Capital | Freetown
Population | 5,363,669 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 71,740 SQ KM
Official Language | English
Holidays | Independence Day, 27 April (1961)
Currency | Leone (SLL)
Time Zone | UTC +0
Best Time to Visit | November to April, but in the future when stability is restored.
Connecting with the Culture | Splashing and partying at the stunning beaches—brilliant white sand backed by thick jungle. Admiring spectacular views from Mt Bintumani, West Africa’s highest point. Reflecting on history at Freetown’s famous 500-year-old cotton tree, under which slaves were sold in 1787. Diving and snorkeling in the crystal waters near Banana Islands. Spotting elephants, pygmy hippos and rare bongo antelopes at Outamba-Kilimi National Park. Being charmed by sierra Leone’s wonderfully friendly people.
Read | Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World’s Most Precious Stones by Greg Campbell.
Listen | to A Chapter of Roots by Sierra Leonean singer/songwriter Freddy Shabaka, or the Brooders playing a jammin’ mix of roots, rock and reggae.
Watch | the disturbing and moving documentary, Cry Freetown, filmed by award winning local cameraman Sorius Samura after the battle of 1999.
Eat | grounded stew (meat and ground-peanut stew); pepper soup; steamed yam; and roasted corn.
Drink | light and fruity poyo (palm wine) and local Star beer.
In a Word | which way to the beach?
Characteristics | Gem Smugglers; hot and humid equatorial weather; diamond mines; colourful markets; a country with indomitable spirit recovering from civil war; chaotic traffic jams; beach, beach, and more beach; rare wildlife; okra-based meals.
Surprises | At a Sierra Leone market you can buy anything, from enormous saucepans to always handy monkey skulls.