Calabar is a budding hub for tourism in Nigeria and indeed is becoming an attraction for many across the continent and around the world. Calabar has a lot going for it. From the picturesque natural landscapes, rich history, culture, welcoming people, and the ever-popular Calabar Christmas Carnival, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The Calabar Festival is a month long celebration not to be missed. The Carnival, which is the close of the festival, is Africa’s largest street party and grows larger every year. It is amazingly well organized and is a truly once in a lifetime experience. The carnival is pure magic – an outpouring of colour, sound, and culture unmatched by anything else on the continent. If you are looking for a unique Christmas experience, Calabar is the place for you.
Throughout the month of December, there is some form of entertainment every single day. The calendar is full of comedy and fashion shows, golf and football tournaments, prayer nights, and music concerts, which feature local acts and international musicians alike. In past years, musicians like Wyclef Jean, P Square, Kool and the Gang, DBanj, Tuface, Gyptian, Salif Keita, Yolanda Adams, and Angie Stone have graced the stage at the Carnival. Apart from the numerous shows and concerts, the following events are highlights of the month long celebration:
Calabar Carnival Queen
Calabar Carnival Queen (CCQ) is a charity event organized by the Cross River State Carnival Commission in collaboration with MACA (Mothers Against Child Abandonment) whose primary objective is to preserve the lives of vulnerable mothers and children. Thirty young women from all over the state come to the capital city, Calabar, to compete for the crown in a stunning event full of culture and entertainment.
There is both an adult and children’s carnival. The adult carnival is a full days worth of fun in the sun. The five major bands in competition at the Carnival parade throughout the city on a 12km route playing their music and entertaining the large crowds with their dancers. The Passion-4, Masta Blasta, Seagull, Freedom, and Bayside bands all have their specific colors and choose yearly storylines to authenticate each year’s Carnival theme. They showcase their story through song, dance, drama, and, of course, through their innovative and visually stunning costumes. The Carnival is the largest cultural festival in Africa with 50,000 costumed revelers, 2 million spectators, and an audience of over 50 million television viewers.
Mary Slessor House
Mary Mitchell Slessor, the woman known as eka kpukpru owo (everybody’s mother), lived nearly forty years in Nigeria, but her death was noted around the world, and her influence lives on today. She is famous in Calabar for her service and missionary work in the city. To the credit of the Cross River government agencies in charge of tourism, many of her personal effects are still left intact. They include her giant Lantern, her bed, pictures, and several memorabilia. This house is a historic landmark and worth the visit.
By the mid 16th century the Portuguese traders turned the Niger Delta into a main slave-supplying area and established firm presence along the coast. Later, the Dutch traders took over the West African trade from the Portuguese and were regular visitors to the Old Calabar River. The slave trade expanded so rapidly that in the second half of the 18th century the Old Calabar river settlements provided over 16% (about 130,000) of the slaves carried out from the Bight of Benin by the Liverpool ships, dominating the European slave trade. A slave route museum is built there and features several galleries displaying artifacts, presentations, and memorabilia of the slave trade era. This museum is truly one of a kind and has unbelievable artifacts from the e era. The guides are well versed and the experience opens your eyes to the rich history that dictates the culture of the area.
Leisure & Relaxation
Tinapa is a world-class integrated Business and Leisure Resort located in Calabar. It is contiguous with the Calabar River as well as the Calabar Free Trade Zone, Nigeria’s first Free Trade Zone. The Tinapa Resort features a shopping complex, games arcade, water park, filming studio for Nollywood movies, the Fisherman’s Wharf, which is a food court, and a Lakeside Hotel.
Obudu Mountain Resort
The Obudu Mountain Resort is a short drive from Calabar and situated by the border of Cameroon. Nestled at the top of the mountain, the Obudu Resort is situated on a plateau at 1576 metres above sea level on the Oshie Ridge of the Sankwala Mountains. The temperate climate offers a total contrast from Africa’s tropical heat. Complete serenity, beautiful scenery, and breathtaking views make it ideal for all travelers.
Read about Calabar Carnival 2012 here