The Yankari National Park is the premier game reserve in Nigeria. Yankari Park and Wikki Warm Springs are located around the Gagi River, approximately 1 1/2 hours by road, southeast of Bauchi Town. The beauty and size of The Yankari Game Reserve make it the most popular reserve in Nigeria. Set up in 1956 and opened to the public in 1962, the main game-viewing areas of the reserve are open all year round. Japanese, Western Europeans, Americans and Southeast Asian tourists visit this park in abundance. The reserve covers 2,058 sq. km. of savanna woodland and is well-stocked with elephants, baboons, waterbucks, bushbucks, oribi, crocodile, hippopotamus, roan antelope, buffalo and various types of monkeys. Lions are occasionally spotted as well, despite their natural camouflage. The best time to visit is between November and May, when tourists are likely to see more game since the dense vegetation has dried out and the animals congregate around the rivers.
The Wikki Warm Springs is one of the best features of the game reserves. Flood-lit at night, it is wonderful after a hot day's game-viewing to relax in the warm water. The spring gushes out from under a cliff, where the water is at least 6 ft. deep, with a bathing area that extends for 600 ft. to an open area. The park is inhabited by a variety of birds, including the huge saddle-billed stork, Goliath heron, bateleur eagle, vultures, kingfishers, bee-eaters and more. It is excellent for serious bird-watchers.
Other facilities include: Tennis courts, squash courts, a small museum in the reception area plus gas stations with convenience stores at Wikki Camp and Bauchi.
Reservations: It is advisable to make reservations during the holidays and weekends with Easter a particularly busy season. Reservations can be made at Durbar Hotel in Kaduna, Bauchi State House in Lagos and at the Zaranda Hotel in Bauchi. Or call Yankari Game Reserve at (069) 43-656.
Route: You can travel by road from Lagos to Abuja, where you make an overnight stop, then on to Jos and Bauchi, as it is a 2-day journey by car over well-maintained roads. You can also make it by air from Lagos to Abuja or Jos and connect to the Park by road.
Hotels: Basic accommodations are available in chalets or rondavels. Also available are suites, double rooms and family chalets that include small kitchens. There are many other National Parks besides Yankari, as illustrated on the map. Notable ones include Mambilla, Gumti National Park, Cross River National Park, and Kainji Lake National Park.
The Mambilla Plateau, in the southeast corner of Taraba State, shares a border with Cameroon. A high grassland plateau averaging about 1800 meters, it is scenic, cool and a pleasant change from the heat and humidity of Lagos. Because the roads are still under construction, a sport utility vehicle or jeep is recommended and visitors should pack essentials, camping equipment and food. As an option, there are a few hotels on the plateau.
The Park provides an attractive setting, well worth a visit. Mambilla has cattle ranches, tea plantations and rolling, grassy hills. It is different from the rest of Nigeria with regard to flora and fauna and is home to some rare species of birds and animals, especially at the Gashaka-Gumti National Park.
Route: There is a major road to Mambilla from Lagos, Benin City, Onitsha, Enugu, Otukpo, Yandev, Katsina Ala, Wukari, Mutum Biyu, Bali, Serti and Gembu. You can also fly into Yola Airport, then drive a few miles south to Mambilla.
Gashaka-Gumti National Park
This is a vast land of spectacular wilderness (6,000 sq. kin) in the southeast corner of Taraba State, adjoining the Mambilla Plateau. Mostly mountainous, from 457 to 2407 meters, it contains Nigeria's highest mountain, Chapal Waddi (2409 m). It is the most ecologically diverse conservation area in the country and contains swaths of guinea savanna, gallery forest, moist forest, mountain forest and grassland. Many rivers flow through the park, including the Taraba, a major tributary of the River Benue. A wide variety of animal life can be found, including buffalo, roan antelope, chimpanzee, colobus monkey, hippopotamus, hyena, giant forest hog, lion and leopard. The park is a birdwatcher's paradise with a wide variety of species, and there is excellent fishing in the River Kam. The reserve headquarters is in the Forest Rest Houses at Serti, on the main road between Bali and Mambilla Plateau. These rest houses provide self-catering accommodation at a small fee. The entrance to the park is about 15 km south of Serti. In the dry season, it is possible to drive to the former headquarters at Gashaka village, some 30 km from the entrance gate, where more self-catering accommodation is available. The park is best explored on foot and it is possible to hire game guards; guides and porters are available at Serti or in Gashaka village.
Cross River National Park
The Cross River National Park was created from two existing forest reserves of Bashi-Okwango and Oban Forest Reserves. It is famous for its unique rain forest vegetation which, according to conservation experts, is some of the richest in Africa. This park contains the last remaining rain forest in Nigeria, which is being preserved with the help of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation. It has a herd of forest elephants, the white-faced monkey (indigenous to Nigeria only), buffalo, leopards and lowland gorillas, besides over a thousand other animal species. The park has a tropical climate characterized by a rainy season between April and October and a dry season between November and April. The moist green vegetation cover makes the forest an excellent place to see birds and butterflies.
The Kainji National Park
This Park, in Kwara State, was established in 1979 and incorporates the Borgu Game Reserve and Zugurma Game Reserve to the southeast in Niger State. The Bourgu sector of the park alone covers an area of about of 3,929 sq. km. of savanna woodland, and Zugurma cover an area of about 1,370 sq. km.The Kainji National Park also contains the Kainji Dam and a major hydro-power station. It's an artificial lake which covers the town of Old Bussa. Here Mungo Park, the explorer, was said to have come to grief in 1805 when his canoe capsized on the bumpy falls of River Niger. Now the lake hides the scene of the accident. The lake is 136 km long and tours of the dam are available on request from the Nigeria Electric Power Authority (Now, Power Holding Company of Nigeria). Boat trips on the lake can be arranged by the Borgu Game Reserve office at Wawa. To reduce the expense, it is better for several visitors to share the cost. Fishing is allowed on the lake.
The Borgu Sector of Lake Kainji National Park was set up as a Federal Game Reserve and is one of the largest in West Africa. The area was uninhabited and the idea for the park was conceived in 1960. It is in the northern guinea vegetation zone which is characterized by tall grasses and savanna woodland. The park retains a robust animal population including antelope, lion, hippopotamus, buffalo, roan antelope, jackal, baboon, monkey and crocodile. The park is usually open from December to June, with the best time to visit being the end of the dry season, when the grass has dried out and the animals move closer to the water. Tourists should expect Harmattan (dry wind) from December to mid-February. The best times for game viewing are in the early morning or evening, and trips can be arranged from 6:00 am, either in park vehicles or visitor's own vehicle. Bird life is abundant, especially near the river. Visitors should call the Wawa Game Warden's office (11 miles from New Bussa) for a briefing and to also reserve a game guide. The entrance to the reserve is approximately 19 miles from Wawa along a laterite road, and the oil river camp is a further 32 miles from the entrance. Many Nigerians and foreigners make day trips to Kainji or pass by it on their way to other parts of the country. Despite the provisions at Kainji and New Bussa, hotel accommodation is insufficient to encourage many people to stay for long periods.