Every year, millions of Nigerians take time off their busy schedules to relax and explore tourist attractions around the world. We travel EVERYWHERE. You see us in China, Chicago, Nairobi, Canberra and everywhere in between. With the recent woes of the Naira however, many are choosing to look inward for their holiday destinations and even if you have no such considerations, it’s always nice to try something new isn’t it?
Last month, Team HAI and Team MeddleLane emerged finalists at Fayrouz L’Original 2 after the semi final which held at the Tinapa Events Centre. The real story however, was that the show inadvertently exposed one of the best-kept tourism secrets in the world right here in Nigeria. It is the awe-inspiring city of Calabar.
Here are the top 5 attractions to see when you visit Calabar.
- The Tinapa Lakeside Resort
This is probably the least well-known of all of the famous attractions in Nigeria. Tinapa is a tourism and business resort cum free trade zone located about 45 minutes north of Calabar city. Tinapa is about 80,000 sq metres big and houses an entertainment strip with a casino, an 8-screen digital cinema, children’s arcade, restaurants, a mini amphitheater, a night club and pubs.
There is also an artificial tidal lake that feeds from the Calabar River, and an amusement park. Away from the 243-room Tinapa Lakeside Hotel is the popular Studio Tinapa now home to the first Global black entertainment and lifestyle network Ebony Life TV.
- Marina Resort
The Marina Resort in Calabar sits on a great historical site, the water mouth of Calabar. It stands near old slave trade sites, where an estimated 30% of the slaves that left the shores of Africa were deported.
Today, the Marina Resort is a preserved historical site and recreation center. Here you will find the iconic slave history museum, hotel, restaurant; night club, a carousel for the children and extraordinary views of the Calabar River. For the L’Original contestants who got to spend a whole day before the show exploring Calabar, it was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- Calabar Museum
Housed in the beautiful old British governor’s building overlooking the river, the museum has a fascinating collection covering Calabar’s days as the seat of the Efik kingdom, the slave and palm-oil trade, and the colonial period. Open between 9am and 6pm daily, the Calabar Museum charges an admission fee of N100.
An interesting part about Calabar Museum is that it was designed and constructed in parts in Glasgow, and transported to Nigeria over a series of shipments. Calabar has a long history of colonial rule, and this museum represents the era. The museum has also preserved precious papers and documents pertaining to the colonial times.
The museum offers free guided tours during off-peak periods. You can gain an in-depth knowledge about the colonial past of Calabar at the museum. There is a big library that holds legal and constitutional documents in their original forms. The upper floor has been preserved with original furnishings of the time when it was used by colonial settlers. The antiquity, exhibits and artifacts at the museum can engage the attention of interested visitors for several hours. Unfortunately no cameras are allowed in the museum.
- Summit Hills
This is a 367 hectare real estate development outside the city centre which has as its main attraction the imposing International Convention Centre.
There is also a hotel, recreational facilities, a golf course, a nature reserve, a purpose-built hospital and residential accommodation. Summit Hills is to put it frankly, a jaw-dropping development which when fully completed, will herald the arrival of Calabar as a destination city in Africa and beyond.
The impressive mixed-use lifestyle development combines convention, recreation, arts, culture, housing and healthcare facilities all within an exclusive and idyllic location which is serviced by some of the most excellent transport links in Nigeria including the Margaret Ekpo International Airport bypass and West Africa’s first completed monorail linking to the city centre, Tinapa and the Calabar Free Trade Zone.
The train ferries passengers between Summit Hills and the Tinapa Complex, allowing smooth access to Studio Tinapa, Tinapa Shopping Centre, and the Tinapa Water-park.
Is that awesome or what?
- Food. A lot of food.
Delicious Efik/Ibibio/Anang delicacies are not in short supply here! Here in the erstwhile land of the fattening room, food is taken very seriously. If you want to sample the true culinary delights of Calabar, we recommend that you leave your hotel and take a walk around the city. There are several local restaurants and mobile food stalls offering the best of local and regional cuisine.
For the contestants at L’Original 2, this was one of the biggest attractions of the whole experience. There were the usual favourites like Afang, Edikan-Ikong and Editan but they also discovered amazing dishes like Afia Efere Ebot (White soup) and Ekpang Nkukwo – a delightful delicacy made by steaming grated cocoyam in spinach leaves which are then marinated with periwinkles, snails, crayfish, dry pepper and the native Uyayak spice.
A fantastic culinary experience which is better experienced than described.