conference halls, some of the well equipped chalets, the amphitheatre, the volley ball court, the natural warm water swimming pool, the gymnasium, the shopping mall, the palm-wine drinking joint where bush-meat is served with original palm-wine and then the mother of all scenes, confluence point  of the warm and cold spring. There we met some primary school children who have been brought on excursion to the place by some of their teachers. I was ecstatic. By my right is cold water and by my left is warm water, what a wonder! A professional photographer was on hand to capture the moment for a fee. No dulling! I asked him to take some pictures of me and my team.

 Close to the confluence point is another wonder. A palm tree and an Iroko tree sharing same root and growing like a Siamese. What a splendid work of God. We went further up the hill to the source of the warm spring. Exhilarating! The vegetation surrounding the spring is evergreen and the entire landscape is simply exquisite. As we leave the magical spot for the restaurant to have lunch, staffers of one of the telecommunication giants in Nigeria who had come for possibly a workshop or a conference filed in to have a look at the wonder of Mother Nature. On our way back, we abandoned the cart that brought us and decided to walk our way back to the reception area via the wooden bridge that once served as footpath for visiting tourists possibly before the road constructed for vehicular traffic.

Information garnered from the website of Ekiti State government says that there are many stories from the indigenes of Ikogosi town regarding the origin of the warm spring. A version says that both springs (Warm and Cold) were wives of the same husband who turned to springs water in the wake of rift and rivalry between them. The hot and ill-tempered first wife is believed to have turned to the popular warm spring while the cool-tempered second wife turned to cold spring water. The husband became the undulating hills that encompass the springs. A more tenable scientific explanation is that the deeper a body of water goes underground, the hotter it becomes and if by chance it is forced back to the surface through some earth fault, the temperature will be relatively high. The natives believe that the water has therapeutic effect as it is said to have potency to cure some sicknesses such as arthritis and guinea worm, among others.

The Baptist mission in the early 50s reportedly established a youth and conference centre and other conveniences on a hill adjacent to the warm spring area. This started attracting different people from far and near, even foreigner started visiting the centre to see the work of nature. By 1978 the old Ondo State acquired this unique tourist site from Baptist Mission. It became the property of Ekiti State government when the state was created on October 1, 1996. Unfortunately, successive governments in the “Land of Honour” as the state is called allowed the ‘gold mine’ to fall into state of dilapidation and disrepair. Mercifully, the incumbent Governor John Olukayode Fayemi sourced for money to refurbish the centre, added additional structures and restored the flagship status of the place. The remodeled Ikogosi Warm Spring phase one was commissioned on October 19, 2013. We were informed that over 20,000 guests visited the place during the last Christmas season.

The Warm Spring currently has about 90 chalets and the atmosphere there is safe and serene. We were told that plans are afoot to revive the moribund zoological garden within the resort, build an heliport, 18-hole Golf Course, a sports centre (football pitch, lawn tennis and squash court), as well as water and sewage treatment plant among other expansion projects on the 116 hectare resort centre. Ikogosi is also the home of the Gossy Brand Spring Water. About ten minutes drive to Ikogosi is another tourist centre, the Arinta Waterfalls at Ipole-Iloro. Ekiti State also boasts of other tourist centres such as Olosunta and Orole Hills in Ikere-Ekiti, Ero and Egbe Dams, Fajuyi Park and the sacred lake of Erijiyan.

In my chat with the head of Strategic Planning of the Ikogosi Warm Spring, Mr. Tolu John Ajeyomi, the staff strength of the resort currently stand at about 150. I intimated him of the need for adequate maintenance of the state-of-the-art facilities at the resort which he assured me will be of great priority to his leadership. In addition, I hope politicians currently campaigning for the June 21 gubernatorial poll in the state will go about their activities without violence or breach of peace of the state. Security threat has the potential of scaring away tourists who may want to visit the state’s sightseer sites. As we took our leave after a sumptuous lunch of pounded yam, vegetable, bush meat and croaker fish, I told my wife that, someday soon, we must return to the beautiful Ikogosi Warm Spring.  However, next time around it won’t be a quick one by Mr. and Mrs. as we did last Friday but with the full complement of the entire family. So help me God.