© jbdodane, Flickr
A UNESCO World Heritage Site preserved for its Yoruba shrines and cultural heritage, Oshogbo is one of Nigeria’s biggest attractions.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural significance, the forested sacred groves are Oshogbo’s main attraction, if not one of the biggest attractions in Nigeria (all the signs for them say ‘Sacred Grooves’). In the traditional Yoruba religion groves are sacred places reserved for rituals or shrines and Osun is today believed to be the last remaining one in the Yoruba culture – hence its inclusion as a World Heritage Site. The forest is a 75ha patch of delightful, butterfly-filled greenery that was once inhabited by the early settlers and founders of Oshogbo some 400 years ago. Despite being completely surrounded by Oshogbo, the forest supports a remarkable diversity of monkeys, birds, snakes, forest antelopes and other fauna. The sacred nature of the forest means that it is protected, and none of the animals are hunted because they are regarded as physical manifestations of the goddess Osun. This is a rare example of protected rainforest in Nigeria, and an example of conservation as a local initiative, where indigenous people have endeavoured to protect their culture and their environment. Many of the animals in the groves, particularly the monkeys, are fairly tame and easy to see as they jump around overhead in the trees.