Saturday, 10 March 2018

NIGERIA: Calabar The Tourism Capital Of Nigeria

Calabar is the capital city of Cross River State in Southeast Nigeria. It is a charming and quite peaceful city.

Calabar also referred to as Canaan City is a city in Cross River State, in south southern Nigeria.

The original name for Calabar was Akwa Akpa, from the Efik language. The city is adjacent to the Calabar and Great Kwa rivers and creeks of the Cross River from its inland delta.

Calabar is the capital of Cross River State, and has often been described as the tourism capital of Nigeria.

Administratively, the city is divided into Calabar Municipal and Calabar South LGAs. It has an area of 406 square kilometres (157 sq mi) and had a population of 371,022 at the 2006 census.

Calabar is one of the oldest trading centers in Nigeria. The city is set on a natural hill overlooking the Calabar River.

Calabar was established as a center of slave trade by the British in 17th century. It became the biggest colonial administration in Nigeria in the 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th centuries.

At the end of slave Trade, the city was a major port for Palm Oil trade and commodities exports and imports from the South East of Nigeria.

Calabar became the Capital of Niger Coast Protectorate and later the Southern Protectorate capital of Nigeria.

Currently, Calabar is the Capital of Cross River State of Nigeria. The city is a major center of tourism in Nigeria. The Calabar Carnival is the largest street cultural festival in Africa.

The Carnival holds in December of every year and attracts thousands of visitors and guests from all parts of the world.

The original town was known by the Efik name Akwa Akpa. The neighboring town of Ataba took over the name and its Efik/Qua/Efut/Biase/Akampkpa indigenes became known as Calabar.

Calabar is a large metropolis today, with several towns like Akim, Ikot Ansa, Ikot Ishie, Kasuk, Duke Town, Henshaw Town, Ikot Omin, Obutong, Bakassi, Biase, and Akamkpa.

Since the 16th century, Calabar had been a recognized international seaport, shipping out goods such as palm oil.

During the era of the Atlantic slave trade, it became a major port in the transportation of African slaves and was named Calabar by the Spanish.

By the 18th century, most slave ships that transported slaves from Calabar were English, with around 85% of these ships being owned by Bristol and Liverpool merchants.

Old Calabar (Duke Town) and Creek Town, 10 miles northeast, were crucial towns in the trade of slaves in that era.

The first British warship to sail as far as Duke Town, where she captured seven Spanish and Portuguese slavers, may have been HMS Comus in 1815.

The main ethnic group taken out of Calabar as slaves were the Igbo, from the neighboring Igbo land.

A small mulatto community of merchants was located there that had links to missionary and other merchant colonies in Igboland and Lagos, and across the Atlantic.

The city was the home the first social club in Nigeria, The Africa Club. It hosted the first competitive football, cricket and field hockey games in Nigeria.

Among the city's firsts were the first Roman Catholic Mass held at 19 Bocco Street, Calabar – 1903 and the oldest secondary school the Hope Waddell Training Institution – 1895 in eastern Nigeria.

The school later graduated Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was elected as the first President of Nigeria, .

The city has an international museum, a botanical garden, a Free Trade Zone/Port, an international airport and seaport, an integrated sports stadium complex, a cultural centre, one of the most prominent universities in the country, the University of Calabar, a slave history park and several historical and cultural landmarks.

It also has several standard hotels, resorts and amusement parks.

Former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor lived in the old colonial palace in the city, under an agreement that led to the end of his country's civil war, before fleeing extradition to Liberia in March 2006.

The Tinapa Resort, a development by the Cross River State government, lies to the north of the city beside the Calabar Free Trade Zone.

The Cross River State Annual Christmas Festival held every year attracts thousands from within and beyond Nigeria.
The festival, includes music performance from both local and international artists. Other annual events include the Calabar Carnival, a boat regatta, fashion shows, a Christmas Village, traditional dances and the annual Ekpe Festival.

Calabar features a tropical monsoon climate with a lengthy wet season spanning ten months and a short dry season covering the remaining two months.

The harmattan, which significantly influences weather in West Africa, is noticeably less pronounced in the city.

Temperatures are relatively constant throughout the year, with average high temperatures usually ranging from 25 to 28 degrees Celsius.

There is also little variance between daytime and nighttime temperature, as temperatures at night are typically only a few degrees lower than the daytime high temperature.

Calabar averages just under 3,000 millimetres (120 in) of precipitation annually.

Calabar has three principal landlord kingdoms, namely the Qua Kingdom of Ejagham (Ekoi)/Bantu origin, the Efut and the Efik Kingdoms.

The Qua Kingdom has the Ndidem of the Qua nation as the Grand Patriarch, the Efut have the Muri munene as the Grand Patriarch, and the Efik Kingdom patriarch is known as the Obong.

The Efik political authority as it concerns the Obong is hinged on a political tripod: Creek Town, made up of Ambo, Cobham and Eyo; Old Town, made up of Obutong; and Duke Town, or Atakpa, made up of Duke/Archibong, Eyamba, Ntiero, Henshaw and Cobham.

Each leg of this tripod at one time or the other was ruled by a separate Obong.

Within the last 100 years, a gentleman's agreement to merge these three zones into one, with a single titular head as the Obong, and the distribution or opening up of the title to all Efik wards, was reached.

Each of the aspirants to the throne is eminently qualified, none no more so than the other. The title of the Obong of Calabar had been held by Nsa Effiom and Ekpo Nsa in the 17th century.

These two gentlemen were from the Henshaw ward. Attempts by the Henshaw to have an Obong resulted in a war in 1870.

The Henshaws did not attain this title again until within the last 50 years, when David Henshaw became Obong.

Cobham Town, from which Bassey Ekpo Bassey hails, had its first and only Obong recently. All this was made possible because of the contract.

Before the colonial period, Calabar, originally known as Akwa Akpa, was a kingdom with the City of Calabar as the site of government, the Obong of Calabar as the ruler and the Ekpe secret society as the stool on which the Obong of Calabar sat.

Calabar people are mainly people from the Greater Calabar district, Calabar South, Calabar Municipality, Akpabuyo, Bakassi, Biase, Odukpani and Akamkpa, but as commonly used in Nigeria.

The term Calabar people could also refer to the indigenes of Greater Calabar as well as the people of the original South Eastern State of Nigeria who are at present the people of Akwa Ibom State and Cross River State.

Calabar is the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command. The city has a new model school, Nigerian Navy Secondary School, situated in Akpabuyo, about 10 minutes' drive from the airport.

This new school complements the existing Nigerian Navy Primary School and Naval Officers Wives Association Primary School, both situated at Ikot Ansa Calabar.

Like other major cities in Nigeria, power supply could be a major problem. The Federal Government of Nigeria is currently developing a major plant near the city to boost domestic and industrial power supply.

Water is easily available in the city and it is of very good quality.

Other attractions include the Slave Museum, Calabar Free Trade Zone, Tinapa Business and Tourist Resort, Cultural and Civic Center, Calabar Port and University Campuses amongst others.

The city is a few hours drive to the Obudu Ranch Resort which had hosted many Presidential Retreats and conferences in the past. There is an airport which has connecting flights to other major cities in Nigeria.

Calabar is about 1 hour from Lagos by plane. Calabar is about 25 minutes from Port Harcourt and has an International Airport - Margaret Ekpo International Airport.

Calabar is 1 hour flight from Lagos and a 4 hour drive from Port Harcourt. From Lagos you can travel to Calabar by Road with Peace Mass Transit, Akwa Ibom Transport Company Ltd, Cross Lines, and The Young Shall Grow Motors all at Ojuelegba.

Their departure time is between 5.30 am and 7:30 am daily. It takes about 12 to 15 hours drive from Lagos.

With the development of the city by the present administration, the city flight schedules have increased and you can now get a flight in or out of Calabar every day.

Also the major airlines in the country have their presence felt in Calabar and have flights to and from major cities in the country; they include: Virgin Nigeria, Arik Air and Aero Contractors.

Their flight schedules can easily be found at their respective websites.

There is also a regular boat service from various parts of Cameroon's coastline which will transport vehicles and people. You can actually get Cameroonian visas on the boat which can save you a lot of time.

However, you can use Calabar as a base before transferring into Cameroon by road slightly further north.

There are several Car Transportation services into Calabar from all parts of Nigeria including the Major Cities of Lagos,Port Harcourt, Abuja,Yola.They include ABC Tranport,The Young Shall Grow, Elim Tours Etc

The local authorities have made a great effort to make the streets safe by enlarging them, removing potholes, and adding stripes between lanes.

Local taxis are not advisable as the cars are very old and quite often the drivers are not particularly experienced. As long as you are careful Calabar is quite safe.

There is a lot of Colonial Architecture in the older parts of Calabar that are around Henshaw Town, Duke Town and the waterfront areas.

Duke Town church One of the oldest churches in Nigeria. It was established by the Presbyterian church missionaries.

If you go to Eyamba Street just past the church there is a cemetery with stunning views over the town and river.

Inside the cemetrey is the tomb of Mary Slessor, a missionary from Dundee in Scotland UK. She was very influential in this part of Nigeria.

Calabar Museum, on the hill overlooking the waterfront, in the Old Government House, the former residence of the colonial governor. The building was designed and built in Glasgow and shipped over in pieces.

The museum concentrates on the history of Calabar, the region and slavery. It has a larger quantity of original documents relating to Nigeria.

Since it is not heavily frequented by tourists you can easily get a guided tour from one of the staff. Interested persons could spend 3 hours there and barely touch the surface of the material.
There are a lot of artifacts relating to the production of palm oil in the back which are fascinating too.

Drill Monkey Rehab Centre, Ndidem Nsang Iso Road hidden behind the Jahas Guest House.

It was set up by two overlanders from the USA, Peter Jenkins and Liza Gadsby who were biologists back home but who were persuaded by the Nigerian Government to stay in Nigeria and look after the endangered Drill Monkeys.

These were traditionally hunted and eaten in the Afi Mountain range that borders Cameroon.

The couple now have staff in Calabar where they care for recently rescued monkeys e.g. those they capture from people trying to smuggle and export them and they also then return them to the wild at the Drill Ranch in Afi Mountains which is not too far from Calabar.

You need a decent vehicle and map to get you to the ranch. The Afi Mountain Ranch near Katabang has cabins for guest accommodation and a forest canopy walkway (25m high!) for people to experience the environment more closely.

You are able to visit both after prior arrangement with the team. Go, meet Mickey the chimp and experience having him sit in your lap and fiddle with your hair.

The Marina Resort is one of the most fascinating tourist destinations in Calabar.

The resort is home to buildings dating back to the colonial era as well as modern facilities like the slave museum, speed boat ride, the carrousel horse ride, film/movie theatre, and night clubs.

The resort affords visitors a rare view of the beautiful Calabar River in a relaxed atmosphere.

The Cross River State Annual Christmas Festival held every year attracts thousands within and beyond Nigeria.

The Festival which include music performance from both local and international artists, the annual Calabar carnival, Boat regatta, Fashion shows, Christmas Village.

Traditional dances and the annual Ekpe Festival is a yearly events that bring in thousands of tourists at the time of the year.

You can also visit Tinapa. Simalar to Universal studios, provides international standard wholesale emporiums, integrated shopping complexes and product distribution elements supported by business tourism and entertainment facilities.

The old town is remarkable for its great variety of small shops where you can get just about anything but expect to bargain.

There are two great markets, Watt Market and Marian market. Watt market is large, bustling, vibrant and full of beautiful materials etc.

One can buy anything from live chickens to the most stunning wax materials, jeans at knock down prices and anything from car parts to the latest trainers.

Marian market is much smaller but is where the vegetables arrive once weekly from the north of Nigeria and the atmosphere on market day is fantastic, preachers are singing, women are joining in, traders are very vocal and one just bargains for everything.

Seriously, materials in Calabar are second to none. Beautiful waxes from Ghana, stunning materials from all over Africa can be found in Calabar all at prices that will amaze.

There are many very professional tailors who can make wonderful clothing from linens etc.

For those that haven't tasted fresh live fish, you can get it direct from the sea.

A and A Farms, Ikot nakanda, akpabuyo. Poultry, fishery, Piggery, Feedmill.

Go to Bogobiri Corner and enjoy suya from the many vendors.

Freddies Restaurant is the local eaterie. Run by Ellie and a very professional staff, Freddies is a successful and well run restaurant.

Main menu is lebanese foods but Ellie will try to please everyone. Good salads, fish and best of all huge prawns are the best. Local beers, wines and all drinks are available and all at good prices.

Chinese restaurant at the Mirage Hotel is well run and although fairly limited menu, food is good - not cheap though.

Adrians Place, Plot 171 Asari Eso Layout ayoola jafojo.

Adrian's Place MCC, 58 MCC Road ayoola jafojo. This is an annex of Adrian's Place at Asari Eso Layout, where 24 hours fun is available.

Le Chateau Hotel, Plot 56 MCC road. Satellite TV, air-con, restaurant. It's possible to make online reservation at the hotel's website

The Channel View, 14 MCC Road. One of the best hotels in Calabar

Cytaro Hotel, 20 Bishop Moynagh Avenue.

G Guest House, 12 Otop Abasi Street.

Jacaranda Suites, Plots C2-C6, Off Atimbo Road. Unique ambience and furnishing with luxury hospitality services.

Montana Villa, 7 MCC Road, Calabar, Cross River State.

Exquisite architecture. The beauty once you drive in, is mind-blowing.

Marian Hotel, 125 Old Ikang Road, Off 65 Ndidem Iso Road. checkin: 11am. Holistic environment, Alcohol and Smoke free Environment! Home away from Home, Five Mins from the Airport! Authentic African dishes. #7000.

Mega Hilton Hotel, 13 Duke Town Closes.

Mirage Hotels, Plot 230 Unit D, Block B, MCC Road. Mirage is clean with basic amenities. Staff are friendly and well trained, particularly the porters.

Pyramid Hotels and Conference Center, Plot 160 Muritala Mohammed Highway.

Scholet Suites, 3 Etim Edet Close, Off Old Parliamentary Road Extension, Calabar. Luxury rooms, wireless internet (high speed broadband), reliable 24hr security,jaccuzi,cubicle ,electronic doors and excellent services await you at Scholet Hotel & Suites.

Tourism Observer
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