Many have heard of the Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve because of the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. But did you know that the forest is a 17.000 acres large reserve, which stretches all over the peninsular? It’s the forest just outside of Freetown, running all through Kent over mountains and waterfalls. It is home to rare bird species, medicinal herbs and challenging hiking trails that will leave the most adventurous among us satisfied. It is unexplored, easy to reach from Freetown and has many exciting activities. Here’s your intro to the Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve.
Hike your lungs out, laze about the waterfall
Let’s start with this one. The reserve offers a variety of unique trails accessible to almost every fitness level. Whether you fancy a twenty-minute walk to see the Charlotte Falls and spend all afternoon dipping your feet in the cool water, or prefer a tougher hike. Such as the 1,5 hour hike up Mount Gabon through dense forest, or the king of hikes: Picket Hill, with a whopping 3,5 hour climb up the highest peak of the peninsula.
Hiking to Congo Dam is an absolute highlight. See the clear blue water that is sold throughout the entire country as mineral water, and follow the old water pipes past remnants of the colonial era.
Visit the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Popular, but therefore not less interesting. The sanctuary has Eco lodges for rent if you want to experience a night in the wilderness. Wake up to the hooting of Chimpanzees and exotic bird song, visit the sanctuary and learn all about the primates and their rehabilitation. Tacugama’s food is all locally sourced and an expansion of traditional Krio cuisine, all with the freshest ingredients. E sweet-o!
Also, Tacugama organises plenty of activities year round. Yoga weekends, bird tours, forest foraging and silent retreats are just some examples. And most of the organised hikes are organised by Tacugama. Their experienced rangers share their knowledge as their lead you through the forest, and perhaps even cooler; they can arrest looters.
Flora, fauna and… deforestation
Exciting? Not just to nature lovers and adventurers. Sadly enough, the reserve faces challenges with some serious implications. Last years mudslides all took place within this reserve, taking the lives of many and stripping even more of their homes. Deforestation, hunting and poaching, illegal constructions and pollution all threaten the reserve and its many inhabitants. The government and some private institutions, including Tacugama, are doing their best to faith these challenges. As a visitor you can contribute simply by visiting. Booking a hike, a night at a lodge or a tour around the sanctuary helps towards conserving the reserve. Plus, you get to experience one of the country’s gems.
All in all, there are plenty of reasons to check out the Western Area Peninsula Reserve. Adventure, tranquility and a wide range of activities are just some reasons. But let’s not forget that this is still largely unexplored. No heaps of tourists or commercial trails, but raw and un-spoilt natural beauty. Just like Sierra Leone.
So next time you’re enjoying the sea view at River number 2 look behind you, consider exploring the many adventures those super green mountains can offer.
Good to know
- To hike up Picket Hill (insert link to Picket Hill article), book through VSL. Tour guide, local guide and lots of fun included
- Read more about our Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary tour here.
- The reserve is a protected area and can be dangerous at some parts, do not explore the area on your own account without the guidance of a ranger or a community guide.
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.