Nigeria to Togo: A West African Road Trip

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data=VLHX1wd2Cgu8wR6jwyh-km8JBWAkEzU4,JAae5s4hmys2HKBe20Nk78EGhoKIbo3aV0k7yvfi963iqWynAEIrBC6an16KfoCH3ZFKRmy5VAbk4cQdfQ1L4NCZeF1Hb7kFhj45r48qEsW5PmrKLujZ-uTR94-qGCbr9y7Tm6KjJCur854nbk9Lx4mkU8j235EXaLvZE5Td81qYC1K20n4DhySH-QTHVbWogiMQn532Let us search like those who must find, and let us find as those who must continue to search. -Saint Augustine

Nigerian Field Society (NFS) is a volunteer organization with the mission to explore the culture and environment of Nigeria, specifically, and West Africa, generally. With a four-day Easter holidays looming, NFS offered a West African adventure to Togo. Eighteen people from diverse backgrounds— American, Nigerian, Chinese, Norwegian, Australian, British, Indian, Filipino—came together for the trip. Our intrepid leaders, Ayo Inika and Sunny Narag, volunteered their time and skills to put together a cultural, culinary and hiking adventure. Their dedication to logistics, their good humor and versatility was appreciated and held in high regards.

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Easter decorations on Lomé roundabout.

On April 17th in the early morning hours well before dawn and under light rain, we begin the 243 kilometer road trip that would take us across four borders—Nigeria to Benin and Benin to Togo. According to Google map, this trip should take 6 hours. Obviously, Google has not been to West Africa. Fourteen hours later, we arrive at our destination, Hotel Equateur, Lomé, Togo.  To read more, Click Here.

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***All Photographs and text are under international copyright laws. No re-use without the permission of Lesley Lababidi 2019.

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People’s Paradise: Cross River State

copyscape-banner-white-160x56DSC_1596All eleven Cross River explorers are in good spirits as we embark on the highly anticipated journey to Calabar, Afi Mountain, and Obudu Cattle Ranch.  A diverse and concentrated agenda has been organized by the Nigerian Field Society. Over the next five days, we will delve into the history of Calabar, learn about wildlife and environment conservation, and explore the mountainous region of the Afi Mountain and Obudu Plateau.

On Friday morning, we fly Arik Air from Lagos and arrive in Calabar only one hour behind schedule.  The short wait to collect our luggage gives us a chance to admire wooden wall panels that depict nsibidi motifs, an indigenous system of writing.

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nsibidi motif

We climb aboard our bus and enter Calabar, the capital city of Cross River State, which is situated in the extreme southeastern corner of Nigeria. Distinctively different from Lagos, we admire Calabar’s tidy sidewalks, rolling hills, and treelined, flowering gardens. Cross River State boasts ‘The People’s Paradise’, and we are ready to experience it.IMG_0781

Calabar is about 35 kilometers from the Gulf of Guinea in the Bight of Biafra, separated from the Bight of Benin by the Niger River Delta. The area was a well-developed trade area before the Europeans arrived sometime in the mid-seventeenth century. In the early sixteenth century the Portuguese were probably the first Europeans to encounter the Efik, Ibibio, Efut, Qua, and Effiat peoples who had migrated toward the area, today, known as Calabar.  Perhaps, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to trade with the Efik villages of Creek Town (Ikot Itunkko), Old Town (Obutong),  and Duke Town (Atakpa)  followed by Dutch and English traders.

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To read more about the Cross River adventure, click here.

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Beaches and Birds: A Lagos Weekend

copyscape-banner-white-160x56IMG_0540‘Up the creek’ on a Sunday in Lagos, to many, is an obligatory migration from city to shore  to reconnect with nature and life’s simplicities. Today, one can find multi-million dollar houses with multi-million dollar yachts waiting for those who just can’t live one afternoon without luxury. But for some of us, a banana boat, a hut, and some grilled chicken will do just fine, thank you very much! We’ve come to hear (no generators) the crash of the ocean, long walks on a rough beach, and nap under coconut trees. IMG_0529 This Sunday we head to Ileshi, a sleepy fishing village about 40 minutes by banana boat from a Victoria Island jetty, passing Tin Can Island. Lagos Harbor is Nigeria’s most important port receiving water from Lagos Lagoon and Badagry Creek, a fresh/brackish water that originates from Lake Nokoue in Republic of Benin. The creek parallel to the Atlantic Ocean coast is dominated by coconut trees and mangroves. A system of inlets, often treacherous to navigate due to unseen sand bars, connect Republic of Benin with Lagos Harbor— the Yewa River, Badagry, Agaja, Ibese, Festac Creek and Tin Can Island.  Click here for more pictures.

 

A morning that begins at 5:30 am, a long drive, then tramping around the bush for 3 hours, perspiring profusely, may not appeal to many people but for a few, there is no where else you would rather be on a Lagos weekend! The Nigerian Field Society and the Lekki Bird Club organizes birdwatching opportunities outside of Lagos. From large birds of prey to petite iridescent sunbirds, each forest destination brings opportunities to see diverse species in the dozens.

Today, our group leaders are Steve Turnipseed from NFS and Bunmi Jegede from LBC. This day we visit the LUFASI, Lagos State Urban Forest and Animal Shelter Initiative, an urban forest park that sits on 15 hectors of land and created to save the Ekki trees as well as to provide a shelter for animals. This forest protects two endangered species in Nigeria, the Ekki tree or ironwood tree, known for its extremely hard wood, and the Hooded-Vulture, once abundant now takes refuge in the tall Ekki trees. 

Click here to view birds sighted.