Ikogosi Spring: Ekiti’s Untapped Gold

August 15, 2012

After years of neglect by successive administrations, the Kayode Fayemi administration in Ekiti State is turning the Ikogosi Warm Spring into a tourist’s attraction. Seyi Odewale reports.

The snaky and undulating tarred narrow road, running from Ado-Ekiti, through Ilawe-Ekiti to Igbara-Odo or Erijiyan and Ikogosi – the town with the mysterious warm and cold springs, all in Ekiti State, meanders through the rolling hills. The hills, covered with luscious green forest, display the enthralling beauty of the tropics, which gives a gushed feeling of seeing nature at its very best.

It was a cool and humid day with the Sun literarily on break that Tuesday morning and the weather was clement.

The 30-minute drive from Ado-Ekiti to Ikogosi was a prelude to the entrapping beauty of the land where the warm and cold springs are nestled.  But the neglect it has suffered over the years has deprived the town the hue usually associated with such places. Nevertheless, the town ranked among places endowed with warm springs in the world.

Unlike its counterpart in Georgia, Atlanta, United States, the sleepy town of Ikogosi is endowed with a unique combination of warm and cold springs, forming a confluence at the base of the rocky hill. This makes it different from seven other discovered warm springs in the world.

And like others around the world, Ikogosi Warm and Cold Springs have an alluring history. Though shrouded in myths and oral traditions, it is told by the natives with much gusto. From the account of two wives of the same husband forming the warm and the cold springs, to more realistic details of a hunter discovering them, the place, no doubt, is historic. Perhaps, historians and anthropologists would be needed to trace the history behind the incredible natural endowment.

The warm spring has a temperature of about 70 degree Celsius at the source and about 37degree Celsius after mixing with the water from the cold spring at the lowest course of the stream. The meeting point of the warm and cold springs is a unique attraction to tourists.

At the top of the warm spring is a small shed perhaps built to prevent people from either defiling the spring’s source or turning it to something else. “You know the way some of our people react to mysteries of this type. Some spiritualists must have done some unimaginable things at the spring that made those in charge to secure its source with this shed,” said a tourist who came with her family members from the United States to visit the site.

Its therapeutic prowess, like its counterpart Georgia, Atlanta in the United States, has made the natives to hold the spring in high esteem. To them, it’s a divine gift from God. “If anyone is infected with Guinea Worm and manages to dip his or her infected leg into this water as it flows from the hill, the worm will immediately come out from that fellow’s leg,” said a young girl fetching water from the warm spring.

It would be recalled that the former American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1924 went to the Georgian Warm Springs hoping to find a cure for the infantile paralysis (polio) that had struck him in 1921. He swam in the 88-degree warm, buoyant spring waters, which brought him no miracle cure, but he got some improvement.

Ikogosi springs, however, have passed through different chequered stages since its discovery in the 50s. From the Baptist Mission, which established a youth and conference centre on the hill adjacent to the springs, to the defunct Ondo State government, which took over in 1978 when it acquired the place and later passed it on to Ekiti State when the latter was created, the neglect suffered by the place has nevertheless diminished its enchanting beauty.

Interesting part of the springs are the old colonial buildings on the adjacent hill. They appeared a bit quaint, but they form the enchanting beauty that makes the place different; they constitute a part of its history.

One is however, amazed by the rehabilitation currently going on at the springs, which is likely to cost about N135billion. Topping the priority list are the lodging rooms for visitors, which are undergoing massive rehabilitation. The rooms are being redesigned to conform to international standard just as about 24 others are being constructed to serve pupils and students who may be on excursion to the place. At the far right, overlooking the springs are five-star duplexes, 75 per cent completed, to cater for the upper class of the society. There are others such as the executive lodge meant to service the middle and the working class. On the whole, different strata of the society surely have a place at the resort when fully completed.

With the expertise of the South African tourist development firm, Mantis, remarkable for managing resorts and wildlife, the springs will, in no time, make the state a tourism hub. In the words of John Dixon, general manager, Mantis Collection, the springs’ location would form the unique selling point. “I certainly think that what is key in tourism is location and Ikogosi springs resort is in a beautiful location. Our vision is to make it a first-class resort with adjourning nature reserve. We’ve seen the sincerity of purpose of Ekiti government. I’m impressed with the passion of every member of the government team,” he said.

The firm is not only to rebuild the ‘ruins’ of the springs, but to train and manage members of the community in helping to run the resort. However, the top executives will be South Africans.

To form the first stage of development according to Dixon, is the development of Mc Gee Camp, which was named after the Baptist missionary who built the chapel; the three-star JKF Chalets consisting of 32 rooms; the Warm Spring site; the Western Chalets and the Villa. All these, Dixon said, would be completed in record time and be opened to the public in October. About 100 rooms are expected to be ready and they will cater for different categories.

The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Fayemi on Tourism Development, Sesan Obidiran, revealed more. “At the Mc Gee Camp, we are expecting about 24 rooms with a bunk for 48 students. At the villa, we met four and we are adding eight to make 12, which is for the VIPs, while the western chalet is for the choice category.

‘The McGee camp also has the conference centre which can sit 300 guests, the shopping mall, the business centre, restaurant, bar, music centre and a chapel for the religious tourists.”At the back of the Mc Gee camp is the amphitheatre where people can hold various forms of events and social functions. This is served by a big well paved motor–park,’ he explained.

He added: “It is being wholly financed by the Ekiti State government and the place will be managed by the Mantis group from South Africa. In fact, the official of the Mantis Group is on ground to see that the structures and facilities are well planted so that what the government is expending 135 billion naira on will not only worth it but come out beautifully to justify the investment.”

But in the words of Governor Fayemi what is being done is a tip of the iceberg.

“You have not seen anything yet. What you have seen is just a caricature of the real thing that we are putting on ground. The facilities and structures, which are there are just for the first phase of the project of a three-phase initiative which will culminate in a golf course, a helipad, a games village, a wild life park, a cable car and other range of tourists’ facilities.

“And this is what our people yearn for. The first phase is to tell the world kindly come and see what we are bringing out. This will enable us to go along with the other two phases with public confidence, support and understanding,” the Fayemi said in a chat.

Explaining the driving force behind the rehabilitation of the springs, Fayemi said: “My passion for tourism is driven mainly because of my interest in anything which will add value to the development of the society, particularly any project which is capable of changing the status of the common people for the better. My education and exposure have greatly come handy here. There is no part of the world that I have not been to. I sure know the import of a deluge of people; I mean heavy tourists traffic to a state. I know what and what to put in place to have this effect in any creative environment which Ikogosi Warm Spring offers.

“I also know that tourism propels an economy by mobilising wealth, creates employment, empowering and initiating development. Hence, it will be wrong of me if I said because of my predecessors failed to enhance the awesomeness of Ikogosi. I, too, should follow suit. No. The fact is that I see what they did not see in Ikogosi. I know the economic wonder which the full enhancement of Ikogosi Warm Spring will perform in the lives of my people, the economy of Ekiti State and Nigeria. This is why my government is making it a priority for development. And I assure you, we will not rest on our oars until Ikogosi Warm Spring becomes the best tourism resort in Nigeria. Mark my words.”

He confirmed an earlier assertion of his SSA on Tourism that the place would not be run by the government. “ It is the generational fund which must yield the dividends for this generation and generations yet unborn. There are facilities for all categories of people. There are five-star facilities for those who can afford them and we have the three-star for the majority of the people,” he assured.

With a bowl of pounded yam served with assorted bush meat and fresh palm wine in Igbara-Odo, a neighbouring town to Ikogosi, one is assured of a blissful ride back to base to face the hustling and bustling of the city.

By Seyi Odewale

This article was first published in The Nation on 15 August 2012. 

Last modified: August 15, 2012

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