The continuation of this feature is pertinent following the recent comment made by former Governor of Cross River State, Mr Donald Duke, while delivering his lecture at the University of Calabar’s 31st Convocation ceremony, speaking on “Tourism In National Development.” He identified “ingress and egress in and out of the state,” as “important” and cited an example of the Obudu mountain resort, lamenting the neglect of tourism and sites in the state, he said despite having an apartment, he has not visited for years.
In his words, he averred that: “Taking Obudu Cattle Ranch for instance, from all its beauty and uniqueness, the first question has always been how accessible is it? “As much as I love the Ranch and I will tell you it is my favorite destination on earth, and despite having a home there, I haven’t visited the ranch in some years.”
He blamed this on the poor infrastructure and maintained that when the Bebi airstrip was functional, it was always fully booked; a situation which forced him to squat with the management on one of his visits. “I recall sometime when I was a governor getting to the ranch; and getting to squat at the ranch management residence as there was no available accommodation. You had to book 3 months ahead; that is the brilliance of tourism, it causes you to do the right thing”
Leaders are known to have their respective styles and set priorities for their administration, it will be unfair to lay blames on the administration of Professor Ben Ayade for the deplorable state of the ranch, forgetting that his predecessor who governed for 8 years had his style of leadership and gave priority to what he considered as the core of his administration.
While there is no need to recount the days of years gone by, It will please Mr Duke to know that all hands are on deck to restore the lost glory of the ranch, applying the 3 Rs; Renovation, Resuscitation and Rebranding.
The first part of this write up ended with the paragraph; ‘I am told I would have been more amazed if I had visited the resort in its hay days, but the information still couldn’t stop my fascination. I went ahead to explore the functional sites within the ranch, while paying attention to Mr Anderson, as he reels out the plans the administration of Senator Professor Ben Ayade has to restore the glory of this captivating edifice. The state tourism boss said ‘Governor Ben Ayade understands that tourism is now the world’s largest industry and ecotourism is the largest segment. In this digital age, with advances in transportation and information technology, even the most remote places on earth are now within reach of travellers worldwide’.’
The Obudu Mountain Resort is a location suitable for a getaway from the hustles and bustles of city life, you can owe it to the enchanting flora landscaping the uncountable mountains. Other amusements are the ride on the longest Cable Car in the world, covering a 13 Kilometre distance. The canopy Walkway, the water park, a gym, a golf course, tennis courts, a collection of apartments made up of chalets, standard rooms, executive rooms and huts makes the resort different from the other plateaus in the surrounding. There is also a Presidential Suite, which is an exclusive bullet proof apartment tailored after Camp David in the USA and happens to be the highest point on the mountain.
The ranch has since inception witnessed an influx of both Nigerian and international tourists, because of the development of tourist facilities by Cross River State Government under the administration of Governor Donald Duke, which turned it into a well-known holiday and tourist resort centre in Nigeria. Although the resort is open to visitors throughout the year, it is a no-go area between June to August, according to my new friend and namesake, Nelson, who said many villagers catch Pneumonia because the rains fall nonstop and the fogs are always thick during the rainy season. The period between October and May is the best time to visit.
On my visit, the movement of the clouds and the weather had caused an early retirement the previous night, making it impossible for me to explore, it took the wait for breakfast to discover the bar which seems like an official entrance to the burn fire and barbeque spot – a portable open air sit out. While having breakfast, the Special Assistant to the Governor on Obudu Ranch, Mr Ability recalls the fascination of the American Ambassador to Nigeria on one of his visits to the ranch. The diplomat visited a section of the resort called ‘Bird View’, which houses about 250 varying species of birds. You will be left in awe watching the birds with your binocular.
Since ecotourism is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, taking trips to natural areas is the way to go, conserving the environment and improving the well-being of the local people. The presence of the ranch has attracted development to the district, the ripple effect being the direct and indirect economic benefits to indigenes, residents, investors and state as a whole, by increasing local capacity building and employment opportunities, ecotourism is an effective vehicle for empowering local communities around the world to fight against poverty and to achieve sustainable development, Governor Ben Ayade is very well aware that Obudu Mountain Resort is a clear representation of that, asides its position as a foremost ecotourism destination with flora, fauna, and cultural heritage.
The potentials of Obudu Mountain Resort still remains untapped and the present administration is investing a lot to achieve that. There is work to be done and there are still some markets yet to be harnessed, for instance, cinematographers in Nigeria are yet to discover this awesome location for shooting of movies or top notch music videos, having a Nollywood actor in person of Eric Anderson as Tourism Commissioner would make this aspect easy to market. Instead of flying abroad, newly married couples can also escape into the enchanting paradise for their honeymoon, or to rekindle the love in their union.
Whenever thoughts of paradise crosses one’s mind, embarking on a journey to Obudu Mountain Resort in Nigeria would just be apt. The Ranch is heaven on earth, located in the highlands of Cross River, to the North Eastern part of the state, home to the Becheve people, the wonderful gift of nature clearly depicts the greatness of the creator and the glory of creation.
Nelson is a Media Practitioner and Public Affairs Commentator