BY ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA
CROSS River State National Park is one of the destinations a tourist should look forward to visiting in the country. One of the eight parks managed byNational Parks Services, it has a rich palette to feast on. It is also one of the two remaining primary tropical rainforest conservation enclaves in Nigeria — the second being Okomu National Park, located in Edo State.
The richness of its vast ecosystem has made the destination to be ranked as one of the 25 acclaimed biodiversity sites in the world by the United Nations.
LOCATED on latitude 5º. 05’ and 6º.29’ N and longitudes 8º.15’ and 9º.30, the park spans a land mass of about 4,000sq kilometres.
Like most of the country’s other protected enclaves, it has two separate and non - contiguous sectors: Oban Hills and Okwangwo sector.
Among the park’s fauna and flora treasures are the forest elephants, which are always a pleasant site to behold.
Believed to migrate between the park and Korup National Park in the Cameroun, the white coloured monkey and lowland gorilla are other interesting species in the forest.
Oban Hills: In every respect, it is the biggest of the two sectors that make up the forest. It has a landmass of about 3, 000sq kilometres. Its ecosystem is also the richest and most diversified with rare variety of fauna and flora species.
It is in this sector that a visitor enjoys a trail of the forest’s elephants, chimpanzees, drills and buffalos as well as monkeys and others.
Bird watch is also another exciting activity here, as it has a rich and wide collection of bird species, which is put at over 280, with the olive green ibis making the list that includes about 42 snake species. It is also rich in epiphytic ferns and orchids.
This sector of the park, which is in the Southern ends of Oban hills, is about one hour drive from Calabar.
Okwangwo: This is the smallest sector of the park with a land mass spreading across 1, 000sq kilometres, however, its relatively small size does not remove from it, the beauty of a rainforest enclave. Just like Oban Hills division, Okwangwo sector shares border with Takamanda Forest Reserve in the Republic of Cameroun.
Located in the Boshi – Okwango end of the state, towards the northern peak of Ikom, a visitor can easily access the park, which is about four hours drive from Calabar. A tourist will have to contend with the bumpy ride through Ikom Road. Repair work, is, however, ongoing.
The park, which is one of the richest natural enclaves in the country, enjoys the support of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Nigerian Foundation Conservation (NCF).
Privately run conservation based organisations are currently engaged in different developmental projects here.
The management maintains an office within the complex of Metropolitan Hotel in Calabar where detailed information about the operation of the park and booking for tour could be sourced. The main office of the park is on Akamkpa few metres away from Calabar.