Ibadan was the destination for our fourth road trip. We started out at about 9am and reached Agodi Gardens, our first stop, early in the afternoon.
The entry fee at Agodi Gardens is N500 per person. There was a small situation at the gate because one of the guards was insisting we couldn’t take our cameras in. It was puzzling; what was the idea behind a place like Agodi Gardens if you couldn’t take a camera in? And if they weren’t allowing cameras, were they going to stop people from taking their camera phones in too? The guard said yes, camera phones were allowed in, but not cameras; or not certain kinds of cameras. We were able to call the manager’s attention and he explained things better. We could take pictures as long as they were not for a photo shoot or commercial purposes, otherwise we would have to pay a separate fee. We assured the manager that we were just casual visitors and our photos were for personal use, and we were allowed to go in with our cameras.
Agodi Gardens felt like some kind of outdoor events centre (there was a Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship meeting going on when we got there) that had other stuff. There’s a wide expanse of land, a lot of which is covered in lush grass, and meandering walkways.
When you step in from the gate, there are toilets (which I found remarkably clean) to your right and a restaurant with outdoor seating to your left. There’s a tiny lake with inflatable rafts, and you can take a ‘ride’ in one of them for N100. This lake is so small; a ride did not seem worth it. There is also a pool and a small water park area, and a small zoo that had, apart from different kinds of monkeys, two lions. I couldn’t see much of them because they stayed in their dim, cavernous cage the whole time we were there.
From Agodi Gardens we headed to the University of Ibadan to see the zoo. I think the N500 entry fee was entirely worth it; so far, it’s the best-kept zoo I’ve seen in Nigeria. The cages and enclosures were reasonably spacious and looked clean, and it was clear that some actual thought had gone into the planning and structure. And there were so many animals: at least three lions, a pretty giraffe called Ajoke, several apes and reptiles, an impressive range of birds, hyenas and jackals, horses, and many animals I’d never seen before.
We left the zoo for the IITA guest house where we were to spend the night. The IITA compound is beautiful and serene. In some ways, it reminds me of the Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort. Many of the roads and walkways are lined with these lovely trees that kept shedding their pink flowers which fell like snowflakes, carpeting the ground in pink. It was such a pretty sight.
IITA is quite a pleasant place, but the service from the staff could have been a lot better. One of the reasons we had chosen to stay at IITA in spite of their long list of rules and prohibitions (and there really is a long list) and their insistence on rooms being paid for in full to make a reservation, was their Nature Walk. Only at the point of check in, were we told that we would not be able to go on the Nature Walk because the guides did not work on weekends. Also, speaking of checking in, they have a rule at IITA that requires guests to check in certain electronics at the gate – laptops, cameras, tablets – a long process when you have a bus with thirteen people.
Our rooms were quite spacious though, with twin beds and a wall of glass louvers that I found delightfully retro. The compound has a tennis court, a squash court and a swimming pool.
I was quite displeased at the treatment we got at IITA; we all were. It did not help when on Sunday morning a different receptionist informed us that her colleague who had checked us in the day before had been mistaken; some guests had booked a Nature Walk for that morning, and she could see about arranging one for us. We decided to forego the walk when she said it would cost an additional N2,500 per person. We would make do with seeing the lake, which was free, on our way out.
This done, our trip came to an end and we made our way back to Lagos.
Photos by Yellow Mitsubishi