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Introducing Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has largely stayed out of the news lately, which, considering how it earned most of its press in the 1990s, is a good thing. The decade-long civil war garnered regular headlines thanks to widespread atrocities committed by rebel soldiers; many of them not yet in their teens.

But oh, how things have changed. Peace was declared in 2002 and Sierra Leone has blossomed. Life has largely returned to normal and today it is one of West Africa’s safest destinations. Reconstruction continues apace, investors are arriving in droves and travellers are trickling in. With some of the most perfect palm-lined sands on the continent, it won’t be long before Sierra Leone takes its place in Europe’s packaged beach-holiday scene; but for now, visitors can have the surf outside the capital pretty much to themselves. And after a day in the sun, Freetown offers everything you need for a night out. Travel to the provinces, where roads are often abysmal and facilities usually basic, remains in the realm of the adventurous, but with vibrant culture and wonderful parks, the rewards are many. Wildlife-watchers will not want to miss Outamba-Kilmi National Park in Northern Sierra Leone.

To be sure, Sierra Leone still has problems. It ranked second last in the UN’s most recent Human Development Index, unemployment remains high and the education system hasn’t met expectations, but most locals hang on to their optimism.