For the longest time, I had always wanted to travel solo but I never really gave it much thoughts till I knew I needed some time off to relax and recharge for the new year. I finally settled for Bénin Republic (Ouidah) to be precise. I really just wanted to rest and lounge so Casa Del Papa Spa and Resort was a fantastic option.
How did I Get there?
I booked a ticket on ABC transport at Jibowu few days to my trip and went with the option of the smaller bus also called the sprinter bus. The alternate option was the luxurious bus. The former is more expensive but a lot of people seem to think it’s faster so I went with it.
On the day of my travel, I had to go to the ABC terminal at Amuwo Idofin to board. The take off time on my ticket was 6:15am but we didn’t leave the park till 8:30am. The final destination of the bus was Accra which meant I was going to be dropped at Cotonou while they continued on their journey.
The journey was pretty smooth as there wasn’t the anticipated traffic everyone talked about as it was a Sunday. But guess what? We were stopped a thousand times by road customs or whatever they’re called. I was charged a fee of 1,000 Naira to “disvirgin” my passport with road stamps by immigration. I was sincerely confused why I had to be charged for my passport to be stamped but I remembered this is Nigeria. Others were charged 5,000 Naira if they didn’t have their international passport or yellow card. These fees were paid to ABC to sort all the road brouhaha.
We got to the Cotonou at about 12:30pm and from there I had to board a taxi to Ouidah which took another hour and a half.
Casa Del Papa
The resort was everything I read about and more. The tranquility, the view and everything about the place was just perfect for my get away! What I loved the most about the place was that the rooms are directly facing the beaches – Maldives vibes right here in Africa! Bear in mind there are two room options; the rooms facing the beaches and the lagoon front room. The rooms are the same, the latter isn’t just facing the beach and it costs less. I spent a night at the lagoon front room and moved to the sea view room the next day. I’m sure you know why.
There is a lot to do from wandering on the beach, to chilling and taking a dip in the pool. You can kayak and even cycle. Marvelous right?! I didn’t have an itinerary so I was prepared to just go with the flow. I decided to tour Ouidah town on one of my days there instead of just being by myself.
Touring Ouidah Town
I booked a tour guide who took me around town on this motor bike which kind of gave us us “Bonny and Clyde” Vibes (Lol, just joking) but it was really cool – hopping on and off the bike and people in town checking us out every now and then. The most interesting part was Geoffrey doubled as my photographer and he did very well.
Ouidah – pronounced as Why-dah- is a small town along the coast. My tour guide mentioned the town is a very spiritual town and practices a lot of Voodoo. It is referred to as the country’s spiritual capital. Voodoo practice seems to be evident as different kind of statues were plastered around the town.
To be honest, when I heard voodoo I expected to see magic and sorcery happening at every corner but I didn’t see anything! The Béninese had their share of slave trade so the town is very rich with history of the slave trade era. I got quickly bored – this is solely because I’m not a history buff, rather more of an adrenaline junkie. I definitely got excited when we got to the temple of pythons.
Places I Visited
The Historical Museum
The museum formally called the Portuguese fort housed a lot of history about Bénin, the people, their culture and the slave trade Era. The museum doubled as a place where thousands of slaves where kept before they were transported to other continents.
It gives a “no holds barred” account of the way in which the slaves were taken, held, mistreated and eventually made to exit the fort to walk, in chains, down a mile long route to the coast where they would then board slave ships. Pictures aren’t allowed in the the museum. Personally, it felt like the place needed a major face lift – for a place with so much history, the least the government can do is make it more interesting. I mean that’s the first place you’re taken to as a tourist.
The Temple of Pythons
This is actually where the voodoo is very evident. I almost didn’t want to go or participate in any of the python activities but I did a sign of the cross and braved it! The pythons are said to be harmless and they are symbols of protection and I was made to believe they are worshipped too. The pythons are released once in a while to go around town and no one is ever allowed to kill them as they go about their business without hurting anyone.
The Cathedral of Ouidah
The cathedral is where the Christians worship and ironically it is just opposite the the temple of pythons with all the voodoo and snake worshipping. I remember my tour guide saying they didn’t see anything wrong with it – a lot of times when you’re done in the temple you can just cross over to the cathedral. Mind blowing, right?!
The Tree Of Return
The tree was usually used as a sacrificial offering for all the dead slaves that have been taken to other continents. The chiefs in the community would go round the tree 7 times and the women will go round 6 times to make sure all the spirits of the slaves everywhere around the continent would come back to this point every year.
Costing and Expenses
My budget for the trip was 150,000 Naira. I think I exceeded that because I had to use my card to make some payments. However, I still have some CFA hopefully when I change them I would note the difference.
- The bus from Lagos to Bénin cost me 18,500 Naira.
- The taxi from Bénin to Ouidah cost me 15,000 CFA. (9,500 Naira)Please bear in mind my negotiation skills never favor me. I’m sure someone else would have done better with bargaining. Always compare prices with at least with two or more taxis before making a choice. I was too tired to even bother.
- The room at Casa Del Papa cost 52,000 CFA (33,000) per night.
- I paid the tour guide 20,000 CFA (12,700 Naira) which includes transportation and entrance in to everywhere we went.
- I paid the sum of 30,000 CFA (19,000 Naira) for the taxi that dropped me at the park from Ouidah to Cotonou. Honestly, I was angry at myself for paying that but the argument was the cab had to come from Cotonou to pick me. Again, I didn’t have the energy to argue. Please do better than me with bargaining. It’s not my forte at all.
- The bus back to Nigeria was 12,500 CFA (7,900 Naira).
Highlight as a Solo traveler
Traveling solo was absolutely amazing for me in all aspects, as I did things I wasn’t sure I would do by self on a normal day and I had a total blast. I made jokes by myself and laughed so hard at them, I re-learnt all the swimming lessons I had last April by myself which by the way was my greatest highlight on this trip. I took long walks by the beach every morning and evening reveling in the beauty of nature which also gave me time to reflect just as I wanted.
Guess what? The fear every one has about traveling alone – who will take my pictures? I had intentions of buying a tripod but laziness didn’t let me get to it. I thought I’ll just ask people to take pictures of me since booking.com already claimed the place was fully booked – I can use the extra hands of the people trying to over crowd my space I thought. To my shock, there was no one! I mean no one. Apparently, people came to rest like me and were not interested in wandering around taking pictures of strangers.
I found a way around it on my second day, found a platform to hang my phone and a took really cool pictures. I was amazed at my creativity. So never say never!
Contrary on popular opinion that a solo traveler is either looking for someone to hook up with or an excuse to just meet “someone” I was super glad everyone at the resort kind of knew I just wanted to be alone and just let me be. The good thing was; everyone was coupling up and there were not a lot of guests when I was there which made it perfect.
I loved everything about Casa Del Papa – I can’t say that about the food though! Most of the things I ordered weren’t very interesting! Every other thing was amazing!
Things to note
- You need your an international passport and your yellow card.
- It is advisable to change your money before you leave Nigeria. I couldn’t change mine before I left Lagos. I didn’t find very good exchange rate in Cotonou.
- The resort takes master cards which saved me eventually. So your GTB MasterCard would work here.
- Go along with mosquito repellent. I didn’t have to use it at the resort but my legs were on fire when I was in town.
- Please note that solo traveling is great but it means you would spend more on things you would have easily split cost with your friends.
- Always be open minded – you know what they say about traveling with too much expectations.
You might need Geoffrey to give you a tour of the town. His English is pretty impressive – +229 97 19 9293
- Pack your stuff and get ready to have a great time!
Would I be traveling again? Absolutely! Maybe this time I would tour Europe… we never know! Again, never say never!
Till next time!
P.S – All the pictures on the resort were taken by me. No tripod, just me looking for platforms that would enable me take great pictures. It’s okay to call me Queen of timed pictures. *Flips hair and rolls eyes*