Yankari Games Reserve
Yankari National Park is a large wildlife park located in the south-central part of Bauchi State, in northeastern Nigeria. It covers an area of about 2,244 square kilometres (866 sq mi) and is home to several natural warm water springs, as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its location in the heartland of the West African savanna makes it a unique way for tourists and holidaymakers to watch wildlife in its natural habitat. Yankari was originally created as a game reserve in 1956, but later designated Nigeria’s biggest national park in 1991. It is the most popular destination for tourists in Nigeria and, as such, plays a crucial role in the development and promotion of tourism and ecotourism in Nigeria. It is also one of the most popular eco-destinations in West Africa.
The open country and villages that surround Yankari National Park are populated by farmers and herders, but there has been no human settlement in the park for over a century. There is, however, evidence of earlier human habitation in the park, including old iron smelting sites and caves.
Yankari National Park lies in the southern part of the Sudan Savannah. It is composed of savannah grassland with well-developed patches of woodland. It is also a region of rolling hills, mostly between 200m and 400m. Kariyo Hill, is the highest point at 640m.
Annual rainfall in the park is between 900mm and 1,000mm. The rainy season is from May to September. Temperatures range between 18C and 35C. During the dry season, the harmattan wind blows from the Sahara, often bringing dusty skies and night temperatures fall as low as 12C. The hottest period falls in March and April, when temperatures can rise above 40C in the day.
In the dry season, larger wildlife in the park depend on the Gaji river and its tributaries for survival. This river is the only watershed and cuts the park in two. Marshall estimated the area of the Gaji River Valley used by elephants in the dry season at about 40 square kilometres (15 sq mi). . This increases the chances of seeing elephants at this time of year.
The park’s main entrance is at Mainamaji village, about 29 km from Dindima. It is located within the Duguri, Pali and Gwana districts of Alkaleri LGA, Bauchi State. This LGA has a population 208,202 people occupying a total land area of 7,457.78 square kilometres (2,879.46 sq mi).
Yankari has rich wildlife resources. The park is an important refuge for over 50 species of mammal including African bush elephant, olive baboon, patas monkey, Tantalus monkey, roan antelope, western hartebeest, West African lion, African buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck and hippopotamus. The Sudan cheetah may have been extirpated from the area. It also has a large and diverse freshwater ecosystem around its freshwater springs and the Raji River.
There are also over 350 species of bird found in the park. Of these, 130 are resident, 50 are Palearctic migrants and the rest are intra-African migrants that move locally within Nigeria. These birds include the saddle-billed stork, white-rumped vulture, guinea fowl, grey hornbill, and the cattle egret.
Yankari is recognized as having one of the largest populations of elephants in West Africa, estimated at more than 300 in 2005. The growth of the elephant population has become a problem for surrounding villages at times as the animals enter local farms during the rainy season. The elephants have also stripped the park of many of its baobab trees.
Due to underground geothermal activity, Yankari National Park also features four warm water springs. The camp is named after the most well known of these, the Wikki Spring, from the local Duguri language with “Wikki” meaning “where are you?”. The Wikki Warm Spring is the largest spring and is about 13.0 metres wide and 1.9 metres deep. It daily flows 21,000,000 litres of clear, spring water into the Gaji river. The spring has a constant temperature of 31.1 °C through the year during both day and night and has been developed for recreation.
The other warm water springs are Dimmil, Gwan, and Nawulgo springs. A fifth spring, Tungan Naliki, is the only cool spring in the park.
Evidence of early human settlements:
- Dukkey Wells – 139 wells with interconnecting shafts representing an elaborate water storage system.
- Marshall Caves – 59 dwelling caves dug into sandstone escarpments, which were discovered by P.J. Marshall in 1980. There are rock paintings and engravings in zig-zag form and in straight lines.
- Tunga Dutse – a rock with more elaborate engravings than the Marshall caves. Legible writings cover an area on the sandstone rock embankment of about 4m in length in Dwall River. The writings are legible. However, their age and meanings have not been determined.
- Iron Smelting – the shau shau iron smelting works has about 60 standing shaft furnaces, which are believed to be the largest historical industrial complex of its time in the West Africa Sub-region.
Kalban Hill – meaning “flat place” a flat topped hill gives tourists a complete view of the park
Kariyo Hill – located near the Marshal caves is a beautiful picnic ground
Paliyaram Hill – a popular camp for poachers, located 10 km from Wikki.
The Tonlong Gorge – a scenic gorge with associated hills, buttes and escarpments located in the west of the park
The “Wikki Camp” is the tourist centre of the park. Located about 42 kilometres from the main entrance gate, the camp is built beside, and named after, the Wikki warm spring, which is open for swimming 24 hours a day. There are 110 furnished chalets with varying size and quality, ranging from the ‘’presidential’’ suites to the youth hostel, all of which are being upgraded in phases. The camp also provides a restaurant, bar and conference centre. Daily safari trips depart at least twice from the camp.
The museum in the camp is well stocked with a variety of skins, tusks, bones and fully mounted stuffed game from the park. It is educational while also acting as a conservation centre, displaying hunting gear and traps taken from poachers.