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.
Bob Warren, our trip leader and local butterfly expert, 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.
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.
For more information on staying at Okomu, visit http://www.okomuecoresort.com/index.html.