“It’s not safe.” “Is it safe?” These are probably the most common comments I get from friends, family, and curious observers whenever I’m travelling somewhere in Nigeria or Africa.
I moved back to Lagos from the US about four years ago. I was determined not to get boxed in by my 9-5 and still travel as much as possible or find a new experience to keep me sane and feeling alive. Then the recession hit which majorly affected my travel budget (hands in the air if you can relate). But I’d say that was a good thing because it turned my attention to Nigerian and African destinations.
The interesting thing I found, however, was the new concern for my safety. No one had ever been much bothered about my whereabouts when I was off somewhere in the Caribbean or the US or Europe. But in Nigeria or some other African country it was all anyone cared about. I’d get asked if it was safe to swim in the ocean or if it was safe to travel by road. I always find these questions so funny because why wouldn’t it be?
One time I was travelling to Zanzibar and as I went through immigration at the airport I was asked by the officer if it was just me and if I was coming to work or visit someone in the city. I told him I was travelling alone for holiday and did not know anyone in Zanzibar. The puzzled look on his face that said “a woman travelling alone…is that safe?” was quite hilarious.
Safety is very important in travel but I discovered from my travels that the unknown is considered unsafe and as people know little about places, routes or destinations in Africa most of it is considered dangerous, which is really not the case. Travel websites like Lonely Planet, Wiki Travel and Trip Advisor are not much help either as they have such scanty information about Africa. They red tape any African country with the slightest bit of conflict with those red security warning notices which in reality are true for only 5-10% of the country if at all.
I have been to South Africa, Zanzibar, Benin, Ghana, and 14 states in Nigeria: most places solo and never with extra security and I have never felt scared, threatened or worried. In Nigeria, I have hiked waterfalls, surfed on the Atlantic, canoed in the creeks, gone on a safari game drive (and saw beautiful giraffes I might add) and swam in clear blue warm springs. I bungee jumped in South Africa, went scuba diving and parasailing in Zanzibar, climbed tree canopies and partied in Ghana.
These are not the first things you see about Nigeria or Africa. I discover places by researching because I am always seeking out new experiences. Your international platforms are no good as resources, so seek out local blogs and social media pages, find somewhere and just go.
Travelling in Africa is certainly different from other places. It is not as scheduled or seamless but that’s part of the charm. It is a journey of discovery and the journey is so rewarding. The raw beauty, the friendly nature of the people, the food, the music, colors…everything.
My experiences and the numerous questions I got from people on social media asking “is that Nigeria?” or “where in Africa is that?” inspired me to create a travel platform, TripZapp, which helps people navigate travel a bit more easily. Research can be cumbersome for most people. It’s so much easier to travel when the work of figuring everything out has been done for you. And that’s what TripZapp does. It curates content on great destinations/experiences and offers curated group and private trips to these destinations so all you need to do is pack a bag.
Before I leave for a beach break on a Monday, here are a few things you need to know about travelling in Africa:
- You can’t have it completely planned out. (Except with TripZapp of course 😉 ) So just do it and enjoy the adventure.
- Yes, there are nice hotels almost anywhere so don’t worry too much about it.
- A lot of countries are visa free to Nigerians so if you are not big on the visa struggle, African countries are probably a great option. For Tanzania, Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Mozambique, and Uganda visas can be obtained on arrival. Sao Tome is visa free if you have a valid US or Schengen visa and Zambia issues e-visas.
- For things to do and getting around, your hotel front desk can hook you right up.
- Google maps works. There’s no need to get lost. Download offline maps before travelling. And when all else fails, ask someone. People are always kind and willing enough to help.
- And lastly, you are as safe as you can be in most places.
~ Toodles and safe travels
Credit: Rosemary Okoli
Photo Credit: @roryyyyyyyyyy