The Ogbunike caves are actually a system of many caves linked together by small tunnels and passages. They take their name from 'Ogbunike', a town in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State, where they are situated.
It is a marvelous sight to behold and currently, it is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Ogbunike Cave, located in a valley blanketed by tropical rain forest is the collection of caves that have been in use over centuries by local people for whom it has particular spiritual significance. This spiritual significance is still apparent, as the "ImeOgbe" traditional festival is undertaken every year to commemorate the discovery of the caves.
Descending into the valley where the caves are located is a lengthy walkway made up of about 317 steps, constructed by the Anambra State Government in mid-1990s. Visitors must remove their shoes before entering the caves, as per tradition. And women who are having their monthly menstrual cycle cannot go into the caves.
The main cave consists of a massive structure with a big open chamber of about 5 meter high, 10 meter wide and 30 meter long at the entrance. There are ten tunnels at the main chamber leading to different directions. Within the tunnels are big chambers and other tunnels of varying lengths, some of which are interconnected. The caves are occupied by a large colony of bats of various sizes. There are streams and body of water at various places.
A stream flows out from one of the tunnels into a rapid flowing river (River Nkissa). At the meeting point of the river and the stream one can feel the warm water from the caves and the cold river water. Beside this portion of the river is a table-land of about 5 X 5 square meters used as a relaxation spot by visitors to the caves. The immediate environment of the caves up to about 200 meters radius is a thick tropical rainforest-type of vegetation.
It is 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 called, Ogba, who locals believe still lives within the caves. The Ogbunike caves draw much of their spiritual significance from this belief. Some of the indigenes still come there to worship and they point to many phenomena in and around the cave as proof of their beliefs.
The water around the caves is also thought to be divine. A stream flows out from one of the caves’ tunnels into River Nkissa: a rapidly flowing river at the foot of one of the caves’ exits. Water drops perpetually from the roof of the caves at many points; spiritualists believe that it is healing water and many come to collect it for varying purposes.
'Ogbunike' is originally the name of one of the towns in Oyi Local Government area of Anambra State. It is located on the map along the longitude 6.40°E and the latitude 6.20°N, and lies between kilometres 11.3 and 14.5 along old Onitsha-Enugu road. The new Onitsha-Enugu expressway cuts through the northern border of Ogbunike.
Ogbunike is bounded on the East by Umudioka (Idemili Local Government Area), on the north-east by Umunya (Oyi Local Government Area) and on the North by Nkwelle-Ezunaka (also Oyi Local Government Area). She shares her boundary on the West and South with Ogidi (Idemili Local Government Area). She has an uneven landscape, sufficient rainfall and fertile soil. Ogbunike has six villages: Ukalor, Osile, Amawa, Ifite, Umueri and Azu.
Visitors & Tourists:
Drive down a tarred road off the Awka-Onitsha old road at Ogbunike which is roughly three-kilometre long road then you can spot a signpost of Ogbunike Caves, in Oyi Local Government Area. Individual visotors pay N3, 000 to enter the Ogbunike Caves in Anambra State. Tour guides receive between N500 and N1, 000 to take a tour around while groups pay between N5, 000 and N10,000 with the tour guides.
If you come in a group, there are lovely places where you can have your picnic in the caves. Literally, the phrase 'Ogbunike' in Igbo language can be translated as 'Powerful Killer', which is why to the locals a lot of spiritual beliefs and sentiments are attributed to the caves, like removing of shoes before entering and women in their menstrual period not allowed to go in.
The caves have become a location of interest for African movie directors looking for a bit of the mysterious and natural. In 2013, much of the seminal Nollywood movie series, 'Idemili' was shot at the Ogbunike caves.
In 2007, UNESCO added the caves to their tentative list to be considered as a World Heritage Site, after it was submitted by the Nigerian Commission for Museums and Monuments.
Visitors 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 out of the caves. This is to fulfill prehistoric indigenous traditional requirements.
There is no doubt that the Ogbunike caves have major tourist potential, both for their history, novelty and the many mysteries that lie within its dark chambers. However, within the caves, there are no lights to show the way, or vents, to make the experience easier for claustrophobic visitors.
The site has been protected from the threat of urbanization to a large degree; there are large boundaries, about 20 hectares on all sides, between the caves and the closest human settlement.
In the valley that leads to the entrance of the caves, you will find a lengthy walkway of 317 steps. Besides the steps, there is nothing that offers ease of access and navigation for visitors and tourists.
The tour guides have a great deal of knowledge about the caves, but there is no training on how to deal with tourists or adequate remuneration to motivate them to offer visitors a sterling experience.