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Nigerian Field Society

Trip to: Okomu National Park

Date: Friday August 17th to Sunday August 19th, 2007


Trip leader: Robert Warren

Trip report: Lisa McBee & Bob Bielinski, USA

Well, it all started on a Friday morning, August 17 to be exact.  The shuttle, which was so prudently arranged by our trip leader, had not arrived and our window of opportunity to catch our flight was becoming increasingly narrow.  After recruiting an idle driver from our residence and meeting the majority of our party, we shuffled seats and were on our way to the domestic terminal of the Lagos Airport.  The drive went surprisingly well and our fearless leader felt a bit of premature optimism upon our expeditious delivery to the airport and rendezvous with the remainder of our party.  This was soon transformed to irritation when some of the reservations were improperly booked and it appeared some of us may have to continue on our adventure without a few of our comrades, including our intrepid organizer.  His methods of persuasion must have finally overcome the airline agents because soon we were all through security and, after an expected departure delay, aboard the 40 minute Aero Contractors flight from the Lagos domestic airport to Benin City airport.

Upon arrival to the Benin City airport, we quickly collected our bags and were greeted by the Okomu staff drivers and our trip leader’s driver.  The trip through the congestion of the outskirts of Benin City offered colorful views of the hustle of typical Nigerian markets as well as the excitement and drama of a few minor traffic incidents so common in the chaos of daily driving in Nigeria.  We soon broke free of the city and were rolling along through the countryside with views of the rolling hills, cultivated fields, well worn villages, and the smiling inhabitants that graced each.  It appeared that maybe we were in for the treat that we each had undoubtedly hoped the weekend would offer.  The anticipation of our arrival within the forest may have lengthened the course along the bumpy muddy roads but in due course we arrived through the grand molded elephant tusks that serve as the park gate and into the forest which was our playground for the next two days.  We were greeted at the lodge by our gracious host and an entourage of park dignitaries and numerous staff who would endeavor to make our visit as enjoyable and comfortable as we would allow.  Though hungry and thirsty from travel, we were all distracted by the second welcoming committee of trumpeting hornbills, scampering monkeys, and lush vegetation surrounding the lodge.

Okomu Lodge Dining Room (building in background) and one adjacent wing of rooms


Bob Warren, our trip leader, taking in the view from the treehouse

We immediately satiated our hunger with a lovely lunch buffet of a variety of sandwiches and roast chicken and quenched our thirst with our beverage of choice.  Having arrived later than expected, those that were interested immediately set off to trek through the forest leaving the others to relax on the deck encircled by the forest.  Our destination was to the taller of the two tree houses which shot 140 feet up into the air above the tree line allowing for a gorgeous view of the forest. The hike through the forest took about one hour and the ones who arrived and climbed up the tree first had a spectacular view of the sunset.  Just after the sun set, the vehicles, some of which were worse from the wear of the trip along the uncleared forest road, showed up to take us back to the lodge for a quick shower followed by a scrumptious dinner.  The rest of the evening was spent relaxing on the deck.  About half of the group ventured up the road on a night hike in the hopes of finding some night life.  We did see some beady eyes of a bush baby that quickly hid in the vegetation once it realized we had spotted it.  By this time most of us were ready to get some shut eye.

Ascending into the canopy


Spectacular view from the tree house

The more ambitious woke up on Saturday morning to enjoy a run in the forest while others slept in or relaxed on the deck in the hope of seeing monkeys, forest hornbills, butterflies, beetles or any other critter or creature that was scurrying about.  Saturday’s plan had a few options.  One could either relax at the lodge and take short walks, ride in the vehicle to a half way point and hike the rest of the way to Iron Bridge or hike the entire 20km distance to the Iron Bridge.  Those folks that decided to hike half way had an unexpected adventure.  Due to the fact that the trip was occurring in rainy season, the roads were a bit muddy and in some places had very deep ruts.  One vehicle made it through, the Ford Hilux, but the Totoya Prado had a bit more of a difficult time and after nearly tipping over, the passengers got out and the Prado backed its way out of the mud hole.  It was then decided that the two Prados would stay behind allowing only a portion of the food, drinks and supplies to continue on to Iron Bridge.  The majority of the Prado passengers headed back to relax at the lodge while a couple had the unique adventure of an Okada ride through the forest to rendezvous with the hikers. 

Those that had decided to hike the entire 20km had quite a hike to tackle.  Our first stop was to climb up another tree house, this one rising 110 feet into the air, to catch a glimpse of the forest from above.  We then continued hiking through the forest to the Iron Bridge, a well worn remnant of access to the surrounding plantations at the western edge of the National Park.  Along the hike we saw colorful butterflies and caterpillars and all shapes and sizes of termite mounds.  We encountered traces of the elusive elephant population of Okomu but they themselves remained out of sight.  We heard the rustle and calls of monkeys in the trees and many forest hornbills.  Once arriving at the bridge most of us jumped into the refreshing swift moving waters to cool off from the hike.  The scenery was beautiful with unique white flowers piercing the surface of the water and the swim was a wonderful way to culminate the trek through the forest.


Traversing the park in the rainy season proved to be quite difficult
Enjoying the refreshing cold water at the Iron Bridge

The ride back was an adventure, especially for those that rode in the bed of the pickup truck through the low hanging vegetation and muddy roads.  Upon arrival back at the lodge many freshened up to share the days experience with those that chose a different activity over drinks and a BBQ dinner.  Many were exhausted from the days activities and headed off to bed while others ventured off for another night hike.

Sunday morning some relaxed around the lodge while others went on a local hike to the palm oil plantation on the northeastern edge of the National Park.  About 11AM we departed from Okomu National Park back to Benin City to catch our flight, which was delayed, back to Lagos.

Kissing lizzards

Good Bye until next time!

Lisa McBee & Bob Bielinski, USA

2023  Nigerian Field Society