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Ilashe: Our filthy beach

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Picture this, you are walking down the white sands of Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi beach with your loved one, say, it is a romantic holiday. You both saved quite a bit to afford a romantic get away from Lagos and the beauty surrounding you overwhelms your eyes. A nice warm breeze is keeping both of you cool while the sun shines down warmly. You are having the best time on your holiday, and every one of your friends in Nigeria knows it via the thousands of pictures and videos you have shared on every social media page available to you.

The clear cerulean body of water looks too good to be true, and with every opportunity afforded, you and your loved one have snorkeled, swam, and dived into the clear blue waters. You take in a deep breath, pat yourself on the back, and then say to yourself, “Money well spent”. Now, hold that picture of beach paradise in your mind and compare that image to Nigeria’s own Ilashe Beach. Does it even rate?

Let’s take some steps back and make the picture more relatable.

You drive from Lagos to Lome, or simply pay one of the many tour companies offering a long weekend stay in the city. From the windows of your car, as you drive into the city, your eyes are captured by the sparkling body of water that lay beyond the clean sands of the beach. As soon as you check into your beach side accommodation, both you and your partner have immediately changed into beach wears and are not wasting any time in chasing the mini waves of the water by the shore. You both kick off your shoes and trek the clean sands while the mini waves wash over your feet. The water on this side of the Atlantic is not calm enough for you to take a dive into, but the view, the music reaching your ears from the food shack nearby, keeps you in a relaxed state of holiday bubble. You both pay a token fee for a couple of beach loungers to lay down on, buy a glass of chilled fruity cocktail paired with a plate of grilled fresh fish and your vacation has hit the right note. Again, let’s compare that to an experience at Ilashe…does it still rate?

From the jetty leading to many of the luxury beach homes scattered in the area of Ilashe beach, the sight of plastic pure water bags, plastic bottles, empty food packs welcome you as they lay floating in mounds around the dock. As you get out of the boat rental, you immediately cringe the minute water splashes on you as your movement causes the boat to ricochet against the dock and the water it sits on. ‘Hopefully, my skin won’t develop a random case of rash from that nasty water splash’, you think to yourself. Once your feet get on land, you are immediately pumped with excitement for the amazing fun day you are about to have. The local kids help you and your friends with your coolers of food and drinks to the beautiful beach home you have all rented for the day. The barbecue grill is lit and a couple of the local boys are helping with grilling the food and making sure the pool facing the beach has enough water pumped in from the ocean. Once all the jobs are assigned, you and a couple of friends kick off your shoes, change into your beach wears and trek down the open beach to the Atlantic.

Two minutes into your trek, the soles of your feet stomp on something sharp that bursts the bubble of paradise your mind was in. You take off your rose colored glasses and take in your surroundings, you were so focused on getting to the water that you failed to notice that beyond the beautiful beach house, trash litters the sands of the beach for miles. You shuffle back, pull the injured foot up to inspect the damage. Luckily, your skin is unbroken, and you and your friends are of the same minds. You all race back to your beach home, put on your sandals and attempt the same trek cautiously.

About seven minutes of walking from the beachfront house to the shore, you can finally take off your shoes; the waves have helped in clearing off the trash close to the water. After a few minutes of letting the waves wash over your feet, you slip on your shoes and make the careful trek through the trash site of the beach towards your beach house for the day. From the beach house, the litters of trash on the sands are barely visible and while floating in the pool, you can make pretend that you are currently lounging in paradise.

Ilashe could be Nigeria’s own version of Morocco’s Essaouira, fingers crossed that this would be realized in our generation or the next.


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