Named after the hero Bai Bureh, Bureh town is located along the coastline between Tombo and Kent, about a 1.5 hour drive from Freetown. The people of Bureh town are gems. They have faces carved with hard work, the sea inhabiting their eyes and smiles ready for anyone willing to receive them. It is also home to the Bureh Beach Surf Club, a tranquil place that sums up what makes Sierra Leone so fascinating. Dazzling smiles from surferboys, kids playing in the water for hours, freshly caught Barracuda served on mis-matching plates and a stunning backdrop of mangrove forests touching the ocean make Bureh beach a trailer for paradise.
The Surf Club
Bureh beach had been a surf spot for expats for years. In 2012, Shane O’Connor, who had been surfing there for some time and befriended the locals, decided to help Bureh build a Surf Club. He taught the local youth how to surf and fund-raised to get the business going. Surfboards were donated, a clubhouse was built and the Bureh Beach Surf Club came into existence. Ever since then about ten boys (and one girl) have steadily expanded the business into what it is today; a surf club with classes, board rentals, five rooms, tents and a small restaurant. What makes this all the more impressive is that all of this hard work is done voluntarily. As the surf club is owned by the community, the profits stay within the community. It shows the dedication and passion of the Bureh youth, as unemployment is as harsh a reality as it is elsewhere in the country.
Keke, the goddess of the waves
If the swell is in your favor you can either hit the waves or enjoy watching the local surfers dancing on their boards. They seamlessly merge with the waves, which is not an easy task as the waves at Bureh are tough even for experienced surfers. If you are lucky you might see Keke, the only female Sierra Leonean surfer. Not only is she amazing on the waves, she sells the best biscuits from a big plastic bucket that she balances on her head.
The Bureh beach surf club offers plenty of opportunities for having a good time. If you’re more of an adventurer, try hitting the waves with a bodyboard or surfboard, or take the kayak down the river into the mangrove. The surf club offers classes for 80.000 Leones (10usd) and you can rent a board for the same price for half a day. Sometimes Powerman comes by, a yoga/athletic superhuman who is eager to teach you all his secrets for a soft price.
If you want to relax a bit more, just have a seat in one of the colourful chairs on the beach and enjoy the spectacular vista. Go for a walk down the river into the mangrove forest (yes, if the tide is low you can walk the river), or enjoy a fresh plate of oysters and a coconut with a tad of rum.
Sierra Leone’s coastline
Apart from stunning visuals, Sierra Leone hit the jackpot with coastal safety. Sharks school far off the shore and jellyfish only occasionally hit the coast. Still, Bureh beach is a place where inexperienced swimmers need to exert caution; as the river flows into the sea you can get some spectacular waves, but it also allows for a riptide that many have drowned from. The advice is to not swim where the river enters the sea. Do not worry too much; the surfboys are all official lifeguards and have saved many who have drifted out too far.
How to get there
Ready to hit the beach? From Freetown it takes about 1,5 hours by road. It is advised to use the Mountain Road from Hill Station to Jui. From Jui, follow to Waterloo, then to Tombo and finally arrive at Bureh. Please note that there is a new tollgate between Jui and Waterloo (4000le per trip per vehicle). Rent a private car through VSL TRAVEL, especially handy for the more bumpy parts of the road
The road is safe to take by public transport with the following stops (Mountain Road) starting from Bottom Mango.
Regent/ Grafton> Jui> Waterloo> Tombo/Tumbu> Bureh
There is another road, the Peninsular Highway, that goes from Goderich to Sussex, River Number 2 and Kent, but as the road is still under construction it can be a rough ride and usually takes longer.