Obudu Cattle Ranch - Nigeria
Our visit to Yankari would allow me to recall past experience of about 20 or so years ago; the drive round to watch games activities, the bath in the warm Wikki Springs, and others were an attraction that should add value to one's knowledge of the scenic beauties of the country as well as provide relaxation after hectic rounds of activity. My previous experience around that vicinity was during my NYSC in the then Cross Rivers, (which included Akwa Ibom), when I went by public transport through Makurdi, Gboko, Ogoja, then Calabar or via Onitsha, Aba Ikot Ekpene to Calabar or Abak.
Obudu's place of reckoning in the country is its cattle ranch and its weather. It had lost its lustre of the 50s and 60s after the departure of the expatriates in the early 70s. Its revival by Governor Duke under Protea's management added to my zeal to be there and I truly enjoyed the visit which lasted from the 29th December, 2003 to the 2nd January, 2004. I had such a beautiful and restful time that I believe should be shared with those still thinking of, or have already decided on a trip to the cattle ranch. Obudu is a place you must go to. You definitely will enrich your self with a treasure of a life time.
My family, including my wife and two daughters, Akayi and Azuayi, left Jos on this 6-hour drive through Akwanga, Lafia, Makurdi, Gboko, Vandeikya then Obudu town. Accompanying was not just Andreas, whose wife had left for Switzerland, but also Engr. Murphy Dogun with his wife and the last of his three sons, Nanven. Our fuel was at 3/4 in Jos so we filled up at Fadan Karshi in Kaduna state, till we got to Gboko where we again filled up for the final onslaught to Obudu, and it was a wise decision because we reached the Ranch Hotel with 3/4 tank full, giving us enough to do the short runs within the resort and have enough for a return trip to where we could fill up again. Apart from the little rough drive from Vandeikya in Benue to Obudu, the road was good and the journey smooth.
The first noticeable change that conronted us in Obudu is the Federal Government College located in Obudu, the headquarters of Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross Rivers State. The distance from the town to the ranch was about an hour, together a beautiful scenery that made the journey to the ranch to be most exciting and memorable. The road winds through vegetation that interfaces between the dense tropical rain forest in the southern part of the State and the Guinea Savannah that extends through the southern fringes of Benue State up to Nasarawa State. The road appeared well maintained, making the drive itself to be smooth. Traditional settlements and architecture are similar to that of the Tivs who are their northern neighbours, with whom they have close historical and cultural links.
The distance from Obudu town to the ranch is 60kms but the drive lasted approximately one hour. On the way to the Ranch Hotel is the Bebi airstrip, constructed for packaged tour groups or individuals with means who could fly in and are picked by the hotel's tour bus or by any pre-arranged transport for the 40 minutes drive. From this point on, the road begins to be more winding and intricate with views of a web of hills that seems like an initiation into a world that is aloof and concealed from the reaches of very unsuspecting strangers. Just when you thought that you have reached your destination, you arrive at the gate house located at the foot of the real thing.
The gate, with its imposing ox-head and thin welcome notice, opens with a gentle feel of some hidden treasure that is outrightly intimidating; but it truly is overwhelming to the first timer who must begin the "climb" with the signing of the entrance book as if to state that your security is assured. It is also a sublime check on the state of your car to be sure that it can withstand the grueling steep drive to the top of the plateau. On the right is a welcome sign and to the left is the bold speed limit sign of a maximum of 50 kilometres per hour.
You then notice the stonewalled gate house that introduces you to the quality and standards of the buildings in the ranch. The bridge over a small stream immediately brings you to the first of the 22 near 360 degrees right angle bends that hug the hills for a distance of 11 kilometres. This could seem short by any driving time but as you navigate your way up the hills questions will definitely flash through your mind as to the wisdom in the whole trip. But the unending curiosity helps you to overcome the fears in the drive through these sharp steep bends that expose you to the unique spectacle with its concealed beauty and peace.
Each kilometre you close in on the ranch hotel is boldly written on the paved asphalted road. Sometimes as you move up you might want to wonder how difficult it must have been to have surveyed and constructed the road in the 30's not to mention the continuous maintenance to the present standards that makes going up hill a great pleasure. The stretch exposes an extra-ordinary dimension in topography and scenery: down the various valleys are species of trees of the rain forest but on the numerous hilltops are expansive lush green grasslands that are a delight for cattle grazing.
Within a kilometre or so to the hotel buildings, you get the feelings of a sort of deja vu, or a suddenness that is evident of a second colony. The bold Protea signate and the store buildings give a telling history of the enormous work and efforts that have created developed and sustained this heaven on earth. The spiritual mien of heavenly bliss is no doubt manifest in the breath taking view and commanding nature of the environment that should be savoured with a bon vivant. The weather conditions are superlative, hardly going above 20 degrees Celsius. At this height it is like an appointment with a select group ready to sing in a heavenly choir, a specially composed song on the hidden treasures in these undulating hills that pulsate and give you a memorable throbbing. Whatever description given is inappropriate of the sanguine, lush and beautiful feel you get.
The fact sheet aptly states "the resort is at an elevation of about 1,576 metres (3,200 feet) above sea level, and enjoys a cool temperate climate. It is an area of idyllic tranquillity, beautiful scenery and breathtaking views." It is at this point that are located 76 stone-walled chalets in seven categories: 4 categories are single rooms of between standard and executive suites with different facilities to match and the other 3 are 2-bedroomed typed apartments each specifically built with class of amenities. The room rates range from N7,000 per night to a maximum of N20,000 depending on the class.
And the air is clean, fresh and inviting, but to enjoy it better, one needs some warm clothing to cater for the occasional windy and chilly spells. Truly, the fantasy and beauty here is so tidy that there is no single air conditioner, instead you have fire places and electric heaters in suitable areas for the joy of the occupants.
Very importantly the value added extras are apt for the individual, the family or groups like companies and conference organisation as Sports is adequately provided for in the areas of tennis, squash rackets, horse back riding, organized hiking and bird watching. The Leventis Brothers have been active in the sport of bird watching and as usual have one of their facilities in the Ranch Hotel. The natural swimming pool is impounded and adapted at a point called the Grotto, about 10 minutes walk from the hotel lobby.
The old 6-hole golf course that was closed in the 1970s has been expanded to a standard 9-hole course that takes advantage of the beautiful landscape and terrain to give any avid golfer a determined but worth while challenge. It will turn out to be a green course, and with virtually all the plumbing works ready, the course lawns and putting greens are grassed in readiness for their being manicured in readiness for its opening in about six months. The first 4 holes will offer all the challenges that will tempt a golfer to go to the Ranch Hotel. And here too, you will loose many balls, so golfers beware because the hotel management will make good money for losses on this hole. Simply put, if you have your fears, it is a devil's creation as many balls will find their graves in the surrounding valleys, but for the adventurous players it is shear delight. The 4th hole is called Duke's Tee, after the visionary Governor Donald Duke, who has invested so much time, energy and commitment to the realization of the new Ranch Hotel. Interestingly too, the walk through, and the breath taking view of the surroundings from, these 4 holes are truly wonderful. Being a golfer I could not resist going round the course and actually, getting a feel of the course. I can say proudly that I am the first to strike a ball on the new golf course, followed by my friend Murphy Dogun and then, his son Nanven. This has earned us a special invitation to the commissioning of the course!
The meals are good and of international standard and the conveniences are so well maintained you will not be missing anything by being away from your home. It is instructive to bring along a pair of binoculars, sneakers or mountain shoes, warm clothes and other such aids that will make your stay more memorable. The binoculars will enable you enjoy the pleasures of browsing over the hills to the description of your guide; you are informed that the range is within 6 kilometres from Camerouns, and to lend credence to that you see cross border traders on horse back and the ubiquitous Fulani cattle-rearers, who defy geographical boundaries to graze on lush greens on the hill tops, for which there is plenty.
And at the ranch itself, one may wonder what is going on there. The delineation of grazing areas with electronic hedges while plans to process dairy products are at advanced stages. Similarly, beef cattle that are grazed on the ranch will be taken to a slaughter-slab and meat packaging plant in a location that is at the precincts of Obudu town. The potentials are numerous and the indications that some good things are in the pipeline are manifest in the attitude and disposition of the General Manager of the hotel, Hans Bucher. He is a resplendent and radiant person who is hard driving and focused on shaping up to make Obudu not only a tourist haven, but the main place to visit and stay in Nigeria.
By the time we checked out on January 2, and started driving out for the gradual descent down the winding 22 sharp right angle bends, we felt cheated and nostalgic. I thought of the bonfire on New Year's eve, the walk up and the undulating landscape, the drive to the other hills within the range, and all the gracious terrain. Yes we looked forward to going home, but with a lingering quest for more time to stay and enjoy the Protea Ranch Hotel and its convenient surroundings. I felt great about the grip, and like my children who feel that more of their friends should accompany them on their next trip, mine too should. Save for my visit to the Swiss Alps in 1993 from near Zurich with my friend Andreas, I truly have never had such a breath taking journey to a place so picturesque like Obudu.
The Hotel has its own problems that include using a generator as its main source of power and the fact that lights are put off sometime in the night, but we did not miss it, and I believe that you too will not miss it.
Governor Duke deserves great commendation for his efforts and this should be emulated in turning all our numerous parks and resorts into a joy away from home. This will definitely place our quest for tourism on a pedestal that can attract visitors and with them the benefits of increased employment, foreign exchange and related spin-offs that may not be immediately contemplated, but their appeal and investment value to our economy. While the real thing lies in the physical enjoyment of the enormous facilities in the Ranch Hotel, the sublime virtues far surpass my appraisal of the intrinsic qualities and values. May 2004 - provided by Albert U. Imbufe