Taraba-Jalingo! Among the least visited regions in Nigeria is North-Eastern Nigeria. Primary reasons for this include the proximity to other places; the states in northeast Nigeria are far from other areas, including other northern locations. Packed with cultural treasures, fine food, immaculate clouds and intimidating Mountains, Taraba is a dream for all kinds of travellers. This region suits road-tripping down to its inner local settlements where the vegetation is Sahel savannah with a sparse population.
Getting to the capital of Taraba, Jalingo from Abuja or Lagos is more comfortable and convenient by flight. There is only one flight from Abuja that goes directly to Jalingo daily at the moment; if you’re coming from Lagos, there will be a stopover at Abuja before boarding for the Jalingo bound flight. The Yola airport has more connecting flights to Abuja and Lagos, although you would have to get a taxi from Yola airport to Jalingo, which is about three hours drive.
Now you’re in Taraba, let’s begin the journey across one of Nigerians finest rolling countryside, rugged terrains and mighty mountains. The trip across Taraba would have scheduled stops to see scenic views as you journey from Jalingo through Serti down to Nguroje and terminates in the Gembu, the home of the Mambilla plateaus. Before the journey begins, this is an excellent time to rest for the night and prepare yourself for the trip tomorrow morning.
There are decent hotels in the capital city of Jalingo at affordable prices ranging from N9000-N15,000. And the city has beautiful nightlife you can enjoy.
To make the journey easier, tour operators are available to help you plan your trip for the next morning with the necessary stopovers to appreciate and see the beautiful landscape.
Travel tip: Book the first-morning flight from Lagos; that way, you get to Abuja for the flight to Jalingo/Yola, which is usually in the afternoons.
The journey is best if you begin very early in the morning, around 6:00 am; that way, you arrive at the final stop before sunset.
The vegetation is green during the raining season and dusty brown during the harmattan season, and each offers beautiful scenery. The harmattan season is a more comfortable period to hike and avoid slippery and muddy terrains.
As you journey through Taraba, spectacular brown or green foliage blankets the mountains as the road winds through the mountains and hills. Most rivers are dried up during the harmattan season due to the scorching sun of the dry season. A river stands out among all and still flows across the beautiful bridge along the road. River Taraba which empties into the River Benue flow across the major towns of Sert-Baruwa, Sarki Ruwa, Karamti, Jamtari, Gangumi, Gayam and Bali local government. A unique view of this river from the bridge is your first stopover.
Travel tip: Though many prefer to travel in the rainy season for its dramatic green foliage, the route inspires no less awe in other seasons, especially harmattan, when most bushy pathways are easily walkable.
The next stop is Gashaka Gumpti, a bio-diversity hotspot and known to be the largest national park in Nigeria and across West Africa. Gashaka Gumpti is also the home to the highest point in Nigeria-Chappal Waddi Mountain. In this journey, you will stop at the park’s administrative office along the road at Serti to have a brief view of what the park has to offer and a little tour.
The parks have a beautiful cottage-style building one can lodge for the night (around N1500 per night), but you must bring your food. Have a good feel of the environment as the parks cover a vast landmass. The chimpanzee is the logo of the Gashaka Gumpti park and is endemic to the park.
As you continue the journey, about 30 minutes from the park is the national park’s museum and information centre, where you get an educational tour of the flora and faunas of the park and the wildlife it has to offer. Among notable things to see are the skulls of hippotamus and elephants.
It’s getting towards the evening, and this time, you’re heading towards the winding roads up the Mambila plateau. The drive up is a slow climb as you can see from afar the road intertwined into the mountains. On your way, there is another stop to feed a variety of wild monkeys who will welcome you and run into the bush as you approach them. Typically the locals are used to this as most people buy bananas on their journey to feed the monkeys.
As you approach Gembu, your final destination for the day, the sun is getting ready to set, and the view is breathtaking. Gembu is off the national grid, and power is supplied by an NGO, which is also into hospitality. They own a beautiful lodge which is a homely place to rest for the night.
Tomorrow is another day to catch the sunrise across the Mambilla plateau, see enchanting waterfalls which are numerous across the hills and also an opportunity to visit the largest tea farm in Nigeria-all in one place, Gembu! Notable Nigerian politicians such as former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar all have country houses right on the hills of Gembu.