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Coconut Paradise OF BADAGRY

The Badagry Idyll, defined by nature and nostalgia, is a bliss wrought by coconut groves

By MUSA JIBRIL

Coastal towns of Badagry offer refreshing retreats away from the stuffy suburbs of Lagos. There, I often find my dearest dream of natural nirvana, in sun-soaked beaches with Caribbean character where the Atlantic rages and rolls and the waves beat hard and howl against pebbled sand bars, a backdrop of towering coconut trees.

On a bustling day, bevvies of beachgoers frolic in seductive swimsuits, with the air resonating with their chatter and laughter. Their orgies of fun––uninhibited and tempered with élan and exuberance––depict youthful innocence that reminds that life is worth living. This bliss I discovered on the coconut beach of the Suntan resort.

Though not as vaunted as the Lekki beaches––those aristocratic, uppity playgrounds on the island––Suntan, nevertheless, is not poorly patronised. It is a popular getaway for a multitude of Lagosians from the inner city metropolis, perpetually besieged by a crowd of fun-seekers on weekends or holidays.

On the Suntan stretch, the beach has a coconut palm canopy, and there are huts for picnickers to sit, eat and watch the ocean waves. There is also a horse riding option. The last time I was there, the beach was congested. The crowd was crushing. The air vibrated with excitement. Revelers frolicked and swam with amazing zest. If the razzle-dazzle does not appeal to you, then you can amuse yourself with the side attractions of live dramas of eccentricities and emotions around you.

This I did.

Right in front of me, a sumo-sized young man haggled with a gawky lad who peddled boxer shorts at the rate of N100.

Biggie asked: “Do you have a boxer my size?”

The boy replied: “Yes, the one that fits you is N400.”

“Why the extra N300?”

“Because you are ‘extra-big.’”

When the lad pointed at his huge torso, an infuriated Biggie terminated the transaction.

A little distance to the front, a man with a balding pate and a Hitler moustache wore a woman’s one-piece swimming suit. Yes, a woman’s bikini. He strutted about the beach, his gangling form absurdly garbed in the bathing suit, was the butt of jokes and he didn’t care in the least.

To my left, a teenager spectacle unspooled. The girl was engrossed with a plate of rice.  The boy fresh from a swim in the sea, still dripping water, sat beside her. She offered him the bowl. Instead of a few spoonful, he wolfed down everything in double-quick time. The girl who could not hide her displeasure broke down in tears. “But, I thought you gave me everything?” said the boy, who spent the next few minutes petting her. Funny.

Then, a couple came into focus. After emptying a bottle of wine, the male strolled off, leaving his lady with her friend to carry on their feminine talks. He strayed away to sit beside a fair-complexioned, baby-faced damsel. The women he left behind gossip but watched him with half eyes.

His fiancée declared: “I am not disturbed. Even if he likes he can disappear inside one of those huts with her. All I care is I am the one he would be going back home with.”

Her friends countered: “How can you say you do not care about what he does behind your back?”

“Men will always be men, the important thing is for him to find his way home after his ‘cheap’ flings.”

“I can’t live with that, o.”

The lothario returned to a melodrama. The fiancée, who earlier claimed not to be the jealous type, flew into tantrums.

“What were you discussing with that lady?” back and forth they argued. The male walked away with his pride in exaggerated annoyance.

“But I thought you said you wouldn’t be bothered?” the fiancée was reminded by her friend.

For an answer, she wiped tears from her eyes.

A little to the left, another couple sat, engrossed with the usual goings-on that often happens when boy meets girl. Both fancy each other, and unabashedly played the romantic chess, the male trying hard to woo, the female playing hard to get. When he muttered in her ears––sweet nothing I guessed––she giggled. Él le dijo que te amo.

A COCONUT PALM-INSPIRED DÉJÀ VU took me back in time to another Badagry beach experience on Gberefu Island. Gberefu, a tropical rainforest island facing the Atlantic, is severed from the Badagry Peninsula by a lagoon. Populated by a pocket of natives, its natural ecosystem is untainted and undisrupted by modernity, its beach is the most exclusive in Lagos, lined, by tall coconut palms as far as the eye can see into the distance, Gberefu is a place for pleasant solitude. Good for solitary campers.

My last visit was during a three-day retreat of “unmarried 14 young men and play mates.” After we crossed the lagoon by canoes from the Badagry Marina, we foxtrotted through verdant vegetation and villages until we found ourselves at the edge of the Atlantic where the beach was clean, calm and vacant, and strips of golden sand stretched endlessly. No beach bum. No urchins. The natives went about their fishing without as much as paying us any attention. Our coterie included a DJ and a video cameraman and we had enough provisions for a mixed odd of 26 campers. We set up our dome tents on the beach facing the Atlantic Ocean.

First, we kindled a big bonfire. Always the bonfire.  A dancing revelry followed.  Then, dinner by the fireside. The following day began with a physical fitness drill. Afterwards, we played beach soccer and volleyball. Others chased crabs. That morning, we relished the exquisite taste of fresh coconut water. Roasted coconut and fish kebab served as between-meals snacks. Local berries, picked from thorny plants, served as dessert. The lemon-size berries, with tomato taste and mango flavour, are aboriginal to the island.

Later, we broke into smaller groups. The splinters drifted apart in pairs for cosy “two-aside”. In the evening, we had a proper football contest against the natives––a ritual they demand of us each time we visited the beach––and they got the better of us with two unreturned goals.

The outing was a classic beach experience we found difficult to replicate in the last few years. For obvious reasons––wives and babies came along and there was never time enough for such meet-up.

Air of fruity flavour, quasi-Eden tranquillity, homes in rustic surroundings of palms, ferns and banana trees––the Badagry Peninsula easily worms its way into people’s heart. A solitary stroll on the beach of Gberefu or Suntan can have a calming effect on a reveller’s soul as to precipitate a spiritual self-discovery, a sober reflection or the sudden awakening of a slumbering muse.

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