Calabar is the capital city of Cross River State in Southeast Nigeria. It is a charming and quite peaceful city.
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. It became the capital of Niger Coast Protectorate and later the Southern Protectorate capital of Nigeria. Calabar is now 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. In a nearby municipality called Bakassi, there was a territorial dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon in 1981 based on colonial appropriations that almost caused the two countries to go to war. But Bakassi was eventually and relunctantly handed over by Nigeria to Cameroon in the end.
Like other major cities in Nigeria, power supply could be a major problem. The Federal Government of Nigeria is 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 1 hour flight from Lagos and a 4 hour drive from Port Harcourt. 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: Dana Airlines, Arik Air and Aero Contractors. Their flight schedules can easily be found at their respective websites. Don't forget visas!
There is also a regular boat service from various parts of Cameroon's coastline which will transport vehicles and people. You can 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 Transport, 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.
- 1 Duke Town church, 13 Eyamba Street. Built in 1846, one of the oldest churches in Nigeria. It was established by the Presbyterian church missionaries. Near Duke Town Secondary School past the church is a cemetery where the tomb of Mary Slessor, a missionary from Dundee, Scotland who was very influential in this part of Nigeria is located. Here there are stunning views over the town and river. But watch out for your safety in this neighborhood.
- 2 National Museum, Ekpo Eyo Drive, Duke Town (On the hill overlooking the waterfront, in the Old Government House). 9AM-4PM M-F. 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.
- 3 Drill Monkey Rehab Centre, Atekong Dr (on Atekong Dr west of Jahas Guest House), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 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 which 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 (25 m 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. donation expected.
- 4 The Marina Resort (down the hill from the National Museum, on the river), ☏ . One of the most fascinating tourist destinations in Calabar. The resort is home to buildings dating back to the colonial era, and modern facilities like the slave museum, speed boat ride (may go to Twins Island, where missionary Mary Slesser hid twins to prevent infanticide), the carousel horse ride, film/movie theatre (the only one in Calabar, but not very great), and night clubs. The resort affords visitors a rare view of the beautiful Calabar River in a relaxed atmosphere. 100 naira entry/200 naira slave museum, ~1000 naira boat ride (barter).
- Calabar Carnival, known as "Africa's Biggest Street Party" held every year through the month of December and attracts thousands within and beyond Nigeria. The festival includes music performances from both local and international artists, a boat regatta, fashion shows, Christmas Village, traditional dances and the annual Ekpe Festival.
- 1 Tinapa Resort (NW side of town), ☏ . Tinapa Resort was to be Nigeria's big tourist destination similar to Universal studios complete with a monorail and venue for international standard wholesale emporiums, integrated shopping complexes and business tourism/entertainment facilities. But it's kind of dead. free but monorail is 1000 naira.
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. Materials in Calabar are second to none. Beautiful waxes from Ghana, stunning materials from all over Africa can be found in Calabar. There are many very professional tailors who can make wonderful clothing from linens etc. For those of us that we haven't tasted fresh live fish, you can get it direct from the sea.
- 1 Watt 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. It was ravaged by fire in 2017 but now is back and hopefully a little more tidy since street vendors had to vacate.
- 2 Marian Market (Ika Ika Oqua Market). 8AM-5PM M-F, 9AM-4PM Sa, Closed Su. 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. This one also got gutted by fire (just recently-July 2020), so it may be down for a while.
- Go to Bogobiri Corner and enjoy suya from the many vendors.
- Freddy's 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 nake online reservation at the hotel's website
- The Channel View, 14 MCC Road, ☏ , fax: .
- Cytaro Hotel, 20 Bishop Moynagh Avenue, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 1 Xcape Hotels & Suites Limited, 4, Ika-Ika Oqua Street 3rd Avenue S.H.E., ☏ . This one is great if you want to be close to the Ika Ika Oqua Market (aka Marian Market). It has a secure gate, pool, breakfast/restaurant/bar, a/c, and wifi. ~$30.
- [dead link] Jacaranda Suites, Plots C2-C6 (Off Atimbo Road), ☏ , fax: . Unique ambience and furnishing with luxury hospitality services.
- Marian Hotel, 125 Old Ikang Road (Off 65 Ndidem Iso Road), ☏ , . Check-in: 11AM. Holistic environment, alcohol- and smoke-free environment. Five minutes from the airport. Authentic African dishes. #7000.
- Mega Hilton Hotel, 13 Duke Town Closes, ☏ , , fax: .
- Mirage Hotels, Plot 230 Unit D, Block B, MCC Road, ✉ email@example.com. 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, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- [dead link] Scholet Suites, 3 Etim Edet Close, Off Old Parliamentary Road Extension, Calabar, ☏ . Luxury rooms, wireless internet (high speed broadband), reliable 24-hr security, jaccuzi, cubicle, electronic doors and excellent services await you at Scholet Hotel & Suites.
- 2 Axari Hotel, Murtala Muhammed Highway Road, by Zone 6 Roundabout, Ikot Ansa, 542677, ☏ . This hotel has a large relaxing pool, restaurant, security gate, a/c, and wifi. It's just a couple of blocks from the Driscoll Ranch Monkey Center.
- Cross River State IT Village, at Women Development Center Parliamentary road. Equipped with state of the art IT facilities, Wi-Fi, Wireless Internet, IT capacity building and Coffee shop and restaurant.
The major religion of the state is Christianity. There are numerous churches from the orthodox to the more contemporary including the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church and the Presbyterian church.
- The Shepherd's Porch (Effa, WordAlive Family Church) (atu by anteing street).
- The SpringHouse, 10 Grace Edet Crescent (by Total Filling Station).
Cross River National Park, which has 16 species of primates and Nigeria's most pristine remnant of rainforest, is a good place for ecotourism and wildlife viewing. But it is rather underdeveloped and will require some planning. Also the Agbokim Waterfall crosses over the precipice in 6 or 7 different channels to make quite a sight, but necessitates utilizing a local guide in Ikom to the north of Calabar to find it.
If you have a lot of money to burn and want something like an all-inclusive Nigerian highlands staycation, Ubuntu Safari Lodge is about 6 hours north by car.