If you read my previous post you’ll know I’ve fallen in love with Calabar. The city oozes so much history and culture. So, if you’re like me and want to get the most out of the city, these are the places to go and things to do. Some are a bit obvious, others a bit more obscure.
- Marina Resorts, obviously. Everyone’s first port of call, I think, when they get into Calabar. There’s a games room, cinema, shops, bars and a beautiful view of the river. Go on a boat cruise- it’s fun and doesn’t cost much. There is also a slave history museum and I didn’t expect it to be any good because of how small it looked but I had such a blast here! Consider using the route leading to the back gate. This offers a whole different experience as you see the locals and the fishermen and the market women, and the river serves as a gorgeous backdrop and lends this place beautiful scenery. Sundays seem to be the busiest day at Marina. You’d think it would be Fridays or Saturdays but nothing wrong with Sundays, I guess.
- The Old Residency Museum. If you’re a history buff like me, chances are you’ll want to visit this place. Fun fact: the main museum building was the Governor House in Calabar during the colonial era. It was shipped directly from Britain to Calabar! I have no idea how they managed that but good for them!
- Drill Ranch, off Marian road: nature and animal lovers, this one’s for you! This place isn’t big or diverse enough to be called a zoo. However you’ll find deer (two in fact, named Beyonce and Blue. Ha) and a rather old parrot that apparently talks. At the facility, there are about 39 grill monkeys spanning four generations, including its first drill, named “Calabar” who is now a great grandmother. This place is a bit difficult to find though, so make sure you ask, ask, ask.
- Court of Appeal. This isn’t a tourist attraction. It’s so off the beaten path that I like to believe I’m the only one that knows about this place (blame my ego, haha). The buildings are rustic- uncompleted in fact, and give off this abandoned vibe (great place for a photoshoot if you’re interested. You’re welcome;-)
5. Tinapa (obviously). Calabar’s premium tourist destination, Tinapa offers various activities from entertainment, business, agro-tourism, hospitality and culture among others for individuals, groups and families. The resort boasts an artificial tidal lake whose source is the Cross River, a games arcade, ‘Studio Tinapa’, a water park, restaurants and an amphitheater. Tinapa is also home to the Calabar Free Trade Zone, Nigeria’s Free Trade Zone.
6. Army barracks, Ikot Ansa. Another unknown. Credit goes to a friend for finding this place. This massive expanse of land serves as a base for the Nigerian army but really we’re not interested in them, yes? This place has everything to offer. If you’re into nature- you’ll see miles and miles of lush green land, a few hills dotted here and there, almost like an afterthought. If you’re a building and concrete kinda gal (or guy) there’re colorful buildings for you, and if you…I’ll just let the pictures do the talking, shall I?
7. The Calabar Carnival! A huge draw for people- local and international- the Calabar Carnival is the best carnival in Nigeria. It attracts a huge crowd every year, although the locals will tell you it just isn’t as great as it used to be which always leaves me wondering just how epic it was in its heyday. I wasn’t there last year but I did see preparations (like a dress rehearsal with numerous streets in Calabar being sealed off) and that’s the next best thing, no?
And there you go! The best places to go to in Calabar. There are places I’ve omitted, such as clubs (Club Jasper, Channel View) markets and shops (there’s Spar, Marian & Watts markets et al) just to avoid this post being too wordy. If you do intend to go to Calabar, I sincerely hope you have a great time. You might be a little disappointed at the city’s lethargic nature especially if you’re used to the hustle and bustle of cities like Lagos but I genuinely think this is just the general ‘vibe’ of the city. Just remember to keep both your eyes and mind open and you’ll be unearthing the subtle beauty that is Calabar in no time!