Dublin Island, Sierra Leone

Photo: bananaislandsierraleone.com
Photo: bananaislandsierraleone.com

It’s been too long since your last trip to Sierra Leone. A few years ago, you were charmed by Freetown and fell in love with the gorgeous beaches on the Freetown Peninsula. From the Atlantic coast, you saw the Banana Islands in the distance and promised yourself that you’d visit them during your next trip. But then the Ebola outbreak arrived. The beach resorts shut down. Freetown looked like a ghost town. While no one was traveling to the country, much less to the islands.

Since the epidemic concluded at the end of 2015, your thoughts keep returning to those lush green islands southwest of Freetown. The Banana Islands were only home to shipwrecks until the Portuguese arrived in the 17th century. They used the island as a slave-trading post. When the slaves were finally freed in the early 18th century, the islands became home to some of the people returning from America. The Sherbro people who live there today are descendants of those freed slaves.

There are three Banana Islands. Mes-Meheux, an uninhabited island, is known for its pristine snorkeling spots. Ricketts Island is covered by a dense forest that flows right down to the ocean. It’s connected to Dublin Island’s small fishing village and stunning beaches by a stone causeway.

It’s a 20-minutes ride from Kent in a bright orange speedboat to reach Dublin Island. A tribal chief greets visitors when you arrive. Once he nods his approval, you’re free to roam the island. The ruins of an 1881 church and a slave dock sit on the northern tip. Small fields are filled with corn, yuca, and the island’s namesake bananas. Fishermen return to the shore in their dugout canoes with big lobsters and even bigger groupers. Offshore scuba-diving sites weave through the rusted shipwrecks and their cannons. While the beaches truly were worth the trip. People are playing volleyball on popular Big Sand Beach. With calm, clear water, Old Brook Beach is perfect for snorkeling. And you end up having secluded Banjoko Beach all to yourself. This is one promise you’re very glad you kept.

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