A Hidden Gem- Nigeria
By Craig Talbot
With 65 national monuments, 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a vast and varying landscape across the entirety of the continents most populous country – Nigeria should be a tourism heavyweight. The fact that it isn’t just adds to the appeal. Explore this raw gem for an unpredictable but rewarding trip of a lifetime.
As the second largest city in the whole of Africa – only second to Cairo – it is little surprise that Lagos is the most recognisable destination in all of Nigeria. The country capital is a bustling metropolitan which is frequently visited for its ample gold sand beaches and exhilarating nightlife showcasing the very best in African music. Take a trip to Lagos Bar Beach where you can enjoy a spot of horse riding, swimming, beach football or even a traditional African barbecue before sampling one or more of the myriad of bars that line the roads alongside it.
Yankari National Park
Yankari National Park is one of the few remaining areas in West Africa where wild animals are protected in their natural habitat making it Nigeria’s best national park and one of the most popular ecological tourism destinations in the whole of Africa. The North Nigerian savannahs biggest draw is the 500-strong population of elephant although the park still holds reasonable numbers of buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck and plenty of baboons too. Aside from the animals, the Yankari National Park also offers incredible flora with the beautiful lush setting of the Wikki Warm Spring well worth the price of admission alone.
Osun Sacred Forest
400 years ago there were many sacred groves in Yorubaland with every town having one, but now that heritage is warring thin. The dense forest of the Osun Sacred Grove – on the outskirts of the city of Osogbo – is one of the last remnants of primary high forest in southern Nigeria and is now seen as a symbol of identity for all Yoruba people. The UNESCO World Heritage Site reflects the dynamic tradition and culture of these fascinating folk. The landscape of the grove and its meandering river is dotted with sanctuaries and shrines, sculptures and art works in honour of Osun and other Yoruban deities. As an active religious site, visit one of the five sacred places and nine worship points strung along the river banks to witness worship taking place.
When most people think of Africa they often conjure up images of dry arid landscapes with large stretches of emptiness. But if you come to the Taraba State in the far northeast region of Nigeria you will enjoy the complete opposite. The Mambilla Plateau – a northern continuation of the Bamenda Highlands of Cameroon – has an undulating emerald green landscape bursting with wild exotic blooms that any hiker would find alluring. Explore the natural beauty of the lush vegetation, deep gorges and numerous ravines as well as spotting the cattle ranches, tea plantations and rolling, grassy hills along the way.
Deep in the valley of a tropical rain forest, behind the Ogba Hills of Ogbunike, is a fascinating site that lies very much off the tourism radar. Ogbunike Caves is a cluster of inter-connected caves that have been in use for centuries by local people for whom it has spiritual significance. It is a well known attraction which has featured on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List since 2007, yet even today very few travellers have ventured there in person. Explore the caves to see the large colony of bats of various sizes as well as spotting the incredible fauna across the site including deer, antelope, grass cutter, porcupine, alligator and snakes. In one section a stream flows out from one of the tunnels into the River Nkissa. Here you can actually feel the meeting point between the warm water from the caves and the cold water that flows through the rapid river.
With so many unadulterated natural attractions Nigeria is a country that we have grown to love. We have no doubt that as you venture through the various regions and fascinating landscapes on offer, your affection will only grow further too.
Where To Stay: Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel – Lagos
Built on the exclusive Victoria Island, the Hotel boasts spectacular views overlooking the Kuramo Lagoon with jetty access for dining cruises. Featuring 170 rooms including 8 opulently furnished luxury suites in three distinct styles – this is the place to stay when in Lagos for business or for recreation.
Where To Eat: Museum Kitchen
Like anything with the word Museum in the title – this restaurant scours the history of Nigerian cuisine to serve you up a traditional treat. To the strains of local music, you can sample dishes such as yam soup, pepper soup, fufu (fermented cassava), stockfish and snails.
What To Do: See A Nollywood Film
With the second largest film industry in the world in terms of both value and number of movies produced per year, Nigeria has garnered an influential culture that has spread far beyond the continent it so proudly represents. While Nollywood may lack some of the glitz and glamour that Hollywood receives; its film industry is still worth exploring.
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