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Wonders of Sierra Leone

Landscape in Sierra Leone
Landscape in Sierra Leone / Huxley Ponchot, / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

Like most Western African countries, Sierra Leone is not a popular tourist destination and its wonders are little known.

Nevertheless, the country is rich with rare and unique species of plants and animals, it has an impressive landscape.
Surprisingly diverse is the man-made heritage. In Sierra Leone are located some prehistoric rock shelters – even with petroglyphs. Here are found also occasional megaliths, fortified and ruined local towns, and also some interesting European-built landmarks.

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 14 wonders of Sierra Leone

Geological wonders

Charlotte Falls

Western Area Rural District

Waterfall with many cascades over granite cliff.

Biological wonders

Freetown Cotton Tree

Western Area Rural District

An enormous, beautiful cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra), that stood in the center of Freetown. According to legend in 1792 the first returned slaves from the United States gathered under this tree and held a thanksgiving. The tree was 70 m high and with an immense girth. It fell in May 2023.

Cotton Tree in Freetown, SIERRA LEONE
Cotton Tree in Freetown / postcard, from the Website of Dragan Buškulič, ""
Tiwai Island

Kenema District

Large (12 km²) river island with extremely high biological diversity, many species are found only here. Here live 11 species of primates, more than 40 species of bats, and more than 500 species of butterflies.

Rainforest in Tiwai Island, Sierra Leone
Rainforest in Tiwai Island / Dorothy Voorhees, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Archaeological wonders

Gola Forest stone settings

Kenema District

A group of megaliths – stone circles, upright stones.

Kawoya Old Town

Koinadugu District

Ruins of the Late Iron Age settlement that was inhabited since the 13th century AD.

Kamabai Rock Shelter

Bombali District

Grotto with remnants of settlement from the 14th century AD. Here were found somewhat mysterious stone figures (nomoli), probably from the 8th – 10th centuries AD.

Kamabai Rock Shelter
Kamabai Rock Shelter. / John Atherton, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Yengema Cave

Kono District

This grotto has formed in granite. During the excavations here have been found remnants of Neolithic pottery from 2200 – 1500 BC.

Bunumbu Rock Shelter

Koinadugu District

Grotto – shelter with several petroglyphs. Sediments contain remnants of a Neolithic settlement.

Architecture wonders

St. John’s Maroon Church

Western Area Urban District

A beautiful church in Neo-Gothic style, constructed in 1820.

Yagala Old Town

Koinadugu District

Ruins of an abandoned mountaintop town. This fortified town was built in the 18th century as a refuge from slave traders and was abandoned in 1952. Includes Wara Wara Rock Shelter which was inhabited in the first millennium or early second millennium.

Walls of Yagala Old Town, Sierra Leone
Walls of Yagala Old Town / John Atherton, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Port Loko District

Historical Yalunka settlement that was fortified several centuries ago with entrenchment. The town partly has preserved its original planning with division into clans, the interior ring of cotton trees.

Freetown Martello Tower

Western Area Urban District

Round fortification tower, built to protect the port from the attacks of local people. Now incorporated in Parliament building.

Fourah Bay College

Western Area Urban District

The oldest European-styled university building in Sub-Saharan Africa, constructed in 1827.

The old building of Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone
The old building of Fourah Bay College / Huxley Ponchot, / CC BY 2.0
Bunce Island fortress

Port Loko District

European-built slave fortress on a small island in the estuary of the Sierra Leone River. The fortress was constructed in the late 17th century, now in ruins. Most slaves from Sierra Leone went to South Carolina and Georgia.

Bunce Island Fortress
Bunce Island Fortress. / Pierre Chrzanowski, Wikimedia Commons / public domain

WorldYellow Recommended books

Salone: A Journey Through Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is synonymous with civil war, child soldiers, blood diamonds, and most recently the Ebola virus. Few travelers venture here. Yet there is another side to this West African country and Seán goes off in search of it. His backpack is initially lost, he soon becomes entangled in a public lynching and travels into former rebel territory to wild camp in the jungle, home to monkeys and Africa’s deadliest beast, the hippo.

Sierra Leone (Bradt Travel Guide)

This new, thoroughly updated third edition of Bradt’s Sierra Leone remains the only English-language guide dedicated to this unique West African destination, one of only three countries where the über-elusive pygmy hippo can be found and where coastal mountains and sheltered beaches are the stuff of daydreams and postcards. With Bradt’s Sierra Leone you can explore the infamous diamond mines and rainforest-covered mountains; go in search of pygmy hippos or relax on the country’s beaches and islands.

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