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Sunday, 19 May 2019


There are only two places in the world that I have visited and it felt as if time stood still, that is Cuba and Sierra Leone, Bonthe specifically. Last month I made my way to Bonthe District in the Southern region of Sierra Leone with HSL Tours. These are the following things you must know before travelling to Bonthe.

1.    Bonthe is 7 hours away from Freetown.

Travelling to Bonthe from the capital city, will take six-seven hours. A good place to break and stop for snacks is Moyamba Junction, serving plenty of fresh fruits. The journey involves driving to Yagoi, passing 23 districts before arriving at the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration (SLMA) at Yagoi Wharf. At this point you write your name on their register before boarding either the canoe boat (a.k.a ‘pam pam’) or the speedboat.

2.    You will need to take a boat to get there.

As mentioned before, you will need to get on a boat from Yagoi Wharf. The speedboat takes 45 minutes to arrive at Bonthe Island. The canoe boat will take two plus hours from Yagoi to arrive at Bonthe.

3.    The people of Bonthe are known as Bonthanians

The same way people located in Freetown are reffered to as Freetownians I guess!

4.    There are no cars on Bonthe Island

The sandy roads of Bonthe are free of any cars, which was a refreshing change of scenery in comparison to the crowded city of Freetown. Only bicycles and a couple of motorbikes were seen as transport around the small island.

5.    The Sherbro people are the largest ethnic group on Bonthe Island.

Bonthe District is the home to the Sherbro people. During the pre-colonial period the Sherbro people were one of the most dominant ethnic groups in Sierra Leone. The vast majority with Sherbro people are Christian.

6.    Bonthe is a derelict Island with a lot of history.

Despite the rich and colonial past where Bonthe used to be a trading haven for agricultural products and piassava. The island was also the naval base for the French and English during the first and second world war. You can visit the Air grounds, water reservoir, old churches again everything is ever so untouched from what used to be a vibrant island. The best way to explore the town is to take a ride on the motorbikes around the town – that’s what I did, as I past the clock tower, air grounds, city council and more. It was the best way to explore the town during the short stay. You can do this with HSL Tours.

7.    Oysters are an enjoyed delicacy on the island.

Oysters are found in abundance surrounding the coastal lines of the Sherbro Estuary en route to Bonthe. I ate oyster stew twice during the weekend trip. On that note this is probably a good time to let you know that there are no western style restaurants on the Island of Bonthe and that eating arrangements should we pre planned. We ate at the Former Mayor’s house; Maria Garvey, organised by HSL Tours.

8.    Bonthe Island is not Bunce Island

I cleared this up recently on a caption post on Instagram, but I would like to think, if you were interested in visiting this island you would have already differentiated these islands apart.

9.    Electricity on the Island.

The island inhabited by 4000 people has limited electricity. I stayed one night on Bonthe Island at the Council’s Guesthouse, which was very close to the bay dock where we arrived. They had a generator for the evening, however there was also a curfew at midnight that they are willing to extend if you pay for it.  

10. Mania Beach is 30 minutes away.

If you have time, please make time for this hidden gem. Mania Beach is also situated alongside the Sherbro Estuary. A small community of 400 Sierra Leoneans inhabits Mania Beach. Please make sure you greet the chief of the village before making your way through the village and beach. It’s not compulsory to do so, but I promise your life will be made easier if you do so.

I hope you enjoyed the tips at learnt something new about Sierra Leone. Thank you again to HSL Tours for a wonderful trip. 

All photography by Yasmin Metz-Johnson

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