Benin Republic has sort of become a yearly destination for me. Since my first visit to Fidjrosse in 2016, I have visited the country four more times now, going there twice in 2017 to Ganvie and Grand Popo and to Pendjari with Mark in 2018 for my first West African Safari.
This year, Mark and I got the chance to visit again from Lagos. Since we had just 3 days to spare, inclusive of travel days, we figured we’d limit our trip to the country’s economic centre, Cotonou.
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Getting to Cotonou from Lagos
We decided to go to Cotonou in a hired vehicle. My friend, Omolara recommended a driver to us and he arrived promptly to pick us up at our agreed time. We left Lagos at 6 am and got to the Seme-Krake border at around 12 pm.
The journey was particularly tiring due to traffic and road conditions. The roads leading to the Seme border from a large part of the Lagos mainland were in terrible condition and that, combined with terrible driving habits, caused slow-moving traffic and standstills.
I was so glad when we arrived to better road conditions from the border and onward into Cotonou.
Crossing the new Seme-Krake Joint Border
In my previous visits to Benin, I have always gotten my passport stamped at the back road borders. These were mainly make-shift shacks on dirt roads that served as a border control for travellers.
This time, our driver drove us straight to the fairly newly commissioned administrative building that serves as a joint border for both Nigeria and Benin Republic.
It took us a little over 30 minutes to get our passports stamped. The immigration officers on the Nigerian side spent this time passing our documents from one office to the next and back again. One positive thing about the whole experience was that we weren’t asked for money in the usual forceful way.
One of the officials did ask me to ‘give him something’. When I told him I didn’t have anything, he handed my passport back to me without pushing further. Our interactions with the Beninese officials, on the other hand, was much faster.
Cotonou – Eat, Sleep, Do
Once we arrived in Cotonou, we headed straight to Guesthouse Haie Vive, our accommodation for the night. The rooms in the guest house came with the basic amenities needed for our stay. After settling in, we took a walk around the city before going to lunch at the Livingstone restaurant.
Lunch was fantastic and the service, even more so. We spent the rest of the day hanging out at another restaurant (Puravida) with some of Mark’s friends from his days with the Peace Corps.
The next day, after having breakfast at Puravida, we set out to Bab’s Dock to spend our second day. The first time I couch surfed with Mark, he brought I and the other surfers here for dinner. It felt really nice coming back and seeing all the notable changes the place had undergone.
The biggest one was the road. When I first visited, it was just a sandy beach road and it took quite some time to drive down from Fidjrosse. This time, our ride only lasted about 10 minutes.
Spending a day at Bab’s Dock
I loved everything about the beautiful cabins we checked into. Well, everything apart from the compost toilet. I’m quite embarrassed to say that I am not a big fan of toilets like this even though they are actually better for the environment.
We spent the rest of our time here just relaxing. There was the option to go kayaking or sailing across the lake but I just wanted to stay in bed and finish the book I was reading.
Later in the evening, Mark organized a lovely dinner and evening for us. It was such a lovely way to end our visit to the country that has captured both our hearts.
We left Bab’s Dock after breakfast the next morning and made the journey back to Lagos from Cotonou. I am always excited to visit Benin Republic. Each trip has given me incredible memories and this last one gave me one to remember for a lifetime.