Not for the nervous but a fabulous destination for the adventurer and Africa addict – Sierra Leone in West Africa is an up and coming new tourist destination. The troubles which came in the 1990s are now behind this gorgeous and fascinating country. You need to have an open mind and experience of Africa but you will find here 400 km of virtually empty beaches, friendly people and interesting culture. The heritage of Sierra Leone is wrapped up with the abolition of slavery.
Inland this country has some of the highest concentrations of primates and birds in the world, being covered in lush rainforest. Perfect for Natural History holidays, you can also see leopard, elephant, pygmy hippos and buffalo.
Guinea borders the country to the north and northeast, Liberia to south and southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The climate is tropical with the rainy season May to November and dry from December to May.
The capital, Freetown, is a busy and lively city now, 225 years since the British were first here and the site around the famous cotton tree was said to be where slave markets took place. The tree is over 500 years old and is an great site for finding your way around the maze of streets surrounding it. The city sits on the south side of the world’s third largest natural harbour and is quite hilly so there are great views all around. The mix of Creole building wtih colonial architecture is a strange one but makes for an interesting visit. The peninsula at Freetown is circled by long white sandy beaches and the west side is a favourite site for festivals and parties. There are a few good local guest houses and hotels here now including the Country Lodge which is up at the Hill Station with great views over the city from a really good restaurant.
Along the Atlantic coast on the western peninsula south from Freetown are some of Africa’s best beaches with lush rainforests meeting white sands. At Kent Beach you will most likely find yourself in the company of local fishermen in their narrow boats, carved from tree trunks. There are fabulous fish restaurants on this part of the coast. There is a narrow 27 km long chain of hills at the Guma Nature Reserve which rises above the water and is the only place in West Africa that has a mountain range! Here live about 50 species of mammals including the endangered Western Chimpanzee, Red Colobus Monkeys, Sooty Manbagey and Leopard plus over 370 species of birds.
Tiwai Island is a 1200-hectare island reserve in the middle of the Moa River in the southeast of the country. It is Sierra Leone’s only community conservation programme, designated a national park is 1987 at the request of the Barri and Koya people. Here you will find a rich population fo fauna and flora with over 130 bird species and plenty of primates including the Diana Monkey. One of the first ever observations of tools being used by Chimpanzees was recorded at Tiwai Island. Here also you can find one of the last remaining places in the wild to see the rare Pygmy Hippo. River Turtles and Otters also live in the waters here. There are over 50km of walking trails on the island and on going research is aided by visitors recording their sightings at the visitor centure. Motorboat or canoe trips on the river are a good way to see wildlife and night trips on the water are the best way to find the Pygmy Hippos. Accommodation here is either by fully equipped camping or in simple, open huts. Sleep to the sounds of monkeys and hornbills in the tree tops!
From Kent Beach you can access Banana Island, about 30 minutes by boat – a castaway tropical experience! Quiet beaches and rainforest surrounded by remains of the slave trade. There are two main islands, Dublin Island and Ricketts Island, linked with a causeway. Dublin Island has the best beaches and Ricketts Island the best forest. Banana Island is surrounded by coves and white beaches, rock formations and rainforests which are rich in fruit trees. Various monkeys, birds and reptiles live here. There are 900 inhabitants here, mostly descended from freed slaves brought to Sierra Leone after the 1807 Abolition of Slavery Act. They are happy to spend time with you talking about their culture. You can enjoy fishing and snorkelling here too.
Sierra Leone is still a very little known tourist destination in West Africa so get in touch to plan a tailor made holiday here.