Funmi Oyatogun of TVP Adventures is keen on improving travel in Africa. She speaks passionately about Tourism in Nigeria, her experience and the joys and beauty that her various journeys and trips bring to her and her tour group. She also talks safety when travelling and the intricacies of planning a trip.
Hello Funmi, tell us about yourself and what you do?
My name is ‘Funmi Oyatogun. I am a geographer and environmentalist. I am also an adventure designer; creating near and far travel experiences for individuals, couples, groups, organizations and families.
When did you realize you loved travelling so much and wanted it to be an active part of your lifestyle?
I travelled quite a lot as a child, so for as long as I remember, I have enjoyed travelling. My parents made even the simplest trips into an event. My siblings and I wrote essays on every place we visited and created songs to remember events that happened during the trip. Every time I dreamt of my future, in-depth and extensive travel was a big part of the dream. My parents taught me how to travel with open eyes and an open heart and I am very thankful for that.
What is your most favorite part in planning a trip?
My favorite part of planning a trip is drawing up content for the trip. I believe destinations are alive by themselves but people bring a certain dimension of life and experience to a place. So, it is a fruitful process putting together the itinerary of a trip and watching travelers engage in those activities that will eventually become precious memories.
Going on tours to interesting places with people definitely increases your social network, is that another reason why you do this?
There are beautiful souls all around God’s world and I meet a good number of them on each trip. Meeting people is a vital part of experiencing places because new things can be learned, laughter can be created and memories can be shared.
What places in Nigeria can you never get tired of visiting?
These places change from time to time. Right now, I am inspired by Badagry. I find new inspiration every time I visit Badagry and the stories of slavery, freedom, history and culture never get old. Badagry is also one of Lagos’ best kept secrets for its beaches and miles of shoreline.
Do people come to you for travel advice and tips, what do you find yourself telling people when they do?
People bring a lot of travel questions to me and I am happy to answer what I can. I also write travel stories, tips and guides which provide reference for people while they travel. These stories can cover very different topics. However, I often find myself telling people to open their hearts and look deeper in the corners of the world. You will find the tastiest meals, cheapest tours, most fascinating people and best adventures when you go off the tourist script and just live. Also, I often tell people that travel is not cheap, but it does not have to be as expensive as people think. Travel and exploration is not always vacation.
Travel teaches you much more than a session in a history class can, how do you find learning about the various fun places to visit in Nigeria as well as the people and their culture?
Travel is a holistic form of education. I am thankful to have been brought up in a very multicultural setting and so I appreciate the diversity that every new street or culture or location has to offer. There is an experiential learning that travel offers which cannot be found in books or films.
What is the bigger picture that you have for travel in Nigeria?
I would hope that we could work on preserving our artifacts, restoring dilapidated structures and developing tourist attractions with potential. Nigeria needs to be a viable competitor in tourism among its peers. Countries with much less have done so much with that they have and it is embarrassing how normal the ‘Nigerian factor’ has become. In my lifetime, I would like to be a part of developing a Nigeria that Nigerians want to show and the world wants to see.
What safety measures do you put in place when you travel?
We do our best to tighten loose nuts before and during each trip to ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible. We only operate with comprehensively insured vehicles, trained drivers, secure hotels and certified vendors. In all our local trips where we convey people, we travel with security, even though they are not necessary at all. We also have trip insurance. These value added services allow people enjoy themselves without worrying about the uncertainties that come with travel in Nigeria.
What’s the highest number of people you have had on a tour with you?
I have taken up to 30 people on a tour. We like to maintain small and intimate tour groups.
Which places would you recommend for foreigners to visit in Nigeria?
The recommendations are limitless. For those who live in Lagos or Western Nigeria, Badagry and Olumo Rock are must-visit sites. I also recommend a canoe ride to Tarkwa Bay, Obudu Cattle Ranch, Yankari Game Reserve and the Jos hills. There is a lot to see and these recommendations could change depending on what people are looking for.
Your travel pictures on Instagram have some very interesting captions, would you say travel brings out the poet or the philosopher in you?
I’ll find poetry in anything; thank God, because how on Earth would I be able to convey the web of stories in my head? Travel opens up my world and whether imagined or experienced, the stories I write are my own little way of sharing the things that happen to me.
What places in Nigeria are on your wish list to visit?
I want to see every inch and mile of the world and every nook and cranny of Nigeria. I would especially love to visit Kajuru Castle in Kaduna and Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State.
What things would you love to change about travel in Nigeria?
Where do I start? The underlying cause of many Nigerian problems is the lack of the spirit of excellence. There is rarely a drive to go over and beyond what is ‘manageable’. So, if we could imbibe excellence, the roads will be built properly the first time, the hotel will fix the broken tap immediately, the driver will not drink alcohol or speed recklessly while driving and the caterer will deliver lunch at the agreed time. Running a travel service (like any other business) in Nigeria is unpredictable and the variables can be overwhelming at times so it will help to know that I can leave location A at one time and have a good idea of the time I will arrive at location B.
When you are booking hotel rooms ahead of a trip, what facilities and amenities do you usually look out for?
In Nigeria, the small but difficult things become the most important when choosing hotels. Constant supply of electricity, beyond average customer service, very clean surroundings and bathrooms, working furniture and plumbing, white bed sheets and pillowcases. Colored bedding in a hotel comes across as if the hotel has something to hide.
Which has been the most memorable trip for you so far?
It is tough to choose one trip above the others because each experience is memorable for its own special reasons. However, I could share some of the memories from last year. I was able to hike the Aberdare ranges in Kenya in the rain, snorkel in Zanzibar, explore Badagry with very funny travelers and volunteer on a farm in Iowa.
What three things can you not travel around Nigeria without?
The three things I cannot travel around Nigeria without are: my phone and phone charger, complete documents of whatever vehicle I am travelling in and a spirit willing to accept changes along the way. It is almost always certain that something will change drastically during the course of the trip and it is this spirit of adventure that will accept sometimes frustrating experiences as adventure.
From what I know you travel in a group mostly, taking people on tours to exciting places, do you ever travel solo, and is the experience any different?
I travel solo quite often as well. I appreciate the opportunity to spend time with myself and God and I am not afraid of my own quiet company. Solo trips are often quieter and allow me more time to reflect but the experiences that come out of them are not any less memorable.
You can read Funmi’s adventures as she explores Nigeria on TVP Adventures
Image Source: Images are provided by Funmi of TVP Adventures and published with her permission.