INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY
The Ogbunike Caves are a collection of caves located in Ifite Ogbunike, Ogbunike, Anambra state, southeastern Nigeria. The caves are made up of tunnels which lead to different places and one tunnel is even said to go as far as Upper-Iweka, Onitsha. The tunnels were said to have provided refuge for the people of the area during the Nigerian civil war and also from slave traders during the pre-colonial era.
My first time of hearing about the caves was during my primary school years when we did a topic on tourism in Nigeria. I all but forgot about it until my third year in the university when a church group I belonged to arranged an excursion to the caves. Always one for adventure, I knew I could not miss out on this opportunity.
All the way to Ogbunike
We set out on a cool Saturday morning from Awka where I was schooling to Ogbunike where the caves are located. The trip from Awka to the caves took about an hour. The caves are not immediately visible when you arrive at the site, you would have to go down a walkway made of 317 steps which was constructed by the Anambra state government in the 90s. Before you go down the steps, take a moment to enjoy the serenity and beauty of the hilly environment surrounding the cave. It is a place every lover of nature would enjoy extremely. There is also a signboard at the entrance with rules for visitors to the caves. One of the rules says official hours are from 8am-5pm and visitors after official hours are at their own risk. Another said all items of sacrifice must be dropped in the Ogba River. Creepy, right? Well that only adds to the fun.
ENTERING THE CAVES
Finally done exploring the outer environs, we started down the walkway. The immediate surroundings of the cave are filled with bamboo trees which make the area cool and shaded. As you get closer to the cave, you would hear the faint sound of rushing water. There is a stream behind the cave where you can go cool off after you are done exploring the cave. Finally at the entrance to the cave, we were met by the attendants who gave us a little history and repeated the rules of the cave to us; you cannot use your shoes to enter the cave, you must be barefooted. This is because the cave is sacred ground (according to the cave attendant). Also, women on their monthly period cannot enter the caves so be sure to plan your visiting time appropriately if you are a woman. Another thing, once you enter the cave, you cannot turn back. You must continue that way until you get to where you will come out. The entrance of the cave is a large, cavernous space with water dripping from the roof in some places; there was a young boy fetching the water when we arrived. While waiting for the attendant to take us in, I took a look around the space. I could identify three openings, all dark and eerie. However, none of these were the tunnels we took. The attendant took us to an opening which I would describe as a whole in the ground because that was what it was. Looking at it, my mind was filled with fear and I had to ask myself if I was ready to do this considering the fact that when I go in I would not come out until I burst out God knows where! But I steeled myself, got on my knees and crawled through that hole like the adventurer I was. How did it feel entering the caves? It felt exciting and terrifying at the same time. The tunnel was small and narrow so we were on our knees most of the time. We even got to a point where we had to crawl on our bellies to get through. After a while we emerged into another tunnel that was big and wide enough for us to stand. Water dripped from the roof and some people took a sip of the clear water which the villagers believed had miracle powers. Finally, we emerged into an open space where we began the final part of our exploration; climbing out of the cave. By the time we came out into the open air, we were sweating but our excitement did not let us notice it.
Adventure well worth the time!
After our ‘grueling’ task of exploring the cave, we went down to the stream for some fun time. There are shallow areas so you don’t need to worry about knowing how to swim. We were told the stream is home to alligators although we did not see any while we were there as they only come out at night which is one of the reasons adherence to the visiting hours is advised.
Above all, it was an exhilarating experience, one that I cannot wait to try again when next I have the time. If you have not put Ogbunike Caves on your bucket list of tourist locations, then you should. Trust me, you would love it.