Freetown City Tour
A city tour of the capital is a must. With an interesting British colonial past, there's plenty to check out. Specific sites to include are the Cotton Tree, The Sierra Leone Peace Museum, and St George's Cathedral (all within walking distance of each other). The local markets are a worthwhile stop to people watch and see some of the local tradesmen in action. The added bonus of Freetown is definitely the winding roads both in and out of the city, which offer attractive vantage points.
Banana Island belongs to group of 3 small islands surrounding Freetown Peninsula, and are only accessible by boat. First visited in the 17th Century, and then a regular migration spot for freed slaves who settled there from the Americas in the late 18th and early 19th century. Today, the population of 900 are effectively ancestors of these slaves. The primary use of the island is tourism, closely followed by the local fishing trade. No need for transport on the island, as the compact size means everything is walkable. For those wanting to stay overnight, I'd recommend Bafa Resort for their upmarket glamping experience!
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Tacugama is a refuge for orphaned chimpanzees and located on the outskirts of Freetown, but easily reached within an hour. There's currently 92 residents, but numbers are on the rise. The aim of releasing these chimps back into the wild is becoming more difficult due to industrial development, which is shrinking their natural habitat. There's a couple of educational tours operating daily, plus 6 eco lodges within the site for those wanting an overnight stop.
Freetown Peninsula Tour
The peninsula surrounding Freetown is a picturesque drive worth taking advantage of. The road conditions are great, with lush green mountains in every direction. You can stop in a number of small villages along the circuit, which include Lakka, Hamilton, Sussex, and Kent (the British influence remains). Multiple historical spots
The biggest surprise in Sierra Leone was definitely the beautiful beaches, which in my opinion, are the best across the whole of West Africa. Better yet, many of these are within close proximity to Freetown. Soft white sand, crystal clear water, palm trees, minimal crowds and a backdrop of lush green rainforests. There's also local food vendors, so it's a great spot for sunset. The top 3 beaches were definitely River Number 2 Beach, Bureh Beach and Sussex Beach.
Tombo Fishing Town
Located on the West Coast around 50km from Freetown is the small fishing town of Tombo. This is the central hub of the entire fishing industry in Sierra Leone. For an authentic experience arrive early morning to see the local fishermen reel in the fresh daily catch. Tombo is crucial in providing for many neighbouring villages, as well as a consistent income stream by providing seafood to many Freetown restaurants.
Along the backstreets of Freetown, there are many local crafts happening on a daily basis. The most popular is the weaving of cotton and wool, which is transformed into a selection of decorative pieces. Scarves, table tops, coasters, and floor rugs are the most sought after items. This is by no means a tourist spot and not the easiest to find, so best ask a local. The Sierra Leone flag is a popular design, as you'll see from the below pics.
The Atlantic Lumley Hotel was my hotel choice, following the recommendation of a friend, and it hit the spot. Located directly on Lumley Beach, offering spacious rooms, decent WiFi, and a great coffee & cake selection in the atrium. Definitely not the cheapest at $100 a night, but it came at the right time mid-way through a lengthy West African road trip.
Ahead of my trip, I was recommended a handful of restaurants such as Seafood City Restaurant, Lily's, and Amaala's. These were great, but to be honest, the fresh fish served on River Number 2 Beach topped them all, and at a fraction of the cost. Freshly cooked, and served on basic wooden table and chairs... absolutely worth it!
I conversed with multiple countries ahead of my trip, but definitely had the best interaction with Visit Sierra Leone (referred to as VSL Travel), as they were happy to provide an invitation letter at no additional cost, which was very helpful when applying for a tourist visa. We pieced together an itinerary via email, agreed an affordable cost, booked without hesitating. Our assigned local guide Bassie was very enthusiastic and did a great job showcasing his country. You can reach Bassie directly via Whatsapp on +232 7694 7442.