Things to see and do in Sierra Leone
Attractions in Sierra Leone
Head to Bo’s ‘Big Market’ to bargain for West African fabrics, rub shoulders with traditional herbal remedy hawkers and walk amongst the dried fish stands, taking in the atmosphere and interacting with the traders. In nearby villages, you can sample poyo (palm wine), or taste local delicacies such as coconut cake, plantain chips and groundnut shortbread.
Despite being still relatively difficult to access via road, Bonthe Island is a must for those interested in history, culture or big game fishing. Surrounded by mangrove swamps, with fish-rich waters and long untouched beaches, the island has long been a tourist drawer, especially with sport fishing enthusiasts since one of the biggest tarpon ever recorded was caught here.
Take a boat trip up the Sierra Leone River to Bunce Island, one of the major slave trading stations in West Africa. Between 1670 and 1808 tens of thousands of slaves left Bunce Island for the West Indies and North America, and you can learn about the history of the slave trade, as well as its social, political and economic impact both sides of the Atlantic on the island.
From atop Leicester Peak, which nestles between the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding mountains, superb views of the capital unfold. A narrow, steep road through the hills leads to the old Creole villages (dating from 1800) of Leicester, Gloucester and Regent.
Freetown, Old Fourah Bay College
Listed in 2007 by the World Monuments Fund as one of the world's 100 most endangered historic sites, Old Fourah Bay College earned Sierra Leone the nickname the ‘Athens of West Africa’. The original building, dating back to 1848, is still visible even after suffering significant fire damage.
Freetown, surrounded by verdant hills, is both a colourful and historic port town. Attractions include a 500-year-old cotton tree, the De Ruyter Stone, Government Wharf and King's Yard, where freed slaves waited to be given land. Also, worth a visit are Marcon's Church and King Jimmy’s Market close to Freetown harbour.
If you’re looking for ‘off-the-beaten’ track experiences, Mount Bintumani, Sierra Leone’s highest peak at 1,945m (6,381ft) is the destination for you. Part of the Loma Mountains, to reach the summit you will need to hike across high grass plains, cross rickety rope bridges straddling steep gorges, and scramble over vertiginous cliffs. It’s all part of the experience, though.
Outamba-Kilimi National Park
Originally protected because of its high density of chimpanzees, Outamba-Kilimi National Park offers varied and spectacular scenery with a mixture of jungle and savannah grasslands. Elephant, rare pygmy hippos and even rarer bongo antelope are all in residence, along with more than 100 different species of bird and the ancestral graves of the Susu tribe.
Rogbonko Village Retreat
Immerse yourself in local culture with a visit to one of the numerous villages dotted around the country. Rogbonko Village Retreat, for instance, is a community-based cultural exchange project where it is possible to learn about Temne tribal culture, experience everyday life and relax in the quiet settings of a traditional village.
Located on the Moa River estuary, amongst the freshwater oyster-dotted mangroves, Sulima is a relaxing and friendly beach town where you can sunbathe, surf or uncover old tombs from the 19th century, which belonged to British traders. These imperialist merchants used to ply their trade, sometimes in slaves, along the West African coast.
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, just 30 minutes from Freetown, is home to more than 40 orphaned or illegally-captured chimpanzees, which now live in a luscious forest surrounding the capital. Staff run guided tours twice a day, while the sanctuary also offers overnight accommodation to enable even more time with our closest living relatives.
Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary
An island on the Moa River, Tiwai is home to 11 primate species, more than 700 species of plant, and a large variety of insects and butterflies. Its star is perhaps the elusive pygmy hippo. The island is also an entry point to Gola Forest National Park, reached by hiking through one of the protected natural corridors.
National Tourist Board of Sierra LeoneAddress: Lumley Beach, Lumley Beach Road, Freetown, P.O. Box 1435
Telephone: +232 77 347810.