Monday, 9 November 2009

The Survival Series Beckons

As reality Television shows take centre stage, Taraba State government partners with Eco Challenge Limited to attract tourism through exposing Nigeria's best kept secret

By George Emine

The Mountain of Death Survival Series 1, is a reality TV show which promises to take reality shows in Nigeria to the next pedestal; the first international Nigerian reality show. The event would feature 50 finalists who would be tested to their limits in their intellect, strength and endurance, through some of the most challenging and demanding obstacles. According to the organisers, the event is to attract able-bodied men and women, “who find overcoming natural challenges as a way of inner fulfilment in a survival trek.”
While industry watchers continue to wonder how the highest mountain in Nigeria, with so much mystical and superstitious beliefs around it can be conquered, many exercise hope based on the antecedents of the organisers, ECO Challenge Limited. About two years ago, this same group had brought to mere moonlight tales, the myth surrounding the mystical Zuma rock, which before that time was held in awe. It was believed that no one had ever gotten to the foot of Zuma Rock and returned alive, until the team from Eco Challenge Limited proved otherwise.
After Zuma rock was the Mountain of Death or Chappal Wade as it is called in Fulfulde, the native tongue. Standing at the height of 2,442 metres or 7,963 feet above sea level, the mountain is located in the Adamawa Mountains, in a remote corner of Gashaka-Gumti National Park. This is why it is called the roof of Nigeria.
According to Alhaji Usman Abubakar Gumi, the MD/CEO of Eco Challenge, his team is poised to bring into open, Nigeria's best kept secret. He said the Gashaka Gumti National Park is one rich tourist site which when put to proper use, can rake in huge profits annually. What the survival series intends to do, beginning with the Mountain of Death, is to expose the huge tourism potentials of Nigeria, bringing into limelight, hitherto silent and unsung tourist sites.
Gashaka Gumti National Park which happens to be the biggest national park in Nigeria has been in relative obscurity. The park has one of the most outstanding evidence of German occupation in Nigeria as revealed by the remains of a fort built by the German soldiers during World War I. it is also home to the only rain forest in northern Nigeria, with an array of water bodies which form the source of the survival of the River Benue. Covering about 6,600 sq km and home to over 300 animal species, the Gashak Gumti National Park is blessed with five habitats, about 13 species of bats, 11 species of primates, 24 species of carnivals, 433 species of birds, 300 species of butterflies, 23 species of reptiles and many more. The park is home to the largest Chimpanzee community in Nigeria and its environs. It is this wealth of nature that the Survival Series 1 would expose to world knowledge.
The Taraba State government under Governor Danbaba Suntai has therefore decided to key into this opportunity to expose the potentials of the state and create an alternative income earner in tourism. Born about 18 years ago, Taraba is the state with the highest number of languages in Nigeria with heaving landscapes, an assortment of mineral reserves and unpolluted climatic conditions peculiar to Scotland.
But attractive as it may seem, the trek through the five habitats of Gashaka Gumti, amongst wildlife, and culminating at the peak of Nigeria's highest mountain, is not without its problems. As a matter of fact, the very endearing qualities are a real threat to life. A trek in this region is a breathtaking experience emphasising power, strength, and dynamics. The difficult terrain; dynamic weather which could get very cold and very hot, cloudy and misty; and the large family of wild animals in their natural habitat all combine to pose a threat to health as well as life. The fact that a death assurance package is in the offing for contestants has done little to allay the fears of Nigerians who would want to participate.
It would be recalled that in a less challenging terrain at the Shere Hills in Jos, the fourth edition of the Gulder Ultimate Search lost one of its contestants, Anthony Ogadje who drowned and died in questionable circumstances. Even the presence of an attendant team of lifeguards trained in first aid for drowning, and the retinue of medical staff supposedly trained in resuscitation techniques, as well as fellow contestants could not save his life.
The worry therefore is: how safe is the survival series beginning with the trek to the top of the mountain of death? From explanations from the organisers during a recent press conference in Abuja, the survival show would be rather tasking and demanding. One would therefore expect a great deal of endurance, strength and the ability to withstand high thresholds of pain or other forms of deprivation. According to Engr. Charles Nyanganji, the project Director, all the difficulties have been taken care of. Mr Emeka Mba, Director General of the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board, also stated that it is a laudable venture which would portray Nigeria in good light before the world.
The overall winner would go home with a N10, 000,000 cash prize, a sports utility vehicle SUV, and two weeks vacation anywhere of choice in the world. The event comes up within the first quarter of next year.

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