Exploring Cotonou, Benin Republic in 3 days was a mini getaway from the sore reality in Lagos.
Google Nigeria hosted some influencers, journalists, bloggers and media houses to explore Cotonou using tools like; Google App, Search, Google Translations, Google Now and Maps. These are really great travel assistants for people who love to explore different countries in continents not just in Africa.
Our trip started from Ikeja GRA to Badagry and then Cotonou, Benin Republic. This is how it went down.
We left Lagos exactly 10:14 am passing through OSHODI – CELE – AGO OKOTA – IKOTUN – IGANDO – OJO – IJANIKIN down to BADAGRY. We got to the Seme border at 13:12pm and for some of us in the group, we were surprised when we got to the border check-in that tyres were piled up at both sides of the road.
See more photos from the border check in
Our bus was delayed for over 3 hours because some of us were taking photos at the border and the immigration officers didn’t take it lightly with us. They were really up and down trying to make sure we don’t capture them for security reasons. We crossed over 6 different border check in before we got to Cotonou.
We got to Sun Beach Hotel, Cotonou at 17:22 pm and we all checked in and settled to refresh ourselves.
We left the hotel for dinner at Teranga Restaurant, Haie Vive, Cotonou – Benin around 19:00 pm.
Dinner was delicious.
We had breakfast at the hotel and we later proceeded for a brief meeting at the hotel conference room. Mr. Taiwo Kola Ogunlade, Communications & PR Manager, West Africa, Google welcomed us and introduced to us Google tools and how we can make travelling easier for us using the tools.
One of the tools we had to use often was the Google translator tool. Benin Republic is a French speaking country and communication was one of our biggest barrier. The translator tool really helped during the trip. Who wants to be left behind? No one really…
We were taught how to use other google tools like Chrome, Maps, Google Now and Google app search. You don’t want to get lost in a foreign country. The best app to use is Google maps. It will show where your location is when you type it and it also tracks your journey using the Timeline feature just by the menu bar.
We were put into groups to know each other and for a cooking task for day two. We also had the Google photo competition during the trip. The most creative individual photo gets the chance to win the NEXUS 7 tablet. So the competition was on.
Our first visit since we got to town was The Sacred Forest in Ouidah where King Kpasse was king. The driving distance from Cotonou to Ouidah is 40 kilometers (25 miles). Ouidah is the spiritual capital of Benin with a population of 100,000 people. The city has some popular attractions like the Market Center, Maison du Brésil art gallery, a voodoo python temple and numerous statues and monuments where the slaves were taken to the beach.
VISITING THE SCARED FOREST IN OUIDAH
One of the few attractions at the sacred forest were the demi gods. When we walked into the forest, the first demigod we saw was – LEGBA.
Legba has some serious features. See photos below;
Isn’t Legba attractive?
Other gods in the forest;
THE GOD FA
It was said that this Babalawo was in a state of dilemma whether he should tell the King what the gods told him. It is also known that the priest is forbidden to tell the King he will die and it is a taboo for him not to tell the King he will die. The punishment for this is DEATH.
And then we had lunch at Casa Del Papa restaurant located in Ouidah Plage, Benin. We were welcomed by masquerades also pronounced as Egun gun and a local band who played live music all through in as much as we didn’t understand the language and to our surprise, they performed in Yoruba. It is known that some parts of Benin Republic is originated from Badagry, Ketu, Oyo state and more. Some of the indigenes speak Yoruba while some speak the local language.
We also made a visit to the Slave Monument in Ouidah where slaves were shipped off.
Our next visit was the Place of No Return built in partnership with UNESCO. “La Porte du non retour” which translates to “The door of no return”.
The ‘Door of no Return’ is actually a gate-like monument marking the port area where slave ships docked and slave traders stayed and conducted business. It was called the ‘door of no return’ by the locals because back then it was the last place slaves marched through to the boats which will take them to the slave ships destined for other continents from where they were never seen again. “The door of no return” a monument marking the last place slaves marched through to the boats which will take them to the slave ships.
Photos from Casa Del Papa
We left Casa Del Papa at about 4:50 pm, we set out to The Handicraft Center where we were taught how to make beads.
We got to Benin Marin Hotel (the largest hotel in Benin Republic) at 8:23pm, where we had dinner with live music from a guitarist. We were back the Sun Beach hotel by 10:00pm.
We departed from the hotel after breakfast to Ganvie Lake Village located in the outskirt of Cotonou. It is also referred to as the VENICE OF AFRICA. Ganvie is a lake village in Benin, lying in Lake Nokoué, near Cotonou with a population of around 20,000 people, it is probably the largest lake village in Africa and as such is very popular with tourists.
The village was created in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries by the Tofinu people, established on the lake for the Tofinu to avoid Fon warriors capturing slaves for sale to European traders, making the shallow waters and islands of Lake Nokoue a haven.
Originally based on farming, the village’s main industries other than tourism are now fishing and fish farming. The Venice of Africa” on Lake Nokoué in Benin, a river that leads to Badagry in Nigeria.
STILL IN GANVIE VILLAGE
After a 3 hour drive to Port Novo, we arrived at 3pm to the king’s palace where King Tofa and 25 other kings lived before the rise of equality. The name Porto Novo comes from the Portuguese.
Porto-Novo was once a tributary of the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, which had offered it protection from the neighbouring Fon, who were on the business of expanding their influence and power in the region, and the Yoruba community in Porto Novo today continue to remain one of the two ethnicities aboriginal to the city. The city was originally called Ajashe by the Yorubas, and Hogbonu by the Guns. It was renamed by the Portuguese in the 16th century to Porto Novo (of Portuguese origin), meaning “New Port.” It was originally developed as a port for the slave trade. In 1861, the British, who were active in nearby Nigeria, bombarded the city, which persuaded the Kingdom of Porto-Novo to accept French protection in 1863. The neighbouring Kingdom of Dahomey objected to French involvement in the region and war broke out between the two states. In 1883, Porto-Novo was incorporated into the French “colony of Dahomey and its dependencies.” In 1900, it became Dahomey’s capital city.
VISIT TO THE KING’S PALACE
We were not allowed to take pictures inside the palace. We were given the grand tour and history of the palace.
Lunch was served at Le Palace restaurant 16:15pm. After lunch, we went to the local market to get food stuff for the food contest. Below was the list of things to get and we had to use Google translator to communicate with the market women. It was a bit difficult getting things around with the group.
Unfortunately, we could not make the recipe because of time but this was a presentation made by the chef . We had a two-course meal to present. The first one was entree (Salad) and the main course which was Amala (Yam flour) with egusi (melon) soup or sauce with ether chips or rice.
We made our way back to the hotel at 10:10pm.
Coming back to Nigeria
We left the hotel at 9am and 10:30am we arrived Seme border. Our trip back to Lagos was a smooth ride and our plan as a group was to get to Lagos before 4 pm but we had 25 stops from different officials from the likes of NDLEA, FRSC, POLICE, IMMIGRATION, BORDER CONTROL OFFICERS, CUSTOMS. We departed from Sun Beach Hotel, Cotonou as at 09:45am and we got to Lagos 4:38pm. Our plan getting to Lagos didn’t work as we had different stop overs.
The trip was a memorable one and I will want to do this again.
View on African countries and border control
Most Africans countries are quick to open their borders to white men aka oyinbo and accept into their countries regardless of what they want to do. When it comes to a fellow black man, it becomes very difficult. They make is so difficult for fellow black people to enter other African countries. They should make entry for African travelling in Africa more easier. They should not close their borders on us.
Hosted by Google Nigeria
Photos and videos – Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Bus – Lag Bus
Organised by – Mirus events led by Kunmi Ariyo
Tour guide – Mesmin.