• Population: 5.3 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Freetown
  • Area: 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq miles)
  • Major languages: English, Krio (Creole language derived from English) and a range of African languages
  • Major religions: Islam, indigenous beliefs, Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 39 years (men), 42 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Leone = 100 cents


The Republic of Sierra Leone is the land thriving of disease, corruption, and witchcraft. Also, the nation is the world’s poorest, if not among, despite the lot of diamonds in the country as depicted in Hollywood’s Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The gist was that these gemstones called “conflict” or “blood diamonds” were being illegally siphoned to arm and supply insurgents trying to take over a country. Diamonds are after all among the country’s primary resources as it is among the top 10 producer of diamonds. Had these been utilized well by the government, Sierra Leone would have maintained and developed its infrastructures such as its arterial rail track which now is in an irreparable state.

In Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter, Sierra Leone rode the good road of glory and this transit did as it should transporting people and matter to the other end of the country to as far as Pendembu. And this is one mighty reason to come to Sierra Leone for, for history and heritage, for glory and even the gore, following the footsteps of either DiCaprio or Greene. Still, unemployment runs at 80% with the Sierra Leoneans not a clue on how to make money in spite of the effervescent future these gemstones promise them. Now, the country seems to have gone a step backwards with the long civil war it is recovering from.


Sierra Leone (8 30 N, 11 30 W) is a coastal territory in West Africa with the size of a total 71,740 km2 of levelled terrain on the west coast, rising to hilly and mountainous plateau landscape in the interior to the east. The highest point is the Loma Mansa, 1948m tall. The coast is mostly mangrove swamps, beaches, and bays with thick woods inland. The land is arable and apt not only for agriculture but also for the diamond and gold industry of Sierra Leone.


Sierra Leone has a tropical climate in general that is sweltering hot and overly humid, given its location on the coast. Summers are wet from May to December, the rainy season, whereas from hence is winter from January to April, the dry season.


Like much of Africa, Sierra Leone is diverse in so many ways, such as the groups. Although not ranging hundreds, there are around 20 ethnic groups comprising an estimated 90% of the population out of the 5,132,138, mainly the Temne and Mende. The Creole or Krio are descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who settled in Freetown and now comprise about 10% of the Sierra Leoneans. Of course, small numbers of immigrant groups from Europe, Lebanon, India, and Pakistan reside in the country, as well as refugees from Liberia’s recent civil war.


The official language of Sierra Leone is ENGLISH used widely in state affairs and administration, by the media, and the schools. BENGALI also gained “official language” status in recognition of the 5,300 Bengali peace-keeping troops in the country, but, the vernacular is a Creole called KRIO that is English infused with African languages like TEMNE and MENDE. Krio is the language that unifies the different linguistic groups and is thus spoken and used for communication by 97% of the Sierra Leoneans at best. Besides this, there are 15 other indigenous languages used individually by the ethnic groups.


Islam is the predominant religion of 60% of the population and is prevalent in all of the country’s 3 provinces. On the other hand, 30% of the population adhere to Christianity mainly in the southern part of the country, while 10% of the Sierra Leoneans practice African indigenous religions. The freedom of religion is strongly observed in these parts and only seldom is the cause of conflict.


The Hollywood movie Blood Diamond may have roused publicity towards the typically quiet country, at least since the 90’s, but still, nothing about the movie can entirely credit its tourism industry. However, if one does recall right about DiCaprio’s last scenes at the hilly woods, this is but an affirmation that Sierra Leone’s unique natural beauty was regarded supremely at a time by 10,000 tourists each year. The Outamba-Kilimi National Park, Tiwai Islands, and the few other reserves are astounding areas for varied nature scenery and wildlife appreciation, the foremost distinctively as the country’s only national park. Truly, Sierra Leone is a place for travellers craving for a slice of outdoor adventure.

Efforts are addressed for sure to revive its tourism industry, and the white-sand beaches at the Freetown peninsula or the Two Rivers Beach are a great start for travel to Sierra Leone relenting to the tranquil call of the crashing waves. Surf’s up for the adrenaline junkies with Sierra Leone offering some pretty decent and challenging waves. Given that it is in Freetown, no place else is better to get acquainted with the culture of Anglo-Africa than here, and if you got more to give, just love that vibrant cultural Freetown nightlife. The dynamic festivals are here, now, and everywhere within the country and will definitely call you wherever you are.


No more is the allure of Sierra Leone more adamant than from the cuisine itself. The sidewalk grub stalls awaken a foodie’s adventurous soul through its multi-dimensional colours, aromas, and flavours. But be quick to judge “hepa-stands” (Hepatitis A) or stalls with unhygienic and contaminated food that thrives aplenty in many African and Asian countries. The Sierra Leonean groundnut stew is the strong and colourful national dish which is meat stew with tomatoes, onions, pepper and spices in a peanut-butter-base to which dark greens and dried fish or bunga is added to add breadth to both colour and flavour, all played down with rice-the staple. The cassava leaves stew is light with palm oil, spices, and fish and/or meat but missing this groundnut flavour. This still is a classic fave to rave in Sierra Leone within the Sherbro people and the ultra-rare vegetarian travellers.

There’s also grannat chop or peanut-based spicy chicken stew that is traditionally Sierra Leonean. Grannat (dishes), maybe Krio for “groundnut”, come with a multitude of versions and is ubiquitous like Lebanese and Mediterranean food. To experience as well is the fresh seafood offerings of SL like the savoury shrimp dish prawn palava, a classic peanut-based dish, or a rare semi-delicate barracuda platter. Fish and chips and countless western food fare are available in centre, Freetown especially, and recommended when the traveller realizes the risk of peanut sauce and seafood. Hear this, a great Sierra Leonean meal would mean a cold Star beer or ice-cold Coke at hand, but an exceptional SL meal would end with chocolate – a local Sierra Leonean variety of chocolate in drink, dessert, or any kind.


Josh Boorman


Backpacking Addictz



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Joshua Boorman

Joshua Boorman

Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
Joshua Boorman

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