The Ogbunike caves are located in Ogbunike, Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State, southeastern Nigeria. It situated within tropical rain forest belt in the valley behind ogba hills in which St. Monica College, Ogbunike is located. They are captivating natural wonder that boast of rich history and cultural significance of Ogbunike people. A slopy lengthy walkway of about 317 steps leads to the actual location of the caves. The walkway was said to have been built by Anambra State government in the mid 90s. An open area that serves as a welcoming area or reception ground at the end of the walkway is where guests are customarily required to take off their shoes. The entrance to the main cave is located in a large open room that is about 5 metres high, 10 metres wide, and 30 metres long. The main room has twelve tunnels that branch off in various directions. Large chambers and other tunnels of various lengths, some of which are interconnected, can be found inside the tunnels. The caves are inhabited by a large colony of bats of varying sizes. One of the tunnels has a stream that empties into the swiftly moving River Nkissa. The warm water from the caves and the chilly river water may both be felt where the river and the stream converge. The entire site is of undulating hills and valleys, which stretch across other communities and farmlands. Close to the river is a table land of about 5 X 5 square meters where visitors can relax. Up to 200 metres (20 hectares) around the caverns, the nearby surroundings are covered in dense tropical rainforest-style flora. This also protect the caves from direct effects of human encroachment. Deer, antelope, grass cutters, porcupines, rabbits, alligators, snakes, and frogs are some of the site’s biodiversity aside bats as earlier mentioned. The rest include birds, fish, and crabs etc.
The main deity associated with Ogbunike Cave is “Udo,” which means “peace” in the Igbo language. The cave is considered a sacred site, and an annual festival called “Ime Ogbe” is held to celebrate and appease the spirits that dwell within.
People of Ogbunike and beyond do not see the cave as ordinary cave, they have a living traditions attached to it. And according to history, have been used by people for centuries. Large number of people hid in the dark to escape the perils of the Nigerian Civil War. It is said that slave traders in pre-colonial times hid in the caves from which they planned and executed slave raids. It is also said that the Ogbunike caves were discovered by a man named Ukwa, from the Umucheke family of Ifite-Ogbunike, about 4000 years ago. Legends claim that the caves were created by a deity, Ogba, who they believe lives within. The location still has historical and religious significance. Nearly all of the site’s biodiversity has been preserved. The presence of the primary forests surrounding the caverns is evidence of the site’s stability.
In 2007, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments submitted Ogbunike Cave to UNESCO, under mixed category, to be considered as a World Heritage Centre. It is still on the tentative list as of the moment.
One of the cave tunnels exit at the Ogbunike Town Hall, about six kilometres away from the cave proper, and another tunnel, according to folklore, terminates at Obosi in Idemili North Local Government Area. If a perimeter fence with a gate manned by shift-working revenue personnel was created to secure the cave premises, the much-desired employment generation would be ready to take place in the cave.
The gate will serve as entry and exit point for thousands of individuals, groups, and knowledge-seeking pupils, students, researchers and excursion groups that throng the caves on daily basis to feast their eyes on the wonders of this God-given gift to Anambra. The inscriptions, carvings, drawings, signatures and etchings on the cave walls over the years bear testimony to the thousands of visitors the cave has played host to over the centuries.
For a renewable annually fee, the Anambra State Ministry of Commerce and Industry can divide and allot the grounds in square metres to restaurant operators, fast food franchises, and beverage shops. Additionally, vendors of regional specialties like “Okpa” and regional beverages like “ngwo” and “iti” may be required to pay ground rent. The Anambra State Government just needs to build safari-style pre-fabricated cottages with thatched roofs to blend with the cave surroundings and eco-system if people want to spend evenings and weekends in the cave to further enjoy its wonders. These bungalows’ interiors can be wired, tiled, and plumbed for contemporary comfort.
There are rules and regulations for visitors to the caves
There are rules and provisions that seek to preserve their sanctity and honor their significance in times of old and nowadays. They include:
- Women cannot enter the caves while on their monthly cycles
- All visitors, regardless of status and age, must take their shoes off before entering.
- One cannot leave the caves by the same entrance they came in. This is not negotiable; visitors have to wriggle and crawl their way through until they are led to another passage; Fortunately, there are numerous additional points of access and exit, and, if necessary, the trip out can be completed quickly.
Inside the caves, visitors are treated to a breathtaking display of natural formations. Stalactites and stalagmites, formed over centuries, adorn the ceilings and floors of the chambers. The caves are well-lit to enhance visibility and safety for tourists.