Sierra Leone Travel Guide
Rocked by civil war more than a decade ago and affected significantly by the recent Ebola epidemic of the mid-2010’s, it is safe to say that Sierra Leone isn’t high on the list of places to visit for many people.
However, the war ended long ago, and Ebola was declared extinct here in March of 2016. While many travellers continue to be hesitant about visiting, their reluctance means you’ll have gems like River Number Two Beach to yourself, and you’ll endear yourself to locals desperate for economic stimulus after everything they’ve been through over the past two years.
By taking a chance on Sierra Leone, you’ll likely have a travel experience that you’ll talk about for years afterwards.
Currency: Sierra Leone Leones
Languages: English, Creole, Mende, Temne
What To Do
Begin your education on this Western African nation by exploring the Sierra Leone National Museum. Established in 1946, it has slowly gathered a variety of artifacts, handicrafts, art objects, and photographs of life in Sierra Leone, from its colonial days to the present time.
Don’t miss the exhibit about rebel leader Bai Bureh, who lead a spirited but unsuccessful revolution against British authorities around the turn of the 20th century.
Admission to this museum is free, but donations are strongly encouraged, as the tours that guides give go above and beyond what they are paid.
Most ocean-facing nations in Western Africa had at least one major port where human beings were shipped abroad against their will to work as slaves. In Sierra Leone, Bunce Island is where these prisoners were processed centuries ago.
Sitting in the mouth of the Sierra Leone River, this historically significant place has been nominated for UNESCO recognition. Should the government be successful in obtaining funding, the fortress that once stood tall on Bunce Island will be restored.
For now, though, it has crumbled considerably in the centuries since its abandonment, as the jungle has moved swiftly to reclaim the majority of this complex. A visit here is fascinating for many reasons, from its sombre place in history to the power of nature when it decides to take back what is rightfully theirs.
The story of the settlement of Freetown is an intriguing one, as it started with the repatriation of freed slaves to Africa by the British. By fighting alongside the Redcoats during the American Revolutionary War, they were provided with passage back across the Atlantic to Sierra Leone.
Setting sail from Nova Scotia, they landed at a place that would become Freetown. After doing so, they performed a prayer of thanksgiving underneath a Cotton Tree to thank God for their safe journey across the ocean.
Found in the oldest part of Freetown near the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone, this stately tree is a magnet for those looking to pray for good fortune or other matters in their life.
Despite being close genetic cousins to us, primate populations in Africa have been under stress from hunters and poachers over the past century. While considerable damage has been done in that time, parks like the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary are trying to stem and turn the tide.
Chimps who have been orphaned or taken from illegal owners are coached here on how to survive in the wild in an effort to help revive their wild populations.
As captivating as the many underrated attractions of Sierra Leone can be, travel in Western Africa is rarely without its headaches. When you need a break from the stresses of the road, get away from it all at River Number Two Beach.
Due to the difficulty of travel in this part of the world, beaches here often slip under the radar, but you’ll still be at a loss to figure out how such a gorgeous place has remained undiscovered by the mass tourism industry.
Situated at the mouth of a local river, its stunning aquamarine water, bleach white sand, lustily-swaying palms, and an abundance of locally caught seafood will have you feeling like the luckiest tourist on Earth.
Locals come here in numbers to relax on weekends and on holidays, though, so if you are looking for a quiet, solitary experience, visit on a weekday.
What to Eat
Residents of Sierra Leone work very hard to get by from day-to-day. In order to maintain their energy levels through the day, they often eat Fufu, a starchy and thick porridge.
Made by mashing up boiled cassava root until it can be rolled into balls, it is often dipped into soups or stews that accompany it.
Okra Soup is a common side to Fufu, as this mixture of vegetables, beef, fish, onions, spinach, and spices counter the blandness of the latter dish with its savoury and healthy flavours.
Groundnut Stew is another meal that is widely enjoyed throughout Sierra Leone. Made by using ground-up peanuts, meat, onions, and tomatoes, it offers an earthy flavour that many people here prefer over other soups and stews.