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Where rooms, pools and a blooming garden are the X factors
Stories by MUSA JIBRIL
It was déjà vu at first sight. Have I been here before? No. Have I seen this scenery before? Yes. One moment my thought was foggy, the next minute I had clarity as per where I’d seen similar panorama––in Toni Braxton videos. Oh yes, the “Breath Again” video from her eponymous debut LP. There was no mistaking the resemblance in the maze of green shrubs and hedges.
But my friend disagreed. He thought I had stretched my imagination too far. Naija videos na! He needn’t say more. Pronto, the floodgate opened. First, Tiwa Savage’s “My Darlin’. I could figure the spot where the singer, garbed in a white bridal gown, pranced and wiggled her waist in a passageway carved out of green shrubs. Second, “Miracle” a video of a Paradisiac orchard where Dice Ailes and Lil Kesh swanned amidst a bacchanal feast of nubile nymphs.
The oval blue pool helped with the recall. I could see clearly the fountain and its water-spouting dolphins in Skales’ “Lo Le,” and also the pristine beach of cavorting vixens portrayed in Bracket and Tecno’s “Panya.”
These visuals, stitched and segued, give a snap 360-degree view of Chaka Beach Resort.
This Saturday afternoon, we had driven through a Lagos rain–– intermittent cloudbursts that dogged us from Okota to Victoria Island, all the way, over the long haul, to Lekki and Ajah, until we veered off the Epe highway to Eleko––and arrived there at 2 p.m to a humid weather and a faded-blue sky brightened by a lazy sun that hardly warmed the day.
There it was, stretched before us, cool garden, blue pool, balmy beachfront––the estate, bequeathed with a fine sight of clean, white beach; the vista, a genuine postcard beachfront; the view, inspiring of dreams of sea breeze, bikinis and pina colada.
Contrary to the bustles in the music videos, I found an unusual tranquillity. This day in December, there was no familiar face of Tinsel town; neither was there a sighting of pop artistes and their entourage of video vixens. Around us, though, were promises of good leisure––a horse standing idly twitching its long tail, volleyball court, table tennis, snooker table and an Adriatic pool with a lone female swimmer, lazily breast-stroking. The serenity of the surrounding was astounding joy.
Jerry Onwusoro, manager of Chaka Resort would tell me later: “Unlike other popular resorts that cater exclusively for pleasure, here is both pleasure and study.”
He went further: “Any customer that comes in is taken as our friends and family.”
For its four-and-half-years of existence, the resort’s fame was as a grand getaway for those who really want to drop out of sight.
Onwusoro explained why. “ We are wary that too much of noise will not be good business. Our clients, who are mostly CEOs and corporate figures, come around during weekdays. If we are too loud, they won’t find it pleasurable to be here.”
Despite its relative obscurity, Chaka’s heavyweight in the leisure circuit was due to its capture of strategic showbiz niches. “We regularly host end-of-year parties for big corporations (he dropped names of a telecom giant and a food company). We are high on the list of choice locations for Nollywood movies and we are a Mecca for music videos,” Onwusoro articulated.
It started as a modest resort of 16 standard and deluxe rooms and a high-priced two-bedroom penthouse with a panoramic view and Jacuzzi. Presently, the resort is in a transformation phase. An ongoing construction of an extension scheduled for completion by February 2018, will add 32 more rooms, bringing its accommodation capacity to 52 rooms.
And of the attractions to come, picture this: an amusement park for children with the usual slides, climbers and playhouse. State-of-the-art gym. Big-capacity conference hall. Mini supermarket. Multi-purpose hall. These, already in the works, to be unveiled in February.
“We are for study and seminar,” the manager reiterated as we toured the facility. “That is why we are building a 200-seat conference hall. We are going to create more attractions at the beachfront by growing another mini garden for pre-wedding photo-shoot and installing a beach basketball court.”
At the moment, entry into Chaka resort is somewhat laissez-aller. “We don’t charge an entry fee to the beach. But if you are bringing your stuff, food and drink, you may have to pay a token. You may want to rent one of the two cornerpiece structures (he pointed at one where a group of beachgoers are frolicking). For a price, you can have it all to yourself and your party.”
He was upbeat about the resort becoming the best in the axis in future. “Our strength is in remodelling our hotel. We are good at rehabilitation. Constantly, we reinvent, repackage and upgrade our facility, the reason our facility is up-to-date, ” averred the manager. “Trust me, we are good at facility management.”
He admitted that running a business in Nigeria is stressful. “We, however, make it easy for ourselves by benchmarking against world standard because our clients are mostly expatriates,” he claimed.
That the resort’s clientele base is largely expatriates––dominantly the diplomatic community, and chiefly Koreans, Chinese, Russians and an assortment of foreign workforce that worked in a nearby plant––helps the business too, in no small measure.
The hospitality industry subscribes to showbiz’s Golden Rule: if you have got it, flaunt it. Why has Chaka been reluctant to blow its trumpet?
“We have been lying low for a reason. People hear about this place mostly from social media and referrals. We once ran a publicity campaign on Silverbird TV that triggered an avalanche of demands that almost overwhelmed us. Because we would not lower our standards, we suspended the campaign. The experience drove us to start putting up the new structures currently under construction,” he disclosed.
By February, according to him, it will be time to mount another campaign
Later, as we readied to leave, Onwusoro still wanted to tell us about the resorts’s selling point––and I thought, what else could it be beside the usual clichés of “Our picture-perfect scenery” or “excellent customer service?”
He talked differently. “We are neat, very hygienic, from the rooms to the pools to the beach. Just look around, we have the neatest beach anywhere in Lagos.”
A big claim, but surprisingly correct.
Is the name Chaka a derivative of Chaka the legendary Zulu warrior? I wanted to be sure. So I asked him, and I got a totally different answer.
“Our village in Delta State is called Ashaka. We customized it to Chaka,” said Onwusoro.