On leaving Itagun, one of the gold villages in Nigeria, we decided our next stop would be Ibodi Monkey Forest.
Like the name implies we expected to be in a cool out-of-town forest with Monkeys jumping from one tree to the other. Ibodi is less than an hour drive from Itagun.
Baba, our driver in Osun state grew up in Ibodi, so locating the undocumented village wasn’t a problem. Immediately we mentioned Ibodi as one of the villages we would like to visit, Baba smiled and stated that he has never met anyone willing to visit Ibodi.
Dancing Monkeys In Ibodi Monkey Forest
Baba told us stories of dancing monkeys on Market days and how the monkeys were believed to be children of the gods. He added that in the olden days, Ibodi was the business center of Ilesa West LG.
“Everyone came to Ibodi on Market days,” Baba said in Yoruba.
“If not to buy groceries, they came to watch the monkeys dance,” he added. The monkeys’ mood was assumed to be the reflection of the gods’ mood. If the gods were happy, the monkeys are happy and entertaining. But when the gods are angry, the monkeys are out of sight on market days.
The Forest Scam
At the foot of Ibodi village, there was a signpost that read “Welcome To Ibodi Monkey Forest“. The signpost was signed by the Osun state tourism board.
At this point, I was stretching my neck to get a glimpse of the forest.
The only thing I could see was a small bush ahead, the Oba’s palace, mud houses, and some houses under construction.
I held my chest. “Yinka, chill, maybe we are not there yet,” I said to myself. We passed the Oba’s palace, still no forest in view. I asked Baba were the forest was and he pointed at the bush ahead.
We weren’t convinced the bush before us was ‘Ibodi Monkey Forest,’ so, we decided to ask. Two persons confirmed that was the forest.
“Yey, scam,” was all I could say. Ibodi Monkey Forest does not exist! It does only in the books of the tourism boards. I can’t remember how we got to know about the monkey forest but this was funny. We laughed so hard that it started to hurt.
We immediately turned it into a photo shoot. There was a narrow path, I suggested we walk through the bush to have a glimpse of the’forest’.
No Monkeys Too
Let’s just say this visit was a complete scam. We walked through the narrow path hoping to find at least one monkey, so we could pretend the tourism board exaggerated a little.
But we didn’t see any.
“Maybe the gods are angry,” I said to myself.
On a second thought, the gods were not angry. There were houses were under construction in the bushland, there were dogs at every corner and the market square doesn’t exist anymore. There is really nothing they are coming out to do.
Well, Only if they know how to dance shaku shaku!
We got to a hilly end and decided to turn back.
One thing was certain. Ibodi isn’t a forest.
©Dame Yinka, 2017