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Welcome to the UK branch of the Nigerian Field Society.
If you want to know what is happening in the UK branch check this page.
We also have an archive of past trip reports for your information, you will find these here.
Trip to: A TRIP TO OMO FOREST (AND HOW WE LEARNED TO MAKE BANANA BOATS)
Date: Saturday, May 21st 2005
Trip leader: Gunther Kleinoeder
Trip report: Hugh Campbell
At 7.15 am on an overcast and steamy Saturday morning we gathered outside the imposing walls of Fortress Chevron.
We were quite a crowd. Starting with the members of the Field Society, we were:
Gunther Kleinoeder ( the team leader ) and his two sons, Nicholas and Kai, Mike Newton, Arnulf Ziems, Steve and Sara Dobbs and their son, Erin. (Steve was there in his capacity as the Scout Master for Troup 803 ), and Hugh and Robin Campbell (Robin was there in her capacity as Field Society Trip Food Manager).
Then we had Boy Scout Troup 803,consisting of 12 boys between the ages of 11 and 15 and five adult team leaders. And last, but certainly not least, three Alfa Papas (armed police, to the uninitiated).
At about 8.15 our convoy headed off in the direction of Epe. The bus full of scouts went first, followed by a Chevron Landcruiser, then our own Landcruiser. The Alfa Papas brought up the rear in a pickup truck. Gunther went ahead in a vehicle kindly lent to him by Robert Warren. Thank goodness for the Alfa Papas! There were 28 checkpoints in the first two hours; however we sailed past all of them . The Alfa Papas communicated with each checkpoint by emitting a strange combination of toots from the horn and growls from the siren .The language was certainly well understood !
We plodded along at a fairly sedate ( but safe ) 80km per hour, in compliance with the rules for operating the bus. Despite our slow speed, one of the Landcruisers very soon started to overheat, so there were frequent stops to allow for cooling down . About three hours later, we limped into a small village on the edge of Omo Forest.
The bus disgorged its young passengers, plus an astonishingly large amount of food, water, and camping equipment. The scouts and troup leaders hoisted their backpacks onto their backs and started the long, hot and hard 16 km hike to the Omo camp. The convoy of vehicles (minus the bus) followed at an even slower rate than before, carefully navigating its way over some highly challenging log bridges.
One of the log bridges on the way to the camp
The Boy Scouts at the start of their trek
Within a few kilometres, it became apparent that one Landcruiser could not make the hills, so we unloaded the camping equipment into the police truck, and continued for another 10 kilometers, until the police truck got stuck in the thick mud. Fortunately we were only about 200 meters from the camp, so we were able to carry the equipment in by hand . We arrived at the camp at about 2 pm. The camp is attractively situated in a clearing on top of a knoll in the forest.
Erin Camp accommodation
It consists of three wooden chalets and an outdoor table covered by a roof for eating. There is also a small kitchen with a sink and the remnants of a gas stove. Behind the kitchen is a shower stall in which someone has created an ingenious shower using a bucket with a tap and shower head screwed into the bottom, all of which can be raised or lowered using a small winch.
Gunter had arrived a few hours earlier, and was busy repairing a wooden bed, using some highly original tools. Robin, who had brought enough food to feed several famished armies, prepared sandwiches for lunch.
After lunch we decided to do a bit of exploring. Not far from the camp, nestled in thick forest, is a building that was once a school. Inside it is full of mostly broken desks and chairs that had been donated by the German school in Lagos. There is also a strange white papier mache elephant that sits somewhat forelornly on a corner of a dirty desk.
Although the building and the furnishings appear to be very old, a small bronze plaque lying on the floor attests to the fact that the school was in fact commissioned as recently as 1996! It is hard to imagine why anyone would choose to build a school in such a remote area, but therein lies a tale, which, perhaps, the white elephant could tell us.
Erin Camp Schoolroom (before the work started)
(ahem,… white elephant here: the building has been used to bring in school children from the surrounding villages, to learn about conservation, especially the need to protect the few remaining forest elephants in the area. ‘Erin’, the name of the camp, is the local name for Elephant)
We left the school and walked along a reasonably well cleared path into the forest. The trees were truly majestic and magnificent, with incredible flying-butress trunks.
One tree in particular warrants a special mention. At some point in its life someone tried, and almost succeeded, in cutting it down. The tree now bears massive scars around its base as a dramatic testament to its will to survive.
On our way out of the forest we noticed that the path was alive with tiny beautiful red flowers, rather like miniature porcelain roses. We returned to the camp just as the boy scouts arrived. It had taken them about three and a half hours to walk 16 kilometers, which was very good considering the heat and the heavy backpacks .They immediately erected half a dozen tents, and created a kitchen area.
After a short break, we broke into two working parties. One group cleaned out the school, and the other group cleaned the area around the camp. A bonfire was lit to burn the worst of the garbage.
Then it was time for dinner. Robin had made tons of delicious chile con carne, which only required heating. The scouts obliged by producing two wonderful primus stoves, which operated on normal petrol.
After dinner, the scouts treated us to a bonfire and a programme of skits and jokes, all professionally organised by a master of ceremonies. However the highlight of the evening was a tribute to Steve, delivered with truly heartfelt candour, by a young scout. A truly remarkable evening!
Sunday, May 22nd, 2005
We awoke at about 6.30 am after a very comfortable night, at least for us. Apparently, in one of the tents, there had been a bit of a battle with a giant spider, but the scouts had prevailed.
Gunter unknowingly put on a demonstration as to how to use the shower, and the scouts introduced us to a new breakfast delicacy—-the Banana Boat. To make a banana boat, you carefully slit a banana lengthwise in its skin halfway through. Following this, you stuff the banana with marshmallows and then add sticks of chocolate. You then bake the banana, still in its skin, over an open fire for five minutes. The result is, well, an interesting early morning energy boost !
Following breakfast, we broke into two groups .Gunter headed off with one group in a car with a guide to climb a nearby mountain . Unfortunately, they never made it . The vehicle was soon mired in mud so thick that it had to be repeatedly jacked out.
The second group walked out with the scouts, which was very pleasant .. While walking one could not help but notice how much logging was taking place. The sides of the road were covered with giant logs waiting to be towed out.
Eventually, we all met at the village by the edge of the forest, and, armed with fresh Alfa Papas, in a new vehicle, we cruised back at 80 kilometers per hour , tooting and growling all the way to Lagos
PALM WINE TASTING
August 19, 2003
Trip report: Rev Father John Sheehan (U.S.A)
The evening of August 19 was breezy, overcast and more than a little rain threatening. The organizers worried, “What do we do if it rains?” But the weather held and the only real concern was having enough chairs for the participants and enough wine for tasting.
43 people showed up at 29 Ikoyi Crescent to sample palm wine from different parts of Nigeria, collected by different methods. There was fresh wine(i.e., tapped that morning) from Benin City, from Oshogbo, from Epe, from Ijebu-Ode and from Idimu. There was wine tapped from the top of the tree, tapped from the bottom, tapped from a tree that had been cut down, and wine from differetn kinds of palm trees.
Romeo Barbouropolis (sp?) shared with the group a video he had made around ten years ago, when he went into a swamp with a tapper filming how the tapper climbed and tapped the trees. He had also footage of how the palm wine is distilled into ogogoro, a native gin, and explained the presence of one child in the video, a dada child, and the special place he held in this local society. Several Nigerian members present also contributed to a deeper understanding of this unusual relationship.
A tapper had been expected who would be able to both explain and demonstrate some of the skills necessary in obtaining the palm wine. Unfortunately he did not arrive until 9pm when many of the guests had left. However, he also brought with him two more jugs of wine which extended the party by several more minutes.
It was mentioned that a day trip into the swamps to see the tappers in action might be a possible future trip and people seemed interested in the prospect.
All in all, an interesting and a fun night – what of it I can remember!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Good Bye until next time!
Lisa McBee & Bob Bielinski, USA
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!
Meet our committee members
Zara Abir Khan (Membership Co-Secretary)
Robin and Hugh Campbell (Co-Chairs)
Nicla De Palma
Ed and Muni Keazor
Mario Plata (WebMaster)
Osisiye Tafa (Facebook Administrator)
Wil, Paulette and Filip Van Trier
Devesh Uba (Membership Co-Secretary)
THE NIGERIAN FIELD SOCIETY (UK BRANCH)
Report for 2012
Chair Professor Rob Oldham, Treasurer Mr Geoff Partridge, Secretary Miss Sheila Everard
The Branch continues to flourish in spite of an ageing membership. Three meetings in 2012 were all well attended. They are, for obvious reasons focussed on the UK but it is hoped that in addition to our symposia, held every two or three years, meetings will also include lectures on Nigerian based subjects when lecturers can be found.
The Spring meeting and AGM was held in the Danford room of Birmingham University on 13th/14th April 2012. This room houses a collection of African art, collected by John Danford who worked for the British Council in Ibadan in the 1940s. A discussion of the objects took place after the meeting, followed by a presentation by our organiser Brian Hopkins, of an old stone grinding dish, found on the Ibadan compound during building excavations.
The following day, the group visited Winterbourne House, former home of John Nettlesford, a local manufacturer. Built in the Arts & Crafts style in 1903, the house is an interesting example of domestic architecture of this era. The splendid garden included, ‘ geographical beds’ celebrating famous plant collectors and a magnificent sandstone rock garden full of spring colour.
On Sunday we visited the Barbour Institute of Fine Arts, housed in an elegant Art Deco building. The benefactor, Dame Martha Constance Barbour had left her fortune to the University ‘for the study and encouragement of art and music’; the art gallery, music rooms and concert hall have entertained and informed not only students but the general public for generations since. We are indebted to Evelyn Murphy and to Brian Hopkins for an entertaining and worthwhile weekend.
The Summer meeting in Chichester, was also organised by Brian Hopkins on 14th/15th July 2012. Some members attended a play ‘Heartbreak House’ by Bernard Shaw on Friday evening at the theatre. On Saturday Chichester experienced the heaviest downpour of the month and our walk through the city had to be curtailed. St Mary’s Hospital and Alms Houses proved to be a refuge to us as well as generations of elderly Chichester residents of limited means, over the last 800 years. The gardens were well maintained and the mediaeval building has been adapted to hold several self contained flats. The chapel featured a fine screen and 24 stalls each with its original misericords, some carved with grotesque human figures and foliage.
Chichester Cathedral was begun in 1076 and dedicated in 1108. The building has survived two major fires in its long history; Our guide gave us an introduction to its many interesting features including a window designed by Marc Chagall. Throughout, mediaeval splendour is combined with more modern works of art; a beautiful copper font (1983), the magnificent Benker-Schirmer tapestry, and in the Chapel of St Mary Magdeline there is a painting by Graham Sutherland of St John the Baptist.
On Sunday morning, the group gathered at Itchenor harbour to board the Solar Heritage. This is a pollution free solar powered catamaran on which we toured the harbour. Like most of Chichester, this too is ancient and dates from Roman times. King Cnut is reputed to have had his famous encounter with the sea at Thorney Island and the Bayeux Tapestry depicts King Harold praying at nearby Bosham church before the Norman Conquest.
Finally on Sunday afternoon those with the energy and stamina, visited Kingley Vale. This is a Nature Reserve of chalk grassland, scrub and an ancient yew forest. There are the remains of Bronze age tumuli on the hills and a memorial to Arthur Tansley, a pioneer ecologist whose foresight and energy ensured that the area has been preserved.
Our last meeting of 2012 took place in Conwy North Wales on 8th/9th September. John and Maggie Hall hosted the committee for a meeting on Friday, followed by a splendid dinner for members and partners. The following morning the group gathered at the RSPB nature reserve for a talk on this remarkable site by the site manager, Julian Hughes. When the first submersible – tube road tunnel was built 23 years ago to carry road traffic around Conwy, the three million tons of excavated spoil was deposited up river from the site behind a sea wall, creating 150 acres of Crown Land. This has become the RSPB Conwy Nature Reserve.
In the afternoon, the group visited Plas Mawr (The Great hall) built between 1576 and 1585 by Robert Wynn a local landowner and wine importer. Now owned by the Mostyn family, it is in the care of the State. Fully restored, it is ‘the finest surviving town house of the Elizabethan era to be found anywhere in the British Isles’. Both Robert Wynn and his wife were descended from princes of Gwynedd and this is celebrated in the elaborate and colourful plaster work.
On Sunday a guided tour of the castle gave us an insight into the power exerted by the English over their unwilling Welsh subjects. Such was the brilliance and efficiency of the design and the fear of retribution from the conquerors, that it was garrisoned by only 30 soldiers. After lunch at the Dutch Pancake House some members proceeded to Bodnant Garden now run by the National Trust. The house is private and still lived in by the family of Lord Aberconway but eighty acres of the garden are accessible to visitors. These present a magnificent spectacle, varied and well maintained, with a backdrop of the mountains of Snowdonia providing a dramatic contrast.
Programme for 2013:
Spring meeting and AGM – Bristol 19th/20th April 2013, organisers; Barbara Ryder and Janet Kirk.
Summer meeting –Durham 20th/21st July 2013; organiser, Sheila Everard
Autumn meeting – Faversham Kent, 14th/15th September 2013; organisers, Geoff & Dinah Partridge.
Programme for 2014:
Spring meeting and AGM – Guildford Surrey, 26th/27th April 2014; organisers, Ray & Lilian Coe.
Summer meeting – Killin, Aberfeldy, Stirling, 28th/29th July 2014; organiser Avril Simpson.
Autumn meeting – Cambridge 13th/14th or 2oth/21st September 2014; organiser Philip Allsworth Jones.
The UK Branch extends a warm welcome to all NFS members travelling to UK. Please contact the secretary for further information; the address is elsewhere in the Journal.
NIGERIAN FIELD SOCIETY, IBADAN BRANCH
2018/2019 SECRETARY’S REPORT
The members of executive committee of Ibadan branch include the following: –
1 Prof (Mrs). E. N. Ekpo – Chairperson
2 Mr. J M. Usman –Branch Secretary
3 Mr. Esimekhai Donatus – Treasurer
4 Mrs. Udaghe O.M. Program Secretary
Trip to: Camping Trip in Omo Forest
Date: February 4-6, 2012
Trip report: Stephen Turnipseed
The camping trip to Omo Forest has been long anticipated. This outing would be extra special as it would be a 2-night trip over a 3-day holiday weekend toward the end of the dry season. The organizer was Nicholas Wicks with the environmental NGO, Pro-Natura.
DAY 1 – Trip from Lekki to Omo Forest
The group of 5 adventurous guests met Nicholas at the Lekki Conservation Center on Saturday morning and formed a travel plan; distributed radios, determined order in the convoy, agreed on the exact route and maximum speed. Escorted by a security chase vehicle we left at 8:30 AM under cloudy skies and a few scattered drops of rain which quickly dissipated.
After some distance past Epe we get on the main East-West highway which is paved and divided, although a bit overgrown with weeds. Eventually we turn off on to a paved, but undivided road. Eventually the pavement ends and we are on a gravel road; We know that we are getting closer to the forest when we start seeing logging trucks. Our first stop, a small guest house in a community creatively named, “J4”. This is where the security guards and the driver will sleep. It is now 11:30 AM, a full 3-hour drive from Lekki without stopping.
After dropping off two of the guards and parking one of the cars and an SUV, we transfer gear into the pick-up truck then enter Omo Forest. This area is not a pristine national park, but a loosely managed logging operation. Many of the trees we saw being hauled out were second generation plantings.
Another hour down a deeply rutted road with make-shift logs straddling streams we come the first really big obstacle, Bailey Bridge. This bridge spanning a significant river was build around 1960 by the British and basically has not had any maintenance since. The planks over the rusted iron works were rotted and impassable. Our trip organizer had paid for the really bad spots to be topped with wood, but nothing had been done. It was now 1:00 PM so we relaxed and ate a sandwich for lunch while wood was located and put into place.
An hour later the bridge is deemed passable and the river crossing went without incident; It is a long way down to the bottom! We continue for another 30 minutes down the rutted road over stumps and across streams. Then the journey comes to a halt when we hit our final insurmountable obstacle; a big tree had fallen over the road. No worries, it is only about 500 yards to the camp, … all up hill. We hike our gear in, aided by a motorbike which carried the really heavy stuff.
A few trips up and down the trail in the hot humid air and we finally get settled into the clean and well maintained screened cabins with all our gear. It is now 2:30 PM. We are hot, tired and hungry so everyone voted to sit down for a proper lunch under the covered table.
Camp Accommodations: The three cabins had six “proper beds” with foam mattress and mosquito net draped from the ceiling (since it was the dry season, I never saw a single mosquito the entire weekend). A clever setup using a winch to lift/lower a bucket of water for a drip shower. Water for bathing was dipped from a nearby rain barrel which is full from some prior showers. Note: you need to bring your own drinking water. There is a covered cooking area with a 2-burner propane stove which we would use to heat potable water for our instant meals and coffee. There were kerosene lanterns available, but evening light was provided via a portable solar panel, battery and LED lights. A single privet was a short walk down a well worn trail.
Immediately after unpacking and finishing lunch, our resident camp assistant, Titus, led the five of us on a hike. The area has rolling hills with a few rocks sprinkled about. The trail was clear of obstacles and easily traversed. Since this is the dry season, there was a layer of crisp dry leaves on the ground. Vegetation was healthy, but no so thick that would prevent a detour off the trail.
Around every bend there was a unique surprise such as a very large termite mound. This area of the forest had some mature trees, some with extensive stilt roots or large buttress roots extending out for meters. Then there was the occasional giant tree with massive trunk towering through the understory to become the dominant feature in the canopy. Mature vines (lianas) draped from the trees in random twists. Others were sending small threads down to make contact with the earth.
Titus showed us evidence of the last visit an elephant made to this area about 6 weeks prior. There was a print left deep in the soft mud, now dried to form a cast of the foot that made it. Of course there were also droppings and disturbed vegetation.
Hornbills called to each other with a sound like a young goat crying. There were a few melodies from the common garden bulbuls, we did not find any other birds or animals on the mid-afternoon hike.
We returned to camp after about an hour of casually walking the loop and snapping pictures. Having seen the extensive logging operation on the way in, I was delighted with the protected area that I had seen. This is why I came on the trip.
After a cool shower and dinner the group turns in early. We go to sleep to the sounds of the frogs and insects.
DAY 2 – Climbing Beetle Hill
The next morning on our first full day in the forest, our plan was to climb a peak called “Beetle Hill”. The view was suppose to be worth the trip, so off the 5 of us go, guided by Titus and the Pro-Natura driver, Bart. We took two vehicles, a small 4-door Toyota Hi-Lux pick-up truck and one of the guest’s Toyota Land Cruiser.
Bart took us on a an unexpected detour along the way to take care of some official business. He had seen some wood cuttings in the now protected zone and was going to have a word with the offenders. We park next to their operation. Turns out they are from the nomadic Fulani tribe typically found in Northern Nigeria. This group is known for cattle driving and they are never without their herding sticks. These young men were in the forest cutting small trees and making the sticks for sale. Bart, gave then a strong lecture, then loaded the half dozen intruders and their wood cutting tools into the back of the pickup and off we go. We drop them at a make-shift village a few kilometers away next to the river crossing. Bart gives them the tools back and leaves them with a warning. It is a never ending battle to protect natural resources.
Now that the illegal wood cutters had been removed, we could resume our quest to climb Beetle Hill. First we have to get to it. The small pick-up got high-centered on one of the make-shift log bridges and could not proceed. Erik was a much more proficient off-road driver and skillfully navigated the obstacle with his Land Cruiser so we all pile into this vehicle for the rest of the journey.
When we arrived at the base of the hill and follow Titus through the undergrowth and up the incline of moss-covered rock. The vegetation was not a hindrance, but the hike was a good workout on this hot day. Be sure to bring and drink plenty of water.
As we get closer to the top we find groups of small, but brilliant red beetles. Ah, now I understand the name, “Beetle Hill”. And after a strenuous hike we finally we reach the summit and enjoy the view which is nice and green (except for the haze from the harmattan dust). No wide swaths of clear cut areas like I had feared.
One guest was a geophysicist, who broke open a piece of the rock and described it as “true granite”. The trees were sending out roots across the granite surface to find any cracks to cling to. The roots are useful to help climb the upper portion of the hill. There is an unusual tree on the summit forming a perfect arch reaching 10 feet above the ground. Titus showed us evidence of elephant visits. Hard to believe that they would go to the effort to climb such a steep hill, but clearly they have. We rested, walked around the top, admired the view then began the downhill hike and journey back to camp.
Early that evening, our host, Nicholas Wicks, showed us all of the interesting images that had been captured since December since three camera traps were first deployed near camp. The units are motion triggered and have infrared capability at night. Since much of the animal activity is after dark, this tool is one of the best ways to make systematic observations. The animals included: a solitary bull elephant, monkeys, civet cat, forest pig, squirrel, and tropical tree rat. Also got couple of pictures of the wood cutters that we just evicted.
The group had our final dinner under the covered eating area and retired about 9:00 PM. A cool breeze picked up indicating that it might rain, but it never came. The slightly cooler temperature made sleeping more comfortable.
DAY 3 – Trip Home
After a casual breakfast, we packed up and hiked our gear down the hill to the vehicles. The 90 minute drive out of the forest went smoothly as the big bridge was now repaired. We met at the Pro-Natura office in J4, then swung by the guest house to get the driver and security. The 3-hour drive back to Lekki went without hitch.
A Few Trip Notes
The trip was a series of adventures which I would recommend to anyone who likes the outdoors. This is not a luxury safari, so don’t’ go with the expectation to see lots of wildlife from the back of an open top vehicle or have meals prepared for you. Do go to enjoy being under the canopy of the tropical forest in reasonably comfortable accommodations. There were no un-official road blocks on the road, but the police check points were numerous. The camp was well built, clean and comfortable. Guided hikes thorough the big trees and up Beetle Hill were the highlight for me. The unexpected challenges with the large bridge, small log bridges, fallen tree, and removal of the wood cutters was all part of the experience. There are some good picture taking opportunities. Bird watching is challenging in the forest, but better close to the J4 guest house. Go fully self-sufficient in food and water. Take water with you on the hikes and stay hydrated. This trip offers the opportunity to learn about the stresses being put on the forests in Nigeria and the good work being done by a few environmental NGOs.