How to get there?
Boats to Dublin, the largest of the Banana Islands, depart from Kent on the southern tip of the Freetown Peninsula. Reaching Kent takes about 1 hour/1 hour and a half from Freetown, depending on traffic. Chartering a taxi from Freetown will cost about 100,000 NLe, alternatively it’s possible to hop on a poda poda from Freetown to Waterloo and continue on a shared taxi. In Kent, you’ll be asked to pay a 5,000 NLe community entry fee, and you’ll be approached by local men offering to take you across in wooden painted boats, for about 100,000 NLe. If you are planning to spend the night, your chosen accommodation will also be able to arrange a boat transfer for you from Kent.
About the Island
The Banana Islands archipelago includes three islands: Dublin, the largest and most visited one, Ricketts, and Mes-Meheux. Dublin and Ricketts are linked by a stone causeway making it easy to move from one island to the other, whereas Mes-Meheux is uninhabited, privately owned, and can only be visited as part of an organized trip. Dublin and Ricketts were first settled by formerly enslaved Africans returning from the Americas – many of the current residents are their descendants. About 600 people inhabit Dublin, and 200 live in Ricketts – walking around the islands you’ll come across wooden clapboard houses, sometimes brightly painted, immersed in the jungle and surrounded by mango and papaya trees. In Dublin you’ll also find two small churches and a few shops, but there are no cars, no roads and no electricity on the islands. The ‘off-grid’ feel is part of their charm of the islands. Both Dublin and Ricketts also have a variety of beaches and nature trails to explore – they are small enough to just walk around, and friendly locals will be happy to direct you if you get lost. Mes-Meheux was set up as an ecotourism/adventure tourism destination, and it’s even more unspoilt, with large sections of virgin rainforest and some wild beaches.
Things to do
The Banana Islands are the ideal place to switch off and take a break from the hustle of modern life. You can choose between chilling on Big Sand Beach, the nicest beach on Dublin, stroll around the island, go snorkelling, scuba diving or hire a kayak or pedal boat to search for hidden coves. Guesthouses on the island should be able to assist with boat hire, and there’s a diving school in Dublin to hire guides and equipment. It’s located right next to Dalton Banana Guesthouse. It’s also fun to wander around the islands admiring nature – depending on the season, you’ll see fruit trees and flowers in bloom, and see a variety of colourful birds and butterflies. In Dublin, it’s possible to visit or attend services at the two churches, and there are some historical relics dating back to the time when the islands were an important stop on the transatlantic slave trade – there are no signs, so it’s recommended to come with a guide if you want to learn more about the history. There are also two 18th century shipwrecks off the coast of Dublin. In Mes-Meheux, there’s an eco resort, and opportunities to take part in survival adventure challenge. It is also possible to see wildlife – civet cats, monitor lizards and green monkeys live on the island.
Places to Stay
In Dublin there are a few locally-run guesthouses in the northern part of the island. Banana Gardens is recently opened and is conveniently located near Dublin village, there’s also Sun Shine Guesthouse which offers comfortable accommodation near the village. Another long-running accommodation that attracts excellent reviews is Bafa Resort, with glamping-style tents near the beach and excellent seafood dinners. Daltons Banana Guesthouse is also a great choice for budget travellers and the management organises tours to other destinations in Sierra Leone, including the Turtle islands. Those with bigger budgets should consider Old Turtle Bay Guesthouse, a stylish eco-friendly property overlooking a secluded bay.