Camping and elephants in Omo Forest Reserve

Let’s be honest for a moment – I am a bit of a princess and my ideal holiday escape will never be camping. However, throw in the suggestion of potential elephant sightings and I am ready, packed and waiting by the car to go! That’s pretty much what happened when I discovered my blogger boo, Unravelling Nigeria had organised a camping trip in Omo Forest Reserve in Ogun State. Omo Forest Reserve is part of the Omo-Oluwa-Shasha Forest Reserves, a protected conservation area located across three states in South-Western Nigeria, being Ogun, Ondo and Osun States. According to the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, the Omo-Oluwa-Shasha Forest Reserves contain some of the last remaining forests in South-Western Nigeria. The reserves, Omo Forest Reserve in particular, are inhabited by numerous different animal species, including elephants and chimpanzees. The reserves have been found to be biologically unique but are threatened by logging, over-hunting and clearance for farmland. At present, 40% of the natural forest in the reserves still remains but is under increasing threat. Bet you’re as shocked as I was to discover that there were elephants living in Ogun State, right? Well, I wasn’t about to miss out on the opportunity to see one of my favorite animals in the flesh. So I got ready, pulled on my big girl panties and got ready to go camping. Take off was from Lekki Conservation Centre for us islanders and we left shortly after 10am Saturday morning headed to the reserve. The 3 hour bus ride included hilarious ice breakers with marshmallows as instruments of torture and just after 1pm we arrived at our destination. Upon arrival, we were given a general introduction to the NCF’s work on the reserve – I have so much respect for what these guys are doing! – and then got to setting up our tents. Where we camped was in the NCF compound as the normal camping area, Erin Camp, is currently being refurbished. Setting up tents is not my strong point, but I believe that I provided good directions to the poor souls who actually set up my tent for me! Haha! With our tents set up and having grabbed a quick bite to eat, we set off on a walking tour around the reserve which was really fascinating but alarming as well. We came across locals who lived on the reserve and various farming units. I will say this – the rate of deforestation is simply astonishing. It’s very scary and worrying to see that the forest is being destroyed at such a rapid rate! You could see evidence of the logging activities all over the place including the random truck graveyards. Bear in mind the destruction of the forest is not just about logging, but also clearing the forest to create more farming space, particularly for cocoa farms. I wish the farmers could be more educated on the destruction they are causing, and from discussions with our NCF guides, this is just one of the many uphill battles the NCF is facing. The evening saw us chill out by the campfire, eating, drinking, singing songs, dancing, playing games including “Mafias” and “Concentration” and generally having a blast. I stayed out for a little bit longer to take advantage of the opportunity to look at the stars, and also because, frankly, I wasn’t in a hurry to sleep on the ground, but eventually I gave in to Morpheus. The morning came too quickly, and we were up at the crack of dawn, taking down our tents and getting ready to go hiking. As there were about 16 of us, it was suggested that we all pile into a small HILUX truck (pictured below) which was, erm, different to say the least. I started out in the truck but ended up getting on an okada with one of the girls for a quicker and safer (in my opinion!) ride given the treacherous roads! Because of the truck carrying everyone else, the journey to Beetle Hill and Erin Camp took nearly 2 hours, but it was wonderfully scenic and there were many photo opportunities whilst waiting at various points for the truck to catch up. One of the most memorable being the truck crossing the bridge of doom! I was convinced the bridge would collapse, and I am still in shock and disbelief that it not only took our weight on the bikes, but took the truck with everyone in it! Hiking up Beetle Hill was a real test of my mettle – I thoroughly enjoyed it but my life flashed before me many a time whilst scrambling up and down it on my hands and knees at points. It reminded me very much of the Erin Ijesha experience, just without the mud courtesy of the waterfall! After surviving the hike (just!), we headed off to Erin Camp to see if we could spot some elephants. As I mentioned at the beginning, we did not see any elephants but we missed one by under an hour! AN HOUR! Imagine, we had been so close!!!!!!! Seeing the prints and evidence of our near-miss prompted us to try to catch up but our efforts proved futile and, being cognisant of the fact we still had to head back to Lagos, we called time on our search and headed back to the NCF grounds to pack up. The trip was my first with Unravelling Nigeria and it was amazing. Lola was the hostess with the mostest! She kept us fed, entertained and generally pumped throughout the trip. I’m a bit apprehensive about doing tours and travelling in large groups because you never know how personalities will mix but the group was great, the vibe was awesome and the trip was epic! Yes, we didn’t get to see the elephants, but that was a remote possibility at best anyway. It was an awesome chance to get out of Lagos and do something completely different. Loved it! To find out more about Unravelling Nigeria tours, click HERE

To find out more about the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, click HERE


  • Ann

    Wow! This is the type of stuff I’ve been wanting to know about Nigeria. Like what touristy activities are available. It’s sad what’s going on in regards to deforestation. It’s an ongoing problem all over the globe. More money for someone while our God-given vital ecosystems are being screwed over. In return, we all are paying for that damage. It’s the ‘incredible’ world we live in. You said 8000 animal species. So no other animal sighting?

    • abiia

      Thanks so much for this Ann. Absolutely agree with you. The short term profit has long term destructive ramifications for us globally but not enough people in the reserve are educated enough to appreciate this. In terms of animal sightings, there were various different birds we saw but I didn’t take notice of anything else. I was only looking out for the elephants! Haha!

  • Unravelling Nigeria

    Whoop whoop. Thanks for coming Bids.

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