Located along the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, Nigeria is ripe with unique natural structures and wildlife preserves. The country is often a Safari destination for many visitors and people scramble to visit the many waterfalls, savanna landscapes and rainforests the country has to offer. With the official language of English and the largest population of any country in Africa, Nigeria is full to the brim with beautiful natural wonders and cultural sights rich in history.
Overflowing with art and music, as well as natural reserves that are swollen with grand wildlife, Nigeria has the special power of feeling alive even if you find yourself in a quiet location. There is life and energy everywhere you go.
Though Nigeria offers lush and spectacular scenery for tourists, due to the political unrest and cultural instability in some areas there are often travel warnings put in place by the US Department of State. For safety reasons, be sure to spend time researching and understanding what is going on in the country before venturing there.
WHEN TO TRAVEL – WEATHER
One of the most important things to know about Nigeria weather, and something that is virtually impossible to avoid, is that the country is hot. When venturing farther north you will find a heat that is dry and dusty, while the farther south one travels means you’ll encounter a humid and moist heat. There is no one single rainy season in Nigeria, it varies depending on where in the country you are. For example, the rainy season in the north falls between April and September. In the south, the rainy season falls between March and November.
In addition, there is something called the harmattan winds which are strong, dusty, winds blowing in from the Sahara. These powerful winds are often seen between December and March and are known to kick of extreme amounts of dust making visibility and breathing a challenge at times.
Due to the strong differences in rainy seasons and climate throughout Nigeria, the best time to visit will depend on where one is visiting. The temperatures in Nigeria rarely drop below 80-degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. However, it is advised to visit the country from December to March in order to find the best weather.
Because of the warmth found in Nigeria, be sure to pack in preparation for heat. Though it’s always a good to bring a rain jacket or light sweater when travelling, you’ll predominantly be wearing light cotton items while in Nigeria. Be sure to bring light cotton t-shirts and pants that will breathe in the warm air. In addition, when packing, be sure to stay conscious of the Muslim customs of the country and try to avoid tank tops with thin straps or short dresses or shorts.
NIGERIAN CUISINE AND DRINKS
Due to the large size of the country, as well as the incredible cultural diversity, it is near impossible to find one specific “staple” of Nigeria. Depending on the region being visited, cultural traditions will influence the diets found. For example, in the north the population is generally Muslim and therefore have diets based in grains, beans and brown rice. Tea is a wildly popular beverage to enjoy, and coffeehouses are often crowded with groups socializing and enjoying one another’s company.
In the eastern region of Nigeria it’s common to find foods based in root vegetables such as yams or potatoes, however it’s far more common to see yams eaten in everyday diets. Gari is a popular dish in this region, which is a cassava powder.
It’s common to find meat served on sticks, typically a meat that has been dried. While pork will not be found, due to the country’s high Muslim population, you will often come across dried barbecued liver or beef on sticks. This is called suya or kilishi.
Some of the more popular beverages found in Nigeria is palm wine, burukutu and malt drinks. Palm wine is fermented from sap of palm trees and it can be extremely high in alcohol content. Burukutu is a locally brewed alcohol made with wheat, or corn. The drinking age in Nigeria is 18-years-old, though it’s important to be aware of several areas of the country (particularly in the north) where alcohol is strictly banned.
POPULAR SITES OF NIGERIA
- Osun Sacred Forest: Located outside of Oshogbo, this forest is a vast expanse of lush rainforest, rich in untouched breathtaking beauty. Alongside the trees and vegetation one will come across art, such as sculptures done by the Austrian artist, Suzanne Wenger. In addition to Wenger’s sculptures you will also find the shrine to Oshuno, the River Goddess, buried deep within the forest itself, acting as a reminder of the cultural significance of the enchanting place.
- Yankari National Park: Try and visit Yankari National Park between December and April in order to maximize the animal viewing possibility of the area. Known as one of the best places to see natural wildlife, the Yankari National park offers safari tours (or personal vehicles with the aid of a guide). During peak animal viewing time you might spot waterbucks, leopards, baboons, and even some of its monumentally beautiful elephants.
- Zuma Rock: One of the better known natural structures in Nigeria, Zuma Rock rises mammoth-like from the ground in a distinct dome shape. Though it can be seen from far away, it’s worth the trek to view the rock from up close. Located in Suleja, Niger State, this unique piece of nature is a must-see for any lovers of geology or natural wonders.
- Nike Art Gallery: Located in Lagos, this museum is run by one of Nigeria’s most influential artists who strives to share the art and culture of Nigeria with the world. Nike Davies-Okundaye’s gallery holds four story’s worth of art that reflects both the contemporary and historical influences of the country. In addition, feel free to arrange some cultural tours through the gallery, as they can bring you to many other artist-based sights of the area.
- Kalakuta Republic Museum: Located in Lagos, this museum is the former home (and revolutionary headquarters) of the musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The home has been kept in the same condition it was when he was a resident and offers a rare glimpse into a distinct time of Nigeria’s history. If going during a busy time of year feel free to book your tickets ahead of time online to avoid any possible lines. In addition, takes some time to relax on the rooftop bar after you tour the museum and breathe in the view while daydreaming about the rich Afrobeat music of days past.
PRACTICAL INFO FOR NIGERIA
A visa is required when visiting Nigeria and must be obtained before the trip. In order to apply and receive a visa one must submit a current passport, a completed application form, two passport size photos, a confirmed hotel reservation (if not staying with a host) and evidence of funds to cover your stay in Nigeria. If arriving in Nigeria from a country with high risk for yellow fever, one must obtain a yellow fever vaccination and provide proof in the form of a copy of a certification.
Banks and Currency
The official currency of Nigeria is the Nigerian Naira. The symbol for the Nigerian Naira is “₦”. The currency will be found in banknotes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 naira. Coins are known as kobo and will be found in 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 kobo.
To find the best exchange rates, be sure to bring larger denomination bills that can then be changed into Naira. You can find money changers in almost every town, especially in the larger cities.
While ATMs are being found more and more throughout Nigeria, credit cards are still used in relatively few places. In addition, credit cards should be used cautiously in Nigeria and it’s best to stick with ATMs and cash money.
Unless it has been added to a bill, a tip of 10% is often expected for most services.