The founding site of Abeokuta, famed Olumo Rock has a rich history and great spiritual significance. Hire a guide and climb the rock – at one point it is smooth and quite steep, so go via the steps if you’re not confident. You’ll see shrines, sacred trees, tribal war-time hideouts, and ultimately, at the top, an astonishing view of the city.
On the way up the rock the guide will point out Olumo Shrine, which opens just one day a year – on 5 August – for a festival and a gathering of chiefs, priests, local leaders and townspeople. During the rest of the year offerings are made at the shrine: you’re likely to see chicken feathers and dried blood stuck to the door. Further up, a blue painted rock signals another shrine, where the apparently extremely long-lived priestesses will welcome you; Afrobeat star Fela Kuti used to worship here.
There’s also a historic hideout under a rock used by people fleeing tribal wars and slave hunters. At the summit, look down on the corrugated iron roofs of the town; you’ll see St Peter’s Baptist church – built in 1840s, it’s the oldest church in Nigeria – and a brown building housing a mosque which dates back to 1925.
History of Olumo Rock
The name Olumo means “troubles and sufferings are all over”. The history of the rock dates back to the 19th century Oyo Empire when Abeokuta was inhabited by the Egba people who found refuge at the Olumo rock during inter-tribal wars. The rock functioned as a tower of strength for the Egba people in their wars to defend the new settlement as well as a vantage point to monitor the enemy’s advance leading to eventual triumph in war. The rock is nature’s large monument made from indigenous materials.
The element of its native form is its strong point as a refuge and a hideout. Olumo Rock is the most significant representation of Egba nationalism. It is the distinctive monument linked with their heroism and freedom. Thus, Olumo rock symbolizes unity and freedom not just for the Egbas alone but for all the residents of Abeokuta. The year 2006 saw a string of remodeling being carried out at this tourist site in order to further its course as a prime tourist location in Nigeria. Thus, after the remodeling, facilities like a new museum, restaurants, water fountain, and an elevator (to ease the climbing challenge) were added.
What is the Best Time To Visit Olumo Rock?
The month of March is always a great time to pay a visit to the Olumo Rock, as it is the dry season around the environment of the Rock. Visiting Olumo Rock in March would also afford you the opportunity of enjoying the razzmatazz of the Lisabi and Olumo Festivals, which both climax at the Olumo Rock.
How to get to Olumo Rock
Abeokuta is just about 1-hour drive from the city of Lagos. Lagos is also home to the closest airport to Abeokuta which is the Murtala Muhammed Airport. From the Lagos Airport, you would get a taxi that would take you to a park, where you can get either a taxi or a bus to Abeokuta. At Abeokuta city center, you can get a taxi straight to Olumo Rock. Also, from Sango Ota, Ogun State, you can get a taxi to Olumo Rock. The distance between Sango Ota and Olumo Rock is about 2 hours at an average cost of N2000.
Things to do at Olumo Rock
Tourists who visit the Olumo Rock have several interesting activities they can engage themselves in, as a tour guide, who is versed in the history of the rock and the culture of the people, would be available to show you around the interesting places at this tourist location. The presence of the tour guide would make your adventure an unforgettable one, as almost every curl and turn at the rock tells a story. Thus, when you visit Olumo Rock start your adventure by climbing up the man-made stairs carved into the rock. While the use of the word ‘man-made’ may make it sound a bit easy, it leaves many breathless and ready to take a break to rest on the benches under the trees growing from the rock and enjoy some clean breeze.
Also, climb the uneven sized rocks on the narrow corridors leading to the peak of the rock. While climbing up the rock enjoy the sight of the cowrie studded statues, the carvings on the rock and bid greetings to the 131-year old priestesses (Iya Orisa) living under the rock. Do not forget to visit the ancient Itoku market which lies outside the Olumo Rock. This tye-and-dye (Adire) market is a commercial hub located around the Olumo Rock. It would be an interesting sight to see how the local artisans and traders dicker over price with customers, who are always looking to buy goods at the lowest price.
Also, take a tour of the new museum and relax at the recreational park, which is at the foot of the rock. Serenade your senses with nature’s beautiful scenery by going to the taking a peek at the Ogun River flowing down the rock. Let the water caress your skin with the soft therapy of Mother Nature. Maintain peace between the warring factions in the abdominal enclave by visiting the fast food restaurant located at the base of Olumo Rock.