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Travel alert: An outbreak of Ebola virus has been confirmed in Sierra Leone, and as a result British Airways, Air France and other airlines have suspended flights to the country. Due to the narrowing commercial options for flights and the impact on medical facilities, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office FCO advise against all but essential travel to Sierra Leone, except for those involved in the direct response to the Ebola outbreak.

Introducing Sierra Leone

West Africa's secret beach destination rises from the soft waters of the Atlantic, dressed in sun-stained hues, rainforest green and the red, red roads of the north. Sierra Leone: the land so-named because it's shaped like a mountain lion. Sweet Salone, the locals say.

In Freetown, colourful stilted houses remember the days when freed slaves from the Caribbean were resettled upon these shores. Some landed on the peninsula, blanketed with sands as white and soft as cotton wool.

In the north, the Loma Mountains – the protruding shoulder blades of this sun-drenched country – form the highest point west of Cameroon. Further east, streams cut national parks and mangrove swamps water swathes of rainforest that shelter endangered species like the black-and-white colobus monkey and the shy, waddling pygmy hippo.

The curtains have been drawn on the painful past, the war scars have healed and it's time for a new act in Sierra Leone. Join the island-hoppers and sun-seekers, swim in the clear blue waters, explore the archipelagos and crack open fresh lobster in the shade of skinny palms and rope-strung hammocks.