Residents in Lagos, Nigeria, are rediscovering their city and all it has to offer through special day and night tours offered by EXP Lagos, a local tourism outfit that uses Danfo mini buses as transport. The weekend tours offer exploration and experiences, according to Uzo Umeh, the head of the domestic tourism startup.
"You cannot experience Lagos without experiencing the Danfo," says Uzo, referring to the popular means of public transport for Lagosians who use it for daily commute in Africa's most populous city.
"If anything, the Danfo bus represents Lagos - it has withstood the test of time. It's who we are. We are just as strong and persevering as the Danfo bus," she adds.
Difference between day and night
The tours also eliminate the need for participants to drive, park, or deal with taxis.
Explorations takes place first and second week of every month, on Fridays and Sundays.
"We are doing it for everyday Nigerians and for people that want to experience what every day Nigerians experience every day," she says regarding the targeted clientele.
EXP Lagos started with the Friday bus to explore nightlife, and has added the second Sunday bus for daylight experiences. Uzo explains that venues for day and night explorations are often similar, but she says the experiences differ.
"The vibes are different. Friday nights are about a pretty partying kind of thing. Sunday is very much like brunch - let's go eat, let's drink some mimosas and enjoy some day out in the sun," she says of the ambiance.
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It's a Sunday afternoon and we have arrived at Bature, a microbrewery that makes craft beer on Victoria Island. With a taproom and pub fare, and a DJ as well as live music, Bature comes alive day and night.
"I like the fact that they have the concept like they have abroad of a local brewery. So the beer is like homemade," says Sabin, one of the explorers, as Uzoh likes to call them.
"And you get to taste and experience different beer distinct from the mass commercial ones," adds Sabin, a Rwandan who's lived in Lagos two years.
"I believe there's more to discover. I am very new to Lagos. So next time when my people from home asks me 'what's there in Lagos?' I will have something to say."
Long-term Lagosians love it
Discovering new places in Lagos is not only for new residents like Sabin. At Tiger Bar on this late Sunday afternoon, the bar is packed. With beers and soups lined up on several wooden tables, Tiger Bar looks like a garden for beer lovers.
Efosa, who has lived in Lagos since 2007 and has used Danfo buses to commute, says exploring Lagos as a group has opened him to new places and experiences.
"You're going out with 10 different people, going to different bars ... it's really nice," he says, who enjoys meeting new people.
One young urban professional, Obianuju, is looking to expand her horizons and use the Danfo shuttle service as a place to make contacts.
"You really meet good people and good vibes - it also helps to form your network as well," she said. "It's a new experience. Prior to EXP Lagos, I have never entered a Danfo bus - I found it amazing."
But it has not always been amazing. Uzo along with her business partner had to pause for most of the pandemic year in 2020. It would be risky parking a bus full of people in the heat of Covid-19.
"Even up to now our buses are still at half capacity," Uzo says. "But if there's anything the pandemic as taught us is that human connection is going nowhere," she says, adding that some people had tears in their eyes on the first tour after lockdown, because they hadn't seen other people for so long.
With Nigeria projected to become the third most populous country in the world before 2050, Lagos will never remain the same, as Uzo's EXP Lagos will continue to evolve and showcase interesting and fun places in Nigeria's economic capital.
"The comeback has just been a reminder of how important human connection and community is, to be quite honest," she adds.