Sierra Leone boasts over 19 islands along the coast and in the bay, each offering unique experiences within a picturesque setting. These islands offer a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of Freetown, the capital city, and are perfect for those seeking outdoor adventures.

Mel Butler, a full-time travel blogger and content creator says exploring the islands along the West coast of Africa in Sierra Leone was an unforgettable experience.

Unlike many tourist destinations, these islands remain largely untouched by commercialization and big hotels. Instead, they offer natural beauty and resources, with some still showcasing the remnants of the slave trade era.

From Banana Island, where water sports are a favorite activity, to Tiwai Island, a wildlife sanctuary for nature enthusiasts, to Turtle Island, a haven for marine life with its coral reefs and green sea turtles, to Bunce Island, where you can travel back in time to learn about the dark history of the slave trade through the ruins of a fort and cannons.

According to Mel Butler, these 6 islands stand out as the ‘best’ when visiting Sierra Leone.

1. Banana Island Sierra Leone

The Banana Islands are a cluster of three islands located southwest of the Freetown Peninsula in the Western Area of Sierra Leone. Dublin and Ricketts are the main islands, connected by a stone causeway and inhabited by locals, while the third, Mes-Meheux, is a smaller uninhabited island. The best time to visit is from November to April, during the dry season when the ocean is calmer.

Tourists flock to Banana Island for its gorgeous beaches and crystal-clear waters, which are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. Visitors can also relax on the beach or go hiking for a more active adventure. It is a favored destination for both Sierra Leoneans and foreigners.

2. Tiwai Island

Tiwai Island is a wildlife sanctuary located in the southern part of Sierra Leone, nestled in the middle of the Moa River. The island is surrounded by lush rainforest covering just 12 square kilometers. Only the eco-project staff and researchers live on the island.

Nature enthusiasts and bird watchers will be thrilled with Tiwai Island’s diverse wildlife, including over 135 species of birds and the elusive pygmy hippos. The island is also home to 11 species of primates, including chimpanzees and the endangered Diana monkey. For wildlife enthusiasts, a visit to the Tacugama chimpanzee sanctuary in Freetown is highly recommended.

3. Bunce Island

Bunce Island is a crucial historic site for the Krio people to visit while in Sierra Leone. This small island, situated in the Sierra Leone River, can be reached by a speed boat ride of approximately an hour from Freetown. During the 18th century, the island played a significant role in the transatlantic slave trade, serving as a major hub for the shipment of enslaved Africans who were primarily sent to North America and the Caribbean islands.

The British ran a slave castle on the island, where Africans from various parts of West Africa were enslaved before being transported elsewhere. Although the island was eventually abandoned and left to decay, it has now been recognized as a historical site, and efforts have been made to preserve it. Today, Bunce Island serves as a popular tourist destination and a stark reminder of the devastating impact of this dark chapter in human history.

4. Tasso Island

Tasso Island, situated in the Sierra Leone River Estuary, near Bunce Island in the Northern Province, is a popular tourist destination known for its Tasso eco-tourism project. Visitors can indulge in delicious fresh seafood at Baobab restaurant while enjoying the beautiful beach scenery.

There are various water sports activities such as canoeing to keep visitors engaged. You can also witness the traditional masquerade dance and groove to the rhythm of the music. For those interested in bird watching, the island boasts a rich collection of birds.

If you wish to extend your stay, Tasso Island offers accommodation to its visitors.

5. Turtle Islands Sierra Leone

The Turtle Islands, situated in the Atlantic Ocean on the southern coast of Sierra Leone, west of Sherbro Island, are a picturesque group of islands. At low tide, they are surrounded by beautiful sandbars and palm trees. The islands are well-known for scuba diving and snorkelling as they offer many coral reefs and shipwrecks to explore. Moreover, they are a sanctuary for green sea turtles, which nest on the islands between November and April.

6. Sherbro and Bonthe Island

Sherbro Island, also called Bonthe Island, is the biggest island in Sierra Leone, located in the southern part of the country and separated from the mainland by the Sherbro River.

One of its main attractions is the coastal town of Bonthe, a former prosperous trading post that was frequented during the British colonial era for the slave trade. Visitors can witness remnants of its past through the decaying colonial-style villas, traditional Krio board houses, and the rusting remains of some wrecked ships.