I visited Calabar for the 11th edition of the Calabar Carnival themed: Climate Change. The programme of events for the 2015 event included: a cultural parade which held on 22nd of December; night of king and queens on 26th December; Green Ball on 27th December, as well as a 1000 man bikers parade on the same day; and the Carnival proper on 28th of December with the international competition at the U. I. Esuene Stadium on the 29th of December. However, I could only afford to be in Calabar for three nights, 26th to 29th December; as hotel rates usually soar during the Carnival season. I was told by a friend who resides and once worked in the hotel industry in Calabar that the best way to secure affordable, decent hotel accommodation during the Carnival season is to book around September or October as hotel rates usually soar the closer it gets to the carnival; even hotel staff pay in advance for rooms, expecting to sell the same rooms for a higher price when Carnival “goers” become desperate for hotel accommodation.
Determined to get a feel of what the night life was like in Calabar, I hooked up with my friends who had been in town since the 23rd of December and they were too eager to show me around town. We hung out at Palladium, a bar close to Mary Slessor round about. The statue of Mary Slessor at the roundabout was adorned with decorations and lights. Mary Slessor was a missionary in Nigeria during the colonial era who was instrumental in stopping the custom of killing twin babies which was prevalent in Calabar at the time. Tourists posed for their pictures to be taken by photographers for a fee of N500. After that, we went to Beverly Hills club and finally, Base Bar. I went to Base Bar for the remaining two nights I was in town. Base Bar has a club with a decent lounge upstairs and a karaoke bar downstairs and the DJ is good. However, the Club/ Lounge upstairs is only opened when the karaoke bar downstairs is unable to accommodate customers.
I went for the 1000 man biker’s parade and I have to say, I was disappointed; mainly because I didn’t see up to a 100 bikes and crowd control was a bit poor as onlookers sometimes strayed into the road where the stunts were taking place. The only stunt I saw was a front wheelie and it was difficult to get a good vantage point to take pictures from.
Finally, on 28th of December, I witnessed the carnival proper, or a part of it since I couldn’t make it to the stadium. I watched the procession while standing after Fiestas fast food, close to the governor’s stand, where the bands were judged. I was told by a friend that the procession seldom performs until they are close to where they will be judged. However, I was still unlucky because I was not close enough to the judge’s stand. I mostly witnessed the procession walk by and even at that, it was difficult to get a good vantage point to take pictures from. The parade featured the Italian Flag Twirlers; Drumming Wonders of Burundi and Urukereza of Rwanda, as well as the five traditional bands: Freedom Band, Bayside Band, Passion 4 band, Seagul Band and Master Blasta Band. The parade got to where I was around 3:30pm, so I was only able to take pictures of Freedom Band and Bayside Band. In the end, Passion 4 Band emerged the winner of Carnival Calabar, 2015.