About Sierra Leone

About Sierra Leone

With its palm-fringed beaches, breathtaking mountains, tropical rainforests and vibrant culture, Sierra Leone is one of West Africa’s most seductive destinations. Whether you want to escape the winter to some of the best beaches in Africa for some fun in the sun, to immerse yourself in its rich heritage and traditions or have the freedom to explore the beauty and charm of this undiscovered paradise, Sierra Leone offers an exciting and inspiring adventure to remember.

Experience the unrivalled friendliness and hospitality of our people. Relax at a beach-front bar as you watch the sun set over the Atlantic. Lose yourself in the bustling and colourful streets of Freetown. Journey back in time to the dark past of the slave trade. Hike the highest mountain in West Africa. Eat sweet fresh mangos plucked straight from the tree. Wake up to the calls of chimpanzees and monkeys in the rainforest.

History

While the name ‘Sierra Leone’ only emerged in the mid-15 th century when Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra mapped the area, the country itself has been inhabited for at least 2,500 years, most notably by West African tribes like the Limba people who sought sanctuary in the dense tropical rainforest.

Its geographic location and natural harbour adjacent to modern-day Freetown meant it soon became popular with ship crews who would stop here to shelter and replenish their stores, eventually becoming an important trans-Atlantic trading point for ivory and slaves in the 17 th and 18 th centuries. The notorious Bunce Island was the point from which slaves were transported to Europe and America.

Following the abolition of slavery, Freetown became a colony for Black Loyalists, settlers and freed slaves – the descendants of which were collectively referred to as the Creoles, or Krios. Freetown also subsequently became the capital of British West Africa.

As Britain and the Creoles increased their influence, a protectorate was established comprising small states ruled by the traditional chiefs. When a hut tax was imposed to pay for administrative costs, these chiefs protested and launched an armed resistance which lasted over two years until its protagonist, Bai Bureh, was sent into exile.

In 1961, Sierra Leone gained its independence from the United Kingdom and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, with Sir Milton Margai appointed as its first prime minister.

In the years that followed its independence, a series of coups and counter-coups meant the country grappled with considerable unrest. In 1978, a new constitution was adopted creating a one-party state led by Siaka Stevens who had become the country’s first president in 1971 when Sierra Leone was declared a republic.

In 1991, civil war broke out driven by rebels who were said to be disenchanted with government corruption and mismanagement of diamond and mineral resources. A military coup in 1992 forced then President Joseph Saidu Momoh into exile and Captain Valentine Strasser who had led the coup ascended as leader.

The unrest continued until peace was restored in 2002, after several years of ECOWAS and British troop activity in the country to disarm the rebels and put an end to the fighting which had killed an estimated 200,000 people and displaced two million people.

Since then, Sierra Leone has held several peaceful elections to elect their president and unicameral Parliament. The country now has a multi-party system, with two or three strong parties and is today designated as one of the most peaceful countries in Africa.

Climate & Geography

Sierra Leone enjoys a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: rainy from May to October, and dry from November to April.

The weather is typically hot and humid throughout the year, with temperatures ranging from the low- to mid-20°s C (70°s F) inland and on the coast respectively, to the high 20°s C (80°s F) countrywide.

During the rainy season, visitors can expect rain -sometimes torrential – daily, especially during the months of July and August, and particularly along the coastal areas. The wettest month in Sierra Leone is August.

Night temperatures are mild throughout the year, with the coolest period falling between November and February when the humidity is at its lowest.

People & Culture

With a population of under eight million people, Sierra Leone enjoys rich cultural diversity and centuries-old traditions which are still well respected and generously shared with
visitors to this day.

The country’s two main ethnic groups are the Temne and Mende, however there are as many as 16, including the Limba, Fula, Mandingo, Kono, Kuranko and Kissi, among others. Only a very small portion of the country’s population are what are known as Krio, these
being descendants of freed African American and West Indian slaves.

Their ethnicity is very important to Sierra Leoneans personally. They are very family
oriented, respectful of their leaders and elders, and are generally extremely proud of their
origins – their home village, town or city, and their culture.

Sierra Leone’s abiding religious tolerance and respect for others is demonstrated, for
example, through the custom of Christian and Muslim prayer to open official meetings, while the captivating rituals of ‘secret societies’ remains alive and well many centuries after they were first established in the country.