The Venice of Poverty And Last Days In Lagos — Nigeria Part 3

My 10-day trip to Nigeria was a rollercoaster of ups and downs as I came face to face with ancient cultures and even faced my own mortality when I was nearly killed by a local soldier whose job was to protect me. I learned a lot about the history and culture of the country and its people. I also witnessed first-hand the massive divide between the rich and poor, which I would see a lot more of over the final few days of the trip.

Buckle up and stash away your valuables as our Nigeria journey continues on through the slums of Lagos and, in particular, a very poor man’s Venice. 😅 But don’t worry, we’ll also contrast that with another side or sides of Lagos, including a very lovely elevated nature walk with plenty of monkey sightings.

Welcome to the slums

The Venice of Poverty

On my second to last day in Nigeria, which was my last full day in the country, I decided to visit a local slum called Makoko.

A typical day in Makoko

It’s basically a shanty town built on the water, somewhat similar to Ganvié In Benin, which is a large town built on stilts right on top of a lake. Now I was going to visit the local Nigerian version, which is much, much poorer than their neighbors’ settlement in Benin.

If you compare photos of Ganvié and Makoko, it’s clear which one is in worse shape.

It is located in a very dangerous area where tourists or visitors should only go with a guide because it’s not safe to travel there alone. ⚠️

Would you feel safe here without a guide? 🤔

We took a boat ride through the shanty town. We saw lots of houses built above the water on stilts, and many people riding around on their little boats between the houses.

Locals making their way around town

First, we met with the local tribal chief to assure our safety, as is customary when a rare tourist comes by this area. We shook his hand and gave him some gifts, as was expected of us, before going off to explore.

You have to follow protocol if you want to avoid trouble with locals like this.

We navigated through the shanty town on a boat, using a long stick in the shallow mud to push ourselves around wherever we wanted to go.

This guy seems like a real “stick-in-the-mud.” 🤣

It was one of the poorest communities that I’ve ever seen, and they had so many children there that it was crazy.

I can’t imagine how so many small children live in such a place.

We went to visit the local school while we were there. It was very overcrowded, but it’s better to have a very poor school than no school at all, I think.

Inside the classroom

The kids were quite friendly, and it was nice to see and play with them for a bit. 😌

I make new friends everywhere I go. 😂

Some people there are very skeptical and angry about foreigners visiting. The locals live there illegally, squatting on the land, and the government wants to remove them. I guess it makes sense that they’re suspicious of foreigners taking photographs, and so on. But in the end, everything worked out, and we were safe for the duration of our visit.

On the other hand, a lot of the locals were excited to meet a foreigner.

Although it was sad, it was also very impressive to see this Venice of Poverty.’Some people call it the “Venice of Africa,” but I think that “the Venice of Poverty” is a more accurate descriptor.

An interesting visit to the Venice of Poverty

By the Seaside

We returned to the mainland and saw some extremely poor villages that appeared to be built entirely out of wood sitting right behind some huge, guarded apartment complexes where wealthy people live. Lagos is pretty much like a big melting pot of 25 million people, and there’s a drastic difference between the rich and the poor, although in many cases they practically live side by side.

That day, it felt like I saw more of Nigeria’s poverty than its wealth.

On the water along the coast, you can see superyachts floating alongside poor people in wooden canoes who are just trying to catch enough fish to feed their families for the day. It’s a very diverse country, but that makes it quite interesting to see as a visitor.

I saw a lot of canoes that day.

Besides that, we didn’t do too much that day. It took a few hours to visit the local community, so that took up the majority of our day. 🎣 We visited the landside and the waterside along the coast, met some people and got to take some nice pictures.

The slum on the water with the city behind it

More of Lagos

The same afternoon, we visited the rest of Lagos. We went to Victoria Island, which has a ton of gigantic skyscrapers where the ultra-rich live. It is one of the most expensive and exclusive places to live in Lagos, and most of the diplomats who live in the country make their home here.

We saw some interesting Brazilian stuff there too. As I mentioned in my last article, Nigeria has some Brazilian heritage from returning slaves. For example, you can find a Brazilian cathedral and some different Brazilian-style buildings around town. We visited an art gallery managed by a Brazilian woman whose family had been enslaved, and they returned to Africa (Nigeria, specifically) after being freed.

I also went to visit the National Museum again. The last time that I had tried to visit they were closed, but this time it was open to visitors. I went along with a guide who showed me around and explained a lot of cultural things about Nigeria. Even though I had seen so much of the country already, I found that there was still more to learn, as is so often the case in traveling. 🤓

I had a tasty shawarma there and saw some other interesting sights in Lagos. There wasn’t really all that much else to see in Lagos, but I enjoyed my time there.

Natural Beauty in Nigeria

It was finally my last day in Lagos after a nice long trip. I basically had another full day there because my next flight wasn’t until about 10:00 at night. I even had time to return to the hotel before taking my night flight to Angola, which turned out to be quite an interesting trip as well.

On my last day, I went to the Lekki Peninsula, which is by the sea not far from Victoria Island. It is a more natural part of Lagos, where the rainforest meets the lagoon and the beaches.

A different side of Nigeria

There are some mangroves there too, and they’ve built a kind of holiday park with animals called the Lekki Conservation Center. You can see crocodiles, ducks, a bunch of monkeys, and some other animals too.

It’s not every day you see a monkey at ground-level

The longest canopy walkway in Africa is there, and we got to cross it. While I’ve done more than a few canopy walks throughout my travels, I found this one to be quite impressive. It’s over 400 meters long and about seven meters high, with six towers that you cross along the way. 

The extremely long canopy walkway

They had something similar in the Kakum National Park in Ghana, but this one was much more exciting. The high canopy walkway swung around a lot as we walked across it. We went over it together as a group, although I crossed quite quickly while everyone else made their way across very slowly and carefully.

I managed to get around some of these people at the towers. 😅

Unlike the canopy in Kakum National Park which was built by the Swiss, this canopy walkway was actually built by Nigerian people, so I was a bit scared to walk across it. 😨  The sides were not all that high, and I’m very tall so I could have easily fallen over it, but everything worked well in the end and I was fine.

I’m glad I didn’t fall over the side!

We even saw some monkeys in the canopy while we were up there. We were about 15 meters up, so we could see them pretty well and take some good pictures of the monkeys in the trees.

Just hanging out

We slowly headed back down to earth again from there.

It was a nice experience to see the monkeys in the canopy.

We hung out for a bit in the picnic area where you could take a rest and see some ponds with fish swimming around. We also met a black woman there. She was a tourist that had lost her group, so she joined us for some time. That was about all we did there.

A Bit of Culture

We went back to the city center and made our last stop at an art gallery nearby. It’s called the Nike Art Gallery, and it’s the largest of its kind in West Africa. It boasts an impressive five floors. You can explore everywhere, and it’s all full of art. They have some interesting landscape pictures with hidden faces, so we had fun trying to count the faces in those art pieces. There was a lot of nice art, and I would certainly order something from there when I have a flat again.

The biggest art gallery in West Africa.

We also got to meet the owner, Nike Davies-Okundaye. She’s an elderly woman with a son that’s married to a German woman, and she has a grandchild with the German name Otto. Because I’m German and she has this connection to Germany (plus she spotted the bracelets on my arm), she gave me a lovely orange bracelet for free as a gift that I still wear today. 💕

I also got to meet some other visitors who were at the art gallery that day. On the weekends, it’s typical for experts and professionals based in Lagos to visit there. I met an American doctor as well as someone who works for the U.S. ambassador.

Off to Angola

After that, I went back to the hotel, relaxed a bit, and got ready for my evening flight to Angola. I flew with Angola Airlines, and it took about three and a half hours with a stop along the way.

So in all, I spent an amazing 10 days in Nigeria, even though I almost got killed. I found the country to be very big, unorganized, dirty, and English-speaking, but it was still a great experience. My next country, Angola, turned out to be one of the best countries in Africa for me. It was another great experience, although it was very unlike my trip to Nigeria. Come back next time to read about my next big African adventure.