Scary stories by a camp fire, roasting marshmallows, listening to the crickets and watching the fireflies pretending to be constellations. These fireflies however can’t beat the actual stars in the sky and the moon throwing down its light. What is it about starry nights and pitching a tent directly underneath makes the camp life so appealing? Could it be the closeness to nature? Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the rustic feel to it or just the beautiful scenery that comes with choosing the perfect campsite?
If you’ve been following Unravelling Nigeria long enough, you’ll recognize the paragraph above from when we first toyed with the idea of camping in Nigeria in 2015.
A year and 5 months later, we’re incredibly proud to have pulled off a camping trip at Omo Forest Reserve, Ogun State. You can watch the video here.
Omo Forest Reserve is part of the Omo-Sasha-Oluwa Forest Initiative which covers three states in South West Nigeria – Ondo, Ogun and Osun States. Several mammals, over 125 species of birds and over 200 types of trees can be found there. They are under the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and they are playing their part (even though difficult) to conserve the wildlife and biodiversity in the country. The reserve is located in Ijebu (close the waterside area).
Omo Forest Reserve is best known for its Elephant trail as many have been caught on camera/seen to pass through. Unfortunately, due to hunting these Elephants continue to hide especially as one was recently killed in January. Luckily we spotted a couple of Elephant footprints during our visit. All this made it the perfect spot for our camping location. (Did we mention there was no phone service too? It was just us and the great outdoors).
Our Mission – To organise a proper camping adventure at the reserve.
How? – We worked closely with the NCF to put the trip together. What we would do, costing, essentials needed, where we would sleep, how we would feed, safety precautions, possible alternatives to grueling tasks and more were discussed. A lot of emails were exchanged and I would like to say a big thank you here especially to Mr Clifford and Stella for indulging us.
We also had to rent tents from a company in Lagos as the reserve didn’t have any.
One of our guides – Mr Clifford
Sat – We set out for Ogun state through the Epe route as this was the quickest way. We picked up our guides in Epe and this also helped us navigate our way easily. 2 hours later, we were at the reserve. Stella (one of our guides) ushered us into the office and gave a brief but educative history of the reserve. One could easily tell that Stella and Clifford are passionate about their job. Clifford informed us that about 2 years back, he was the only one living in the reserve before more people were deployed.
Elephants were painted on the office building in honour of the ones that were killed in January.
After a brief history lesson, lunch was served and then we were off to set up our tents which would be our ‘rooms’ for the night.
Tents were all set up and then it was time for us to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings and indulge in a bit of bird watching. We saw the different schools set up for the kids who lived in the reserve, fish ponds, a clogged up pond, squirrels (even though one of us chased it away before we could get a picture), various trees and flora. It was also a good way to prepare us for the hike the next day.
We got back to camp and it was time for our bonfire/dinner. This was one of the highlights of the trip. We whipped out the marshmallows, chicken, beef kebabs, sausages and potatoes. We also played games, danced and generally had good time before everyone started retiring to their tents.
Beef Kebabs by Doja Culinary
Some slept and some stayed up all night out of fear, but by 6.30 am, people started trickling out of their tents and getting ready for the day’s hike. It was a really cold morning, so taking a shower didn’t cross anyone’s mind (however Mr. Clifford had gotten someone to get water for us just incase the need arose).
The hike was initially meant to be about 6 hours, but during the planning process, we had been informed that we might not be able to do it. Our options were okadas (bikes) which turned out to be pretty expensive or an old rugged hilux which was a crazy idea but ended up being fun.
The plan was for us to be driven half way, carry on by foot, hike up Beetle Hill, trail Elephants at Erin camp, before heading back to our camp site.
Mr Clifford and an Unraveller who decided to hop on a bike
After a bumpy ride, arguments, impromptu karaoke and some conversation, we got off our ride and continued with our hike. It wasn’t the easiest hike, slippery most times but we made it to the top of Beetle hill (named so because of the shape).
Some men fishing at one of the lakes
We then rushed off to Erin camp hoping to spot Elephants but unfortunately we were a little too late. We saw signs they had just passed through. However, we were on a tight schedule and couldn’t chase after them. It was time to go back to Lagos and we wanted to meet the time we had sent in our itinerary.
After packing up our tents and the rest of our stuff, it was time to leave. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad (I was going to miss my tent) but I was glad everyone was leaving in one piece. We got in our bus and made it back to Lagos in good time.
And that ladies and gentlemen, is how 16 individuals went on a camping trip in Nigeria and took on an adven