Travel and tourism, a hot topic in Sierra Leone

Until a few days ago, if you had asked me to tell you about Sierra Leone, I would have had to think hard to tell you much about this West African country. It probably could have roughly explained where the country is located. You may have mentioned something about the slave trade being linked to Sierra Leone. He certainly could have told them that they had experienced a brutal civil war. He might even have admitted that he wasn’t entirely sure if the war was 100% over. And that’s it.

Slavery and war. A rather negative view of what is actually an exceptionally positive country. Today I see Sierra Leone from a completely different perspective.

It is difficult to ignore Sierra Leone’s history and focus solely on the present. Once a fertile area inhabited by dozens of tribes, it was settled by the Portuguese in the 1400s, who built a fort as a trading post for gold, spices, ivory and slaves. A British protectorate in later years, Sierra Leone had the dubious honor of becoming home to more than 40,000 freed slaves who gave Freetown its name. As a protectorate, Sierra Leone was exploited for its mineral and diamond wealth in the 1900s and the Sierra Leoneans fought the Germans in Cameroon in World War I and alongside the British in World War II. In 1961, Sierra Leone succeeded from Great Britain and was governed peacefully for 30 years. The peace was not to last and was followed by a decade of brutal civil war that destroyed the economy, mistreated the people and left a resource-rich country one of the poorest in the world.

The conflict was officially declared over in January 2002 and President Kabbah was re-elected in May 2002. Since then, the people of Sierra Leone have come together to repair, renew and regenerate.

While researching a new Sierra Leone travel and tourism website, I came into contact with Sierra Leoneans of all kinds of backgrounds living both in Sierra Leone and elsewhere. Their passion for the country was contagious: they clearly wanted to convey the message that Sierra Leone has much more to offer than a sad recent history and that reconstruction is proceeding at a fast pace. And, indeed, the proof of rebuilding is everywhere: new roads are being built, mines are being reopened, dam projects that began before the war are back on track, markets are once again thriving and full of life. . There is also a lot of confidence in Sierra Leone’s potential as a tourist destination: a Chinese company has recently invested some $270 million in hotel infrastructure; entrepreneurial companies like Kevin McPhillips Travel (based in the UK, US and the Netherlands) offer exclusive twice-weekly flights to Sierra Leone; The specialists at African Tour are investigating viable holiday packages in the region. The exciting thing about investing in Sierra Leone is that there are more to come!

They have the right to be confidants. The beaches along Sierra Leone’s golden peninsula are said to be one of the world’s best kept secrets. Isolated, clean and stretching for miles and miles, beach tourism is high on the government’s tourism promotion agenda. Beaches with very British names like Kent, Lumley, Sussex and York mix with more African names like Bureh Town, Tokey and Mammah beach, and

Although many of the forests and much of the wildlife have been disturbed and in some cases destroyed by war, ecotourism is a major focus for Sierra Leoneans and natural treasures such as Outamba-Kilimi National Park, populated by wild animals game such as pygmy elephants, chimpanzees and hippos, and Mount Bintimani, the highest point in West Africa, are just two of the worthwhile wildlife attractions on offer. The Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary rescues orphaned and captured chimpanzees and has been described as one of Sierra Leone’s most successful wildlife efforts, while Tiwai Island is home to more than 3,000 chimpanzees, as well as other game animals. .

The lakes, rivers and dams are perfect for picnics and relaxation. The marshes hide a myriad of colorful birds; in fact, bird life has been less affected by the war than animals, and wherever you go, the air fills with bird songs. Sierra Leone is a bird watcher’s dream! Tiwai Island for one boasts over 135 different bird species!

For culture buffs and those with historical interests, the remains of the slave trade make for interesting and thought-provoking expeditions. Bunce Island, a slave-trading stronghold, is a short boat ride upriver; Freetown itself is a monument to freed slaves and its Cotton Tree, which stands at the heart of what is believed to be a former slave market, is now an impressive national symbol. Tombs, monuments and forts are all that remains of British and Portuguese power in Sierra Leone – each has a story to tell. There are more than 16 different ethnic groups in the country, including the Krio, descendants of freed slaves who speak an English-based creole called Krio, and visiting villages and chatting with people in markets and on the streets is rewarding for all parties. .

Freetown is probably the most developed city and offers a level of security that is difficult to match even in Western countries. Hotels, restaurants and nightspots are sprouting like mushrooms, and eating out in Sierra Leone promises a variety of traditional and international delicacies, and amazing seafood!

One has to wonder what attraction will tip the balance to make Sierra Leone the popular destination it once was before the civil war. Based on my experiences with Sierra Leoneans over the last few weeks, I feel that it will be the people who make the difference. Without exception, every Sierra Leonean I have met or worked with has been proud of their country, proud of its progress, and excited about the future. They are unfailingly welcoming, greeting aid workers and travelers with smiles that can only be found in Africa, with an optimism, no, positivity, that other countries would do well to emulate.

For travelers in search of a ‘diamond in the rough’, Sierra Leone offers a vacation like no other. My only advice to you is to visit as soon as possible, to avoid what is sure to be a stampede once you’re done with your vacation and tour. Traders hang on to this destination gem.

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