Ekiti State is known as 'The Land of Honour'. Located in South- West Nigeria, it is home to the Exotic Ikogosi Warm Springs and Resort which is nature's gift and is significant for it's warm and cold water confluence at the spring. BUKOLA BAKARE reports on the efforts of the State Government in transforming the site into a world class tourism destination in the country during a tour of the site by the Guild of Tourism Journalists.
TOURISM development in Nigeria has become a ground waiting to be tapped by Government. With many tourists sites in the country, visitors have an array of sites, locations and resorts as the one-stop Tourism destinations in the country.
One of such sites is The Ikogosi Warm Springs and Resorts located in Ekiti State, South West Nigeria. For a potential tourist travelling from Lagos, it takes about four and a half hours to get to Ekiti State by Road.
On getting into the State Capital, popular landmarks tourists would see on the way include the lush greens, Adekunle Fajuyi Memorial Park and a number of hotels such as KSSD Hotel which spice up anyone's visit to the State.
From there, a tourist's visit to Ikogosi Warm Springs and Resorts takes about 35 minutes. They glide through Oye-Ekiti,Iyin-Ekiti, Aramoko, Crown Polytechnic,Ilawe, Igabara-Odo,Erijiyan Road, food spots where they can savour delicious pounded yam, Antelope meat and un-diluted palm-wine before their arrival at Ikogosi.
No doubt, you will be captivated by the serenity of the place. A walk through the lush lawns of Ikogosi clearly defines nature at its best. This historic site has been abandoned for a while but a recent visit to the spring shows that a lot of transformation is going on there.
According to Mr. Sesan Ibidiran, a Quantity Surveyor and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Tourism in Ekiti State, the work going on at the site started last year. 'We started the work here precisely in July last year and what we are doing is to rehabilitate and re-fit this area. Some structures are existing so we only need to re-furbish. These areas are divided into four viz-a-viz the Villa which are the structures around the spring area. We also have another one called the Western Chalet. Overlooking the swimming pool, you will see another two blocks'.
Ibidiran says these accommodations are being prepared for eventual tourists. There are a lot of people who come here and don't want to leave so soon but unfortunately, there is no where for them to sleep. This is why we are putting all these structures that were dilapidated back into shape. We are on ground to make sure that the workers meet with the timing. The first phase is expected to be commissioned m October. This project is in phases and we have two phases for development now'.
The first phase of rehabilitation will gulp 1.25billion naira and at the end of the day, the resort will have about 100 accommodations in different categories. This refurbishment in Ikogosi is being handled by The Mantis Collection, a South African based Tourism Development Company.
Speaking to The Guild of Tourism Journalists, The General Manager, Mr. John Dixon explains. 'When it comes to tourism development, location is very important. This particular spot; The Ikogosi Warm Springs is in Ekiti State, Nigeria and it is in a wonderful location. The site, culture and tremendous history of the Spring are all part of the things that people should come and experience here. I have been involved in the safari and tourism sector for over forty years developing quality and premium tourism for years in South Africa. The Mantis Group has a wide reach with unique hotels and resorts world wide'.
Dixon adds that for the latter phases of the projects, there are plans of incorporating a natural zoo in the resort which would help in bringing back the history and heritage of Ikogosi Warm Springs.
Making one's way to the spring is a sight to behold. One the left side, the spring gushes out cold water while the right side gives way to warm water, all in one location. There is a confluence or meeting point where they run into each other. A certain tourist describes this as awesome. 'This place has really been endowed by God. To have warm and cold water meeting at a point is really amazing'
Another visitor from London says, 'I am glad that I came to Ikogosi with my family. The water is so clear and I can't help but take a sip from this natural spring'.
For the Ekiti State Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi, what is on ground at the spring and resort is just a tip of the iceberg. 'You haven't seen anything yet as far as Ikogosi is concerned. This is just the first phase of a three phase initiative which will include a golf course and a whole range of tourist sites. Luckily, I have the benefit of exposure, education and experience. I have been to Sri-Lanka and Australia and I know what it's like to have an environment that is endowed, alluring and that which speaks to the people'.
The Governor and his team were looking for people to help make Ikogosi sustainable in the long run, hence the reason for settling on Mantis. He speaks further 'We were looking for a company that understands tourism at the local level. Sheraton and Protea do well but don't have the expertise. I went to three of Mantis resorts in South Africa; Port-Elizberth, Pumalanga and Pretoria. Mantis understands how to protect nature and they have carried out research on this place that I didn't know myself so they have earmarked 10,000hectares for a Games Reserve'.
The Governor added that Mantis Collection will run the Resort for now.' What they have done is to re-design the rooms to meet international standards so there will be three star, five star sections and normal hostels. There would be 100 rooms including the villa which would conveniently service natural tourism. By the end of the second phase, there would be a golf course and play turf where people can begin to have another view.
The interesting thing is that we are placed at an advantage because we are in the middle of Lagos and Abuja. You know External Tourism cherishes quick hubs. Consequently, we cannot run away from providing a Heliport in Ikogosi and an Air strip in Ado-Ekiti. We also intend to provide Cable cars that will link places like Iporo-Loro to the spring. No doubt, Ikogosi is