5 great things to do in Calabar

calabar calabar roundabout

This roundabout in Calabar is called the Calabar Calabar roundabout.  I haven’t the foggiest idea why 😉

Calabar, the capital of Cross River state in Nigeria, is associated with tourism.  It’s nearly impossible to live in a city in Nigeria and not have come across one of many advertisements encouraging people to come to Calabar especially for their annual carnivals and Christmas concerts.  Apart from the carnivals and concerts, when people  think of Calabar, they often think of a clean place with little traffic and no okadas (commercial motorcycles).  But the adverts and the fact that the town is clean and free of pesky okadas may not be enough to entice people to visit.  After all they think, a lot of it might just be advertising and PR.  With that in mind, I hope that this article based on my recent trip to Calabar will give you a few more reasons to visit the town. 

Calabar is a tourist’s idea of heaven and there are many many things to see and do there.  Although this article only talks about five fabulous things to do in Calabar, the list of attractions in and around that city is long.  Here are five things to do if you would like to dip your toes in the river of attractions in Calabar.

1.Relax and recharge yourself at the Marina Resort

The easiest way to describe the Marina Resort is as an entertainment venue.  It has got a promenade (about 500m long) along the edge of the Calabar river.  Walking along the promenade watching boats and canoes speeding or bobbing along the river, it’s not hard to see why lovers favour the place.  At the Resort, there’s also a game centre (with video games, billiards, darts, chess and so on), a restaurant, a bar and an open-air space where you can have a meal and a drink and in the evenings, listen to a live band.  The Marina Resort is a wonderful place to chill or party, whichever you prefer.

chiling at the marina resort calabar

Part of the Marina Resort.  Here, you can have a meal, a drink and just chill.

2.Monkey around at the Drill Ranch in the city

The main Drill Ranch, Pandrillus which is run by Peter Jenkins and Liza Gadsby, is located in Boki at the foot of the Afi Mountain about a 5-hour drive from Calabar.  Pandrillus is a conservation area where Drill Monkeys are rehabilitated and re-introduced into the wild.  The Drill Ranch in Calabar is the city branch of Pandrillus.  At the Drill Ranch in Calabar, you’ll find Drill Monkeys (which are endangered animals) and chimpanzees.  You’ll also find other rescued animals like antelopes, parrots and more.  The Drill Ranch is a great place to see these animals up close and well-looked after especially in a country like Nigeria where zoos are almost non-existent.

drill monkeys at the drill ranch calabar

Drill monkeys at The Drill Ranch in Calabar.  The monkeys are fascinating creatures to watch.

3.Make the trip to Mary Slessor’s home

Mary Slessor was a Scottish Missionary who helped end the killing of twins in Calabar.  The house where she is thought to have lived from the late 1800s till when she died in 1915 still stands today in Okoyong, Calabar.   The fastest way to get there is by boat from Calabar to Creek Town, a ride which takes about 15 minutes then by taking an okada (commercial motorcycle) to her house in Okoyong.  The okada ride takes about 25 minutes.  Getting there is an adventure but seeing the house of such a brave woman makes the journey worthwhile.

mary slessor's house in okoyong calabar

Mary Slessor’s house.  The trip to her house is an adventure in itself.

4.Eat, Calabar style

Calabar is associated with good food.  Although Calabar soups like Edikaikong and Afang are available across the country, it makes sense to try them in Calabar where they originated.  Grilled fish is also a local delicacy and since Calabar is a riverine area, it makes sense that fish is cooked well there.  Eating Calabar food in Calabar is definitely a must-do.

afang and semovita

Afang and semovita.  You definitely should try Calabar food in Calabar.

5.Stop over at the Slave Museum

Calabar was a major slave port in the past and the Slave Museum is worth visiting.  Even if you have been to slave museums before, the one in Calabar should be seen for its Calabar perspective of slave trade.

slave museum calabar

The Slave Museum in Calabar is a must-see.

There are myriad things to do in Calabar but these five things open up the wonder that is Calabar.  It’s a place you’ll want to visit again and again.  And again.

Read other 5 great things to do posts here.

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Photographs by Lape Soetan