Sierra Leone is trying to rebuild its tourism industry hurt by years of civil strife. Tourists, in small numbers, are returning to Sierra Leone's white sand beaches and clear blue waters, eight years after fighting ended in the western African country.
TUCKING INTO LOBSTER ON A BEACH BESIDE LAPPING WAVES, UNDER A LAZY, HAZY SUN:it’s about as picture-postcard perfect a holiday moment as many could imagine. What you – and possibly the rest of the world’s 922 million tourists – would not imagine, however, is that this is a scene in Sierra Leone.
The tiny west African country might attract only 4,000 visitors a year at present, but there’s plenty for them to get up to. Just south of the capital Freetown, founded in 1787 as a home for freed slaves, a swathe of swim-perfect sea stretches out for 40 kilometres along the peninsula coast, each cove offering up a hidden beach with its own distinctive qualities. For example, while John Obey’s beach is home to a thick ochre sand, River No 2’s sands are fine white, York beach is lead-grey and the sweep at Bureh reveals a mountain-backed crescent beside the Atlantic. Almost all are united by their very emptiness.
Abimbola Carrol is a young Sierra Leonean entrepreneur full of energy and zest; determined to succeed in whatever he does. That came out strongly when I listened to him on the phone from London where he was recently on a brief visit. I could tell he meant business and that he was ready to do whatever it took to prove that Sierra Leoneans can succeed in business.
Meet the 31-year old who set up the Freetown-based tourism company Visit Sierra Leone (VSL: www.visitsierraleone.org) just over a year ago
Why did you decide to start VSL? There was no travel information on Sierra Leone and I wanted to provide something positive so people could see another side of the country. How big is tourism at the moment? It’s small but numbers are going up and I see huge potential. Holidaymakers are mostly visiting family or friends who live or work here, but we also have independent bookings from America, Sweden and elsewhere. What makes you successful? I think I got in early. I started the website in 2004, when no one was thinking about tourism, and it’s been growing ever since. Now we get more than a million hits a month, so I’m busy selling hotel rooms, organising hire cars and visas and creating tourist itineraries.
Few people know about Sierra Leone's sweeping many-coloured beaches, its swim-perfect seas and glorious rainforest-mountain backdrops. They don't know you can dine on fresh-grilled lobster and refresh yourself with a cool beer beside the ocean. They don't know about the country's threatened primates and rare exotic birdlife, or that it is home to the region's highest mountain. They are unaware that its capital is one of the safest cities in Africa and that people dance with a mesmerising lust for life until after dawn. Or that, despite the decade of war, the nation's tenacity, affection and spirit is what really defines it.
"Would you like to be carried to the speedboat or do you prefer to wade?”
It’s not a question I’ve had to face before on an airport transfer — but this is Sierra Leone, one of the world’s poorest countries, and there is no bridge from the international airport to the capital city.
BOBOH, Sierra Leone, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Boboh village used to do a roaring trade in the "Pa Gbana" cocktail, a mix of fermented local grasses, coconut and lime favoured by tourists to wash down freshly-cooked lobster. Nowadays there is little demand for the drink, named after the village's oldest resident: the only foreigners on Boboh's pristine beaches, south of Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, are development workers taking time out.
Eleven years of civil war between 1991 and 2002 has left Sierra Leone in ruins. According to the United Nations it’s the second poorest country in the world. Tens of thousands of people were killed and many more injured and displaced during the war. One of the largest UN peace-keeping forces helped to end the war, disarming thousands of rebel fighters. In May 2002, stability was restored when the former ruling party were returned to power in democratic elections. Now, after three years of peace, the rebuilding has begun, and Sierra Leone is looking for outside investment to kick start its economy. It’s determined to make a fresh start.
October 26, 2005 -- For the past year and a half, VisitSierraLeone.org ( http://www.visitsierraleone.org ) has been showing off Sierra Leone's tourism potential. Now in collaboration with TVE and Explore Worldwide this has been taken one step further following the filming of a documentary looking at Sierra Leone's tourism Industry.
The founding director of Visit Sierra Leone, Abimbola Carrol, said today that the upcoming “Blood Diamond” movie starring Leonardo di Caprio is bad news for Sierra Leone because it threatens to undo any positive steps the country has made in the past few years.