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What was old is now new

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old-newYou may be tired of hearing it by now, but welcome back to the New Year! And I say welcome back because ‘New Years’ are curious like that: they come back around year after year and the choices we make each time we experience a renewal of another year, can set the tone for how the year continues.

I end each year, the same way I intend to start the new one. Typically, I spend the last couple of weeks in December choosing to start new routines, new projects and to practice the disciplines I need for the year. So that even though the New Year is a fresh start, I become comfortable with habits that begin to feel comfortable. 

However, when it comes to enjoying the weekend, it would be foolish to not factor in the economic considerations of the country (as I type I am embroiled in a discussion on how foolish or not the current administration is) one lives in. As such, these considerations will define the extent to which one chooses to indulge each weekend. As necessity is the mother of invention, and “na condition wey dey make crayfish bend”, I am finding pleasures in the nearby explorations of Lagos. On this particular occasion, The Lekki Conservation Centre which I visited on the 24th of December 2016.

The Lekki conservation center is a 78-hectare natural resource conservation area in Lekki, Lagos; Located along the Lekki-Epe Express way, right before the 2nd LCC toll gate and entry to Ajah area. Its location makes it easy to visit from Ikoyi and Victoria Island (a 20 minute – 1 hour drive depending on traffic and the time of the day) but it does require a bit more time if one is travelling from the Mainland of Lagos. As the conservation area largely consists of a rain forest, I suggest visiting in the morning (between 9:00 and 10:00 am) when the sun is down and the weather is cool but also when the light comes through the trees.

No doubt you will have glanced at many travel blogs speaking on visiting this site for it’s natural beauty and the famous canopy bridge which they say is the longest in Africa at 401 meters long (check out www.ncfnigeria.org) which was opened December 2015. This means it takes at least 15 minutes (it honestly felt longer) to precariously get from one end of this wobbling bridge to the other. It is considered daring for anyone who is afraid of heights to accomplish walking along the canopy bridge and even for the brave it will still cause a raised pulse.

The views from above the canopy of trees makes the trip completely worth it and in fact is awe-inspiring. The view however, as well as being a testament to our progress as a state (and country and), is also a sad reminder of the silent death of much of the rich forests that form a heritage we failed to protect; An small protected oasis in an area once covered by rich bio diverse forest.

The beauty and novelty of a nature reserve is a good reason to visit, but it is the educational, environmental, and developmental importance of a conservation center or national park cannot be overstated.

According to the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Nigeria is second (next to Honduras) on a list of 10 countries with the highest deforestation rate in the world. For this to happen in a country with an area like Cross River that has one of the richest biodiversity spots in Africa (human encroachment and poaching in the national parks has greatly affected this, rendering some animal species extinct) is a sad thing and if this continues unchecked one day all our forests will be gone and it will cost over 2 million jobs. 

Yes you read that right. Losing our forests will cause unemployment for very many people. This is because Nigerian forests are known (according to what little data has been collected) to provide employment for over 2 million people through supply of fuel wood and poles, but the forests also provide jobs for more than 80,000 people who work in the log processing industries especially in the forest zone of the south-west Nigeria. The implications of deforestation on national stability is staggering when you pause to consider it.

But do not panic.
The best thing about forests (other than employment and great tourism opportunities) is that they are a renewable natural resource and that it is possible to ensure that exploitation of this resource does not exceed its regenerative capacity. Although it is unlikely that we still have untouched Ancient Primary Forests, we do have Very old Secondary forests, and through re-planting efforts and stricter controls we can protect the area and encourage the growth of bio diverse life in our forests.

Experience here are my recommendations:
Pack a small light backpack as though going for a picnic. Trust me you will need food and water once you’re done with the walk (it’s a couple of kilometers (its approximately 8km from phase 1round about to chevron, so 2 k is a lot to walk!) and the park lets you take in your things as long as YOU DO NOT LITTER. 
Wear comfortable walking clothing. I chose batik cotton trousers and a tank top. I don’t like bug bites on my legs but it gets warm so needed breezy clothing.
Take cash with you to pay your entry fee(s) (N1000 to enter and N1000 if you would like to explore the canopy walkway).
Visit in a small group and get there around 10:00am while it is still cool and everyone’s energy is up.

The only disappointment for me was the run down jungle gym (the wood used to construct the awesome Man-O-War course had long since been compromised by rot and was covered with ‘Do not use’ signs) but by the time I discovered that, I was already tired and hungry from all the walking.

I would recommend a visit as a great bonding activity with family or colleagues (On this occasion, i chose to go with some of my Smooth 98.1 FM family) and I am pretty sure that we laughed and cracked jokes all the way through this experience. 

You will read more on my Lagos adventures (and others) in this column over the next few weekends (and check out photographs of this adventure on my site: www.folustorms.com) no doubt, but until that time: Carpe diem and a very Happy New Year ahead once more!



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