Tourists/Explorers: TheLastGoodMan, Emygurrl and Merit
Destination: Minimah Island, Rivers State, Nigeria, Africa.
The island is well enough, but there’s nothing like the deck of a good ship. As we all know, travelling (moving about and around) is highly prohibited right now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation we have on our hands. As an ardent traveler, I miss those days of traveling and really wish things could return to a reasonable level of normalcy.
Visiting any Island home and abroad is quite a thing for me, I just love it -or maybe I am in search for treasures, lol; and considering that an Island is a landmass smaller than a continent and completely surrounded by water. So here is a post about my intending visit to the ancient Island of Opobo that eventually landed me and my travel buddy at Minimah Island.
Every island to a child is a treasure island.P. D. James
I had always wanted to visit the ancient town of Opobo, courtesy of all the interesting folktales our old folks passed down to us and also for the fact that it is an Island (not anymore). Therefore, my curiosity just couldn’t sit back. Let alone, reminiscing the stories about the slave movement, slave trade and the famous merchant –the King Jaja of Opobo– I had also learnt about way back in my college days.
Everyone knew that all islands were worlds unto themselves, that to come to an island was to come to another world.Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana
During my first visit -early 2017, I was told that the Island isn’t much of a fun space for visitors, except during festive periods. This is because, during the festive period the Island is bombarded with loads of interesting activities ranging from carnivals, pageant, series of cultural performances, marathon, boat regatta and furthermore, the irresistible masquerade (Nwaotam) display etc.
So, I initiated plans for a re-visit during the festive period. As they say “No man is an Island…” so, I buzzed Emygurl -a beautiful, caring, food loving and adventure seeking soul- she obliged to join the trip. We tried scouting for hotel accommodations, but to no avail, because they were all booked. Therefore, we opted for a host help. We got a host in Opobo town that eventually bailed on us at the 11th hour for reasons we don’t know and also, a reliable host in Minimah – Merit – a pretty, caring, young lady who is coincidentally my birthday mate -Merit. We got to know Merit via VNN (Visit Nigeria Now) but had never met her prior to this intending visit.
No man is an island. You can ask people for help and they can ask for your help in return.Mr Hudson
New Year’s Eve (Arrival)
I met up with my travel buddy @Emygurrl in Uyo (rendezvous point) at about 3:40pm. Boarded a vehicle to Ikot Abasi and then a motorbike to Uta Ewa Beach. Hence we boarded a speed boat to Opobo, but re-routed to Minimah (a neighbouring Island), because our supposed host bailed on us. We could have simply turned back, but Merit came to the rescue.
Welcome to Minimah Island
Thankfully, we met up with our host -Merit at the Minimah entry point. Meanwhile, she was just returning via boat from watching the boat regatta in Opobo town. Sadly, we missed the famous boat regatta show *cries in Ibani*, but ultimately got to watch the display via a recorded video. She was very happy to have us around. We got home and she subsequently made formal introductions to everyone present at home (it was a full house) and then took us to our accommodation. Furthermore, Merit offered us some sumptuous meal for dinner (Good food!..I repeat.. Good food!!). Did we decline?… Hell No! – Who does that?
Cross over service
We talked, rested a little and later got ready for the cross over service that was already taking place at the only Anglican Church on Mimimah Island. and concurrently, celebrating its centenary (100 years of existence) on the island. We got to the church; sang, danced, prayed and as well as crossed over amidst shouts and screams from worshipers and enthusiasts -Happy New Year!
At this point, the worshipers inside the church were expressing their joy, hugging and exchanging New Year Compliments. Concurrently, outside the church, a whole different atmosphere was in play; multiple shots of bangers *Knock-outs, fireworks – rocked the air and around us. Consequently, our eardrums were almost lost to the pandemonium. The young boys and girls, old, men and women displayed their excitement; thus, there were all dancing and screaming at the top of their voices around the church and on the beautifully interlocked streets of the Island. We happily returned home with our host and literally passed out. Welcome to the New Year!
New Year Day
We had set our itinerary for the first day of the year; including going to church in the morning (which we missed), taking pictures, eating various indigenous food on the Island, watching the famous Nwaotam masquerade display, resting and as well as visit the ancient Opobo town.
We started out with a mini – tour of the Minimah community, we were shown places – The long standing Anglican church of a 100years of existence, the magnificient house belonging to the former Nigerian Chief of Army Staff (COAS) -Lt Gen, Kenneth Minimah and then the picture, video session at the jetty, then set out to watch the pre-exhibition of the Nwaotam masquerade that was quite busy going from house to house, collecting tokens and chasing folks who did not tie the symbolic cultural wrapper or had their faces smeared with white mud amidst chants and drumming to accompany the display.
We went about the Island watching and trailing Nwaotam and his entourage and quite unlucky for us, got our faces smeared with the white clay mud. against our honest wishes; albeit we came back home to the welcoming aroma of the indigenous and delicious Iji and Imiri-iji dish thanks to Merit, we sat outside and declared war on the sumptuous meal; we couldn’t spare nothing –hides face.
After the morning events, we rested and got revitalized for our trip to Opobo town later in the afternoon. The trio (MERIT, TLGM and EMYG) boarded a speed boat to the ancient town of Opobo; took pictures, hurriedly toured some places. But headed back to Minimah to catch up with the grand display of the Nwaotam masquerade that was concurrently about to take place in Opobo town.
We left for Minimah Island after signing off the campaign for the restoration of the Ibani language.
We got back in time for the famous Nwaotam display. Click here for a little history class about the famous Nwaotam Masquerade.
We watched the Nwaotam Masquerade display till the masquerade jumped down from the roof top of the building where it displayed it’s ultimate grand prowess. Exhausted as we were already, more so, with the night crawling in, we headed home to rest.
Day 3 – Departure
After a much needed night rest, we packed our luggage, thanked and bid good bye to our host and new friends as we boarded our speed boat and headed to our next destination. Click here to read why I travel
Islands are reminders of arrivals and departures.Gretel Ehrlich
PS: Many people come all the way to the Island just to watch the Nwaotam display – I wasn’t surprised tho. Mimimah Island is an island currently accessible by boat, the people of the Island are accommodating, caring and hospitable. The serenity on the Island is commendable. The people of Minimah Island speak the Ibani language, which is quite similar to the native Igbo language or just a variation.
There is always plenty of fish to consume on the Island, palm wine, tasty fisherman soup and also many riverine delicacies too. We couldn’t find a clubhouse or a bar. Swimming is not advised for visitors and just like in any other society, there are cultural rules and custom to abide by; example- whistling at night is strongly prohibited.
There is a generator house that distributes power to all the households and social amenities on the Island. There is always power at night, all through till morning, except cases were the sound proof generator breaks down. And there are public latrine toilets on the Island, a corpers lodge, school and hospital. As at the time of our visit, there were few soldiers on the Island courtesy the presence of the former Chief of Army Staff.
I love this Island, one could perceive peace from a mile away… and to our host –Merit aka eMERITus as I fondly call her – I say Thank you!
Thank you for reading…
With love from TheLastGoodMan!
Have you been to Minimah Island as a tourist/traveler? or any other Island… If Yes! what was your experience like?