Two of the primary functions of the National Park Service as contain in section seven (7) of Decree (now Act) 46 of 1999 is to preserve, enhance, protect and manage the vegetation and wild animals in the Parks. It is also the function of the National Park Service to encourage the general public to visit the National Parks and the study of nature afforded in the National Parks thereby popularizing them as tourist attractions. Old Oyo National Park has great potentials for wilderness experience, cultural/historical, water recreation, bird watching, educational, research, mountaineering etc. However, Eco-tourism is growing gradually in Old Oyo National Park in line with the tourist facilities on ground.
Complimentary tourists’ attractions in Oyo and Southwest zone include the followings:
- The Alaafin Palace – Oyo, Oyo State.
- Calabash Carving – Oyo, Oyo State.
- Cloth Weaving – Iseyin, Oyo State.
- Asabari Hill / Shrine – Saki, Oyo State.
- The Antete shrine at Ikoyi-Ile, Oyo State (where there is pot containing swarm of honeybees which used to fight for the people of Ikoyi-Ile by stinging enemies to death).
- River Ogun, Oyo State (where the goddess of Ogun the wife of Okere is believed to live).
- Ibuya Pools in the Park (where the goddess of Ibuya is believed to inhabit).
- Yemoso Hill in the Park (with several Old settlements at its base and harbours a lion’s den)
- Ibuya natural pools and Ikere Gorge Dam in the Park provide ample opportunities for leisure seekers.
- Ageless Tortoise / Ajagun tree – Ogbomoso, Oyo State.
- Ado-Awaye Hills and Suspended Lake – Ado-Awaye, Oyo State.
- Olumo Rock – Abeokuta, Ogun State.
- Osun Osogbo festival – Osogbo, Osun State.
- National Museum of Antiquities – Owo, Ondo State.
- Ikogosi Warm Spring – Ikogosi, Ekiti State.
- Esie Museum – Esie, Kwara State.
The story had it that Ogun was a woman and wife of the Okere of Saki. The Okere of Saki was a powerful ruler. He had one spiritual dress that he used to use for his protection, strength and or defence during the war/attack. This dress must not be beatened by rain or touched by a woman. This, he warned his wives seriously not in any day take or touch the dress. There was this fateful day, the Okere went to farm and he spread the dress outside to be sun dried. There was cloud forming and rain was threatening to fall. Ogun the wife was worried and did not know what to do because she did not want her husband to lose his spiritual powers. She summoned courage to look for a stick which she used to pick the dress from outside and kept it in the house.
The Okere in the farm was also very sensitive to the rain that was threatening to fall. He left everything he was doing in the farm and rushed home. When he got home, he found out that the dress had been removed from where he spread it. He found out that Ogun the wife had taken it in. He was terribly annoyed with the wife without allowing her to explain. The wife (Ogun) had abnormal breasts which she had warned her husband (Okere) not to abuse her with, no matter the degree of his annoyance to her. That day, he insulted her with it.
Ogun the wife was equally powerful. She had a pot containing herbs which she used for her protection. She too got annoyed with her husband (Okere). She carried her pot of power and ran away to the bush. She was pursued by Okere and when he got hold of her, they both struggled together. During the process the pot fell and broke at a point called Oyo – Igboho. The content in the pot flowed out and is believed to become what is called River Ogun today.
River Ogun (where the goddess of Ogun the wife of Okere is believed to inhabit) remains the source of River Ogun at Oyo-Igboho. Right from that day, the Okere of Saki must not see the river face to face. Hence, he must cover his face with veil, if he has cause to cross or pass through the river.
The River flows through the Park and drains into the Atlantic Ocean. The river breaks into pools during the dry season to form what is called Ibuya Pools in the Park. The Pools is believed to have healing power on Fridays, if when a sick person takes its bath in it and is healed.
Sango and Other Historical Sites:
The abundance of cultural features both within and outside the Park makes it a combination of an ecological and cultural/historical Park. The site of Oyo-ile, now in ruins, located in the northeast corner of the park was the capital and hub of the ancient Oyo Empire of the Yoruba race. This empire was one of the first states to emerge in the forest and coastal region of West Africa and was also the most culturally advanced. It reached its Zenith between the 17th and 18th centuries.
Several ancient histo-political sites both inside and outside the Park are associated with Oyo-ile. Among these are Igboho, Ipapo-ile and Koso. At a point in time these sites served as the capital of the empire. Alaafin Sango is believed to have been the most powerful ruler who recaptured the lost portion of Old Oyo Empire. He is still worship today as the god of thunder because he had the power of thunder with which he defeated the enemies of Oyo Empires. He is also believed to have committed suicide at Koso when he was betrayed. Other cultural sites include: The Royal cemeteries at Igboho and Bara, the Asabari Shrine at Shaki, the python cave, Blacksmithing centre, Mejiro Grinding Industrial site, the ruins of the Palace, the ruins of Akesan Market, Koso rock, Agbaku rockshelter, Mejiro rockshelter, Mounds (house ruins) Mejiro cave, the ruins of the Town Hall, Esu shrine, Ogun shrine, Idi Ara cave, etc.
Agbaku Rock shelter:
Agbaku Rock shelter is located about 1km south of the outer wall of Old Oyo with co-ordinates N8o 56’ 768” and E4o 18’ 088”; its elevation is between 354m and 370m. It is made up of three adjourning complexes. The rock is under granite rock. The name Agbaku has historical significances during one of the war against Old Oyo Empire; the enemies fought and destroyed themselves. Thus, in Yoruba language ‘Agbaku’ means one who died instead of another.
Python cave is about 200m northwest of Agbaku rock shelter. The cave had been known to be den of Python, on many occasions it has been found on the outcrop outside the cave.
Mejiro Shrine is located under Mejiro cave (co-ordinates N8o 97’ 229” & E4o 31’ 170”). Mejiro was a god that people worshipped in Oyo Empire. There are some cultural materials inside the shrine, grinding stones include: potsherds and two cemented platforms rose by Prof. Frank Willet who visited and worked on the site in 1960.
Oyo-Ile Abandoned Site:
These are quarters/compounds within Oyo-Ile abandoned site. The areas of houses are characterized by rectangular mounds of ruins marking the house boundary. These are many within the area. The visible standing wall in the area is 40cm high by 1.60cm long.
The reservoir (coordinates N8o 97’ 229” & E4o 31’ 170”) comprises a large pit dug into the ground with a diameter of about 100m and a depth of 15m. It is situated within the Palace area. It also contained a deep well of about two (2) metres (coordinates N8o 92’ 638” & E4o 29’ 171”).
Seeing believes. All these features are sources of water catchment areas and cannot have been dredged for more than 250 years; they must have been originally deeper than what we can see now.
The royal residence of a Yoruba Oba is known as Afin, a term which is broadly equivalent to the English palace. The term Afin refers exclusively to the official residence of an Oba or Alaafin in Yoruba race. The palace is the converging point of activities and interest of the chiefs who in term of peace meeting regularly are in the Afin to deliberate on the political, social, economic and religious affairs of the community, and are in time of war and general unrest, had to shield Alaafin from assault. It is pertinent worthy to note that the remains of carved wood used as poles are available at Afin in Oyo-ile up till today.
Esu and Ogun Shrines:
The Old Oyo people were traditionalists before the coming of Christianity and Islamic religions. The metal workers and users worshipped the god of Ogun while Esu is feared and sacrificed to by all. Stone and metal objects served as symbols of Ogun and stone suffice as symbol of Esu. Both shines are not distant from the palace. This indicates that political authority cannot be separated from the people’s religious life.
Old Oyo capital has a multiple wall system; three of which are completely round with three other loops bringing up the north boundary. The main outer wall has two banks with an intercepting ditch. The ditch is very deep: in some places as deep as five (5) metres. It is amazing to note how the makers were able to cut through lateritic soil in those days – a feat today without machine tools. At any places on the site, remnants of standing walls are found within the residential areas. Some of these are as tall as four meters, especially the northern walls. The old city walls exhibit different stages of urban growth, which may be correlated with the 9th to 13th century AD and 14th to 19th century AD Mejiro ceramic phase.
Various colourful annual cultural festivals are celebrated all over the park’s neighbourhood at various time of the year such as Sango, Ogun, Oya, Oro, Obatala, Egungun, Ifa etc.
Sango Deity-Renowned the World Over:
Koso is another interesting ancient capital. It was at this place that Oba (or Alaafin) Sango was alleged to have hanged himself after suffered a humiliating defeat in one of the most historical battles he ever fought. Oba Sango is known to be one of the most powerful and revered deities in Yoruba traditions. He is being worshiped in Yoruba and Nupe lands and also among some black and African people in the Diasporas in Benin Republic, Togo, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti and some parts of United State of America.
At Koso, the standing walls are 5.10 to 7 meters high and 1.6 metres thick. They range from nine to thirteen courses on top of the other. The mud walls are with attractive intrusions of potsherds, quartzite and granite rock. Two metres from the ground floor are holes of ten centimeters in diameter created through the walls at one-metre interval.
Visitors to the Park are required to call at the Park’s Head Office, Oyo to obtain entry permit. The best time to visit the Park is December to April every year when visibilities and accessibilities is generally good. Arrangement can be made to proceed to the Park through Sepeteri, Tede, and Igbeti.
The following facilities are put in place for the comfort of the tourists/visitors in the Park:
- 18 No. Chalets at Akoto tourist camp
- Low income accommodation facility (students’ hostels) 40 No. bed spaces.
- Restaurant that provide both Continental and African dishes
- Borehole with water network reticulation.
- A 45 KVA Generator set for constant power supply
- Walkways at Akoto Base Camp
- Installation of 315/33KVA Transformer
- Jeep tracks linking various Park locations for anti-poaching and Safari ride.
- Camping sites at Ibuya Base Camp, Oyo-ile etc.
- Wildlife Museum at Akoto Base Camp
- Wildlife/Historical Museum at the Administrative Head Office, Oyo
- Ultra Modern Indoor Sports Complex with Gymnasium, Lawn Tennis Court and Swimming Pool at the Akoto Base Camp.
- Solar powered Boreholes at the Akoto Base Camp.