So Sierra Leone really was a good trip. I really liked the overall nature/vibe of the place and the people – just very friendly and happy to talk and engage. I thought the community experience we had before Tiwai Island was great – felt real and not cheesy or exploitative. Tiwai Island was beautiful but that campsite needs a bit of a spruce-up, particularly because seeing wildlife isn’t all that easy so I feel it’s more of an eco-retreat and then if you see monkeys etc,
it’s a bonus! A few simple lodge rooms would be good too. And they’re obviously working on the poaching issue but hearing shots isn’t the greatest 😉
But I feel that place has so much potential and there seem to be lots of communities around that area who want to be part of homestay/community tourism itineraries.
Gola – hard to comment as we arrived quite late in the day so not really enough time to do a trek that gave us more than views. From the talk we had at the centre, I’m sure there is plenty on offer, and that whole Gola Rainforest/Tiwai region really is very peaceful and scenic.
Kanema. Might have been interesting/fun to have had a diamond shop experience perhaps. I wasn’t keen on visiting a working mine at Kono. I know they want to change the narrative on blood/conflict diamonds and I think there’s great potential for a diamond museum/engaging interactive interpretative experience but I felt some of the miners weren’t that into a group of tourists watching them work. Had mixed feelings on that one. Dorwalia Inn was a good guesthouse/hotel.
I really liked the towns we passed, such as Makeni and Kabala, and the local markets and shops etc. We had a great walk up Wara-Wara mountain although perhaps wrong time of day 😉 as meeting the chiefs took up much of the morning. That was interesting, as was the dancing/community experience afterwards (if a little long, if I am being honest). We ate at a fantastic local restaurant though with bright murals, music, lovely staff and I think experiences like that just really lift
an itinerary. I am not one for too many hotel dinners so creative lunch and dinner stops are always a bonus. Wasn’t wild about Makambo Village Resort as a hotel – I think the place Sue W stayed out when she was in Sierra Leone last time sounded more atmospheric. Same for the hotel in Kono – Diamond Lodge. I have no issue with
slightly characterless places on my travels – it’s all about the place you’re in and staff can make it too – but thinking of certain clients here. Some will be fine, I guess if it’s explained, others less so!
Obviously loved The Place after all that driving! I prefer smaller beach places but The Place was just lovely! Enjoyed Banana Island although not much time to get into it but the trip to Tacugama Chimp Sanctuary was great. The new guy heading it up seems so on-the-ball – staying there a night or two would be great on an itinerary for someone into wildlife. I’d definitely do that next time.
Freetown – a real highight for me as I love most African cities e.g. Tana, Entebbe, Joburg, Maputo etc. Just found it had a brilliant energy – loved the markets, local restaurants, beach strip, architecture etc - and I’d definitely suggest 2 nights here. Bunce Island is very moving – we didn’t have a proper guide but with the right guide, it’s all good. Not much on the island itself by way of tourism – probably needs a few facilities/signage/interpretation but I also think some places are fine as they are. The Bunce Island exhibit at the museum in Freetown is probably best done before a Bunce Island visit so you have some info and context before you go.
I could talk for hours on it but I think that’s an overall view.