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Calabar Carnival, Nigeria

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What is the Calabar Carnival?

Calabar Carnival, also known as Calabar Festival, is an annual celebration held in thecity of Calabar, Nigeria. This celebration is known as the pride of Nigeria, as the event which touches on themes of national identity and attracts thousands of visitors from all parts of the country and the region. The Calabar Carnival is thelargest and most important tourist event in West Africa.

The Calabar Carnivals are as the “Largest street party in Africa” due to its large participation and character of the festivities. Generally the carnival occupies a four-week program, which are again divided into four seven-day themed periods, beginning with the Millennium Week, followed by the Sports Week, the TINAPA Family Festival and the Carnival Week leading up to New Year’s Eve..



The celebration of the Carnival of Calabar has the particularity of developing an annual theme. These themes attack problems that occur in the country, the region, the continent or on an even larger scale, covering global problems. Some of the themes that have been presented in the festivities are: Climate Change, Migration, Africanism and Humanity. During each of the events a particular theme is developed through forums, workshops, dances and interactive activities..

The event has the participation of several local and international musicians, who come to liven up the festivities and offer first-class entertainment. In addition, the carnival has been attended by great national personalities, who are part of the political and economic activities of the country.


International Participation

Every year, theCalabar Carnival has a wide variety of international groups that come to the carnivals to offer small presentations to publicize the culture of their country.

The Calabar carnival has counted with the participation of:

    • Thailand
    • Mexico
    • South Africa
    • Brazil
    • Greece
    • Kenya
    • Ghana
    • Democratic Republic of the Congo


  • Senegal
  • Rwanda
  • Colombia
  • Colombia
  • Lithuania


The Calabar Carnival is a project of cultural integration and touristic contribution

The Calabar Carnival is a project of cultural integration and touristic contribution



When is the Carnival of Calabar?

Fortunately, the Calabar Carnival has a fixed date that never changes, so it is always easy to know when the celebration takes place.

The celebration runs from December 1 to December 31.



History of the Calabar Carnivals

Calabar Carnival is the result of a project that emerged in 2004 by the former governor of the city, Donald Duke. The objective at the time was to develop the city as a tourist destination. In addition, it also wanted to fulfill the function of publicizing the hospitality that the population could provide to all visitors both from Africa and the rest of the world.

The celebration of the carnival sought to incorporate aspects of local heritage and culture and at the same time, strengthen the capacity of the locals to integrate or be part of a more beneficial economic activity. In addition to this, to include elements of the carnival to provide a much more attractive offer for visitors.

Thanks to this new movement, Calabar has become one of the places par excellence in Nigeria in terms of tourism and carnival. The Calabar Carnival has become an instrument to publicize theAfrican heritage through music, dance, theater and visual creativity, which is reflected in the design of carriages, costumes and makeup..

The carnival has been running uninterruptedly since then, taking so far 16 editions. Up to this moment, the carnival integrates 5 competitive bands and other non-competitive bands that participate in each edition. In addition, the Carnival adopts a new theme every year since 2004 to complement the carnival activities, which has to do with both the reality of the country and the continent or the whole world.


Where is the Carnival of Calabar?

The carnivals are held in the city of Calabar, Cross River State in southern Nigeria, African continent..

The city of Calabar has an area of 406 square kilometers where more than 350,000 people live.


Calabar Carnival bands compete for the year's winning title

Calabar Carnival bands compete for the year’s winning title



How the Calabar Carnival is celebrated

Calabar Carnival is endowed with dozens of activities that take place throughout the month-long celebration. The program used in the events is the result of the planning of the committee in charge of the tourist and cultural activities of the city and includes activities of all kinds and themes each year.

In addition, the carnival has several celebrations and activities that stand out from the rest, some of these are the following:


4-week phase

In order to segment and divide the celebrations and activities strategically and efficiently, theCarnival committee has decided to divide the festivities into 4 different stages. These stages have specific names, which have certain activities related to the themes. The month of the celebration is divided into the following: Millenium Week, the Sports Festival, the TINAPA Family Fun Festival and the Carnival Week.


Millennium Week

This week is usually the first week of the month and features entertainment related to Christmas preparations, including Christmas fair and decoration. In addition, it features food contests, Marcha de la Solidaridad, Coronación los Reyes y Reinas del Carnaval of the bands, Carnaval infantil and many other related activities.


Sports Festival

The Sports Party is held the following week and as the name suggests, activities exclusively related to sports are held. Among the featured activities arewrestling teams, golf tournaments, boat regatta and many other events. In addition, it has also featured the Carni-Cal and Motorcyclists’ Day.


TINAPA Family Fun Festival

During the week, events are held for the entire public, including some Christmas ceremonies. Some of the featured activities include Christmas lighting event, Christmas fair, fireworks shows, talent contests, cultural parades, African food festival and various family activities.


Carnival Week

Carnival week is the last week of the program and includes all the elements of the carnival. During this week there areChristmas concerts, children’s parties, theband competition, parades, dances, street partiess, live concerts of African music, some forums and symposiums.



Calabar Carnival is the perfect excuse to let your imagination run wild in terms of performing arts and culture. In addition, it is an interesting meeting point for the African diaspora to come back and be part of the carnival activity. At the event you can find a variety of colorful and interesting costumes that parade during the festivities. Some of these symbolize and challenge social constructs, while others are simply fun or thematic.

If you want to know more about tourism in this country I recommend this guide:.



Since 2004 the Calabar Caranva has been integrating different themes every year in order to develop particular activities. These themes usually touch on conflicts, events or realities of the country, the region and the world.

Some of the themes with which the carnivals have counted on are:

    • 2008: Supporting the treasures of the Earth through our culture


    • 2009: Land of our birth, our people, our heritage


    • 2010: Our strength and resilience; the foundation of our future
    • 2011: Infinite possibilities
    • 2012: The new dawn
    • 2013: We are not held back
    • Time to Celebrate


  • 2015: Climate Change
  • Climate Change
  • 2016: Climate Change – Bigger, bolder, better
  • 2017: Migration
  • 2018: Africanism
  • 2019: Humanity


Band Competition

This is a competition during the carnival parades through various cultural manifestations. The carnival is composed of various bands, some of these established the same year as the carnivals.


Bayside Band

Color: Blue.

This band is led by former governor Donald Duke. The membership of this band is open to all Nigerians and foreigners and participates in the movement of charity and sustainable activities.


Seagull Band

Color: Red.

It was registered in 2005.

The band aims to promote in a sustainable way theTourism and Hospitality industry and in general, to promote charity. In addition, the band also focuses on the aesthetic part of carnivals, talents and innovation.


Freedom Band

Color: Yellow.

Freedom Band:

The band has consistently been in the top three of the entire Calabar Carnival event.


Masta Blasta Band

Color: Orange.

It is also known as “The Orange Family“, as it is the largest group of all. The band was founded in 2005 and its foundation is inclusivity, as it integrates participants from all walks of life.

This band has a total of 10,000 active participants.


Passion 4 Band

Color: Green.

This is the most successful band of the Calabar Carnival, having been crowned champion on 9 occasions and twice the first finalist in the 16 years of existence. In addition, both adults and children can be found among its participants.



Non-Competitive Bands


Wise Up Band

It was created in 2016 with the aim of taking the HIV/AIDS campaign to the streets and reducing the rate of catastrophic diseases by 2030. In addition, it has sponsors from all over the world, mainly from health organizations.


Hit FM Band

It is one of the newest and is recognized for its entertainment and music. It is also owned by the Hit 95.9 FM Calabar. station.


Banda CNS

It is from the Nigerian Navy and is the first military band to participate in the Calabar Carnival since the event’s inception in 2004. The band is incorporated to show the love the service has for the development of tourism in Nigeria.


Governor’s Band

The Governor’s Band was created in 2015. The creator of the band is Senator Ben Ayade, Executive Governor of Cross River State. Those who participate in this band are the Governor himself, his Wife, the Legislative Council and all the dignitaries of the Cross River State Government.


Commitment to the environment

One of the characteristics of the carnivals is the constant undertaking and promotion of activities that improve theenvironment. In addition, the committee organizes some talks and symposiums on topics of interest related to theenvironment and climate. In previous editions, there have been educational activities and planting of up to 10,000 trees.


Cultural Development

One of the main objectives is the encouragement and development of the variouscultural and folkloric elements of the country and the continent. The carnival has integrated on several occasions activities that include essay writing contest, involving both high school and tertiary students.


Tips for going to the Calabar Carnivals

If you want to be part of the Calabar Carnivals, we recommend planning your trip in advance, making an itinerary of activities and booking your preferred accommodation in advance. Also, be sure to pack comfortable clothes so you can fully enjoy your carnival.

The carnival organization offers attractive packages that you can purchase through the association’s website. These packages include transportation, lodging, some meals and tours. In addition, for a slightly higher sum you can include other services and VIP tickets.

In addition, we recommend that you keep an eye on your surroundings to avoid becoming a victim of pickpockets, especially during the carnival season when many tourists attend and the streets are crowded with people.

Do not travel or go to places you do not know alone, try to avoid them at all costs and if you need to go, try to be accompanied.

Do not trust strangers and do not get into their vehicles, even if they look friendly.

Always obey authority and don’t get into trouble, use common sense and respect the rules.


Events in Calabar Carnival

The Calabar Carnival has a rich program that runs from beginning to end of December. Throughout its calendar of events you can find a wide variety of events that touch on themes such as family, culture, sports, contests and environmental. In addition, they include traditional festivals, ffood fairs and music festivals to entertain people during the holidays.



Also, we recommend you to stay tuned, as schedules and celebrations may change every year. You can check our blog for future updates or the official website of the carnivals along with their social networks.

The events that are part of the Calabar Carnivals celebration are:


Millennium Week

1st – 10th of December


Sports Festival

December 12th-17th


TINAPA Family Fun Festival

December 19th-24th

December 19-24


Carnival Week

December 25-December 31


Carnival of Culture

December 26th


African Beauty Contest

December 27th


Grand Carnival Parade and Street Party

During this day all the bands are presented and the competition takes place.

December 28th


International Carnival

During this day the parades of the international groups take place.

December 29th.


Sustainable Carnival

December 30th.


New Year’s Eve and Fireworks Spectacular

December 31st


The Calabar Carnival groups attend in typical costumes

The Calabar Carnival groups attend in typical costumes



Calabar Carnival Parades


The Calabar Carnival features 3 major parades: Cultures Parades, International Parade and Grand Parade..

The Parade of Cultures or Cultural Day, features dozens of groups from all parts of Nigeria who perform in traditional attire of their ethnicities and cultures. The streets are filled with hundreds oftraditional costumes, traditional dances and musical bands with instruments typical of each of the cultures.

In the international parade there are dozens of groups from different countries of several continents. These groups come to the carnival to make a sample of the different cultural manifestations. The whole parade has carriages and typical or thematic costumes of each of the groups.

The Grand Parade is the one that takes place with the participation of the 5 carnival bands. These bands perform various numbers of partistic performances, dance and music to achieve the title of winner. The bands are easily identified, as each band carries a different color.


Parade route


The Calabar Carnival has a program of activities that starts on December 1st and ends on December 31st

The Calabar Carnival has a program of activities that starts on December 1st and ends on December 31st



The parades take place in the main streets of the city. On some occasions they have also been held in the vicinity of the Millenium Park and the Main State of the city.


Afang soup is one of the region's signature dishes

Afang soup is one of the region’s signature dishes



What to eat at the Calabar Carnival

During the carnivals, the city offers you a varied typical food fair that you can visit to learn a little more about the traditional dishes and the typical food of the city and the region. We advise you to try some of the paltos so you can fully experience the carnivals.

One of the dishes you can try is the Afang soup. This is a vegetable soup unique to the city and forms an important part of the identity of the locals. The soup is made with meat, fish, shrimp, vegetables and various local vegetables. The result is a somewhat watery soup with a vibrant green color.

Another of the typical dishes of the area is the Ekpang-nkukwo soup. It is a fairly consistent and thick soup made with taro, taro leaves, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, meat, fish, crab and some herbs for flavor.

In addition, the city also offers you some places where you can expand your Nigerian gastronomic experience. Some of the best known places are: Happy Food, Wakkis, Axari and Tinapa Lakeside Hotel..


Ekpang-nkukwo soup is a traditional Nigerian dish

Ekpang-nkukwo soup is a traditional Nigerian dish



Travel Insurance


From we recommend to hire a good insurance to visit this carnival and to know the rest of the country. For being our readers we offer a 5% discount on all IATI insurance. Read more information about all insurance offers here:



What to see and do inside the Calabar Carnival

Once you find yourself at the Calabar Carnival, you canbe a part of each of the weeks of celebration. If you extend your visit from the beginning of the month, you can be part of the Millennium Weeks, Sports Festival, TINAPA Family Fun Festival and Carnival Week. Each of the weeks has different themed activities that have to do with the name of the week.

In addition, it is important and an obligation to attend the various parades that are organized during the carnivals. The first with the various cultural groupings, with their costumes and dances. The second with the international groups from different regions of the world and finally, the parade with the competition of the 5 official bands to obtain the prize of the carnivals.

If you don’t want to complicate things, here you can book interesting excursions in Spanish in this city:.

Guided tours in Spanish around the world


What to see and do outside of the Calabar Carnivals

Some of the tourist attractions you can get in and around the city are:


Kwa Falls

It is a body of water located in a wooded area. It has a spectacular entrance to the beach and some areas where you can have a picnic. The waters of the place are crystal clear and fresh.


Slavery Historical Museum

This is a museum that represents the lifestyle of slaves decades ago. In addition, you can find various commemorative statues, documents and photographic material.


Cross River National Park

It is an ecotourism destination in one of the best preserved rainforests in West Africa. The attraction fulfills a tour in an area that carries some effort.

Also if you want to visit museums and important buildings in this city we recommend that you book your entrance ticket in advance through Tiquets:.

Book tickets in the city you are visiting


Safety at the Calabar Carnival



Calabar is a relatively safe city with some criminal activity, so we recommend that you remain vigilant at all times.

Be sure to keep your personal belongings and valuables in a safe place and dress simply so as not to attract attention. Also, we recommend the following products to store your items safely:



Weather at the Calabar Carnival

During the celebration of the carnival, the city of Calabar has common atmosphere between pleasant and hot, with temperatures ranging between 26 and 28 degrees Celsius. We recommend packing some light clothing and keeping hydrated at all times.


Calabar Carnival groups wear thematic and colorful costumes

Calabar Carnival groups wear thematic and colorful costumes



How to get to Calabar Carnival


How to get there by plane

The closest airport to Calabar is Margaret Ekpo International Airport, which receives some domestic and international arrivals. One of our recommendations is to travel from Lagos to this airport.

In addition, you can also land at Airport Victor Attah International and then approach the city center.

We recommend buying airline tickets through or Skyscanner where they are usually cheaper. More information on this link to review


How to get there by boat

The city receives some boats from Cameroon. In addition, many people use it as a means of transportation between the two countries.


How to get there by car

From the airport you can take the IBB Way to the city center. The journey takes 5 minutes.

If you take a cab, the taxi fare ranges from US$2 to US$4.


Where to stay at Calabar Carnival

Accommodation in town is somewhat scarce, but you still have a few options close to town.


Beneville Hotel & Apartment

4 star hotel 2.6 km from the city center. Rooms have air conditioning, TV, kettle and private bathroom. The hotel has a swimming pool, bar and free wifi.


Axari Hotel

4-star hotel 300 meters from the city center. The rooms have a closet and private bathroom. The hotel has a swimming pool, bar and free wifi.


Global Dreams Hotel

Hotel 4.9 km from the city center. Rooms feature a desk, TV and private bathroom. The hotel has a bar.

We recommend using to book hotels at a good price, check more information here:.


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