I had the rare opportunity of visiting One of Nigeria’s most impressive natural wonders hidden in Anambra state last week. This wonder is called the OGBUNIKE CAVES.
The Ogbunike caves are actually a system of many caves linked together by small, tunnels and passages. They take their name from Ogbunike, a town in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State where they are situated.
The main cave consists of a massive structure with a big open chamber of about 5m high, 10m wide and 30m long at the entrance. It is said that the Ogbunike caves were discovered by a man named Ukwa, from the Umucheke family of Ifite-Ogbunike, about 4000 years ago.
When I got there at exactly few minutes past eight in the morning, I was led in by a tour guide Ekene, although he introduced me to another tour guide called Frank who showed me the many elements that have given the caves such spiritual connotations.
Within the caves, there is a large colony of harmless bats of various sizes that seem to stand as guardians of the structure.
The water around the caves is also thought to be divine. A stream flows out from one of the caves’ tunnels into River Nkissa, Water drops from the roof of the caves at many points; spiritualists believe that it is healing water and many come to collect it for varying purposes.
While we found our way through the caves, crawling at times, Frank drew my attention to a section of the caves. “If you want to see crocodile, tortoise and talking stone, you will go through this place”, he said, The indigenes call the talking stone, “Nwanyi Akpanyi”
There are rules that seek to preserve their sanctity. One cannot leave the caves by the same entrance they came in. This is not negotiable; visitors have to wriggle and crawl their way through until they are led to another passage As the Igbo say “Iman gaba iru inokata gaba azu”
In English, one does not begin a journey and suddenly decide to turn back. Luckily, there are many other points of entry and exit, and the journey out can be very short, if need be.
Women cannot enter the caves while on their monthly cycles; and all visitors, regardless of status and age, must take their shoes off before entering. its even embeded in the sign post.
In the valley that leads to the mouth of the caves, there is a lengthy walkway of 317 steps that is said to be have constructed by the Anambra State government in the 1990s. Besides the steps, there is nothing that offers ease of access and navigation for visitors and tourists.
A stream flows out from one of the tunnels into a rapidly flowing river. At the meeting point of the river and the stream one can feel the warm water from the caves and the cold river water. There is a tableland of about 5 X 5 square meters used as a relaxation spot by visitors.
The immediate environment of the caves up to about 200 meters radius is a thick tropical rainforest type of vegetation. The site has sufficient boundaries (20 hectares) to protect its values from the direct effects of human encroachment.