The hidden gem that is IITA
With luck, I was able to book a room at IITA, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.
Prior to my long weekend stay, I knew nothing of its existence and had zero expectations on what it had to offer.
As soon as I drove into its grounds, I knew I had to tell as many people as possible about its existence and so, here goes.
For those unaware of IITA’s existence in Ibadan, it is time to realize that Nigeria has an amazing picturesque heaven on earth that many need to experience when the Lagos living chaos becomes a bit overwhelming.
With 1,000 hectares of land to spare, I was gob smacked by ‘the everything’ of IITA.
From the drive in through the high security gates of IITA, I knew it would be a difficult place to depart from once my three-night get away from Lagos was over.
First, the well coifed grass land on the sides with palm trees lining the drive-way to my hotel, the I-House, had me pinching myself with excitement.
Almost 51 years in Ibadan, and it still looks so breathtaking and well maintained.
There are not enough words I can use to describe the hospitality and welcome I received from their reception desk down to my room service helpers.
Let’s not even get started on how ridiculously affordable food here is.
From their Saturday day and night buffet special, to Sunday afternoon’s freshly grilled food while lounging by the pool and sipping N500 chapman like it was water, I was in food heaven.
For my fellow beer drinkers, a large bottle of beer is N200 pere (only), instead of the N1, 500 many hospitality places in Lagos charge!
Beyond the amazing welcome and hospitality I experienced at IITA, there’s a whole lot of adventure and education beyond its calming surface.
First of, IITA was donated to the Ford and Rockefeller foundation about 51 years ago and since then it has become an award-winning, research for development organization.
They focus solely on providing solutions to hunger, poverty, and degradation of natural resources in Africa.
With that focus, they developed AflaSafe, a safe natural solution to AflaToxin – a poisonous carcinogen found in corn, peanuts, cassava, millet, rice, sorghum, treenuts, wheat, sunflower seeds, chili peppers, and a lot more staple commodities and spices. For farmers interested in this solution, visit Aflasafe.com.
I also got to hike a one-hour path through the secondary 450 hectares of rain forest land within the IITA compound; for the more adventurous, there is also a three-hour hiking path for others to trek on.
For those like me that are a bit skittish about animals, note that there are amphibians, lizards, and snakes that also live with in the forest. Luckily, I didn’t encounter any.
According to IITA’s website, they also have grass cutters, duikers, mongoose, potto, tree hyraxes, civets, Gambian rats, bush-tailed porcupines, squirrels (I saw a few of those), and small antelopes (I wish I saw those).
For those keen on the hike, wear long sleeved shirt and trousers to avoid your skin getting scratched by the hanging branches.
With a couple of guides provided by IITA, my trek through the secondary rain forest was nothing short of amazing.
The music from the many birds chirping away atop the trees while many types of butterflies flew past me, turned my hiking experience into a fantastical one – IITA is home to over 73 species of birds and over 230 species of butterflies.
One hour flew by and I found myself surprised to be at the opening of the main road. Definitely watch the accompanying video on tv.guardian.ng to get a glimpse of my experience.
Besides the rain forest trek I embarked on, I hopped on an available N500 per hour bike IITA had to offer for a leisurely two-hour ride around man-made lake.
Here are a few tips for an interesting stay.
Tip 1: Hop on the bike for a loop around the lake about an hour before sunset with a backpack of picnic items. The view of the sun setting over the lake is absolutely breathtaking.
Tip 2: If you happen to have a fishing rod, you can go fishing in the lake
Tip 3: There is a 9-hole golf course at the hotel with a little picnic area for a relaxing day with friends and family.
Final Tip: A one-night stay would not suffice; a minimum of three nights stay will be just what the doctor ordered!
If you have visited already or planning to in the future, let’s hear about it in the comments section of our website.