Nestled along the undulating landscape of Ekiti's gorgeous terrain, is a pocket of beauty that is the Ikogosi warm springs. A spring occurs when pressure causes a natural flow of groundwater to the surface. Sometimes the water can be heated from the earths core temperature and sometimes it can be cold. Always however, this water source is rich in minerals that are good for our bodies.
Ikogosi is extra special though however - it's the only confluence of hot and cold water springs meeting under nature's enchanting embrace. The warm one is said to have a temperature of 70°C (at the source) and at the point it meets the cold one, the temperature is roughly 37°C. These streams flow all year round and the area is protected from deforestation, to conserve its eco-tourism potential and access to the resort costs ₦2,500 per adult.
Like many other wonders of nature in this part of the world, it is an important part of the cultural fabric of the people. To them, Ikogosi serves a fantastic analogy to the interplay of masculine and feminine energy, especially when you consider the contrasting nature of the flowing water. We leant that the warm flow, which rushes with turbulence and is louder, represents a man named ____, while the cooler, quieter streams are his wives Awele and Aina Orosun and their union creates the perfect balance for nature to thrive. Interestingly, there's a root system which supports two different species of trees and also buttresses the harmonious theme.
In the 1950's, while on missionary work for the Baptist Ministry in Ekiti, a man called Rev John S McGee took interest in the source of the flowing water. He experienced a bit of hesitation from the local people but in the end, he got permission to explore the site. His curiosity was rewarded and from what he saw, thought it would be a great place to set up a youth camp and a respite for wary travelers. This is how the thermal pool and the original infrastructure was built. In 1961, Rev McGee was honored for his innovation and was given a traditional symbol of prestige - a beaded walking stick - by the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Kaabiyeesi Aladesanmi II.
The development of the Ikogosi warm springs has witnessed some turbulence over the years. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, the Baptist Camp had started to see some public opposition, particularly as McGee opposed use of the camp by the military and the public at large, giving priority only to religious groups and events. As a result, rumors about the camp being a CIA base begun to emerge and one newspaper in particular even published the misinformed and critical views of famed educator Tai Solarin. It wasn't until the intervention of alumni of the Baptist College at Iwo (now Bowen University) before things started to turn around. Mr Solarin was invited to Ikogosi to meet Rev McGee and upon seeing the prestigious beaded walking stick that the Ewi of Ado had given him in 1961, his demeanor changed.
Ikogosi continued to grow in popularity and so did the drive to commercialize it, and in December 1973 the government opened a guesthouse by the thermal pool, and then announced a month later that they were taking over the pool. This development saw McGee and his camp relegated to the upkeep of other resort facilities (remotely) until his retirement from Nigeria in 1977. The facility declined in quality and popularity from this point and it was sold to the Nigerian government for ₦300,000 in 1978. Today, Ikogosi has a new face and boasts of world class facilities and customer service thanks to the state government and Ekiti indigenes.
Heated spring water is a big deal and has been sought after for many centuries for its therapeutic benefits. All over the world, places like this are prized bath houses, resorts and spas that people come from far and wide to visit. The warm, mineral-infused water has positive effects on the body, helping to correct anything from pain relief, improving blood circulation, promoting good skin health and respiration to improving sleep.
We didn't have too much time at the spring, but we could already feel a wave of calm seeping over us. The ambience was magical, the sunlight peeping through the forest canopy, the trickling sound of running water and the warmth on our feet all added to the therapeutic ambience. Perhaps next time we will make more time to swim in the thermal pool which costs ₦2,000 each. It is also advisable to book ahead for acoomodation needs.
All in all, Ikogosi is a true gift from nature and is something that people from Ekiti (and Nigeria) should be very proud of. As the facilities of the resort continue to stay in top condition, the spring and it's legend will continue to attract tourists and researchers to the fountain of beauty that is Ekiti State.