Nigerian is blessed with device vegetation and landscape. The middle belt and north central part of the country are richly blessed with enthralling elevations and stunning scenery that have become a lure for hikers and nature lovers.
From the far-flung Igbeti hills in Oyo North, to the Mambilla mountain range that crisscross through Taraba, Adamawa, Benue and Cross River States, and from Idanre hill of Ondo State Nasarawa-Plateau mountain range in north central area, there is an abundance of picturesque rocky elevations that have become busy with tourists. The allure of Jos Plateau, the Udi-Nsukka escarpment, Enugu State, Chappal Waddi in Taraba State and the Gotel Mountains in Adamawa State are also being rediscovered by nature lovers for hiking.
In Abuja, places like the Mpappe crushed rocks, Zuma, Aso rocks and few others also attract their own share of visitors. These are some of the positives from the global lock down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gradually, hiking has become a popular pastime and leisure activity among local tourists and many are also planning to join the hiking trail. Chief among the reasons for the surge in hiking is that many, who ordinarily would have traveled out of the country but for covid-19 restrictions, are looking for local alternatives. A healthy option readily available and relatively cheap is hiking.
For those in love with nature and outdoors, there are not better ways of spending quality leisure time like hitting the hiking trails and explore the wild safely.
The zonal coordinator of Nigerian Tourism development Corporation (NTDC), North central zone and an avowed hiker, Mrs. Nana Yakubu, spoke on the new fad: “It has certain benefits that come with it. Number one is that it is cheap to hike, you go in group for a day hike, and you pay as a group. Like what we do here, I am a registered member of a particular group, and any time we are going out on a hike, we pay one thousand naira. And when you go out on this hike, you network with people as you meet other people. It gives you opportunity for sightseeing and it is a form of exercise. These are some of the things that make people gravitate towards hiking.
“It has touristic value because it helps to discover new sights, and most times when you hike, you hike to get to an attraction. There must be something that you see that you appreciate the touristic value. It is either you get to the summit, and get to see beautiful scenery… You get to a waterfall; you get to a river, and other things. You also discover that in the course of hiking, you make new discoveries. There was a day we discovered an old ancient settlement. So, these are some of the things we look at in hiking.
And you don’t have to travel far to hike. It may just be in your backyard.”
Another part of the country that has seen steady traffic of hikers and nature lovers is Idere hills in Ibarapa area Oyo State. Idere Hills was relatively unknown until Mr. Olugbenga Omotayo Sunday of Tojum Hospitality embarked on popularizing and promoting the site. Since then, it became a preferred local destination in the South West until tourism activities had to be suspended there as a result of security concerns in Oyo State.
Omotayo Sunday spoke on the lure for hiking: “Hiking is so unique and it has a lot of benefits. When you hike, you exercise. It has health related benefits. Apart from that, there is something about hiking, going to another realm above where you used to be. Is it the air there? Is it is the experience? It is sunny but you don’t feel it. It is whole new experience.
“When we discovered is that Idere hill is so unique in such a way that you don’t just hike, there are so many things in one space that you can do. It is not just that you will go to the summit of the mountain and you come down, that is all. This one, when you hike, there are three things that you see there. Number one, you see lakes of different shapes and sizes. Not that alone, the landscape is massive. Infact, it will take you like four hours, you are just walking alone on top of the mountain. You are just going from one place to another. The top of the hills used to be the community’s settlement in the past. it is actually a massive land mass and you have a lot to see there-rock formations, caves, lakes, and there are relics to show that we once lived there. In fact we still have an ancient defense wall on top of the hill that was built with bricks that time. Outside the peculiarity of the hill, another draw is the way we promote the hill. We embarked on massive promotion. You hardly see any hill in Nigeria that has received such, massive promotion. We were so intentional about promoting the hills. It was a thing of joy to discover that place. It was more like a hidden treasure, like ‘What, all these in one place?’ People didn’t even mind the distance, the kept trooping to the hills. We have recorded so much since we started. The landscape is out of the world. You can spend the whole day on Idere hill.”
Yakubu, who is familiar with the hiking trails in the North Central, talked about the popular hiking trail within the North Central: “Like we hike here in Jos, sometimes we go to Nasarrawa State to hike. There is Shere hills with about 20 official hiking trails; in Kogi State you have the beautiful Mount Pati, the hills around Farin Ruwa waterfall also have hiking trails. Then Zuma rock also has hiking trail.”
For those interesting in going on hiking, there are some basic requirements and preparations they ought to make. Mrs. Yakubu listed them: “If you are preparing for hiking, make sure you have the right hiking kits-a hiking boot; make sure you have your backpack with you. The basic things you need to have in your backpack and water, maybe energy drink like Lucozade or glucose and so on.”
While encouraging hiking, however, they explained there was need to always have some local tour guides familiar with the route. They also harped in the importance of hiking on routes that are devoid of any security risks and danger. According to them, in a situation, hikers are not sure of the safety of a particular trail, it was best to abandon the hiking and choose a safer trail.