WORLD TOURISM DAY 2020: DOMESTIC TOURISM IN SIERRA LEONE
September 27, 2020
When you see or hear the word “tourism”, what imagery comes to mind?
Perhaps the stunning riads and their architecture that’s connected with the past?
Or maybe the majestic giraffes and robust zebras in Kenya?
Or could it be the slave castles of Ghana?
No matter what imagery or thought that comes to your mind in regards to tourism I am certain it wasn’t about YOUR country…am I right?
There is no shame in admitting it, however there is [slight] shame in not wanting to do anything about it! Though partially it is not your fault. In the media, tourism is typically depicted as a setting outside your borders that is luxurious, refined and cultured. But ask yourselves, can you not find gems and jewels in your own country?
Absolutely! As there is international tourism there is also domestic tourism! As the name implies this is tourism within your own borders. International tourism has seen a global decline due to COVID-19, but what about domestic tourism — is this a sector we can develop especially in Sierra Leone?
I definitely believe so.
According to the National Tourism Board (NTB) Sierra Leone received over 63,000 visitors in 2019 with the peak months being April (6220) and December (7530). We can guesstimate that a great percentage of these people are Diasporans returning home for the holiday season, where the off-peak times are a mix between aid workers and home based Sierra Leoneans returning. That not withstanding, we as a nation have the potential to cater to over 60,000 people by offering them far more than River No. 2 and Bureh Beach.
Today, September 27 2020 marks World Tourism Day with this year’s theme being “Tourism and Rural Development”. This will celebrate the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities outside of big cities and preserving cultural and natural heritage all around the world.
But what about Sierra Leone where it is estimated over 8000 jobs are created annually due to tourism? Tourism is not just for tourists, it helps to foster unity, patriotism and job creation to stimulate the local economy.
Here is a list of 5 places to visit in Sierra Leone during your next trip or as a Sierra Leonean living at home to visit and know more about your country.
Mount Bintumani is the highest mountain in Sierra Leone and in West Africa at 1945 meters. It Is situated in Nieni and Neya Chiefdoms in Koinadugu District — Northern Sierra Leone about 346 km from the capital Freetown. This challenge is for mountaineer enthusiasts and outdoor lovers.
Bunce Island is situated in the Western Area 20 miles from Freetown. In 1670, the British built a slave trading company and 30,000 Sierra Leoneans were taken into slavery to the West Indies and North America. Bunce Island is a historic site with a lot of the houses and the castle built left unpreserved for centuries. For Sierra Leoneans this is an important piece of history and would interest history geeks anywhere.
Outamba-Kilimi National Park
Outamba-Kilimi National Park is located in Northwest Sierra Leone in Karene District near the border of the Republic of Guinea. If you’re looking for eco-tourism, Outamba has you covered! Here you can sight our national animal (the chimpanzee!), monkeys, birds, hippos and other wildlife. Outamba is approximately 193km from Freetown.
Tiwai Island which means “Big Island” in Mende is a wildlife sanctuary in Southeast Sierra Leone. It boasts of being one of the highest concentration and diversity of primates in the world with 11 species and The Gola Forest Reserves, which host the last significant patches of rainforest in Sierra Leone, spread east of Tiwai to the Liberian border. It is situated 330km from Freetown in Kenema District.
Turtle Islands is situated on the west of Sherbo Island in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone. The eight-island (Yele, Bakie, Bumpetuk, Chepo, Hoong, Mut, Nyangei and Sei) archipelagos expands across 8km over shallow waters and white sands. Seven out of eight of these islands are inhabited, Hoong is inhabited and reserved only for initiated men as part of a rite of passage. It is about a 3 hour boat ride from Freetown and water lovers can enjoy swimming and fishing there.
Rural development is a big part of contributing to national development and sustainability in a country. So push yourself and explore Sierra Leone outside of Freetown, and who knows, you may find more beautiful sites that were not on this list. But with this in mind, which one of these places would you like to visit?