Tokeh Beach in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Michael Duff—Getty Images

Emerging from the pandemic with the backing of the World Bank to help promote the West African nation’s rich tourism potential—with diverse wildlife, world-class surfing waves, the vibey coastal capital of Freetown, and a brand new airport—all odds are on Sierra Leone to explode on the adventure travel scene. The time to go is now.

Start in the Freetown Peninsula, supporting eco-tourism initiatives like the one at Tacaguma Chimpanzee Sanctuary, where endangered primates are rescued and rehabilitated within one of the country’s many hotspots for biodiversity. At the nearby Tasso Ecotourism Project, an island in the Sierra Leone River Estuary, guests stay in rustic timber chalets to enjoy birdwatching and community tourism designed to help islanders economically recover from the Ebola epidemic of the past (the country was officially declared free of the disease in 2015).

The in-the-know surf set gravitates to the southern reaches of the Freetown Peninsula, about an hour from the capital, where white sand covers River No. 2 Beach and Bureh Beach to the south, home to the country’s first surf club.

Off the Freetown Peninsula’s southern tip, the densely forested Banana Islands are a tropical idyll with some of West Africa’s best snorkeling, scuba diving and spearfishing. What you might leave remembering most about a visit here, however, is the openness, warmth, and sheer resilience of the Sierra Leoneans themselves.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at