Wednesday, July 13, 2016

My voyage to Yankari Game Reserve, Bauchi

I am a culture icon. I love Nigerian culture and have been doing everything to promote it. I prefer our native attires to foreign ones, likewise is my bias for Nigerian cuisines, films, and music. Through the use of social media, I have been promoting my native Yoruba language by delving into my repertoire of our proverbs and translating them into English language for global audience.  I have visited many Nigerian tourist sites and written about the need to harness their potentials for national development.  More so, as we venture to diversify our economy into the non-oil sector.

Some of the Nigerian tourist sites I have previously visited include the Obudu Cattle Ranch, Old Residency Museum, and Tinapa Business Resort all in Cross River State. I have also been to Gurara Waterfall and Zuma Rock in Niger State, Shere Hills and Jos Museum in Plateau State; Olumo Rock in Abeokuta and Awo Mausoleum in Ikenne in Ogun State, Kano Tie and Dye Pit and Aminu Kano Mambaya House in Kano State. Others include, Ikogosi Warm Spring in Ekiti State; Igun Street Bronze Carving Centres, Oba of Benin Palace and Bini Museum in Edo State; Ife Museum, Ooni of Ife Palace, Oranmiyan Staff site in Osun State; Mapo Hall, Ibadan Zoological Garden and Agodi Gardens in Ibadan, Oyo State; National War Museum in Umuahia, Abia State; River Niger and River Benue Confluence Point in Lokoja, Kogi State and Lagos Bar Beach, Badagry Slave Centre, First Storey Building in Nigeria as well as National Arts Theatre all in Lagos State.

Outside of the shores of Nigeria, I have had the privilege of visiting some of the tourist sites of countries I have visited. These include: Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle, and Kakum National Park in Ghana; Jet d'Eau, the Flower Clock, Geneva Museum, Boat Ride on Geneva River and the Palace of Nations  in Geneva, Switzerland. In the United States of America, I have had the privilege of visiting the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and the United States Capitol. In Egypt, I have been to the Nile Riverview of Beheira, Alexandria castle built over 500 years ago and Mediterranean sea beach both in Alexandria and the vintage Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza. During my recent visit to Uganda (February 2016), I was at the Nabugabo Sand Beach in Masaka District, Makerere University as well as the Uganda Equator. These are just to mention but a few of my odysseys as a veteran tourist. 

My latest adventure took me to another of Nigeria’s landmark tourist sites, that is, the Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi which was established in 1956 but open to public on December 1, 1962. Unknown to many, Bauchi State has a total of 55 tribal groups in which Hausa, Fulani, Gerawa, Sayawa, Jarawa, Kirfawa, Turawa Bolewa, Karekare, Kanuri, Fa’awa, Butawa, Warjawa, Zulawa, and Badawa are the main tribes. In Hausa language, the word Bauchi means the land of freedom and tourism. What is now known as Bauchi was until 1976 a province in the then North-Eastern State of Nigeria. According to the 2006 census, the state has a population of 4,653,066. The State governor is Barrister M.A. Abubakar, whom I have known during his tenure as a national commissioner at the Independent National Electoral Commission.

It is noteworthy that the state has produced many prominent Nigerians. They include the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, the incumbent Speaker of the House of Representatives and Number Four Citizen of Nigeria, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the immediate past Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Prof. Sulaiman Elias Bogoro as well as the present INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu. Bauchi State is the home of Wikki Tourist Football Club. I was so excited seeing women riding motorcycles in the State. This is because it is uncommon to see such in South West Nigeria where I am from. I also noted that commercial transport operators in the State are in love with Opel Vectra car which is very prominent on Bauchi roads.

The State is blessed with a number of mineral resources like Cassilerite Limestone, Kaolin, Gypsum, Antimony, Iron Ore, Gold, Marble, Columbite and Zinc. Noticeable deposits of Petroleum related resources have reportedly been discovered, while precious stones like Sulphur, Amities and Aquamarine are also available

The Yankari Resort and Safari is situated about 115km south-east of Bauchi Town in Alkaleri Local Government. Its attractions include a wide variety of animals including the African Bush Elephant, Olive Baboon, Patas Monkey, Lions, the African Buffalo, and Hippopotamus, among others. There is also the Wikki natural warm spring with excellent bathing facilities, Marshall Cave and fish ponds. The Park is reputed to be the first of its kind in West Africa.

Before my last Saturday’s visit to Yankari, I had previously been to the tomb of the late Prime Minister of Nigeria, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa which is located along the Ran Road in Bauchi.  It would be recalled that Balewa was assassinated in the 1966 coup that led to the Nigeria civil war. The tomb site is also a museum which houses the personal effects of the late Prime Minister, including his wrist watch, radio and cap, displayed in glass cases.

My adventure to Yankari Game Reserve was very memorable. I was amazed at the Wikki natural warm spring. If I were not hydrophobic, I would have joined the multitudes of Nigerians and foreigners swimming in the pool. The safari tour of the 2,244 square kilometres (866 sq mi) of the Game Reserve was very refreshing. Though it contained over 50 species of animals and 350 species of birds, my team was not fortunate to see many of them as it was getting to midday when we went on the tour and many of the animals were said to have gone inside the forest to shield themselves from the sun. I was however able to visit the museum and saw many of the animal skins and carcasses, as well as   hunting gear on display. I also saw the various herbs and plants.

I like the serenity and the natural ambience of the Resort. Unfortunately, the restaurant there is very sloppy with its catering services and I left the Park very hungry when I could not get food to buy. I would advise visitors to the Game Reserve to bring along their food except they are going to be lodging in any of the 110 well-furnished chalets provided by the Park management.  I was also very disappointed that there were not many branded souvenirs to buy there. What was available at the time of my visit was a child’s T-shirt. The management of the Park should know that this is a goldmine it could tap to boost its internally generated revenue. There was also an earth-mover (Caterpillar) which broke down blocking the pathway in the Game Reserve. The management ought to have towed this off the road or create another path for the tour vehicles. On the whole, it was a memorable voyage and I look forward to many more future visits.