image: peoplesculturemagazine.com

Yankari National Park is a large wildlife park located in the south-central part of Bauchi State, in North-eastern Nigeria. It covers an area of about 2,244 square kilometres (866 sq mi) and is home to several natural warm water springs, as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Its location in the heartland of the West African Savannah makes it a unique way for tourists and holidaymakers to watch wildlife in its natural habitat.

Yankari was originally created as a game reserve in 1956, but later designated as Nigeria’s biggest national park in 1991.

It is the most popular destination for tourists in Nigeria and, as such, plays a crucial role in the development and promotion of tourism and ecotourism in Nigeria. It is also one of the most popular eco-destinations in West Africa.

Evidence of early human settlements in the area are:

Dukkey Wells – 139 wells with interconnecting shafts representing an elaborate water storage system

Marshall Caves – 59 dwelling caves dug into sandstone escarpments, which were discovered by P.J. Marshall in 1980. There are rock paintings and engravings in zig-zag form and in straight lines;

Tunga Dutse – a rock with more elaborate engravings than the Marshall caves. Legible writings cover an area on the sandstone rock embankment of about 4m in length in Dwall River. The writings are legible. However, their age and meanings have not been determined.

Iron Smelting – the shau shau iron smelting works has about 60 standing shaft furnaces, which are believed to be the largest historical industrial complex of its time in the West Africa Sub-region.

Geographical features include:

Kalban Hill – meaning “flat place” a flat topped hill gives tourists a complete view of the park.

Kariyo Hill – located near the Marshal caves is a beautiful picnic ground; Paliyaram Hill – a popular camp for poachers, located 10 km from Wikk.

The Tonlong Gorge – a scenic gorge with associated hills, buttes and escarpments located in the west of the park

Yankari has rich wildlife resources. The park is an important refuge for over 50 species of mammal including African bush elephant, olive baboon, patas monkey, Tantalus monkey, roan antelope, western hartebeest, West African lion, African buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck and hippopotamus.

The Sudan cheetah may have been extirpated from the area. It also has a large and diverse freshwater ecosystem around its freshwater springs and the Raji River.

There are also over 350 species of bird found in the park. Of these, 130 are resident, 50 are Palaearctic migrants and the rest are intra-African migrants that move locally within Nigeria.

These birds include the saddle-billed stork, white-rumped vulture, guinea fowl, grey hornbill, and the cattle egret.

Yankari is recognized as having one of the largest populations of elephants in West Africa, estimated at up to 800 in 2015.

The growth of the elephant population has become a problem for surrounding villages at times as the animals enter local farms during the rainy season. The elephants have also stripped the park of many of its baobab trees.

THE FOUR WARM SPRINGS are located around a camp called The Wikki Camp. The camp is named after the most well known of these, the Wikki Spring, from the local Duguri language with “Wikki” meaning “where are you?”

The Wikki Warm Spring is the largest spring and is about 13.0 metres wide and 1.9 metres deep. It daily flows 21,000,000 litres of clear, spring water into the Gaji river.

The spring has a constant temperature of 31.1 °C through the year during both day and night and has been developed for recreation.

The other warm water springs are Dimmil, Gwan, and Nawulgo springs. A fifth spring, Tungan Naliki, is the only cool spring in the park.

The Dimmil Warm Spring got its name from the people who previously settled around the spring.

The spring has a stable temperature of 35°C with characteristics of mild skin burn due to its sulphur content.

It boasts of crystal clear water suitable for domestic use and the ancient community that settled around it considered Dimmil warm spring for spiritual bath that cures all skin ailments.

Dimmil spring is about 2metres deep, availing tourists the space to swim and ease the day’s stress off. It is a perfect site for a refreshing getaway.

The “Wikki Camp” is the tourist centre of the park. Located about 42 kilometres from the main entrance gate, the camp is built beside, and named after, the Wikki warm spring, which is open for swimming 24 hours a day.

There are 110 furnished chalets with varying size and quality, ranging from the ‘’presidential’’ suites to the youth hostel, all of which are being upgraded in phases.

The camp also provides a restaurant, bar and conference centre. Daily safari trips depart at least twice from the camp.

The museum in the camp is well stocked with a variety of skins, tusks, bones and fully mounted stuffed game from the park. It is educational while also acting as a conservation centre, displaying hunting gear and traps taken from poachers.

Yankari National Park hosted about 20,000 tourists from over 100 countries in 2000. This makes it the most popular tourist destination in Nigeria and if properly managed, it could become a significant part in the development and promotion of tourism throughout Nigeria.

It is one of a few remaining areas left in West Africa where wild animals are protected in their natural habitat and it has been proven to be economically beneficial.

Park visitors are permitted to use their own vehicles on the condition that they take a guide; alternatively, the park runs safaris twice daily.

The safaris last for two hours and depart at 7:30 am and 3:30 pm. We recommend visiting between December and April for the best animal spotting.

This is during the dry season when the animals gather around the Gaji River. For those who want to extend their stay, accommodations are also available in the park.

Although the facility is open for tourist activities, there are laws guiding every visitor as to how to use the warm springs. Some of which includes not washing or bathing with soap in the water, swimming with trousers or cloths on is prohibited, jumping into the spring from any height or using unlicensed camera in the environment. With all these rules applied, an awesome adventure-laden experience awaits you!

Excerpts: Wikipedia.com and mydestination.com

Author: Taofeek Ayeyemi