Nigeria, Africa in the Raw, Gains Back Tourism

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Nigeria is not the most popular travel destination in Africa; decades of political unrest have given it a nasty reputation.

But, the Nigerian government is working hard to change all that and promote Nigeria’s outstanding natural beauty, wildlife and culture. Included in the ongoing initiative to promote tourism are education programmes to help locals see (and reap) the benefits of sustainable tourism practices and the importance of fostering the perception of Nigeria as a tourist-friendly destination.

There remain, however, certain reservations about travelling to Nigeria. The US government, for instance, has once again warned against holidaying in the country, especially as Lagos seems intent on retaining its reputation for undue violence and kidnappings in the Niger Delta continue.

Nigeria is also said to offer one of the “rawest” African experiences, and many travel guides recommend it only to those who have travelled to other African countries and are, to an extent, experienced.

Where to go

Despite what the American government thinks, Lonely Planet says that Lagos makes a fine destination, provided you take the proper precautions. But there are plenty of other places to go if the idea of Lagos makes you nervous.

  • Calabar is known as a stopover point for people travelling to Cameroon, but it’s a great destination in itself. Some of the highlights include Calabar Museum, which, in addition to its historical and cultural relevance, has the distinction of being designed and built in Glasgow and then shipped to the city to be constructed.There is also the Drill Monkey Rehab centre, which was established by American biologists Peter Jenkins and Liza Gadsby. It rescues and rehabilitates endangered Drill Monkeys which are subject to hunting and poaching and smuggling. Rehabilitated monkeys are released back into the wild at the Drill Ranch in the Afi Mountains near Calabar. Guests are encouraged to stay over at the Afi Mountain Ranch and try the forest canopy walkway there.Don’t forget the Cross River State Annual Christmas Festival, which includes live music, the Calabar Carnival, a regatta and traditional dancing. Excellent shopping opportunities abound in the old town, which boasts two markets: Watt Market for anything from clothes to live poultry and Marian Market, which consists mostly of fruit and veg.
  • The Oyo Yoruba Empire in south western Nigeria boasts picturesque Portuguese-style houses, but is also known for its school of Oshogobo Art and Oshun Shrine, which is dedicated to the goddess of fertility. Highlights include the annual Oshun Festival, which takes place at the end of the August, and which sees thousands of childless women descend on the shrine to beseech the goddess. Ife is an ancient town which still encapsulates Yoruba culture dating back to the 13th century.

Other attractions include:

  • If you want waterfalls you need to travel to the Kwara State to the Owu Falls, the steepest natural waterfall in West Africa. Jos City contains the Assop Falls.
  • The Ikogosi Warm Springs and the Wikki Warm Springs (in the Yankari Game Reserve) are a delight for tourists.
  • The coastline boasts sparkling beaches, coconut trees and mangrove swamps.
  • Kainji Lake Game Reserve in the Niger and Kwara states offers elephants, hippos, crocodiles and lions.
  • Birnin Kudu, in Jigawa State is the site of rock paintings that date back thousands of years.
  • Obudu Cattle Ranch in the Cross River State contains a waterfall, gorilla habitat and fantastic bird-watching opportunities.

Nigeria is slowly losing its reputation as a tourist no-go zone and starting to woo travellers with its natural diversity and rich culture. Screw up your courage and give it a go.

(image by Matthew Bowden, via Wikimedia Commons)

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