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.
Best places to stay in Sierra Leone
West Africa's best wildlife parks
Everyone knows about the great national parks of eastern and southern Africa – Masai Mara, Kruger and Serengeti all conjure up images of majestic landscapes, packs of lions lazing in the shade and herds of elephants roaming the savannah.
Sierra Leone destination guides
West Africa: travel books to read before you go
This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s West Africa guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip. The following inspirational titles all range across more than one West African country. For travel literature about individual countries, please see the Directory section of each country chapter.
Freetown to Dakar
Discover rarely-visited gems on this West Africa overland trip from Freetown to Dakar. Very much off-the-beaten-track, this is a fairly physically demanding tour that involves a lot of camping, hiking and trekking – though the bulk of it is undertaken in a comfortable overland truck.
Freetown to Accra
Encounter mountains, beaches and mud roads on this epic West African adventure. Begin the adventure in historic Freetown then get off the beaten track in Sierra Leone, fall in love with cheeky primates and be surrounded by dense rainforest at Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary.