Nigeria wants to attract tourists to Yankari National Park - The360 Travel

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  • Thursday, December 12, 2019

    Nigeria wants to attract tourists to Yankari National Park


    Nigeria wants to attract tourists to Yankari National Park

    A safari in Nigeria? This is not the first thing that comes to the mind of the tourist when he thinks about the main black gold producer of the African continent but it is the challenge of the Yankari National Park, in the northeast of the country: discover its lions, elephants or hot springs.


    "It has become too expensive to go to London, Dubai or America. Come on holiday to Yankari, "says Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, the governor of Bauchi where the reserve is, in a series of tweets.

    "We need to diversify our revenues and tourism is still a green fruit," said Abubakar, who describes himself as the "marketing director" of Bauchi, which was targeted by the Islamist group Boko Haram.

    Revenue from Nigeria, an African giant, has melted with falling oil prices on world markets and the country sees tourism as a new financial windfall.

    Safaris account for 80% of trips to Africa and generate $ 36 billion in revenue, according to the October 2015 report of the African Development Bank.

    With nearly 300 elephants, countless birds and crystalline hot springs at 31 ° C all year long, Yankari hopes to attract foreign currency and eventually fill the state coffers, while the price of the naira continues to plummet .

    "Bauchi is Africa's best kept secret. I see in Yankari a piece of paradise, "says Mr. Abubakar.

    Mismanagement

    But years of mismanagement left the 2250 km2 reserve empty of infrastructure and tourists.

    Everything has to be redone or almost. The two major projects concern the development of the road network to allow observation of wildlife, such as Kenyan reserves, and the installation of electricity in the main camp.

    For Habu Mamman, the sole administrator of the reserve, progress is already visible since Mr. Abubakar, who worked in Yankari as legal counsel in the 1980s, became governor.

    "The governor knows that if Yankari works well, it can generate a lot of money," Mr. Mamman analyzes around a chicken and rice dinner on a patio overlooking the huge empty park, with the exception of some warthogs throwing a curious glance from time to time.

    "Most former directors were much more interested in filling their pockets. But he (Abubakar) is looking for a way to place Yankari seriously on the map of the world, "he adds.

    "Totally different world"

    President Muhammadu Buhari, elected in 2015, embarked on a massive anti-corruption campaign, endemic to Africa's largest economy. Security is also a major challenge for Nigeria, which wants to attract tourists and foreign currency.

    Authorities say the Islamist group Boko Haram, whose insurgency has killed more than 17,000 in six years, is "technically" defeated. But sporadic attacks continue to be observed in the north-east of the country.

    Isolated from the country and protected from poaching, the Yankari reserve was not targeted by Boko Haram. The animals roam freely and you must be patient to hope to fall on an elephant or a lion.

    "The safari is a game of luck, the safari is a game of chance", philosopher guide Haruna Dandango.

    In the 1970s, Yankari had some success: nearly 20,000 visitors a year, mostly expatriates, went there to bathe in the hot springs or explore the 50 human-sized caves dug into a swamp forest where baboons are watching.

    "There was no real security problem, we could drive through the Sahara, go to the hot springs of Yankari before continuing to Cameroon, then Bangui in the Central African Republic - it was on the way - and then in East Africa and further south, "says Phil Marshall, 66, who worked on the reserve. "It was a totally different world."

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