Sierra Leone Travel Guide
A by-word for coups, civil war and general post-colonial chaos, Sierra Leone is a tropical West African which has the potential to be famous for its secluded beaches and unexplored rainforests. Tourists would flock to Freetown, Freetown Peninsula, Sakanbiarwa, Tiwai Island Nature Reserve, and Outamba-Kilimi National Park during the dry months of October to March. But because of a civil war that ended only in 2001, Sierra Leone hasn’t been in anyone’s top 20 list of tourist destinations to visit. Its people and the economy are still feeling the effects of the war, but the government is hard at work to breathe life back into its tourism and attract tourists to visit the country.
When to Go
Sierra Leone enjoys tropical weather. It’s humid most of the time. The country experiences torrential rains brought about by the rainy season from May to November. The best time to visit is between October to March when the skies are clear and sunny.
Getting There & Away
Sierra Leone is accessible by air, land, and sea. It has 10 airports and over 11,000 kilometers of paved and unpaved roads. Be careful when driving or traveling at night, as most of the roads are dark and ill-maintained.
Health & Safety
Not the safest destination in this neck of the woods. Malaria, cholera, HIV/AIDS, and Lassa fever are common in Sierra Leone, so take all necessary precautions. Apply insect repellent lotion on exposed skin regularly and drink malaria prevention tablets. Consider getting yellow fever and rabies vaccines as well.
Do not wander into the outer streets unaccompanied at night. Pickpockets are common in the streets, so keep your belongings in sight when going around town. Better yet, deposit all your valuables in the hotel safe.
Food & Hospitality
The restaurants in Freetown offer Lebanese, French, American, and Armenian dishes. For authentic African food, dine in any of the local hotels. Always drink bottled or filtered water to prevent waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera.
The best hotels in the country are in Freetown with facilities such as swimming pools and air-conditioning. Freetown Peninsula also has its share of luxury hotels. When sleeping in government rest houses, be sure to bring your own beddings.
Two days in Freetown Peninsula
One day in Outamba-Kilimi
One day in Sakanbiarwa
Three days in Tiwai Island Nature Reserve
Freetown Peninsula: The peninsula provides a great view of the city. From the top, you can see Sierra Leone between the mountains and the sea. Down a steep road are two centuries-old Creole villages.
Freetown: the capital of Sierra Leone is bustling port town. The Fourah Bay College, De Ruyter Stone, City Hotel, and Marcon’s Church are the major attractions in this place.
Outamba-Kilimi National Park: gives tourists the chance to see various animal reserves for chimpanzees, pigmy hippos, and elephants. It is located in the north, accessible by plane or car from Freetown.
Sakanbiarwa: is a plant reserve that houses a vast orchid collection. It is best explored during the early months of the year.
Tiwai Island Nature Reserve: this nature reserve has the densest primate population in the world. Located 300 kilometers from Freetown, it gives you to see Diana monkeys, Campbell’s monkeys, red colobus, potto, and other rare chimpanzees up close.
Sightseeing: take pictures of the architecture and landscape of the Freetown Peninsula and the Creole villages.
Nature-tripping: see the country’s game animals and rare primates up close in their sanctuaries at the national parks.
Shopping: for souvenirs in the commercial centers of Freetown. Be prepared to pay in cash, as the only establishments that accept credit cards are the airport duty-free shops and the Cape Sierra hotel.
Clubbing: check out the local clubs in Freetown as well as those along the beach to experience the local music and dance scene - a bizarre experience.