Nigeria travel blog.
Dear Sir/Madam, This letter is not intended to to cause any embarrassment but just to contact your esteem self-following the knowledge of your high repute and trustworthiness.I am Michael Adefolake,the son of the late Nigerian Head of State who died on the 8th of April 1994.If you are conversant with world news,you would understand better.You have absolutely nothing to loose in assisting us instead, you have so much to gain.
I have secretly deposited the sum of $30,000,000.00 with a security firm abroad whose name is withheld for now until we open communications.The money is contained in box consignment with Security Deposit Number THX1138. I shall be grateful if you could receive this fund into your Bank account for safekeeping.
Known as Nigerian Prince scams, Nigerian Letters or simply “419” in Nigeria, these familiar emails are known around the world.
So when I was planning my trip to Nigeria, I was expecting a country full of administration, red tape, corruption and bribery…
Instead, I found a country with an incredible variety of sights, a vibrant culture and chilled, friendly people.
If you have the patience to navigate the convoluted mess of their tourist visa process, you will be more richly rewarded in travel experience than any prince could offer.
The trip was off to a good start. On the flight to Lagos, the woman sitting to my left prayed to Jesus for the entire flight, while the woman on my right hugged a giant teddy bear. I knew I was in safe hands.
Lagos. Wow. A mega-city in the truest sense of the word.
A heaving mass of traffic, pollution and insanity.
I immediately fell in love with it.
It is like nowhere on Earth and can be best described as Mos Eisley spaceport come to life. It is a giant hub where people seem to be constantly travelling through while not actually getting anywhere.
My first stop was the Lekki Conservation Area. An independent nature reserve in the heart of Lagos with supposedly one of the longest canopy walks in Africa.
It was odd seeing monkeys and wildlife while still hearing the gentle and soothing buzz of Lagos’ traffic in the background.
The next stop was a mega-church.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Words cannot describe how truly massive this place is. Built to house millions of people during it’s annual Holy Ghost Congress, it blurs the line between church and city.
Redemption Camp as it is also known, now houses it’s own banks, restaurants, markets, post office, schools, a power plant and even a fairground. It has it’s own security and police force. And most importantly, congregation members can buy houses on site in order to be close to the church. I was told that it is completely self-sufficient and does not depend on the Nigerian government for anything.
Pastor Enoch Adeboye grew the church rapidly during the 1980’s with his monthly Holy Ghost Services. These monthly services eventually led to the annual congress which attracts millions of worshippers from across Nigeria. The church grew so large that an uninhabited forest outside of Lagos was purchased so it could expand indefinitely.
There is a striking contrast between the 40,000 acre mega church and the 200 acre conservation area only a few kilometres away.
My visit there really opened my eyes to how ingrained Christianity is within the fabric of Nigeria.
From one place of worship to another.
The New Afrika Shrine is a true giant of World Music. It replaced the Afrika Shrine which burnt down in 1977, which was where Fela Kuti laid some of the foundations of modern Afrobeat and placed it into music history. Fela’s son Femi Kuti still manages the club today.
While not the safest place I’ve ever been, it is definitely a highlight of Lagosian nightlife. I was told that there is an unwritten rule here – drug use is ignored. This certainly smelled true to me.
Sunday morning I needed to cleanse my soul, so I headed to another mega church – The Living Faith Evangelical Church. Once the largest enclosed church auditorium in the world, it hosts 250,000 people across 5 services on Sunday mornings. I was welcomed with open arms and holy oil, an experience I won’t soon forget.
It was time to leave Lagos. Eventually. Lagos is like on big traffic jam.
Traffic jams in Lagos are known locally as “go-slows”, which is now one of my new favourite terms.
Olumo Rock, Abeokuta
I eventally headed north to Olumo Rock in Abeokuta – a natural tribal fortress during the 19th century.
It was there I met Iya Orisa a (reportedly) 134 year old preistess who grew up behind the rock in a small settlement. I was lucky enough to be blessed by her, so it was a very auspicious day for me.
Just to be sure all potential deities were properly looking after me, I went to the local fetish market just in case.
On display were the usual collection of bat heads, roots, medicine and animal carcasses.
And one ratsicle.
My next stop was Calabar, which was an 11 hour bus ride across Nigeria towards the border with Cameroon. Calabar was the centre of the British slave trade in the surrounding area during the 17th century.
The Slave History Museum and the local museum were both welcoming and enlightening.
As was the local cuisine…
Calabar is also home to “Pandrillus”, a primate conservation sanctuary focused on combating primate poaching and the bush meat trade.
I shared the visit with a group of school children who all had a good laugh at the drill’s grooming, courtship and relaxation techniques.
My main reason for coming to Calabar was to visit a Nollywood Film Studio. It was abandoned a few years and and there were so many interesting images that I decided to write a separate blog about it here –> Hooray for Nollywood
Next to the film studio was a water park which was empty due to it being a weekday, but still made for some interesting exploring.
Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove
My final stop was the town of Osogbo and the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove”. This was a real gem and a highlight of my trip.
These sacred groves were a part of all Yoruba settlements until urbanization and neglect destroyed all but one.
The last of the Yoruba Sacred Grove forests was preserved by Austrian Susanne Wenger in the 1950’s when she settled in the local area. She restored the sculptures and preserved the grove which local artists still maintain today.
Along the River Osun is a series of places for cleansing and worship of Osun, the goddess of fertility. Worshippers cleanse in the river, leave offerings, sacrifice chickens and sip gin.
It was a peaceful and perfect end to my trip.
Remember to check out my other Nigeria travel blog here – Hooray for Nollywood
Visas: This is the tricky party. As always, contact the embassy for the most up to date information. It was not cheap and they use a 3rd party company to review applications in London, but at least the information is available online now. Ensure that all of your documents are recent and original. It took over a week to process and I had to submit additional documentation from my employer
Airport: Arrival and admin was pretty straight-forward. I arranged an airport transfer to my hotel since I arrived late at night, but getting around in Lagos was easy due to Uber.
Money (Nigerian Naira): You can change money at the airport when you arrive and the rates were ok. ATMs were plentiful in Lagos, however I would make sure you have enough money when travelling out of the capital.
Electrical Outlets: UK adapters were usually around
Useful Tips: Patience. Especially in Lagos traffic.
Language: English is spoken everywhere.