The road to Kailahun District, Sierra Leone © Lindsay Stark
Situated on the West African coast between Guinea and Liberia, Sierra Leone is a well-hidden tropical destination. With over 300 miles (483km) of coastline with stretches of palm-fringed sandy beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, lush mountains, and a wonderful blend of history and culture, this small coastal country offers a multitude of attractions and activities for visitors. However, with the brutality of a long civil war still fresh in the memories of many, it may take some time before the tourist hordes discover the hidden treasures of this beautiful little country.
Visitors to Sierra Leone can look forward to a warm and friendly welcome. The main attraction is on its stunning beaches where a variety of water sports, including diving, fishing, and surfing, are on offer. The capital and commercial centre, Freetown, is rich in history, originally founded as an important centre for slave trade in the mid-1500s and later becoming a safe-haven for freed slaves. For outdoor adventurers, Sierra Leone's wildlife is diverse and protected within conservation areas such as Outamba Kilimi National Park, the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary near Freetown, and the Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary on the Moa River. The Tingi Hills are popular for hiking, with breath-taking mountain scenery and a variety of bird and animal life, while Mount Bintumani and Lake Sonfron offer various mountain activities.
While the scars of the civil war have yet to fully heal, Sierra Leone is a nation with enormous potential and a bright future in tourism. A kaleidoscope of colour, the country's cultural and natural resources within its borders will reward intrepid travellers seeking a largely unexplored tropical paradise within the African continent.