Old Oyo National Park is one of the most popular tourist attraction centres in Nigeria, named after Old Oyo town called Oyo-ile – the political capital of the Oyo Empire between the 16th and 18th centuries. It has an outstanding 2,512 km² (970 sq mi) of land, most of which fall in Oyo state some extend to some part of Kwara State. Old Oyo National Park is the most unique of all the national parks in the country because it is the only one with the dual prospects of archaeological, cultural and historical park.
The park takes its name from Oyo-lle (Old Oyo), the ancient political capital of the Oyo Empire of the Yoruba people, and contains the ruins of this city. The national park originated in two earlier native administrative forest reserves, Upper Ogun established in 1936 and Oyo-lle established in 1941. These were converted to game reserves in 1952, then combined and upgraded to the present status of a national park.
The topography of the whole area covered by the park has a beautiful uniqueness as most of the park lies in plain lowland between 330 and 508 meters above sea level and continues with a gentle slope along the Ogun River valleys. Outcrops of granite characterize the North Eastern Zone of the park, especially at Oyo-lle. The central part of the park has isolated hills and ridges of numerous rock outcrops. The extreme northern part on its own has caves as well as rock shelters dominating the axis.
The drainage system is also interesting as the park is well drained by rivers Ogun, Owu, Owe and their tributaries in the central and southern parts, while river Tessi drains the north-east part of the park. For eco-tourism development the inventory list with cognizance to the topography of the Park, inevitable include the rock out-crops (for mountaineering), Ikere Gorge Dam/River Ogun (for water recreation) and the archaeological endowments of Oyo-Ile (for Cultural/Historical).
Flora and fauna
The Old Oyo National Park used to be a habitat for the endangered West African wild dog (Lycaon pictus manguensis). Sadly, none now exist in the park due to hunting pressure and the expanding human population in the region. There are over 33 species of mammals in the park, including lions, leopards, hartebeests, hyenas, baboons, monkeys, gorillas, hogs, antelopes and porcupines; and over 370 species of birds, including red eyed doves, pigeons, African grey parrots, Senegalese parrots, Guinea fowls and eagles.
Best time to visit Old Oyo National Park
It is preferable to visit Old Oyo Park during the dry season between late October and early April. This is when the vegetation dries and many animals are drawn to the watering holes, providing amazing wildlife spotting opportunities. It is definitely you should add to your list.
What to bring
If you have plans of visiting the park, here is a list of thing you can bring along:
- Climbing shoes
- A camera
There are two ways to get into Oyo state by air and by bus. You can go by air by taking a direct flight from Lagos Airport to Ilorin Airport which takes 45 min, you will need to use a connecting vehicle usually a shared taxi to get to Old Oyo National Park.
In addition, several bus companies like God Is Good Motors (GIGM), ABC Transport, Ifesinachi and The Young Shall Grow offer daily services from almost all major cities around the country to Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo state, after which a taxi has to be boarded to the park which is about 1 hr 50 min journey by road from Ibadan. While buses usually are quite comfortable, journey times are very long.
Fees and permits
For access and booking, would-be guests can visit the park’s administrative headquarters at Oyo-Isokun along the Oyo-Iseyin road.
The best way to get around Old Oyo National Park is on foot. With 158 miles of historic trails made for hiking, Old Oyo National Park is the perfect place to ditch the car and get outdoors. Guided tours and safari vehicles are also available.
Old Oyo Park is a site for tourist attractions and has a lot of beautiful and nature-filled places you can see while in Oyo town. Here is a list of fun things you can do when planning a trip to the Old Oyo National Park:
- Explore the northern end of the park and you will be thrilled by the various attractions of historic and archaeological value such as the relics of the old city walls of Oyo Ile, the great Agbaku Cave which has evidence of Stone Age, the “Kosomonu” hill, the old Akesan Market, Alaafin’s Palaces and crucibles of pottery used centuries ago.
- Lover of birds? Then you can check out the bird Watcher’s haven which has over 30 bird species.
- Various wildlife species occupy the southern area of the Park you will sight Nile crocodiles, rock pythons, lions, antelopes, buffalos, land tortoises, monkeys, baboons, leopards, western hartebeests, hyenas and duikers, amongst other animals.
- On Ikere Gorge Lake you could fish or just enjoy a boat cruise
- There is a wildlife museum at Akoto base camp.
- Have fun with mountaineering activities in the central part of the park.
- The landscape is great and the space is pretty organized the large yard is a source of attraction for tourists. The balance in flora and fauna is breath-taking including buffaloes, bushbuck and a variety of birds.
The park is easily accessible from southwestern and northwestern Nigeria.
However, the experience is more spectacular at Sepeteri, culture-minded visitors can trail the archaeological site of Oyo-lle for a cultural safari. Some of the cultural sites include the royal tomb at Oghobo, Asabari shrine at Shaki, Ibuya pool, and Yemeso hills.
Other major highlights are the 22 historical sites abandoned at Oyo-Ile such as the old Alaafin Palace (Afin), Eksan Market Square, Agbaku Cave, the Songo Shrine, the Koso, the defence wall around the Empire, which helped ward off the invading Nupe warriors, the Baraa Tomb where late Alaafin of that era was buried, the Meijiro grounding site, a rock that serves as a databank for recording significant events and developments during that period.
One mystery at the park is Ogun Jokoro, an ancient armoury used by the Old Oyo people many centuries ago. It is located at Oyo-Ile Range of the Park and it remains one of the footprints of the ancient Oyo people that to date adorn the first capital city of the famous Oyo Empire.
The mysterious iron is believed to be one of Alaafin Sango’s sources of spiritual power during his reign. Locals say it cannot be lifted by a man, not even by a group of men. Several groups of visitors have attempted lifting it off the ground but all failed, according to them.
Yet, the mysterious object changes its position within about a 100-m radius every next time it is sited at the outskirts of the park, around Oyo-Ile Range. It has been in this location for many centuries before it was discovered by the park researchers.
For a time-out with the locals, tourists on a visit to the park are also encouraged to experience the communal living at the park’s host and close communities including; Saki, Iseyin, Igboho, Sepeteri, Tede, and Igbeti which have their own commercial and cultural attractions for tourism.
Unless you are in a supermarket or restaurant/bar with fixed prices, you will be expected to negotiate the price you pay for an item down to the lowest the vendor would sell. Expect any high-end clothing and accessories brand names (Gucci, Versace, Louis Vuitton, etc.) in these informal markets to be fake, and should you wish to purchase them aim for a very low price. Shopping at the local market is usually done with cash as they don't have POS machine for cashless transactions, Supermarkets, restaurant/bar accepts cashless transaction such as POS and Money Transfer. You can try the following local markets;
- Awe Central Market. A Small market where you can purchase food condiments. It is located at Awe Road, Oyo
- Market Akesan. This is the major market in Oyo town and it opens every day. It is located at Akesan Market, Shop Amulegboja Compound, Ilaka Road, Oyo
- Danzaria market. A local market where foodstuff is the major Product. It is located at Owode, Oyo.
More local markets can be found by asking the locals of each community For a more cosmopolitan experience you can shop at various supermarket and stores;
- 1 Ace Supermarket, Oyo, A1, Owode, Oyo. M-Sa 8AM-9PM, Su noon-9PM. A store where you can shop for varieties of products and groceries.
- 2 Asbun Supermarket, Owode, Oyo. M-Sa 8AM-9PM. A store where you can shop for varieties of products and groceries.
- 1 Ajiwunmi Food Canteen Owode, Aketan, Oyo, ☏ . 7AM-9PM. A yoruba restaurant that sells traditional foods ranging from fufu, pounded yam, garri, amala, goat meat, cow meat, egusi, begri, vegetable e.t.c.
- 2 Eyitayo Food Canteen, Oju-odo Iyana Awe, Oyo, ☏ . 8AM-9PM. Food canteen that offers variety of food randing from the traditional dishes to continental dishes.
- 3 Igbo Food Restaurant, Sejide St, Owode, Oyo (Sejide St, Owode, Oyo). 9AM-7PM. An Igbo restaurant that offers a variety of Igbo soups and other eastern foods
- 4 Whispering Palms Resort, Chief Ajeigbe Afonja Rd, Oyo, ☏ . 8AM-8PM, 6:30–10:30PM. A restaurant with good ambience, cool air and environment, they offer a variety of food options ranging from the traditional dishes to continental dishes.
- 1 Abba Hotel, Ago Amodu. Decent lodging hotel around the Park.
- 2 Seyex, Iseyin, ☏ . Pretty decent lodging with clean serene environment. There is a restaurant and Parking is paid.
- 3 Nest Hotel, University Rd, Ogbomosho. It is the closet hotel to the Park they offer free parking and Wi-Fi. Decent and clean rooms.Some rooms have kitchenettes, there is a bar and also room service.
- 4 Gold n Rock Hotel. A 2 star hotel with serene environment near the Park they offer free parking.
After the day’s tours, tourists are provided with suitable accommodation options at the Ibuja camp at River Ogun and the Akoto base camp and lodge in Sepeteri village near the wildlife museum.
On offer at the Akoto base camp are; Olympic size swimming pool, chalets of acceptable standards, and several recreation facilities amid fun activities such as sport fishing, boating, hiking, game viewing, and bird watching.
Both camps offer excellent overnight accommodation and dining amid bonfires.
At Old Oyo National Park you can enjoy camping at the park's camping ground.
Permits are not required for day hiking but they are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry.
Permits can be obtained at the park’s administrative headquarters at Oyo-Isokun along the Oyo-Iseyin road, and all permits can be reserved in advance through the park service. Those not reserved in advance are available to walk-ins and they operated on a first-come, first-served policy. Walk-in permits are only available the day before or the day of a trip and they can be issued up to one hour before the close of business each day (4PM).
The reservation office staff are available for in-person conversation and assist with planning your trip Monday-Friday 8AM-12:30PM (GMT). Reservations may not be made over the phone or by email.
The state government promised to ensure adequate security of lives and property in Oyo State. But beware of deals or businesses that sound too good to be true (especially e-mails soliciting your help), and do not openly flaunt your possessions, especially in public places.
While it is rare for a tourist to be a victim of a violent crime, it is still wise to stay safe and be alert, especially during late-night outings. Stick to crowded streets and make sure to go out in groups as against going out alone.
In addition, don't be scared when you are suddenly approached by someone begging you for money when touring the community, Oyo has its fair share of street beggars (both the old and young). If someone approaches Nigerians or tourists for money, you can decide if you want to slip a little change or not give anything at all, they are not entitled to your money, what most of them do is ignore the person or continue to walk at a brisk pace.
There are police officers who are corrupt and inefficient so you should stick to places and people you know and avoid going anywhere without a trusted guide if it is the first visit.
There is coverage of 2G/3G mobile networks in areas of the park and its surrounding, but coverage of 4G network is not so reliable. Signal strength doesn't use to be stable all the time, so you might occasionally experience network outages for all or some of the mobile phone service providers in some locations. All major mobile phone service providers are operational but with varying levels of reliability and usability. Different providers networks tend to be more stable and reliable in different locations at different times.
If you are planning a visit to the park, like many other places in Nigeria, you should probably consider having multiple SIM cards, preferably for all the mobile service providers, since you can't tell which will be more stable and reliable at a time in your location during your visit. And if you will risk not having any of them, you might be better off not risking the MTN network, because, from indications, it seems to perform well than the others, though its rates may be high and its offers and services might be stringent, you are less likely to be concerned of erratic voice and data connection compared to others.
Airtel is another service provider which is fairly satisfactory for all you might need to connect to the world, including rates and network stability. Of course, Glo (or Globacom) boasts of fast network speed for internet browsing activities, only that you might not be able to enjoy the privilege in some locations. And 9Mobile (formerly Etisalat) usually also performs well in internet browsing speed but with locational limitations as well, plus data rate is fairly higher.
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