Scuba diving off Banana Island can be an unforgettable experience. Not only because of the beautiful underwater scenery, but because the whole process of scuba diving is quite different than in touristy dive destination. In Banana Island is more like an adventure and exploration. You do not fell the routine of a busy dive center and you are always exited about what you will fined on the bottom of the unexplored sea. It is scuba diving as it meant to be 50 years ago. Exploration of the unknown! The little dive center "Banana Divers" is adequate enough for small groups, with new equipment and several boats. Probably one of the smallest scuba dive centers you have come across and in one of the most tranquil and unexplored corners of the planet. Water is warm, and dives are shallow (safe). Bring a camera!
The beaches! Well, it's not off the beaten path for the people of Sierra Leone. If things quite down someday, it won't be off the beaten path anymore!!!
It is so many years ago since I used the beaches, but they will never go away for sure....
Several old guides claim the beaches to be some of the best in the world!!
I lived in Kailahun, Sierra Leone for 9 months in 2003/2004. Despite suffering 85% destruction to their town during the civil war, the people of Kailahun were the most remarkable people. I was impressed by their generosity and kindness during my stay. It can be argued that they suffered the most during the civil war as Kailahun was the main artery between Liberia and Sierra Leone. Many atrocities happend there.
I hope one day I can return.
Unless you know someone you can stay with I would not recommend going there. The Pakistani battalion used to house guests to the area but they are no longer there with the UN drawdown. Kailahun is 370 something kms from Freetown but at the end of some of the worst roads in Africa. The last 100 kms usually takes about 5 hours to complete if you can at all.
Formerly a specialized slave trading center during the 1700 and 1800's. Approximately 50,000 slaves were sold there during that time. Now you can tour the island with a guide as he explains about the ruined fort and its buildings.
In order to visit the island you must first go to Pepel and get permission from the curator in charge who also acts as your tour guide.
Having seen Steven Spielberg's movie "Amistad" about the capture and treatment of Sierra Leoneans sent to be slaves in the Americas, I found just walking around and listening to the history of Bunce Island to be very powerful and moving.
There are two ways in getting there: 1st option drive along the Port Loko road to Pepel. It is the long way around and the road is terrible. Once you arrive in Pepel hire a boat to cross you over the Rokel River to Bunce Island.
2nd option (the one we took) hire a boat called a "Pon Pon" from Tagrin, where the main ferry leaves for Freetown. The pon pon will take you up the Rokel River to Bunce Island and you'll have a lovely scenic trip in the process.
While on Pepel, check out the abandoned iron ore mines and machinery that used to be run by the Marampa Mines company.
The sanctuary takes in abandoned and confiscated chimpanzees that people have had as pets and introduces them back into the wild. A newly arrived chimp starts off in quarantine from the others and over the next several months is slowly placed with other chimps into different stages of contained wooded areas. The final stage is its release into the wild. You can watch the chimps feed from viewing areas and the guide shows you the different stages that they have for the chimp's rehabilitation.
About 30 minutes outside of Freetown going toward Regent. There is a small sign indicating where the sanctuary is. The last 100 meters is up a stone path and you'll need 4WD to make it. We parked at the bottom of the hill and walked.