Tiwai is a 1200-hectare island reserve in the middle of the Moa River in the southeast of the country. It is Sierra Leone’s only community conservation programme, designated a national park is 1987 at the request of the Barri and Koya people. The reserve protects one of the richest concentrations of flora and fauna in Sierra Leone.

Over 130 bird species have been recorded, including the very rare and unusual White-breasted guinea fowl. Tiwai holds a wealth of primates - eleven species - including the endangered Western red colobus and Diana monkeys. One of the first observations of chimpanzees using stones as tools for opening nuts came from Tiwai Island. Please note however, that (a) terrain is mostly dense evergreen forest and that (b) populations of wildlife are small. What remains in Tiwai is also skittish following prolonged poaching. 

The park is also notable as one of the few known refuges of the extremely elusive, scarce and solitary, mostly nocturnal Pygmy hippoputamus. The waters around the island are home to river turtles and Congo clawless otters.

The island has 50km of walking rainforest trails from which to seek primates and birds with your guides. Visitors are encouraged to contribute to the on-going research by recording their sightings on the map in the visitor centre. Trips on the river either by canoe or motorboat offer the best chance of seeing the water-based wildlife, including turtles. If you want to try to spot the incredibly elusive Pygmy hippos, you will need to take a night trip on the river.    

Tiwai is about 2–3 hours drive from Bo, the nearest big town, itself about 3 hours overland from Freetown.

Helen Kennedy

Travel Specialist

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