The Federal Capital Territory has witnessed a new weekend hobby involving young working millennials in the city. It is physical, intense and daunting but well worth it in the end. Abuja residents have discovered hiking – the new weekend hobby that is gaining some interesting traction.
Starting at the meeting point at Central Park in Wuse and joining the Naija Adventurers hiking group in Gwarinpa, Nairametrics explored and experienced Abuja’s hiking scene and the prospects of the hobby becoming a fully incorporated sporting activity.
7:35 am at the hiking group’s muster point…
Before hiking commenced, the officials gave a health and safety pep talk and afterwards, the hikers set out for the mountain range at Gwarimpa. At the base of the mountain, each hiker paid a fee of N500 to the officials before resuming the slow climb up the hill.
I was one of the first hikers to hit the trail on a tedious but exciting quest to reach the top. Having kept away from the sport for a long time, I couldn’t help but stop many times to rest and catch my breath. At these stops, it was impossible to miss the amount of concern, encouragement and cheering that other hikers offered to those of us who were not as adept at the task of climbing. A little over 45 minutes later, we had reached our target destination but this was not the end. Our guides would still go on to show us other parts of the mountain range.
It was fun but it was also work for me. After a brief period of rest in a serene spot under a tree, I set about the task of gathering the information I needed for this article.
Speaking with fellow hikers, Udoeche, Tinuke and a host of others, I gleaned some interesting insight into this activity and why it was attracting several young people. For many of the hikers, it was not just a physical activity to keep fit and healthy but also a chance to meet and network with new people, some of whom could become clients or business partners, or even offer useful referrals at zero cost.
“I have participated in several hiking trips in the United States,” Udoeche revealed, citing that he preferred the activity abroad than in Abuja.
My second respondent, Tinuke cited the feeling of closeness to nature as her primary reason for joining the hiking club and participating in the activity.
I caught up with the hiking supervisor Bayo, of Naija Adventurers who gave me an overview of the industry, where it is presently and future plans for its value chain development.
How much hiking costs at the Naija Adventurers hiking club, Abuja
We charge N500 per hike at Naija Adventurers, for now, and no registration is required. However, we are looking at getting our customers to become registered members and are also looking to set up Diamond and Platinum membership categories from December; but for now, we do N500 per hike.
Is the hiking club a registered business in Abuja?
We are registered and we are working on a trademark. There is an Abuja hike club association and we also have federations including the Nigerian Hikers Federation which will come into full swing in August or September and which will govern all hiking clubs, not just in Abuja but in Nigeria. Other hiking clubs would have to come under this Federation. There would be rules and regulations, medical insurance, etc.
How many hiking clubs are currently operating in Abuja? Is the business profitable and scalable?
There are several hiking clubs here and many of them can be found on social media. For now, much of what we generate from the weekend hiking fees that we get from customers is ploughed back into the business. We still need a lot of external support to move the sport forward and achieve the kind of profitability that we would like.
We run a number of expenses which we pay for from the hiking fees that we get from customers. We pay for medical supplies, pathfinders, trail setters who find hiking trails, and sometimes, we also give stipends to our social media managers, who are more of volunteers.
What can be done to improve the business side of things?
Sponsorships from organisations would come in very handy. Government grants would go a long way as well because as it stands now, the bulk of what we get is reinvested into the club’s activities.
How did hiking clubs start in Abuja?
We in Abuja are part of a new generation of upcoming hikers joining our contemporaries in hiking clubs across different parts of the world. In Abuja, we started by gathering a group of friends on weekends, exploring mountain trails and discovering places around us. Because most of us are too busy to explore our surroundings during the week, so we chose weekends to hang out with our friends, exercise and chase waterfalls. It has since grown from there and many people are here for the networking opportunities.
Bottom line: The prospects for hiking in Nigeria
My interview is now completed and I start to head back down. It had been an exciting and enlightening experience and although I was exhausted, I had come off the trip with the contact details of several new acquaintances.
Hiking, although physically stressful is a hobby that has grown significantly in the past 5 years and has seen the establishment of various clubs within the Abuja metropolis. The plan to create more robust associations to steer the hobby into a profitable sport could see hiking become a potential foreign exchange revenue earner through tourism. With the African Development Bank (AfDB) stating in December 2020 that 5 million out of Africa’s 7 million aviation and tourism industry-related jobs were lost in 2020, the hiking clubs could easily move up the ladder to take a spot in the tourism and sports development niche, as well as become another opportunity to project a better image for Nigeria among the league of nations.