The Banana Islands are the number one tourist attraction in Sierra Leone, praised for its many activities and beauty. Apart from the tropical allure, the three little islands are loaded with a painful history, framed by swaying palm trees, villagers enjoying their palmwine, and the sound of eternal waves.
From Kent, about 1 hour from Freetown, it takes about 45 minutes to reach Dublin by boat. Dublin is one of the three islands make up the Banana Islands, joined by Rickets and Mes-Meheux. The first two are inhabited by a Sherbro community of about 900 villagers. Dublin is by far the most popular, as it offers several accommodations and has a number of beaches spread along the island. Ricket and Dublin are connected by a bridge, and when the tide is low you can walk accross. It is a 6,5 mile walk through forest from the main wharf on Dublin to the point of crossing, so many trade this trek for an easy crossing by boat.
History and lush forest
It is difficult to escape the remnants of Dublin’s colonial history. A ten minute walk brings you past old lampposts, rusty canons and a slave pit. But it’s not just the obvious artefacts that remind you of the painful era. Two picturesque churches stand proudly between the trees, built by slaves in the 19th century. Even the water well, which is still being used, was built by slaves as early as 1813. Further into the forest brings you to where a slave fort used to be. Now, nothing is left, just some stones overgrown by bush and a few canons laying about.
It’s not all depressing past though. The present brings some exciting activities you can indulge in. Eating fresh mega lobster for example (yes, eating is considered a serious activity), or hiking through the forest. For those who love water sports there’s kayaking to the other islands, snorkelling along the beaches and scuba diving to see the shripwreck of the Dutch ship the Diemermeer. You can even go out spear fishing, and when the season is right it is possible to go whale watching on a boat.
After a day of island activities it is time to hang out in a hammock, enjoy a sip of freshly tapped palm wine or coconut juice, and watch the sea sink into the Atlantic Ocean. You can sleep on the island, either in tents, or in one of the two guesthouses. Wherever you sleep, you are assured to wake up to the peaceful sounds of island life.
All in all, the Banana Islands are a must-visit when in Sierra Leone. It is an ideal combination of history, fun activities and mouth-watering food. The journey from Freetown totals to less than two hours, and the boat ride itself already offers stunning views of the green mountains that make up the skyline of the coast.
Tip: there is a masquerade on Boxing Day in Dublin village, don’t miss it!
Good to know
- To get to Dublin, you can hire a local boat from Kent, or have your transportation arranged by one of the guesthouses.
- Pack sunscreen, anti mosquito spray and long sleeved trousers if you want to hike through the forest.
- It is advised to make arrangements before you travel to the island, especially for the boat trip.
Bafa Resort: https://www.facebook.com/bafaresort/
Dalton’s Banana Guest House: http://daltonsbananaguesthouse.com/
Sunshine Guest House
Banana Island Guest House: Under construction
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Esther Kamara is a Dutch-Sierra Leonean that was born and raised in Amsterdam. After finishing her bachelor Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam she moved to Freetown, where she now works as a freelance writer and artist manager. Her brainchildren are otherworldly short stories and peculiar drawings of non-existing characters.