Backpacking Nigeria: The one remote destination you must see!
[Admin Note: Everybody knows, I love East Africa. It’s beautiful, it’s safe, it’s easy (well relatively so) to travel. But then Anwuli Okeke from Hacking Africa, inspired me to consider this hidden gem that she discovered while backpacking Nigeria. It’s one of those spots that you’ll see once, but never forget. And it’s much different than the experiences you’ll get in Lagos or anywhere else in the country. This is her story of her recent trip.]
Cross River State. One of thirty-six states in Nigeria and situated in the south of the country bordering Cameroon to the east.
A state whose capital, Calabar, is said to be an acronym for “Come And Live And Be At Rest” because Calabar is famous for its women, cuisine, beauty and tranquility. That tranquility and beauty are not reserved to only Calabar though, because a little north of Calabar lies Obudu Mountain Resort, a ranch that’s located on the Obudu plateau, close to the Cameroon Border, and built at an altitude of about 1600 metres above sea level.
The ranch wasn’t always called Obudu Mountain Resort. It was known, at one time, as Obudu Cattle Ranch but one of the state administrations (I’ve forgotten which one) changed the name in order to give the ranch a facelift and attract more tourists (and their income). The name change and renovations worked because now, the resort is one of the go-to places for local and international tourists and couples even go there to get engaged or to mark an anniversary.
Getting to the Resort
I went with a friend to the resort – it was his first time backpacking Nigeria & his first overall visit to Africa – and we flew into Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, then took a flight from Lagos to Calabar (~$80/person), a trip that lasts about an hour. The trip from Lagos to Calabar can be done by road and it should take about 10 – 11 hours though it can take longer since the roads are bad.
If you arrive in Lagos, your final destination is the resort and you intend to travel by road, I suggest going directly to the resort from Lagos rather than going to Calabar before heading to the resort. If you do decide to travel directly to the resort from Lagos, expect to spend between 12 – 15hours on the road, assuming no traffic, or more, assuming traffic. Going to the resort from Lagos is considered a specialty service (because there aren’t many travelers who do this). Therefore, expect to spend a bit more on transportation if you pursue this option.
What We Chose + Other Options
Since there are frequent trips from Calabar to the resort, we chose this option; plus it didn’t hurt that we had people we wanted to visit in Calabar. While in Calabar, we did some sightseeing then hired a private car and driver to the ranch at a cost of ~$100 (for both us and which included gas), after a bit of negotiation. You can expect to pay way less if you share a car with others. Be sure to haggle the price.
If you arrive in Calabar, be sure to make arrangements for transportation to the resort. You can fly there – there’s an airstrip at the resort – but this is expensive. So most people go by road, us included.
The resort is a 206 mile drive from Calabar and the road trip from Calabar to the resort should take about 6 hours, though it can take 10 hours or more because the roads are terrible.
Arriving at the foot of the plateau, on which the resort is located, is the first step. To get to the top (where the resort actually is), we had to drive along a long, narrow and steep road, a road my friend says is not for the faint of heart. The drive uphill can be a bit scary and the road is also very winding so if you typically suffer from carsickness, you may feel a bit nauseous on this trip – just something to keep in mind.
Charter air service is another option to get to the top of the plateau. Also available is a cable car. Both services provide a spectacular view of the landscape (and the really winding road). However as we were on a tight budget, we stuck with our car.
Climate at the resort
Due to its altitude, the temperature is cold when compared to the regular villages/cities in Nigeria. So if you tend to always feel cold, grab a light sweater. I tend to always feel cold but I found the weather to be a refreshing change. However, it does get cold later in the day and I remember really starting to get a chill while taking a walk in the evening and was very sorry I didn’t take a sweater with me when I left my room that morning.
Where to stay
The hotels can be very expensive so a more affordable option is Abebe’s Lodge Obudu with rooms going for $20 – $35. Don’t expect western standards though. Hot water for bathing is available, if you ask for it; but eating is difficult so you’ll have to either cook yourself in the shared kitchen or at the hotel on site. It’ll cost you $9 for a main course meal with a small portion of chicken or fish.
To get an idea of the kinds of hotel rooms offered at the resort and how much they cost, check out Hotels.ng
A good guide is imperative and one will either be offered to you or you can simply ask around for one. Your guide will suggest attractions for you to see but you can also whisper a thing or two in their ear. They’re very happy to accommodate visitors.
Here are a few sights I recommend:
You’ll see Cameroon from here, though what you’ll really see are just hills, fog lazily hovering over the tops of these hills and lots of green. Hopefully the weather will be on your side so that you’re able to really take in the view, which is quite lovely without fog or mist. I find the fog or mist quite lovely too especially how they drift above the mountains. But if you’d like to see Cameroon, then the fog or mist is just disappointing. So choose a clear day so get the most out of your trip.
The Cable Car.
It’s sometimes shut down so you want to check if it’s running before you go. A trip on the cable car provides a great view of the resort as well as surrounding areas.
It’s a walkway situated in trees that allows visitors to have a close view of various bird species. The long and narrow walkway with nets on each side (to avoid a fall) and trees are all around you. Similar to one of those walkways you have seen in an Indiana Jones movie–one he has to run across and break off in order to avoid being caught by his pursuers makes for an adventurous feel despite the peaceful surroundings.
You get the idea.
A natural rock pool garden. A swimming hole, really.
Things to note
- There is a restaurant at the resort but the food is expensive. It boasts an international menu but the restaurant may be unable to serve all the meals listed on the menu – which is especially true for international dishes. They’ll typically be able to serve most local dishes.
- If you’re able to afford a suite, those come with complimentary breakfast.
- There aren’t many recreational facilities in place but the resort is a great location for nature lovers, hikers and campers.
- Have some indoor games with you for a rainy day.
- Don’t count on passing some of the time by watching TV because the programming isn’t extensive.
- Distance from the resort to town is very far. So be sure to take everything you think you could possibly need with you because you won’t be able to easily run into town for a thing or two. Carry drinks, snacks and fruit for late night cravings.
- The resort is pretty much in the cloud so depending on your perspective, visibility while on the ranch can be good (if you’d like a view other than the city) or bad (if you’d like an elevated view of the city).
- Mobile network sucks too and there’s no Wi-Fi. However, MTN & Glo networks (cell phone service providers in Nigeria) are available up there, so internet access is still possible. Just be sure to register and buy a SIM card and lots of recharge cards (cards that provide airtime minutes).
- If you have the time and are able to afford it, there are two natural attractions nearby worthy of a visit – the Afi Forest Reserve and Agbokim Waterfalls – both of which are within 3 hours drive of the Resort.
One last thing – don’t forget your camera!
About the Guest Blogger:
Anuli Okeke is a blogger/vlogger sharing stories about Africa at the intersection of innovation, entrepreneurship and the arts.