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Bunce Island

Visit the remains of the largest slave fort in Sierra Leone, where thousands of enslaved Africans saw their homeland for the last time before being shipped off to the Americas. See how nature is slowly reclaiming what men built, with vegetation covering the ruins of

How to get there?

Bunce is an island in the estuary of the Sierra Leone River, located approximately 30 km upriver from Freetown. It takes about 45 minutes by speedboat to reach the island from the capital, and most people visit as part of organized tours.

About the Island

Despite being only 600 meters long, Bunce Island was settled and fortified by English slave traders in 1670, and before that it was used by Portuguese slave traders since the 1500s. For over 140 years, until the British abolished the slave trade in 1809, Bunce was one of the main centres where enslaved Africans were held and processed before being sent to the Americas – it is estimated that over 30,000 people were transported to labour camps in the southern US from Bunce Island, many of them perishing during the arduous Middle Passage across the Atlantic.

After the abolition of slavery, Bunce Island and its castle were abandoned and slowly fell intodisrepair, with vines, trees and plants growing on top of buildings. The island is now protected by Sierra Leone’s Monuments and Relics Commission, and work is underway topreserve the castle and other historical structures present on the island.

Things to do

Most people visit as part of guided tours from Freetown. Visitors are taken around the abandoned Slava castle, slowly being taken over once again by the rainforest. Tours included the castle, workers accommodation and spaces where captive Africans were being held, and the cemetery where only two out of thousands of Africans that died there are buried. Tours also include the Door of No Return, where 30,000 people walked through before leaving their Motherland forever. Tours last a couple of hours and are led by knowledgeable guides. They are an immensely moving experience, especially for people of African descent – please refrain from taking inappropriate pictures or posing among the ruins.

Places to Eat / Stay

There are no places to eat or stay on Bunce Island – visitors are usually taken to nearby Tasso Island for lunch, or they return back to Freetown.

Other Beaches in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Brand