Experience weekend getaway at Cross River National Park

By Ejikeme Ndudim
A weekend gateway at the Cross River National Park is worth all the trouble for fun seekers and other who want to experience nature at its best.
When the name Cross River is mentioned, what comes to mind is the Calabar Festival which ends with Carnival Calabar, the Obudu Mountain Resort, Tinapa Business Resort, among others, but the state offers much more than these places mentioned here.
Cross River state is setting the pace in Nigeria in the area of tourism growth and promotion.
A weekend experience at the park counts a lot as this will help in promoting domestic tourism which the state is the pacesetter in the country, including helping domestic tourists to appreciate what we have in the country when they embark on this voyage of discovering the untapped awesome wonders of nature.
Cross River National Park is gradually becoming the ultimate experience for fun seekers looking to have a weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of big cities in the country.
The Park which is unarguably the Ecological Pride of Nigeria has remained a major input to the protection of Nigeria’s ecological integrity. It is indeed, one of the few places in the world that provides hope for an environmentally secured world.
The Cross River National Park plays a leading role in the consideration of Cross River State as an Ecotourism paradise.
The Park is the last remaining tropical rainforest ecological zone located in the extreme southeastern corner of Nigerian border with the Republic of Cameroon.
It exists geographically as two non-contiguous divisions, Oban and Okwangwo Divisions that lies within longitudes 5o 05’ – 6o 29’N and latitudes 8o 15’ – 9o 30’E.
The Park occupies a total land area of about 4000km2 of tropical rainforest ecosystem which thins out progressively to Montane Savanna Vegetation at the edge of the Obudu Ranch Plateau in Okwangwo area.
Cross River National Park came into existence in 1991 alongside five (5) other National Parks spread across the country under Decree 36 of 1991 which was later repealed by Act 46 of 1999 (CAP 65 LFN 2004) that established eight (8) National Parks in the country.
These parks include Yankari National Park, Kainji Lake National Park, Old Oyo National Park, Gashaka Gumpti National Park, Cross River National Park, Chad Basin National Park, Kamuku National Park and Okomu National Park.
However, Yankari National Park was later de-gazette and returned back as a Game Reserve to the Bauchi State Government in 2006 at the request of the State Government.
The Park which its head office is located in Akamkpa some 40 kilometers from Calabar, the state capital can be accessed by a network of good tarred roads.
Visitors travelling from the Northern part of Nigeria and the Middle-belt can access the Park through Abuja – Markurdi – Katsinala – Obudu – Butatong (Okwangwo segment Office).
Visitors from South East, South-South and South West can access the Park through the Lagos – Benin – Onitsha – Aba – Ikot Ekpene – Calabar – Akamkpa and the Abakaliki – Ikom – Butatong including the Port Harcourt – Calabar – Akamkpa.
The airports at Calabar and Uyo are the closest for the tourists travelling by air as there are daily flights from Calabar to Lagos and Abuja.
The Okwangwo Range which is about 1000km2 is proudly adorned as the home of the celebrated Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) and other animal species like Forest Elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), Nigeria-Cameroun Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti) and a rich birdlife, all of which are of high touristic value. The Range is equally blessed with an array of hills and water bodies, making it also an ideal location for adventure seekers and other lovers of nature.
These adoring potential of Cross River National Park are complimented by an array of tourists’ attractions in Cross River State which is recognized as the Tourism Flagship State of Nigeria that parades a number of exciting locations under the brand name “Destination Cross River”.
This range from the awe – inspiring landscape of Obudu Cattle Ranch which came tops at the search for the Naija 7 wonders, Nigeria’s Camp David, the alluring Agbokim Waterfalls, the captivating dance steps of the maiden at the Leboku New Yam Festival to the majestic Tinapa Resort and many more, Cross River State is one of the must-visit destinations in Africa.
Visitors to Cross River National Park can take advantage of these awesome tourism attractions to enjoy the beauty of being in Cross River National Park as an ultimate tourism destination in the country with a bright and promising future.
Since its inception the Park has played host to over 50,000 visitors (Nigerians and foreigners) who come to enjoy the amazing beauty of this great rainforest resort. With an array of rolling hills, caves, rock-bedded rivers with sandy shores, fast-flowing streams and cascading waterfalls, a pristine forest teeming with abundance of animal species, when taken along with a culturally vibrant and hospitable locals, Cross River National Park has indeed become one of the most compelling Ecotourism destinations in all of West Africa and commands a towering reputation in the world over.
In the area of Eko tourism, the Oban West Range is the hub of Eco-Tourism activities in the Park. The famous Erokut Tourist Camp (Figures 9 &10) serves as the gateway to the exploration of the Range. The Park Management has recently introduced and demarcated a tourist circuit in this Range to facilitate the easy accessibility of tourist sites and afford visitors a more robust interaction with key attractions in the Range. Canopy Walk-way is also planned for this area.
The Park is blessed with an awesome assemblage of biological diversity and a compliment of illuminating and exciting cultural attributes of the local people living around the Park.
This has no doubt made the Park a melting pot of nature and culture which explains why the Park was nominated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Mr. Ntufam Richard Effa the Conservator of the Cross River National Park explained that the park was essentially established to conserve, protect and preserve the amazing biological, geomorphologic and cultural attributes of Cross River Basin for posterity. It is also to encourage education, scientific research in biology, medicine, agriculture and ecotourism development.
He observed that Nigeria’s over dependence on revenue accruing from the exploration and sales of crude oil makes Nigerian’s economy a mono-product economy.
The obvious consequence of this is that it stunts the growth of other economic sectors, with spiral implication on National growth, the Conservator of the park noted.

Cross River National park

 
Tourism is one of such critical sectors that could be explored for the country’s sustainable development. Cross River National Park is favourably disposed to achieving this task given enough political will from the political drivers or operators.
Effa noted that globally, the tourism industry account for 11 percent of employment in the world. Over 950 billion dollars is generated in World Trade from this sector (WTO, 2008). It is recognized as one of the veritable tools that can assist less developed countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
More than 18 different species of primates occur in the Park out of 23 species that are known to occur in Nigeria. This represents 78percent of total number of primates species recorded in Nigeria including the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) which is an endemic sub species originally thought to be extinct (Happold, 1987; Anadu, 1987 in Obot, 1996; White, 1990).
Other species of conservation interest include the endemic Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes ellioti), Drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus), Baboon (Papio leucophaeus), Potty-nosed Monkey (Cercopithecus nictitans), Preuss’s Red Colobus (Cercopithecus preussi), Forest Elephant (Loxodonta Africana cyclotis), Forest Buffalo (Syncerus caffer), Pangolin (Manis tricuspis), Nile Monitor lizard (Varanus niloticus), Royal Pyton (Python regius) and a wide array of bird species including the Grey Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), Black Guinea Fowl (Guttera pucherani), Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus) and the endangered Bare-headed Rock Fowl (Picathartes oreas).
A weekend gateway at the Cross River National Park is worth the ultimate experience in this voyage of discovering the untapped awesome wonders of nature.

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