Sierra Leone is one of the safest travel destinations in Western Africa, following 2002 when peace was declared. Regeneration continues and mass tourism has yet to strike, making Sierra Leone a fascinating country to explore. Travellers can swim, surf and sunbathe on the Freetown peninsula, track African mammals in the Outamba-Kilimi National Park and enjoy the nightlife of the capital, Freetown.
Outamba-Kilimi National Park
The Outamba-Kilimi National Park is Sierra Leone’s only National Park and also a top spot for beautiful scenery and fascinating wildlife. Situate in the very north of the country, the National Park is set amidst the undulating hills, ancient rainforests and meandering rivers there is an abundance of native flora and fauna. Outamba-Kilimi National Park is the perfect place to watch wildlife in its purest form. There are no roads so hiking and walking are the best options for exploring, as is a canoe trip along the rivers.
There are over 260 different bird species across the park and Lake Idrissa such as the endangered Pallid Harrier, plovers, egrets, sandpipers, herons and cattle egrets visit the area. There are nine primate species including four that are severely endangered including the Western Chimpanzee, the Red Colobus Monkey, Black and White Colobus Monkey and the Sooty Mangabey. There are also Western elephants, leopards, pigmy hippopotamus, water chevrotain, Maxwell Duiker and Savanna Buffalo to be found here.
For a relaxing day, consider a fishing trip or a wildlife hike. All of these activities make this park a must stay. When visiting, it is best to stay between November and April as this is the park’s dry season. The park boasts small campsites and huts for visitors. Meals are prepared by onsite staff.
Beaches and Surfing in Sierra Leone
The beaches of Sierra Leone and in particular on the Freetown Peninsula are considered some of the best in Africa. They offer a plethora of activities to keep visitors busy. Surfing has become a must try in this area. The perfect climate and pristine beaches offer an amazing surf experience. The smaller waves of Bureh Beach allow novice surfers the chance to hone their skills. While just South of Freetown, at River #2, experienced surfers well get a chance to catch some larger waves. The unspoilt beaches of Sierra Leone are gorgeous and the views of surrounding mountains are spectacular. Most importantly, most of the pristine beaches are deserted depending upon the time of year you visit. When it comes to surfing and beaches, Sierra Leone is a one stop destination!
Tiwai Island is the premier conservation park for researchers and eco travellers alike. Visitors can witness the sheer beauty of the local nature first hand. The island can be reached by traveling down the Moa River. Tiwai Island has two stunning beaches in which you can experience pristine sands beside the alluring Moa River. The forest within the island offers boundless hiking and climbing trails which will bring you in contact with a concentration of various plants and animals. There are multiple species of primates including the endangered Columbus monkey and wild chimpanzees. There are also over a hundred species of exquisite birds to admire. Visitors should be prepared to stay in local lodgings and experience the culture of Tiwai Island.
Explore the culture and nightlife of Freetown
Freetown is the capital of Sierra Leone and is the main city for commerce and culture. It is the perfect place to experience the laid back sandy beaches of Sierra Leone and mingle with the locals. Expect all the modern tourist amenities such as hotels, late night hot spots and restaurants especially in the Lumley and Aberdeen areas which are very tourist-friendly. However, there is still plenty of traditional West African culture to soak up. Visit the St John’s Maroon Church which was built in 1800, St George’s Cathedral and The Wharf Steps and Old Guard House which were both constructed in 1818. Travellers can visit various markets to dine on local specialities and witness the beauty of Freetown through local city tours. Every year the city hosts cultural events to capture the deep history of the region. A visit to Freetown will impart a piece of Sierra Leone to someone searching for a perfect cultural vacation.
Western Peninsula Rainforest
The Western Peninsula Rainforest lies on the very western tip of Sierra Leone. This stunning rainforest borders gorgeous beaches and offers tourists face to face encounters with nature. Walking trails can bring one in touch with hundreds of species of animals and plants. The views of the mountainous region are breathtaking and should not be missed. Most trips into the region allow for a modern shelter with camping amenities. Meals are prepared onsite and include the local flavour of Sierra Leone. What better way to experience the majesty of the rainforest than staying on the very edge of nature?
By Julie Bowman