Nigeria is not a safari destination. Oh yes it is.
It’s not a Big 5 safari destination, the likes of which you find in southern Africa but Nigeria has eight protected wilderness areas renowned for their outstanding biodiversity and unusual collection of rare and endangered species. They’re teeming with animals and birds and calling out for a visit.
Gashaka-Gumti National Park
Gashaka-Gumti National Park is the largest protected Park in Nigeria, covering an area of some 6 400 square kilometres. It’s located on the country’s border with Cameroon and consists of unspoilt montane forests, lowland rain forests, grasslands and two kinds of savanna.
Nigeria’s flagship national park is home to endangered species such as the colobus monkeys, cheetah, wild dogs and chimpanzees. It’s also labeled one of Africa’s Important Bird Area, with more than 500 recorded species including the recent significant find of the red-faced lovebird.
Yankari National Park
Yankari National Park is located in north-eastern Nigeria and is one of the most popular ecotourism destinations in West Africa. Covering an area of about 2 244 square kilometres, the small but highly diverse national park boasts a wide variety of fauna and flora.
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The vital Gaji River and several natural water springs supports large populations of elephants and buffalo as well as endangered species such as the West African lion, patas and tantalus monkey, olive baboon and roan antelope. There are over 350 recorded bird species in Yankari.
Kainji National Park
Kainji National Park is located across Niger State and Kwara State and covers an area of some 2 000 square kilometres. It comprises three distinct areas; part of the Kainji Lake, Borgu Game Reserve and Zugurma Game Reserve.
The national park is a relatively well-developed ecotourism destination with the main attraction being boat cruises on the Kainji Lake. It’s home to the few remaining lions in Nigeria as well as endangered species such as leopard and aardvark.
Chad Basin National Park
Chad Basin National Park is located in north-eastern Nigeria in the Chad Basin. It covers an area of about 2 258 square kilometres and is made up of the Chingurmi-Duguma Game Reserve, Gorgoram and Zurgun Baneri Forest Reserves and the Bulature Oasis.
Competing with farmers, grazers and fishermen for land and water reserves, the national park is devoid of significant wildlife. It’s main drawcard is an important wetland reserve and a waterfowl sanctuary.
Chad Basin National Park is not well-established as an ecotourism destination and attracts very low tourist numbers, despite significant investment in tourist facilities.
Cross River National Park
Cross River National Park is located in Cross River State at the southern tip of Nigeria and covers an area of about 4 000 square kilometre. It consists of moist tropical rainforests and dense mangrove swamps. A striking feature is a dense forest of emergent trees that reach heights of 40 to 50 metres.
The national park has one of the oldest rainforests in Africa and has been identified as a biodiversity hot spot. There are 16 primate species in Cross River National Park, including rare species such as the Cross River gorillas and almost-extinct gray-cheeked mangabey.
Kamuku National Park
Kamuku National Park is located in west Nigeria in Kaduna State and covers an area of about 1 120 square kilometres. The national park is characterised by flat terrain that slopes gradually upwards to the Birnin Gwari Ridge. It includes striking landmarks such as the Dogon Ruwa Waterfalls, the Goron Dutse and the Tsaunin Rema.
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The preserved stretch of Sudan-Guinea savanna vegetation is fed by the Mariga River and is home to healthy populations of elephants, green monkeys and several rare duiker species. It’s the closest national park to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
Okomu National Park
Okomu National Park is a preserved forest block that lies north west of Benin City. Covering an area of just over 1 000 square kilometers, it represents a small fragment of the rich rainforest that once covered the region.
The diverse forest ecosystem supports a diverse array of fauna and flora, including the highly endangered forest elephants and buffalo, chimpanzee, white-throated guenon (monkey), tree pangolin and Thomas’s galago.
Okomu has 150 recorded bird species, including many rare species such as the Cassin’s hawk-eagle, grey-throated rail and lyre-tailed honeyguide.
Old Oyo National Park
Old Oyo National Park is located in southwest Nigeria and covers an area of about 2 500 square kilometres. In addition to being a protected wilderness area, it’s also a significant cultural landmark. Old Oyo was the ancient capital of the Ypruba Empire and there are a number of important sites (now ruins) in the area such as the royal tombs, a blacksmith centre and several religious shines.
The Park is home to endangered species such as the African wild dog, western kob, roan antelope, western hartebeest, Grimm’s duiker, oribi, crested porcupine, patas and tantalus monkey and the red river hog. It has over 100 recorded bird species, including the rare Senegal parrot and fire finch, Crossley’s thrush and yellow-mantled whydah.
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