By Adebayo Mayowa Ebenezer
Away from the hustle and bustle of crowded Lagos is the Epe creek. Epe is synonymous with fish. A sculpture of a giant fish, erected at Lekki-Epe T-Junction welcomes you to Epe- the fish basket of Lagos State.
True to this description, something is always fishy in Epe. Quite a number of the tropical island community dwellers have one occupation relating to their aquatic environment either fishermen or fish sellers. Subsistence and commercial fisheries are the major traditional activities in Epe creek, with an unusual fish market where one could easily see a live crocodile up for sale at prices ranging between N7500 to N140,000 (depending on the size).
On an upswing, relatively pristine with lush interiors dotted with plantations is the Epe mangrove. Many thanks to thousands of miles of sandy coastline along the Lagoon, this fragile ecosystem is a haven for wildlife and also shelters the coastlines from tidal erosion, plus the mystique of this place is still much untapped.
While Lagos’s beaches are mostly overrun with tourists or wash away plastics, a budget and or even a luxury tourist visit to the unsullied mangroves of Epe could be a memorable adventure. The creek of Epe is mostly shallow, shore-hugging waters at about 16ft, where mangrove forests grow. The mangroves which are typically coastal forests found growing in the sheltered estuaries along river banks and lagoons on the creek, have an estimate terrain elevation above sea level of 105 meters.
Lights and shadows reflect on the water as fish and crabs hide among the submerged roots and trunks of waterlilies. The Epe mangrove, is roughly about 96km east of Lagos, with the creek stretching from the Lekki-Ibeju axis down to Epe town. A proper tour of the area’s wetlands starts across the Ibeju Tow, in the grey-green waters of the mangrove.
Fishing in Epe | Photo credit: Adedotun Ajibade and Bola JohnAs the sun sinks towards the horizon, a perfect reflection is captured on the water. Together along with the tour guide and local fishermen, fishing through the water of Epe becomes easy. The boat, mostly wooden canoes are paddled by the local fishermen. You don’t need to worry much about not having a knowledge of fishing or skills, the local fishermen are there to guide you through. There’s more to fishing than catching fish.
The locals collect shrimp, oyster, shellfish and other aquatic species and bring them to the fish market, which is another 13km from the mangrove. These mangroves, however, must be preserved, as they play a key role in protection against climate change, an acre of mangrove forest absorbs nearly the same amount of carbon dioxide as an acre of Amazon rainforest.
Things to note:
In a temperate place like Nigeria, the best times of the day to fish are early morning and late evening.
It is located about 2 hours 30 minutes’ drive from Lagos (on a traffic-free day)
Best explored during the weekend
This fishing tour takes about two hours with the stops, conversations, fishing, and taking of photos.
Dress light and wear bright clothes, especially on sunny days.
Bring along waterproof materials to keep your valuables, wear comfortable sandals, as water will always sip though the wooden canoes.
Things to do:
Explore the mangrove forest. From there take a long tail boat ride to go fishing along the shores and creek in the mangrove forest. Touch the nature by exploring coastal mangrove areas and watching the variety of local fauna – colorful birds, alligators, and fiddler crabs.
Enjoy a fish show. Then with the assistance of the locals, you can have your lunch cooked from the fish you have caught. After the meal, you can explore other places around.
Stop at the fish market point. The next stop is the fish market where you can buy all sorts of fish and reptiles, including an alligator.
Where to stay:
If you can afford some luxury and will be spending a night at Epe, the Epe resort about 20 minutes’ drive from the mangrove offers sanctuary to those who wish to rest their weary minds and rejuvenate.