OGBUNIKE CAVE: a UNESCO heritage site
Located along the Onitsha – Enugu express way, 16 kilometers, east of Onitsha city, southeast Nigeria, there is a town called Ogbunike.
However, the Ogbunike people are not famous because of their fertile lands and the abundant rainfall they enjoy. Rather are they famous for the quality of their crop yield.
The people of Ogbunike are famous due to the presence of a cave in their community which has existed for more than a thousand years which is known as the Ogbunike cave.
From prehistoric times, the presence of caves has been of different significant importance. Caves have served a number of purposes, the most being the use of theses caves as a security feature to hide from invaders and enemies.
The Ogbunike cave which lies behind the Ogba hills in Anambra state is not an exemption. Historians have it on record that the people of Ogbunike used the caves to hide from slave raiding parties during the slave trade era.
The Ogbunike cave which was discovered by a hunter by the name Ukwa is situated in a valley within a thick tropical rainforest vegetation of about 200 meters radius.
Descending into the valley where the cave is located is a lengthy walkway made up of about 317 steps built by the Anambra state government to ease the movement of people in and out of the cave. I really wonder how people were able to access the caves prior to the construction of these steps
The cave itself is a massive structure with an open chamber. The mouth of the cave is about 30 meters long. The height of the entrance to the cave is about 5 meters and the width 10 meters. As you enter into the cave, you are dazed for a few seconds as your eyes try to adjust to the dark condition of the cave.
Once inside the cave, there are various tunnels, numbering about 10 which branches into different direction. Within these tunnels are big chambers and other tunnels too of various length and sizes. Some of these tunnels are interconnected, so do not worry you would not get lost. But do make sure you do not lose the local guide.
Within these tunnels are flowing streams and water bodies. These streams are tributaries to the river Nkissa. At the point where the streams from the cave meet the river, one could feel the warm water from the rock mixing up with the cold water of the river.
At the northeast corner of the cave, exist a beautiful water fall. The water fall could be described as a miniature Gurara water fall as the water crash around the rock of the cave till it hits the pool below.
The ecosystem of the cave and its streams, the river Nkissa and the surrounding vegetation has remained very much intact after all these years. This is evident as fishes, crabs, frogs and toads are seen darting around the water. Deers, antelopes, grass cutters, alligators and other animals are known to occupy the surrounding vegetation, even as different kind and colours of birds flock the atmosphere.
No doubt the ogbunike cave has a tourist destination potential. Annually, the people of ogbunike celebrate a festival called ‘ime ogbe’ meaning inside the cave. This celebration is in honour of the discovery of the cave. This and many more could be what prompted the UNESCO to declare the ogbunike cave, a heritage site.
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