Sierra Leone derived its name from Portuguese name ‘Serra Leao’, which means “Lion Mountain Range”. It is a West African country bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the south-west, Liberia in the south-east, and Guinea in the north. From pristine beaches to an abundance of wildlife and forests, this country has a lot to offer. Here are some of the most interesting facts about Sierra Leone:
1. Sierra Leone was home for freed African slaves in the 18th Freetown, the country’s capital, became the “Province of Freedom”. The freed slaves either settled there for good or treated it as their departure point to go back to their African homeland. The first settlers were a little less than 500 people and mostly died due to disease and tribal wars. The second settlers were around 1,200 people from Nova Scotia. They were more successful in building a new home. As more slaves were emancipated in other parts of the world, more people arrived and settled in Sierra Leone.
2. One of the most historic and well-known symbols of Freetown (Sierra Leone’s capital city) is the Cotton Tree. It’s believed that in 1792 a group of ex-slaves from America, who had fought with the British in the War of Independence, settled in Freetown and gathered around the giant cotton tree to pray for gaining their freedom. The Cotton Tree is not only the oldest such tree in Freetown but experts also believe that it may be the world’s oldest one. Modern-day citizens of Sierra Leone still routinely make offerings and pray to their ancestors under the Cotton Tree.
3. If there is one thing that this small nation is blessed with is its rich mineral resource. Sierra Leone is famous for its diamonds. Apart from diamonds, bauxite and titanium are also extracted on large scale. It also produces gold and rutile on a large scale.
4. One most distinguishable factor about Sierra Leone is its rich and diverse cultural heritage. It is a collection of people from across West Africa, Europe (Mostly French) and Asia (mostly Lebanese). There are also Krio whose ancestry can be traced to slaves from the Americas and thus could owe their origin from different parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
5. Founded in 1995, Sierra Leone is home to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary located in the rain forest of the Western Area National Park which comprises an area of some 100 acres of land. This wildlife refuge serves to protect and rehabilitate confiscated, abused, orphaned, and/or abandoned chimps to safely release the animals back into the wild. Currently, approximately 75 chimpanzees are living at the sanctuary.
6. Freetown has the largest natural harbour on the African continent. It is capable of receiving oceangoing vessels of all kinds.
How to reach?
Freetown International Airport, locally known as Lungi International Airport, is the main international airport located in the coastal town of Lungi, Sierra Leone. There are a number of connecting flights from India to Sierra Leone.
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary: The Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is one of the amazing Sanctuaries of Sierra Leone located in Freetown. Located in the western forest reserve, it is home to orphaned and captured chimpanzees. Eco huts, fresh forest breeze, rainforest, extraordinary creatures, waterfalls, surrounding villages all will make your one-day trip worth a while.
Mount Bintumani: Take a hike up Mount Bintumani, the tallest mountain in Sierra Leone, and one of the highest peaks in West Africa. You can also picnic on the Kabala Hills on New Year’s Day – it’s commonly believed that touching one of the rocks will bring good luck for the rest of the year.
Explore the beaches: Sierra Leone is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Africa. John Obey Beach and Bureh Beach are popular spots for surfers. Number Two Beach is perfect for a cool dip during the dry season. The other beaches that you can visit are Tokeh beach, Huntington Beach, and Lakka Beach.
Turtle Islands: Turtle Islands is a group of eight isles, which are inhabited by the community of fishermen. As the name suggests, Turtle Islands is home to hundreds of turtles. Besides taking a dip in the beautiful turquoise water, you can also enjoy fishing here with local experts.