My own top reasons to visit Nigeria
Falling in love with Nigeria can be either very hard or very easy, but travellers have no choice: it will be love at first sight. Nigeria (or Naija, as the youth proudly call it) concentrates all the range of experiences a traveller can hope for. Even when the country is in turmoil (and I know of travel junkies out there propelled by turmoil-driven places), Nigeria will offer you plenty of amazing landscapes, disarmingly welcoming people, and a lot of room to plan the unplanned. If someone asks me why he or she should visit Nigeria, my answer would narrow on the following reasons: the people, the potential for adventure, the sense of discovery, the pervasive diversity, and the deep contrasts.
There’s no better way to appreciate what people and human nature really are than entering a remote place as a complete stranger. I remember when I reached the village of Bure (northern Nigeria, 500 souls) for the first time: for those people I was just a stranger (maybe a really weird one!) but I got water, food, a place to sleep and, above all, good company. The country is huge and the reality complicated. The life in the city is not as easy-going as in the countryside, but I can still say that I never felt left down by the Nigerians I met while travelling (a very grateful blogger speaking!).
Yes, that’s what we are looking for. I’m not going to claim that adventures in Nigeria are around every corner, but if you decide to go there, go prepared. Once you have collected a significant amount of information and read as much as you can, then you’re in the position to make a choice. Space, nature and people will make the rest. Do you want to trek across the Gashaka-Gumti National Park? Climb the Mambila mountains? Cross the country by public transport? Go for it! You’ll come back as a different person.
One can enjoy adventurous experiences in many places around the world, but not all places let you feed on a constant sense of discovery. Contrarily to other western African countries such as Ghana, Benin or Cameroon, Nigeria does not have a flow of tourists, and the number of travellers is pretty scarce as well. Travelling to Nigeria means penetrating into a huge universe with virtually no comprehensive guide-book available. An unchartered territory where travellers do what they know best: moving, adapting, learning!
Don’t think of Nigeria as a monolithic, homogeneous country. It wouldn’t make any sense for any African country, and Nigeria is no exception. Naija is big (and when I say big I mean reaaaaly big!) and the ethno-cultural variety you are faced with is impressive.
Megalopolis and villages, vehicular languages with 50 million speakers and dying languages spoken by just a few people, lizards and elephants, jungle and Sahel, ghostly lakes and legendary rivers, Christians and Muslims, Nigerian fast-foods and street food stalls, the extremely poor guy and the suspiciously rich Big Man…