DESTINATION: BENIN TRAVELOGUE IS INVITING

A trip by road remains a delight to an adventurous soul like yours truly. The reason is not far-fetched. Interestingly, you would have a feel of the undulating landmark of hills and valleys, and beautiful scenery of colorful flora and fauna. In particular, traveling from Lagos to neighboring destinations such as Benin Republic, Togo, and Ghana captures such memorable experiences.
For instance, COTONOU, the economic capital of Benin Republic is the next country, westwards to Nigeria in the West African sub-region. Though a francophone country, it is situated just about 698 kilometers away from Badagry in Lagos, Nigeria. For a mind that is curious to explore, one will wonder, what is unique about the Benin Republic?

Since 2009, I have been exploring on that international corridor to Ghana by road, traversing through Benin Republic but this writer has never deemed it fit to explore a night in a beautiful and serene destination like Cotonou. This was ultimately proved wrong when I received an invitation from a tourism expert and CEO of Kalo Africa, Mr Kazeem Balogun. The adventure trip had some of the industry tour operators, Joanna Aliu-Owolabi of Connoisseur Travel, Abiosoye Abati of Keras Tours, Chiamaka Obuekwe of Social Prefect and Adam Nora of Angel Style World Travel and Tours. Simply put, these are the leading lights in their country’s vibrant tourism industry. From the pen community, leading the pack of the travel media are Omololu John Olumuyiwa of Travelscope, Kayode Ogunbunmi from City Voice, Sunday Aikulola from the Guardian Newspapers, Emmaunuel Ukudolo from Star Connect and of course, this writer from Travelogue.

The memorable trip was an eye opener; a destination discovery that was loaded with a lot of attractions, and experiences. Indeed, it was quite educative. For instance, the journey from Lagos to Cotonou proved exciting. Though it is just a 2- hour trip from Mile 2, it is really worthwhile to visit this amazing destination. On getting to Cotonou through the entry point, I was impressed about the orderliness, their way of life exuding an aura of calmness. Truth be told, unlike here in the bustling city of Lagos, the economic hub of West Africa, there was no anxiety of any sort.It was clearly evident that all the security officials are on top of their game- from Customs through the Police to the Immigration Services proved to be well-heeled professionals.
 
As we preceded inward the city, I was taken aback by the high level of cleanliness of the environment and smart policing. Worthy of note is that even the motorbike riders have a dedicated road for their inter-city journeys and this time with helmet on for safety purpose. There is no blaring of horns or over-speeding epitomizing a decent society that is truly working. Every motorist is driving at a speed limit without the unusual maneuvers and dangerous overtaking. And all these were helped by the good road network. Viva Destination Cotonou! 

BENIN ROYAL HOTEL

It is an open secret that hospitality is an integral part of tourism. And every tourist wants a secured place to check-in, relax and spend a night or more depending on the number of days to explore. There are many hotels in Cotonou, but my experience confirmed that Benin Royal Hotel trumps them all.Arriving Benin Royal Hotel, a -4 star facility, embraces the tourist or traveller with an aura of class, excellence and hospitality splendor. There is not an iota of doubt that this is indeed, the premium hotel with a royalty service to offer!

This was on display at the reception with courtesy and impeccable customer service amidst a welcoming smile. Bonjour! The customer service team also speaks fluent English for those who do not speak French and even Yoruba language. During that trip I struggled to learn a few French languages. I think it is necessary to find time to enroll for a French class in future. French language is romantic. Interestingly, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the hotel, Mr. Dine Bouraima is from the Yoruba dynasty of Benin.

 He is also the President of Consortium Touristes Par Millions (CTM-Benin). He confirmed to us that the hotel was built in 2014 and was inaugurated by the then President of the Republic of Benin. He describes the Benin Royal Hotel as number one in Cotonou. According to him, “It’s of national and international standard”, he said as you could savour the evidences on ground as we moved round the hotel. What more, there were on full display magnificent pieces of arts and intercontinental cuisines and sumptuous meals.

In his capacity as the President of CTM-Benin – an association of all hotels, freight companies, travel agencies, restaurants, artistes, airline operators etc – says there is accomplishment in doing things together. Indeed, I agree with him. Tourism and hospitality require synergy of pragmatic team work. For him, a Beninois sees Nigeria as its own United Kingdom and United States of America. While complaining about border blockades, he is asking Nigerians to take Benin and the Benin Royal Hotel as their own. He wonders why Nigerians are spending so much money going elsewhere when all the comfort they desire is well catered for in Cotonou. In a similar vein, he wants Africans to do things together for the development of tourism in the continent, stressing that it remains a win-win for all.

 The Benin Royal Hotel is ideally located in the heart of the city and within walking distance of major business, leisure and tourist areas at 5km, 10 minutes of the Cardinal Bernadin Gantin International Airport of Cotonou.Benin Royal Hotel is an internationally inspired luxury in the heart of Cotonou, whose design embodies beauty, built by Italian firms with materials imported from Italy to give it that global taste

The hotel offers unique elegance as it features stunning, contemporary interiors with 65 state-of-the-art rooms and a fully loaded gym at the 7th floor. The hotel is also the first to be rated four-star in the Republic of Benin. It provides business and leisure travelers with all the comforts of a luxury, world class modern facilities facilitated by unsurpassed services to make you feel at home.The banquet hall sits about 400 people, meeting rooms, stunning views of the pool at the 5th floor, the hotel courtyard and the city. Benin Royal Hotel restaurant offers variety of steaks, grilled meat and assorted marinated fish with guarantee to satisfy discerning palates. Guests looking for a luxury dining restaurant in Nigeria can choose between the local food and international dining space, Behanzin or Ife Restaurant, including bar at the pool side, overviewing the city.

THE NIGHT EXPERIENCE

Just as we were talking about the beauty of the mural painting, a few minutes away, just behind the presidential office building comes the imposing Amazon statue built in homage to the world’s only all-female army established by Queen Tassi Hangbé of the famous Kingdom of Dahomey. The master piece was erected on a wide expanse of concrete floor, a wonder to behold any day. Every day, people from various cultural backgrounds, particularly tourists flock around to behold this breathtaking landmark. It is worth to mention here that the environment at this Amazon Square is safe, clean, without any dirt on the floor.

It is indeed a tourist site to have a good selfie any time of the day. It was an eye-captivating touristic figure – the amazing Amazon
The imposing golden sculptural masterpiece is standing at 100 feet tall and about 150 tons put together by a group of artists led by Chinese Sculptor, Li Xiangquan.

There is a good story about the masterpiece because it represents a historical feminine force which must serve as a benchmark for present and future generations of Benin.
It is a perpetuation in the modern national context of the determining role of women in the culture and in the history of the people of Benin. However, as Cleopatra said this monument stands for every African woman and so it could be Joanna, Atinuke, Chiamaka, Kemi, etc as long as you are a woman.

THE BEACH ADVENTURE

EPILOGUE

At the Bar by the pool side, overviewing the city while you enjoy the karoke music; on a night before our departure; we explore the Karoke order of music. Unforgettable! Smile. The Travelogue’s trip to the Republic of Benin was fun-filled, educative, inviting and memorable. What a great night to remember, as we had a pleasant trip.

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