There’s no question about it: Nigeria is huge. And just as the naysayers say size doesn’t matter, you realise that in West Africa, where just a couple of miles adds another fascinating tribal group, or that journey over the Obudu Plateau makes the difference between Guinean savannah grasses and verdant tropical rainforest, it really, really does! The point is that Nigeria is a country of many colors and creeds.
Its character morphs and shapeshifts almost as elegantly as a white-throated monkey swings between the boughs of the jungle. City wise, it’s got the colossal sprawl of Abuja – one of the fastest growing urban areas in the world. And then there’s Lagos – 17.5 million strong, but still finding time to chill on the Atlantic beaches.
Moving away from the towns and to the country, and Nigeria’s many faces continue. This time they peer like humans in the form of chimpanzees from the forest-clad gorges of the Gashaka Gumti. Or, they are plumed in pink like the black cranes of the Bade-Nguru Wetlands. It’s all very wonderful stuff.
Lets explore the best places to visit in Nigeria:
The gateway to the reserves of the Cross River (the state of which Calabar is the capital), and the further-flung rainforests of the Afi Mountains (home to gorillas, chimps, rare rockfowl and craggy peaks of stone), the town of Calabar is a well-honed tourist stop-off on the way through to Cameroon or the southern Nigerian coast.
Before making a beeline for the amazing primate sanctuaries outside of the town though, be sure to linger a little and case out the darker past of the city at the Calabar Museum – Calabar was once one of the principle slave trading ports in West Africa.
Also worth a look is the Duke Town chapel, which is considered one of the oldest Christian worshipping houses in Nigeria.
Frenetic and packed, Lagos is not only the largest city in Nigeria, but also the single largest on the entire African continent.
Yep, nearly 18 million people call this one home, and boy does it show! Throbbing streets of beer bars and clubs pepper the districts of Ikeja and Victoria Island, where ex-pats and sailors and locals alike chat over frothy brews.
There are also salt-washed promenades on the coast, and the beautiful reaches of Lagos Bar Beach – a sloping stretch of golden sand that meets the waves of the Atlantic Ocean in style.
Meanwhile, jet skis purr across Tarkwa Bay, and the sobering histories of the slave trade continue to move at the Point of No Return.
Nestled inland, directly north of sprawling Lagos, the regional capital of the Ogun State can be found surrounded by great swathes of yam fields and maize farms, swaying wooded savanna and palm oil plantations.
An historic location on the important trade routes between the coast and the heart of West Africa led to previous inhabitants raising adobe fortifications around the old town, many of which can still be seen today.
However, it’s the bulbous rises of the Olumo Rock that soars atop the town that really draws the eye.
This ancient natural fort plays host to a great cultural museum, a craft shop selling local artworks, and caves that showcase the human history of the Ogun region as a whole.
4. Yankari National Park
Whether you make the arduous journey east from Abuja and south from Gombe to the Yankari in search of the roaming herds of African elephants (rumored to be the most numerous on the continent) or to seek out the fascinating relics of earlier peoples in the caves, you can rest assured that this well-serviced national park won’t disappoint.
More than 20,000 people come here to partake in ecotourism every year, which means there are plenty of lodges and tour operators on the ground.
Don’t leave without scaling the lookouts on Kalban Hill, or wondering at the chiseled rocks of the awesome Tonlong Gorge.
Okay, so Abuja ain’t no Lagos. Purpose-built, enfolded by the soft topography of the inland hills, and formed from clearly delineated districts that house business-suited men and politicians, there’s no grit or grime here (or at least not relatively). That means the capital is a nice place to relax and unwind following the energy and action of the megalopolis on the coast.
And there are other interesting sights too, like the Abuja Millennium Park and the quad of spear-like minarets that heralds the beautiful Abuja National Mosque.
Meanwhile, Wuse Market is great for shoppers, and the National Assembly Complex offers a glimpse into the country’s modern political system.