Richard Green’s first impression of Sierra Leone is witnessing the poverty and lack of infrastructure that is preventing Sierra Leone from becoming a popular tourist destination. One of the first questions he is asked, on leaving Freetown’s airport is whether he would like to be “carried to the speedboat?” After much consideration he agrees to be carried. He describes a country filled with optimism, with the end of a bloody civil war several years ago, there have been recent successful “free and fair elections and a peaceful transition of power.” With that there is a hope “that a tourism boom must be just around the corner.”
Green travels just 14 miles south of the capital to “the magnificent powder-white, if prosaically named, River No 2 Beach… backed by palms and lush jagged hills.” At this resort, Green was the only guest on the entire beach and enjoyed “a large room with a big veranda, B&B, a clean bathroom and a comfy double bed” on the beach. He swam in the see, spoke to the fisherman and enjoyed “a fine fish dinner for a fiver.”
On Green’s trip, he meets many locals preparing for the boom in the tourism industry, like Tommy “the bare-chested, 40-year old owner of the Hard Rock Restaurant at nearby Lakka Beach.” Here Green enjoyed freshly caught barracuda kebab with rice.
Green was taken by the “omnipresent courtesy of Sierra Leoneans” and was even taken to see the uncle of “Michael, a local lad” who showed him around a Portuguese fort. With Sierra Leone’s fascinating history, Green found many people desperate to teach him about the history of their country.
Green concludes that it had been a while since he “last got attached to a place so quickly” and that when it came to leaving he vowed to return.
Rainbow Fact Files
Richard Green travelled as a guest of BMI and Rainbow Tours (020 7226 1004, rainbowtours.co.uk ), which has a new seven-day trip to Sierra Leone from £1,495pp, including stays in Freetown and on Banana Island and No 2 Beach, return flights with BMI (flybmi.com ), boat transfers, driver and guide. Or try Undiscovered Destinations (0191 296 2674, undiscovered-destinations.com ). Sierra Leone is warm all year, with averages between 23C and 30C, but it’s better to visit in the dry season, from November to April. For more information, go to visitsierraleone.org