Ascending the hills of Akure and looking south, one is confronted by stupefying vistas of the surrounding inselberg landscape bedecked with an enigmatic skyline of jagged peaks held in place by gigantic mountains smeared in glossy sheens of grey and silver- a cluster of intriguing inselbergs, towering high into the skies at the distant horizon. They are none but the magnificent Idanre Hills.
Idanre is an ancient town located amidst an intricate cluster of inselbergs (hills with steep sides and rounded tops) and located south of Akure, Ondo State capital. Idanre Hills, “The city of inselbergs” sprawls across a land area of about 900km2 and is well known for its repertoire of picturesque landscapes and geo-tourist attractions, as well as the famous Orosun festival- one of the major factors for its consideration for upgrading to the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to history, Idanre people used to live high up on the hills, in an area which is now known as Old Oke-Idanre, a major attraction at Idanre Hills Tourist Center. This area consists of old and dilapidated mud buildings roofed in rust-brown iron sheets, set on well laid-out streets. Attesting to the architectural taste of the old Idanre people, the old magistrate court, the first primary school, the Oba’s palace and the market square hold their original place and location at Odeja Village, Old Oke-Idanre. It was recorded that the old Idanre people descended the hills and resettled at the present foothill location of Idanre town. It has also been noted that every street in the new Idanre town has a replica at the Old-Oke Idanre and every family has been allowed to retain ownership of their family houses at the Old enclave. The people are known to be very proud of their heritage in culture and history and these have never ceased to draw tourists of all ramifications to the hilltop resort.
Orosun festival is held annually, every May, in Idanre. It is a week-long activity during which every family in the enclave including the traditional Oba ascends the hills and lives in their family houses at the Old-Oke Idanre. Indigenes of the town travel down home from far and near to partake of the festival which is packed full of interesting activities which include cultural dances at the Old Oke Idanre, Bat-hunting expeditions to the largest and most dread and revered caves on the hills- Owa and Ojomu caves as well as spiritual cleansing of the ancient town and sacrificial offerings to Orosun- the god of the highest peak on the hills (Orosun peak).
Idanre hills hold the highest elevation in SW Nigeria- the Orosun peak which attains a height of about 3018 metres above sea level and is often seen towering into the sky with an intimidation shroud of gently floating clouds embracing it. Orosun peak is regarded as sacred and it is worshipped by the people of Idanre.
Numerous landmarks abound on the hills. The “Ark of Noah“- an ancient wooden structure made in form of a ship and placed on a relatively flat hilltop. It is often regarded by the ancient people of Idanre as the biblical Ark of Noah; and although Biblical accounts that the ark rested on the Ararat Mountains (Turkey), but this never seem to shake the beliefs of the indigenes as they readily swear by the god of iron (ogun) when a visitor expresses doubt at their claims.
“The Wonderful Mat” is another interesting attraction at the hill tops. It consists of a unique set of cross-etchings on a rock face. Another one is “The Unreadable Letters of the Flood”, which is indigenously known as “Adìye kòwé, Òyìmbó kàátì” inscription which means ‘a white man cannot decipher a chicken’s writing’. It is composed of lines and strokes made on a steep rock at Old Oke-Idanre. The characters are there for people to behold, but no one has come up with convincing interpretations of these letters. In the words of one of the Kabiyesis, he said that through oral history handed down by his great grandfather, the writings can be interpreted thus “We shall be here for a while”; it is believed that the letters are older than Hebrew language, but still waiting to see whoever comes up with any proof.
Of high regard among the most tourist-demanded sites on the hills is the Agboogun foot print, which is described a human foot print naturally carved on a rock surface. The foot print is said to fit the size of any ones feet except that of people with witchcraft spirits. This belief has been used by the indigenes to detect “witches” in the Idanre community.
Also considered to be of great significance is the massive Ojimoba Inselberg. It is considered by the people to have spiritual powers capable of protecting the people in the time of war.
The pristine Arun River exudes from a crevice somewhere far away in the hills and winds its way down the steep and rugged slopes of the hills and its volume bulging forming picturesque rapids as various springs link up to it along its course. It is regard as of high importance in the area as it is one of the very few perennial water channels on the mountains.
Among the countless caves found on the hills, Owa, Ojomu, Omi-Iwo and Olofin caves are about the most outstanding. Ensconced in an extremely remote area on the hills is the mystifying Owa Cave. It is often said by the people that the cave could accommodate a thousand people. This is especially unbelievable to a visiting tourist as caves of such large extents are rarely formed in granites. Only a visit had cleared such doubts as one is unavoidably held in awe of the dexterous work of nature in crafting the amphitheatre form of the cave. On entering the cave, the visitor is first greeted by the ecstatic calls of its nocturnal tenants as the gloomy recesses swallows him in. With the help of torch lights, the inner features of the cave unfold to reveal guano-coated rock boulders and a crystal-clear spring exuding from the centre of the cave. The cave also has an exit point at its distant end.
Olofin cave is another awe-inspiring cave situated at an highly inaccessible location on the hills and as a result it is rarely visited by tourists. It is said to be the burial site of Olofin, Oduduwa’s son, who was the first Oba of Old Oke-Idanre. It was also said that special spiritual rites have to be performed for the cave to be opened up for tourist visits.
Omi-Iho cave is a picturesque but smaller cave located at the base of a massive outcrop within the present foothill Idanre Town. It has a spring emanating from within it which is said to possess therapeutic powers. People travel down to Idanre to obtain water from this spring for medical purposes. The villagers reiterated that the water can also be used for healing purposes if taken at dawn (just before 6am).
The eye-catching Aghagha inselberg is another site worth seeing on the hills.
Ascending the steep slopes of the hills to Old Oke-Idanre has been made easier for visiting tourists by the 750 great steps installed by the government.
As much as the rainy season is not the best time to go visiting the hills as the route to most of the attractions becomes highly inaccessible, it might also be the appropriate time for waterfall-lovers to go exploring the hills as the hilltop waterfall constitutes an exciting attraction at Old Oke-Idanre.
Nevertheless, the tourist center is not in a good shape presently as the hilltop tourist chalets are dilapidated and facilities such as paved paths and signs leading to the attractions on the hills, detailed maps, hotels, wildlife reserve etc. are lacking at the hill tourist centre. The construction of a world-class golf resort was started off at a Alade-Idanre, a location just about 2 kilometers from the hills and from which views of the hilly landscape would have been a great advantage; nevertheless, political instability hindered the success of the project as nothing had been heard of it again since then. If the government will do something reasonable about this wonderful and promising haven of natural wonder, the economy of the state and the country at large will definitely receive a significant boost and the external image of the country will be made better.
Directions to Idanre:
Akure » Idanre
Lagos » Ibadan » Ilesha » Akure » Idanre
Abuja » Lokoja » Okenne » Owo » Akure » Idanre
This article was written by folarin
Founder of Naijatreks, Nigerian-born Folarin Kolawole’s photography and travel writing depict a passionate romance with nature’s endowments. He grew up in the small town of Akure, Ondo State. He is a travel writer, geologist, researcher and tourism activist. When not at work, he writes geo-scientific research papers and travels the length and breadth of Nigeria, exploring, taking photos, making videos and writing about her numerous hidden tourist potentials.