Sierra Leone comes to one’s mind for all the wrong reasons, rarely travel and leisure related and certainly not for Sierra Leone surfing holidays. First a long brutal civil war, and then an enormous outbreak of Ebola in the region, has attracted intense media coverage depicting one of the world’s poorest counties in total despair.
But it’s a beautiful and safe country with plenty of empty waves to explore. Tourism can help Sierra Leone recover from it’s recent history much quicker. Hopefully this guide to Sierra Leone surfing holidays will help attract some adventurous travellers looking for the next great surf spot.
Guide to Sierra Leone’s recent history
Before talking about the Sierra Leone surfing we need to explain the current situation and the recent history. The Ebola virus entered the country from Guinean borders in spring 2014. It peaked in October of the same year with daily new cases numbers exceeding one hundred.
The international response was swift and the outbreak was contained fast. By spring 2015 the cases reduced to a handful per week, and gradually to a handful per month. Just before the country was declared ‘Ebola Free’ in August 2015, there were some recurrences of Ebola. Now in October 2015 there is a new 42 day countdown for the ‘Ebola Free’ status by the World Health Organisation.
Why visit Sierra Leone
From the end of the long civil war in 2002 until the Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone has been one of the safest countries in Africa. It is also one of the more enjoyable countries to visit for good reasons. The natural beauty of the country is phenomenal with lush forest coming down to pristine sand beaches, palm trees against the blue ocean and warm temperatures all year round.
The best part is that once there, you can enjoy the world class beaches to yourself as tourism has not kicked off yet. The direct consequence of the lack of tourism is that Sierra Leone is one of the few countries left in the world, where locals are still genuinely interested in the visitor, and not focussed in selling a service.
Unfortunately Sierra Leone is lacking a decent travel infrastructure. The road network is the first obstacle, particularly if you aim to reach a remote destination that promises good surf. The poor condition of the road and the rather random local transport can make travelling a challenge.
Adding bulky luggage – like surf boards – makes it even more difficult, but it will spark up many conversations with the friendly locals. But not all traveling should be easy, the quality of an authentic experience and feeling like a pioneering traveler makes exploring Sierra Leone immensely rewarding. The reward at the end is surfing new and empty breaks.
Guide to Sierra Leone surfing holidays
The Atlantic coast of Sierra Leone has plenty of swell and offers opportunities for adventurous and explorative surfing. Although surfable waves are commonly found on the mainland at Bureh, Sulima, No 2, and Aberdeen beaches, they are typically not that big. The best documented waves can be found off the mainland among the Turtle Islands.
To reach the remote Turtle Islands is a three to four day expedition, that should be thoroughly planned and organized. Excellent sand-bottom waves can be found off Yele, with a long right spinning off. There is a nice break off at Baki island and several more waves offering a wide range of Sierra Leone surfing holiday destinations throughout the Turtle Islands.
The most frequent operator for surfing trips to Turtle Islands is Daltons Banana Guesthouse. It is located on Banana Island halfway between the Turtle Islands and Freetown making this remote and extraordinary destination more accessible.
Banana Island is also near Bureh beach where surfable waves can be found year round. A long left main wave can wall up nicely at times, and less frequently produce barrels. Bureh is the choice for beginners as there are always conditions for learning and surf lessons and gear hire are available through the Bureh Beach Surf Club.
By far the most accessible spot to ride a wave is Aberdeen beach, right in the capital Freetown. However Aberdeen does not always provide a surfable wave. The same goes for River No 2. Sulima is far from anything and a really long journey, so only head there if you have indications the surf is good at the time.
All in all, Sierra Leone is the destination where a good surf does not see a surfer for months or even years. So visit Sierra Leone to enjoy the surfing as well as the cultural experience, share good time with friendly locals and take away a rich experience.
By going on Sierra Leone surfing holidays you are also helping tourism gain a foothold in this beautiful country that deserves a break after its recent history. Who knows you may be the first to surf a new wave and put Sierra Leone firmly on the surf map.
With thanks to Greg at Daltons Banana Guesthouse for writing this article. If you’re planning a Sierra Leone surfing holiday Daltons Banana Guesthouse have offered a 30% discount for AWE365 Club members.