6 reasons you need to visit Sierra Leone

From exquisite empty beaches fringed by palms to rainforest jungles with monkeys swinging through the trees.

From exquisite empty beaches fringed by palms and rainforest jungles with monkeys swinging through the trees to a fascinating heritage and warm welcoming people.

However, her troubled history of civil war and Ebola means that few travellers actually make it here.

This beautiful West African country is back on its feet!

1.It’s safe and Ebola-free

First, there was a bitter civil war from 1991 to 2002, leaving more than 50,000 people dead and 2 million displaced.

At the end of the war, Sierra Leone was one of the poorest countries in the world. By 2014, the country was back on its feet, tourists were returning and the future looked bright.

Then came Ebola. The deadly virus took the lives of nearly 4000 people and the entire country ground to a halt in a state of emergency and fear. In March 2016, the nation celebrated as Sierra Leone was finally declared Ebola-free.

2. Some of the world's rarest wildlife lives here

Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, in the Moa River, is just 12 square kilometres. But it's home to around 80 rare and elusive pygmy hippos and an astounding 11 species of primates – one of the highest primate concentrations in the world.

Sierra Leone’s first ecotourism enterprise, the sanctuary's profits benefit the eight communities that live near the island. Walking trails take you deep into the forests where chimpanzees, red colobus and Diana monkeys cavort in the canopy.

3. It boasts some blissful beaches

Sierra Leone’s beaches are difficult to leave. Glorious white sand stretch along an aquamarine Atlantic coastline for around 360km. The Western Peninsula is the most popular area and the River Number Two Beach was the setting for the 1970s Bounty chocolate bar ad.

Amble for hours on the squeaky sands, watch the fishermen of Tokeh village pulling in their daily catch from weathered wooden dhows, or simply melt in the vivid sunsets and warm ocean breeze.

4. Delve into Sierra Leone’s slave-trade past

Tragically, the men and women who worked in Sierra Leone’s rice fields became sought-after slaves, with more than 50,000 people leaving the country’s biggest slave port, Bunce Island, bound for the American states of Georgia and South Carolina.

Today, the castle lies in ruins, with vines slowly strangling what’s left of the ramparts and cells.

5. You can run in one of the world’s most worthwhile marathons

Named Best International Event in the Running Awards 2017, beating top contenders such as the Berlin and New York marathons, it's the run’s feel-good factor that earned it the accolade.

The race is organised by UK charity Street Child and raises funds for its projects across the country. With distances for all levels, ranging from 5km around the northern town of Makeni to a full 42km around its lush hills and neighbouring villages, you don’t have to be a running fanatic to take part.


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