Sierra Leone

Originally named Serra Leoa (meaning Lioness Mountains) by the Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra, it is bordered by Guinea to the northeast, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest.  Freetown is the capital, largest city as well as its economic, commercial and political centre. The official currency of Sierra Leone is the Leone and English is the official language. Lying mostly between latitudes 7° and 10°N (a small area is south of 7°), and longitudes 10° and 14°W, the country became independent of its colonial masters, Great Britain on 27 April 1961.

The largest and most influential ethnic groups in Sierra Leone are the Temne at about 35% and the Mende at about 31%. The Temne predominate in the Northern Sierra Leone and the Areas around the capital of Sierra Leone . The Mende likewise predominate in the South-Eastern Sierra Leone (with the exception of Kono District).

Notable Places to Visit

Mount Bintumani

Mount Bintumani is the highest peak in Sierra Leone, at 1,945 metres (6,381 ft). Midway between Kabala and Koindu in the east among the ranges of the Loma Mountains lies the Mount and its lower slopes are covered in rainforests, home to a wide variety of animals. These include Pygmy Hippopotamuses, dwarf crocodiles, Rufous Fishing-owls and numerous primates. It is not Mount Everest, nor Mount Kenya, but it has its own scale, beauty and sense of effort and awe. Climbing Bintumani is one of the best things to experience. The mountain is named after the female spirit that lives on the mountain. It is ideal for mountaineering especially during the dry season and can be cold at night. Visitors are advised to bring warm clothing as well as sleeping bags. During the day, walking boots and a couple of pairs of socks are the best footwear option with long trousers – despite the hat, covered legs will minimize the discomfort of the biting insects and scratching leave that easily draw blood. A hot meal is all very well, but stuff as many sugar-high snacks – sweets, chocolates, energy bars - the combination of the sun and the exertion drains the body quickly. 

Mountaineering Peaks of Kabala

Kabala is famous throughout Sierra Leone for it historic Picnic on New Year’s Day which takes place at the edge of the Wara Wara Mountain range. It is an interesting town that is worth visiting for its breathtaking panoramic view of Hills, Valley and Landscape. A good road network links Freetown with Kabala and takes approximately five hours.

Outamba-kilimi National Park

The main Ecotourism attraction in the Northern Province is Outamba-kilimi National Park. A mixture of Savannah and jungle, the Park is found in the northeast of Kamakwie in the Bombali District. It is a magical place embedded between two rivers, the Great Scarcies, and the Mongo Rivers. Look out for some of the rare elephants and buffaloes and find evidences of them following their paths through the dense bush. See the Hippos relaxing in their pools or listen to the songs of the rich bird life and the alarm calls of the various primates while silently paddling along the river in a canoe. 

Gola Forest Reserve

Sierra Leone’s green diamond. Some 40km east of Kenema is the Gola Rainforest National Park, officially opened in 2010 and only Sierra Leone’s second national park. It is Sierra Leone’s largest tract of rainforest and was originally part of a larger forest that covered much of West Africa’s coastal region. The Forest is home to the most interesting and spectacular diversity of wildlife to be found in Sierra Leone and, indeed, West Africa. This includes over 330 bird species, over 650 species of butterfly and 49 species of mammals including a population of over 300 Chimpanzees. It is also home to the Pygmy Hippopotamus and a small Forest Elephant population. 

Bunce Island

Bunce Island is located at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River, 18km from Freetown and is the site of a former slave castle built by the British in the 18th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Island was controlled by the British who sent thousands of slaves from there to Europe and the Americas. The Gullah people of South Carolina are thought to have come from ships boarded at Bunce Island. While there, tourists can take a look around the old fort wall, the slave quarters, the ruined fort, the ancillary buildings, the grave sites and check out the remains of the canons.

Banana Island

The island is made up of three islands in a row – Banana Island, Ricketts and Mes Mieux. Enjoy one of the five chilled out beaches, take a break in one of the low-key restaurants, take a walk in the ‘bush’ or visit historical sites such as the Portuguese ramparts, the canons from 1813 and the church ruins. The strip of water between Ricketts and Mes Mieux is great for snorkeling. Other activities include fishing with the local fishermen, visiting a bat cave or bird watching on land or sea, where water fowl nest on a small nearby island.

Tiwai Island

A unique rainforest island where visitors can camp in prepared tents surrounded by an evergreen forest and the sounds of horn-bills and monkeys calling from the canopies wake up campers in the early hours of the morning. Tiwai has one of the highest concentrations of primates in the world, over 35 different bird species, including 8 types of hornbills. Also found on the Island are Baboons and Pigmy Hippos.

Turtle Islands

The Islands are 10 small Islands in total, the largest being Yele, and are ideal for day trips. Most of these small Islands are inhabited and instead, are exotic environment for various marine life forms such as the nearly extinct sea turtle.

Tokeh Beach

Frequented by supermodels and actors in the 1980s, Tokeh is ideal for a day trip or overnight stay. Chill on the beach, eat and stay at the Tokeh Resort or one of the local guest houses and meet the crocodile lady who entices small fresh water crocodiles from the river with the promise of fresh fish. Tokeh is 40 minutes drive from town on four wheel drive and 10-15 minutes from River No. 2.

River No.2 Beach

One of Sierra Leone’s finest white sand beaches, it is backed by luscious tree-covered mountains that slope down to the sea. Visitors can play around in the shallow current of the river before it meets the sea, sunbathe, take a guided walk in the forest, go on a boat trip, buy some arts and crafts, or chat to the friendly locals. There is solar-powered accommodation and a restaurant, all run entirely by the community as a tourist facility. All proceeds from tourist revenue go into a community fund for development.

Bureh

This is one magical spot that keeps bringing people back. The main beach stretches north, and hidden behind trees around a rocky outcrop easy enough to scamper over at high tide, is a large and beautiful bay, which is home to a new surf school. Bureh is 45 minutes drive by four- wheel from Freetown. There is the option of camping on the beach or staying in one of the many small guest houses.

Lake Sonfon

Lake Sonfon is in Diang Chiefdom, Koinadugu district, in the north of Sierra Leone. The lake is beautifully situated surrounded by hills forest and savannah, and serves as a water source for different species of birds. More than 110 bird species have been identified in the area including the Emerald Starling (native to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast) Herons and Egrets amongst many more! A mix of forest and wooded savannah lie near the lake providing a safe, cool environment, ideal for birds. Bird lovers should come well equipped with cameras and camcorders to capture some unique and special images. In 1994, experts recorded 115 species of birds at the lake and in the surrounding vegetation, including the little-known emerald starling, which makes its home in the Upper Guinea forest region. 

National Museum

The National Museum is an excellent place to learn more about Sierra Leone’s history and culture. Exhibits include a copy of the De Ruyter stone, which, in 1948 was proclaimed one of Freetown’s oldest monuments. The real stone is buried six inches under the ground just above high water mark at King Jimmy market place on the site of a natural spring, which was well known to all mariners as one of the best watering places on the west coast. The Museum is located at the axis of Pademba Road/Siaka Stevens streets in the centre of town close to the Cotton Tree.

Railway Museum

The Sierra Leone Railway started its first passenger train service to the provinces in 1898. During the 70s, its 350 miles of track were torn up and sold as scrap. The rolling stock ended up in a depot by the Freetown docks. Today, through the efforts of Colonel Steve Davies, formerly of IMATT, and the Government of Sierra Leone, the railway museum has been rehabilitated.

 

Notable Events

 

  • Sierra Leone International Film Festival
  • Ballanta Music Festival
  • Lantern Festival
  • Kiln Sierra Leone Marathon
  • Tangains Festival
  • Independence Day (27 April)
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