Sierra Leone trip report (via Guinea)
Replies: 19 - Last Post: Mar 30, 2013 9:29 AM Last Post By: khamlia
Feb 19, 2013 8:10 PM
Came from Kindia (Guinea) to Pamelap (fthree hours - 50,000 Guinean Francs) and then changed to shared taxi to Freetown (approx 2 hour wait - paid about 30,000 Leones + luggage - journey took around 3 1/2 hours). No hassles on border although it was a little confusing - lots of in and out of the taxi. . Locals showed me where to go. The locals all paid a couple thousand in bribes (and the money changers made sure I had small money so I could do the same - but it wasn't necessary).
Initially stayed at Lakke Beach Resort ($60/night) - ok but seemed expensive for what you got. Then I just learnt that is what SL is like. Went travelling through the east (camping, hiking etc so prices not relevant). But they've hardly seen tourists so very rewarding. Highly recommend Tiwai. The river is beautiful and it is a nice change to the beach. Expect to see monkeys but not chimps or pygmy hippos (rare to see them).
Back to the Peninsula, stayed at Tribe Wanted at John Obey (great value for tents on the beach ($10 I think) or go for the bungalows for luxury ($50) - the adobe huts are not so great). Very friendly, great food, sure to meet some expats with some interesting perspectives or other travellers and there are always "western" volunteers here. Did hiking and snorkelling excursions and Bureh Beach (perhaps the most beautiful of the Peninsua beaches) is a walk or boat ride away. Learn about the sand mining. Note: Bureh Beach Boys don't exist any more because they make more money sand mining - although there are hotels here, they did not seem that authentic.
Then went to Black Johnson Beach, possible to walk here from John Obey in a few hours although I didn't (alternative was a 10 minute car ride, then 10 minute track ride, then 5 minute walk). Definitely felt the most isolated of the SL beaches I went to (in a good way). Jane (English women) and Tito (SL husband) run it. Tito is a local fisherman so you can arrange whatever local activities you like there. And they have a boat which can take you to Banana or Turtle Islands. Paid 250,000 Leones for a beach bungalow.
Caught shared taxi (1500 Leones) to Tokeh. Tokeh and River Number 2 are basically at the far ends of a huge beautiful beach. Tokeh is the local version at the southern end. I ate oysters with "The Oyster Man" - just ask - and then crossed River Number 1 with the school kids on their lunch break. There is accommodation here - 150,000 to 200,000 Leones and would recommend if you want a more local experience. I walked the beach from Tokeh to River Number Two (1 or 2 hours) - even at relatively low tide, the crossing can be a struggle. But River Number Two was extremely beautiful with a great view and one of the Atlantic's more Caribbean seas (blue green rather than grey). Stayed in a tent (theirs) for 150,000 Leones. Dinners were about 50,000 Leones. On a Tuesday it was relatively quiet but I met people who were there on a weekend and hated it (full of NGO workers and expats). I really enjoyed it.
Moto-taxi from River Number Two to Ogoo Farms (near Lumley) was 15,000 and then you can catch a poda-poda from Ogoo Farms to Lumley for 1000.
Shared taxis around Freetown were 1000-2000 Leones - Lumley - Aberdeen Junction - downtown - Hill Station. Mototaxis were 2000-5000 each.
I initially stayed at Jay's at Aberdeen Junction but had a bad room and found it dark and not that friendly (150,000). I then moved around the corner to Diana's GuestHouse at Mudgee Farm Road. Highly recommend. Friendly family run place, nice balcony etc, large bright rooms. Was trying to catch up on internet so spent a lot of time at Country Hill House (ifancy expat place and fast, free internet - just order coffee or so), Bliss (on road between Aberdeen Junction and Lumley (restaurant and fast internet cafe) and Oasis (at Murray Town Junction - walk from Diana's - although interenet wasn't always on). Oasis is also highly recommended as a mid-range place to stay.
Visited Tacaguama Chimp Sanctuary - well worthwhile - but Sat pm tours were VERY busy. Try to go in the week if you can. Looked lovely to stay and hike if you have time/budget. Had my wallet stolen in shared taxi from Aberdeen Junction to downtown (involved pretending that my door was not shut properly - FYI). Apparently you need to be careful in the taxis but I never felt unsafe anywhere in SL/Freetown.
Enjoy - SL is growing quickly and now is the time to see it - it will change in the future.
Feb 20, 2013 3:17 AM
Feb 20, 2013 6:36 AM
2Some are paved, some aren't. The main road from Conakry to Freetown is new and paved the whole way. The road to Kenema is also new and paved (actually I think it's paved all the way to Daru). I think it's the same to Mekele (although haven't been on this road). If you go further off the beaten path, the roads are not paved and can get pretty bad.
Feb 24, 2013 5:45 AM
Good report. I have a couple of questions as I am working out the logistics of a trip to the region (I'll ask you about Guinea on thread.).
First, how long did you actually spend in the country and was that a comfortable amount of time for what you did? I'm thinking about 7-10 there.
The hotel prices you quoted seemed high. Where you not looking for cheaper digs or were they the least expensive places you found?
Due in large part to the value of my camera gear, I don't camp. Can I find a place to stay if I go to Tiwai island and/or is the camping 'relatively' safe? How did you actually get there? Does it take a couple of hours or all day?
+ And they have a boat which can take you to Banana or Turtle Islands.+ Based on your statement I would assume you didn't go. But, did you happen to inquire as to the price?
To do all that you mentioned in your post, how much approximately do you think your daily costs were?
Feb 24, 2013 11:17 AM
4Viaggero, as I saw on some website so hotels are quite expensive, about 100-150USD, only 2 hotels I found with around 70USD, I don't camp either :), so probably hotels are expensive in Sierra Leone?
Feb 24, 2013 11:37 AM
5Thanks so much for the report Jez3....great info. I am currently in Freetown and might head down to the beaches and am grateful for the information.
Tiwai is a great place...loved it. I think there is only one place to stay there and you can make your arrangements with Mamadu in Tiwai village. It is only tent camping, but felt very safe. The roads are uneven and unpaved and it takes a few hours from Bo, but they can do boat transfers once you get to the village.
Feb 26, 2013 8:11 PM
6i was paying about $35/night in Freetown (exchange rate about 4500 Leones to USD - 150,000). That was mid-range and in Aberdeen Junction/Murray Town area. It is cheaper if you stay downtown or you can probably negotiate if you are staying longer. Cockle Bay Guest House (Aberdeen Junction) quoted me 120,000 but I preferred the atmosphere at Diana's. I met a guy who paid 100,000/night at a place in Aberdeen and stayed about five nights. Not sure of the prices downtown but definitely cheaper - and its a very vibrant atmosphere. The prices on the beaches are higher - Bungalow (rather than tent) at River Number Two was 250,000. It is cheaper to stay at Tokeh (the more local end of the beach closest to John Obey) but I was still quoted 180,000 there for a bungalow. Probably possible to negotiate.
At Tiwa, there is actually a bungalow (some expats stayed in it when we were there - don't know price) but nearly everybody else camps. The tents are set up in two areas under roofs quite close together and close to the main central hanging out place. I would say it is safe to camp there with your camera gear. It takes quite a while to get there - maybe 4 hours to Bo and then 11/2 hour on a paved road.
I think 10 days is good. A couple of days in Freetown/Tacaguama, some time on the beaches and Tiwai. These are the main "attractions". I would be budgeting a minimum of $50/day in Freetown - more if you want to eat at expat places rather than local places.
Feb 26, 2013 8:13 PM
Feb 27, 2013 2:52 AM
8Thanks for the intel, on both of my posts. They really have put my mind at ease as this region is definitely one of the more difficult that I've visited, based on what I've been reading.
By any chance are you American? If so, I'd like to know how much your visa was. If I buy my multiple entry visa ahead of time here, it's $160US which is VERY expensive considering the size of the country and what it has to offer. To date, I've never paid more that $100US for a visa, even to a country as large as India.
Feb 27, 2013 10:06 PM
9Yep....it's hard to get reliable info beforehand and seems a bit daunting ahead of time but once you are on the ground it is actually quite easy. As long as you have patience with public transport and can put up with some uncomfortable journeys.
I'm Australiana and got my visa in The Gambia. Single entry one month visas were $100 and multiple entry six month visas were $150. There is probably information on here about the prices to get visas in Conakry or you can check Visit Sierra Leone for the prices on their email visas. But - yes it is definitely expensive.
Feb 28, 2013 4:29 PM
10Too bad about being an American there. I don't get an option, it's $160, so I might as well get it here and not have to wait for it in another country.
"but once you are on the ground it is actually quite easy."
Thanks for putting my mind at ease.
Going to W. Africa from Aus is more daunting than from the US. Have you traveled extensively up until now and are working your way into progressively more challenging countries (my m.o.)? Even from 'travelers' I know here, they think I'm nuts for heading to where you were and I"m going.
Mar 1, 2013 9:41 PM
11Kind of - I've travelled extensively in other parts of the world but this was my first time doing indepedendent travel in Africa. I'm actually doing Africa a bit backwards - started with West Africa and now onto easier East Africa. I loved West Africa - mostly because of the interactions I had with local people, the fact that that they see very few travellers makes it more special. Look forward to hearing how how you find it.
By the way, I just returned from Djibouti and used your recommendation for Daniel at Bambu Tours - had a wonderful trip so thanks for that!!
Mar 2, 2013 4:36 AM
I figured you'd tavelled to other regions first: Africa is the most expensive an difficult to travel in for me. I'd been all over the Americas, Europe, & a fair bit of Asia before I started exploring sub-Saharan Africa.
I'm glad you had a great trip with Daniel. I hope you said hi for me. Djibouti was probably the hottest place overall that I've been when you combine humidity and heat. If you went to Lake Abbe and camped, can you imagine the foreign legion spending months living there in tents? I couldn't sleep well one night in that heat! How was your experience with the customs people? Anywhere as problematic as mine?
BTW TO THE MODERATORS:
This post is off topic and is a PERFECT EXAMPLE of why private messaging should be reestablished. This is nothing more than a friendly conversation between posters that has little to do with the actual thread and thus is better suited for a private chat.!!!
Mar 4, 2013 10:32 AM
13Actually my entire Djibouti trip was very smooth - customs was no problem and it wasn't too hot - advantage of February I guess. Let me know how your West Africa trip goes. Cheers Jez
Mar 7, 2013 8:36 AM
14The sand mining is happening at John Obey Beach, NOT at Bureh Beach. It is taking place on the other side of the rocks from where TribeWanted is.
The John Obey beach boys are the ones that sold out to the sand miners. If you go to Bureh, and talk to the friendly guys at the surf club, for example, they will tell you that they will never agree to the sand mining at Bureh because they value the pristine environment at Bureh, and are satisfied with the smaller income they get from hosting tourists, who they know value the environment and the absence of sand trucks.
And from the looks of it, Bureh is doing quite well for itself. There are more accomodation options, a big new bar, and no community bitterly divided over how to earn an income. Apparently there is a yoga and meditation center on the way. The risk at Bureh is perhaps that it becomes too popular for it's own good, given that John Obey has the sand mining, Kent is routinely filthy with litter left by the church outings, and River No. 2 and Lakka are competing to see who can set the most outrageously exorbitant prices for beachside accom. and food.
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