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Nigerian Field Society

Trip to: Omo forrest

Date: Jan. 2006

It took one very long, cratered, claycoloured road to get us there, but 20 NFSers made the journey to Ogun State’s forest reserve, Omo Forest, in January to find a rare treasure in Nigeria – backwoods camping!

The Omo Forest campsite is just off the dirt road that carves through the reserve and joins a handful of human settlements in and around the area. According to one web site, Nigeria and West African Bush, Omo Forest Reserve is located about 135km northeast of Lagos, some 20km from the coast. The terrain is undulating and elevation reaches about 300m on some rocky hills. The eastern boundary is formed by the Omo River, which with its many tributaries, drain the reserve. Omo is contiguous with five other, highly degraded forest reserves, the largest of which is Oluwa Forest Reserve to the east. The vegetation is mixed moist semievergreen
rainforest and due to selective exploitation in the past, the forest is largely mature secondary.

Specific accolades should be made to Steve, Lindie, Sharon and Jonathan for biking the final 12km distance that most of us enjoyed from the comfort of our SUVs. With heat waves shimmering off the hoods of the cars, we thought we were the smart ones to stay airconditioned cool, that is, until we arrived at the bridge. Forget the snakes and sundry carnivorous insects that one might imagine were waiting to ravage us in Omo forest. Our first and largest challenge would be to cross the passage over Omo river by navigating our vehicles across unfastened slabs of timber – one of which got jammed into the bottom of our police escort’s pickup!
Our twowheeled friends, however, breezed over the bridge and even got to the site before most of the rest of us – goes to show who the smarter ones were in the end.

The campsite is a large clearing speckled with a few sleeping cabins, one covered mess area, a kitchen (to be read: a room with a bucket!), and an outhouse and camping shower that the bikers were quite grateful for. After pitching our tents and dropping a couple of loads, the group set off again for a forest trek led by Titus, our local guide.
Here, a large path gave way to a narrower one, which gave way to a trail covered by lowlying shrubs and then gradually waistlevel bushes until we were bushwhacking through the woods in search of the fabled forest elephant. Our only signs that they actually exist were the few piles of dung we encountered along the way, but the lack of pachyderms was made up for by dozens of different bird sightings! 147 species have been recorded in Omo and even our resident expert John Barker was occasionally at a loss to name them all.

Our journey, which included a brief but steep summit up one of the forest’s plateaus, was rewarded by a beautiful view of Omo valley shrouded in an unusual afternoon fog. For this Canadian, the sight of red and yellowleafed trees amongst the green was nostalgic of an Ontario autumn.

The evening itinerary included a neargourmet meal hosted by John and a night trek through the forest to see the bush babies – a yelloweyed nocturnal animal that looks like a hybrid between a monkey, bat and rat and is indigenous to the African bush. The next morning we set off for the woods again to be impressed by the awesome tree trunks and root networks that give Omo forest its charm. While they stayed hidden, monkeys calling to one another throughout our hike provided an interesting soundtrack to the trip!

Short but sweet, our visit was a nice retreat from the urban jungle of Lagos!


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