Why You Should Visit Sierra Leone and What You Should Know

Okay, so I’ll be honest, when I told my friends I was heading to Sierra Leone, most of them wondered what I could possibly getting up to there. And honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect either. I knew very little about the country, but that’s exactly what intrigued me. Now, I have alot more to say and share about this West African country. It may be small, but allow me to share how Sierra Leone left a huge impression on me. 

So, here’s the deal: Sierra Leone, or “Salone” as the locals call it, is this West African nation that most people probably couldn’t even point to on a map. But honestly, that’s part of its charm. It’s totally off-the-beaten-path, and that’s exactly what makes it so special.

An abundance of Natural Wonders 

Calling all beach lovers! I can guarantee you that Leone’s coastline is highly likely to impress you. I’m talking golden sand beaches that are relatively untouched. We spent a few days lounging on the beach, sipping on fresh coconuts, and feasting on the most freshest sea food. Don’t even get me started on the lush rainforests and mountains surrounding the capital city.

One of my most memorable experiences was a cooking class on a rooftop in Freetown as the sun set over the city.

A beautiful blend of cultures and customs 

I quickly learned that the culture in Sierra Leone is SO rich and diverse. There are over 16 different ethnic groups, each with its own unique traditions and languages. From the Mende to the Temne tribes, the people of Sierra Leone are warm, welcoming, and excited to share their unique traditions and perspectives. It was inspiring to see each ethnic group show pride for both their tribe along with Sierra Leone as a whole. 

While English is the official language, Krio (Creole) is the most widely spoken. It’s a blend of English, Portuguese, and various African influences, which derives from a history of colonization. Nonetheless, it was pretty cool to recognize the ways in which their Krio language compares to other creole languages in the diaspora. 

Amazing Animal Encounters 

Sierra Leone is home to chimpanzees, which are basically our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Although we watched them

interact from afar, visiting the Chimpanzee sanctuary was a total bucket-list moment for me. Not to mention, Sierra Leone is a hotspot for bird-watching and I witnessed some of the most unique lizards I’ve ever seen. 

A complex history

As an African American, learning about the country’s role in the transatlantic slave trade certainly hit home. Visiting Bunce Island, one of the major slave castles, was incredibly sobering. It was a harsh reminder of Sierra Leone’s dark past that we can’t forget. Along with Bunce Island, there are a number of historic landmarks in remembrance of the transatlantic slave trade and they are a must-visit despite all of the challenges and emotions that come with it. 

And the country’s rough past doesn’t stop there. Sierra Leone went through a brutal civil war in the 90s only ended in 1992 and it’s obviously left a huge impact on the country as it stands today. But what’s really inspiring is how the country is rebuilding and moving forward. You can still see the scars of the war, but Sierra Leone is teeming with so much hope and potential. 

Tourism in Development

Now, let’s be real. Sierra Leone is still developing its tourism industry, so don’t expect the same level of luxury and convenience you might find in other places. Be prepared to go with the flow, embrace the unexpected, and maybe even rough it a little. This one’s for all my backpackers and true adventurers, those who want to fully immerse themselves in a new culture and step outside of their comfort zone! 

So should you go? 

Absolutely, especially if you want to be ahead of the curve. As you can now see, there’s a bit of something for everyone; endless natural beauty, a vibrant culture, a painful past yet hopeful future, tasty food, and so much more. Sierra Leone is a country that will challenge you, surprise you, and ultimately leave you feeling inspired by its resilience and potential for growth. It’s a place that’s still raw and authentic, and that’s what makes it so special.

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Hey, I'm Ciara. I’m a global citizen and lover of travel. Want to know more? 

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