Sierra Leone is a beautiful African nation in the southwestern part of the continent known for its complex history and beautiful people. Beyond that, there are many interesting facts about Sierra Leone that are worth knowing.
Common Facts About Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone, officially the “Republic of Sierra Leone,” has an estimated population of 8.41 million people. Although Sierra Leone is not known to be a popular tourist destination, this country is one of the rare gems the African continent has to offer.
Here are some fun Sierra Leone facts that will offer you a glimpse of the country’s history and culture.
Several countries in Africa are prone to armed conflicts and civil/social unrest. Always double check the latest situations from both your government and the local government advisories.
Historical Facts About Sierra Leone
The Real Freetown
You must have heard the phrase, “Nothing is free,” even in Freetown. Well, as much as there is an element of truth in that statement, its story is quite different in Freetown, Sierra Leone. That is one interesting fact about Sierra Leone.
In 1792, Lieutenant John Clarkson established Freetown as a refuge for freed slaves. You can now see why the Capital of Sierra Leone is the real Freetown. At the time, present-day Freetown was the “Province of Freedom.” It was a stop-spot where formerly enslaved people landed to settle and start afresh or travel back to their homeland.
It sounded good, but it wasn’t all rosy for the region’s first settlers. The first troop of freed slaves (about 500 people) arrived from Britain, but their settlement plan was unsuccessful. Many of them died due to various diseases, while some died as a result of tribal conflicts, and only a few survived.
The second wave of freed slaves (1200 people) from Nova scotia achieved more success. They were able to build a settlement in Freetown. As many more enslaved people were being freed from various parts of the world, they found their settlement in Sierra Leone.
In 1808, the British took the reign of present-day Sierra Leone. They named it British Sierra Leone. The British built the first ever western-style university of West Africa in Sierra Leone, Fourah Bay College.
As they ruled Sierra Leon from 1808 to 1961, the country was developed as a British educational center. It attracted students from all around the African continent.
Sierra Leone’s Independence
Did you know Sierra Leone was one of the first countries to gain independence in the African continent?
It separated from the British in 1991 under a one-state party system and automatically became a member of the commonwealth nation upon independence. The national day is on the 27th of April.
However, the year following the country’s independence was full of trouble and turmoil, politically, economically, and in every aspect of the country.
Useful Facts About Sierra Leone For Tourists
If you love hiking, this mountain in Sierra Leone might be perfect for you. Also known as “Loma Mansa,” Mount Bintumani is the highest point in Sierra Leone and the Loma Mountains Range. It stands at an elevation of 1945 meters above sea level.
This is a popular point for experienced hikers as reaching the summit can be challenging and requires fitness preparation. However, as you get to the top, the picturesque landscape view makes it all worthwhile.
Beaches In Sierra Leone
Did you know that some of the finest beaches in Africa can be found in Sierra Leone? It is known for having fine sandy shores and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.
John Obey beach and Bureh Beach are two of the most popular surfing destinations in the country, while Number Two Beach is a good spot to take a dip and sunbathe during the hot season.
These are not the only beaches in Sierra Leone – Huntington, Lakka, and Tokeh are other popular beaches where you can unwind and enjoy the beautiful ocean views of Sierra Leone.
Of the many beautiful islands in Sierra Leone, Turtle Island stands out the most. Accessible by boat from Shebro Island, these are eight small islands in the Atlantic Ocean. They were named after the green turtles that used to nest in the area.
Although turtles inhabiting the island have declined since then, you can still enjoy a wide range of marine and bird species while exploring the natural beauty.
Wildlife In Sierra Leone
Because of Sierra Leone’s geography, the country hosts diverse wildlife. You can find rare and endangered species in the country, such as buffalos, lions, hippos, and elephants. There is also a wide variety of birds in the country; it’s a birdwatcher’s paradise.
Sierra Leone is also home to at least 99 species of fish in the marine region, over 140 species of mammals, 30 amphibians, and 65 reptile species. Sadly, the wildlife in Sierra Leone is diminishing by the day due to several factors like deforestation, overfishing, and habitat loss.
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Another fact about Sierra Leone is that it houses a large population of chimpanzees. The Tacuagama Chimpanzee sanctuary in Sierra Leone was founded in 1995 and is one of the largest chimpanzee sanctuaries in West Africa.
Spanning across 100 acres in the Western Nation Park, it houses more than 100 of the estimated 5,500 western chimpanzees in the country.
Bala Amarasekaran started the sanctuary to protect and rehabilitate abused, orphaned and abandoned chimps. You can still observe these chimpanzees as they live in their natural habitats inside protected sanctuary areas.
Cultural Fun Facts Of Sierra Leone
Cultural Diversity In Sierra Leone
Although Sierra Leone is a small country, there are many ethnic groups, making it a very diverse. This can be attributed to many formerly enslaved people arriving in Freetown after the Transatlantic slave trade was abolished.
There are over 15 ethnic groups with distinct cultures and languages in Sierra Leone. The Mende and Temne people are the most popular and influential ethnic groups in Sierra Leone.
Languages In Sierra Leone
The British colonized Sierra Leone and granted her independence. With that, it should come as no surprise that the official language in the country is English.
However, English is just one of many languages spoken in the country. The locally recognized language is Krio. And due to the many ethnic groups in the country, many different languages such as Mende, Temne, and Limba are also used in Sierra Leone
Greetings In Sierra Leone
Due to the many cultures in the country, one of the interesting facts about Sierra Leone is the different ways that each tribe uses to exchange pleasantries.
For example, in the Mende tribe, they rub the chin of the other person as a form of greeting. On the other hand, the Kanuri tribe shake their fist at the chin level and say “Wooshay,” which means hello.
The general language local language common to all ethnic groups in the country is Krio.
Few things you need to remember as common phrases are by saying, “Gud mornin. How u deh?” which means “Good morning! How are you?” or maybe saying “Ah gladi fo meet yu,” or “I’m glad to meet you!”
Cassava Leaf Stew The National Dish
Sierra Leonean cuisine has many delicious delicacies; rice beans, cassava, yam, and stew are some of the constant foods in Sierra Leone cuisine.
A must try its national dish, called the cassava leaf stew. It is made with cassava leaf, simmered in meat, usually chicken, beef, or fish, then cooked with different seasonings and spices to add flavor.
The cassava stew is enjoyed with boiled rice, jollof rice, and akara (beans cake).
Inclusive And Tolerant Nation
You should also know about the diverse religion in Sierra Leone. Over 78%o of the country’s population are Muslims. There are at least 22% of Christians in the country.
It is safe to say it is a Muslim-dominant country, but here is an interesting cultural fact about Sierra Leone; unlike other countries where celebrations are strictly religion based, that story is unique.
Both the Christian and Muslim festivals are celebrated collectively. The country does not impose strict religious constraints on its citizens, so Muslims and Christians celebrate Christmas, Eid al-Fitr, Easter, and Eid al-Adha.
Here, you can choose and practice whatever religion aligns with you best. There has barely been any conflict arising due to conflicting religious beliefs.
Football The National Sport
Like in many African countries, football is also the national sport in Sierra Leone. The men’s national team is nicknamed “Leone Stars.”
The team is still waiting for its FIFA world cup debut; however, it has participated on the continental level qualifying for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Finals in 1994 and 1996. In both appearances, they’ve only won one game – their opening match against Burkina Faso (another African Country).
You might see young children and adults playing football in the streets; soccer is not the only sport in Sierra Leone. Basketball, cricket, scuba diving, and fishing are some of the many sports the country enjoys.
Simple Sierra Leone Facts For Kids
Freetown is a coastal city in the heart of Sierra Leone. It is also the largest city and capital of the country.
Freetown has a total land area of around 81 square km and an elevation of 26 meters. This city houses a significant portion of the country’s population, with at least 1.5 million people residing there.
The official currency of Sierra Leone is Leone or “SLL.” The money is subdivided into 100 cents. However, Leone in coins is minted in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20.
Citizens Of Sierra Leone
A Sierra Leonean citizen is called a Sierra Leonean, and a group is called Sierra Leoneans.
Sierra Leoneans have an abbreviation for their country. So, if you ever visit the country, and your guide or anyone you meet says “Salone,” don’t be alarmed; know they are referring to Sierra Leone, in Krio. Another fun fact about Sierra Leone to remember!
Geographical Facts About Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is one of the smallest countries in West Africa. It has a total land area of 77, 740 square km. Interestingly, this is three times bigger than Wales in the United Kingdom.
Sierra Leone Coastline
Sierra Leone is one of the countries with a decent coastline on the African continent. With its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, it is no surprise to find many beautiful beaches in the country.
Climate In Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone has a tropical climate with hot and humid weather in coastal regions. In the inland areas, they have a temperate climate.
If you’re already planning this trip, remember that wet seasons usually fall from May to October. Dry seasons start from November to April. Wear comfortable summer clothes as the climate here is generally warm and humid.
Sierra Leone Landscape
Another significant fact about Sierra Leone is its beautiful and diverse landscape, making it one of the countries where you can enjoy nature at its best.
It houses almost every kind of ecosystem. The landscape in Sierra Leone includes flat coastal regions, lowland rainforests, mangrove swamps, mountain forests, marine ecosystems, and good arable land. At least 70% of the land area in the country is arable.
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Other Interesting Facts About Sierra Leone
The Name Sierra Leone
In 1462, the Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra sailed along the West African Coast and was impressed with the mesmerizing landscapes he saw.
He saw some beautiful mountains along his view from the boat and had to call the country “Serra Leoa,” which means Lion Mountains. Since then, the name has stayed and was eventually anglicized to “Sierra Leone.”
Agriculture In Sierra Leone
Agriculture plays a vital role in the economy of Sierra Leone. The country’s agricultural sector employs almost 60% of the country’s population, accounting for over 40% of the country’s GDP.
Some of the major crops produced in Sierra Leone include rice, cassava, and, secondarily, palm oil. The country’s major cash products are coffee beans and coffee.
While the country is also blessed with natural resources like diamonds, gold, iron ore, platinum, and columbite, it continues to face significant challenges in developing its industries.
The Giant Cotton Tree
The cotton tree, also known as the Kapok tree in Freetown, is a significant landmark in the country’s history and culture, estimated to be 200 years old.
Many stories claimed that when the enslaved people landed in Freetown, they walked from the port straight to this Cotton Tree. Under this impressive tree, they prayed, sang hymns, and hosted a thanksgiving service for their ancestors.
Make sure not to miss out on this protected heritage site, as this tree is an integral part of the country’s history; it even appears on the country’s currency.
Sierra Leone Flag
Like every other flag, the flag of Sierra Leone has great significance to the country’s people. The flag of Sierra Leone is a tri-color flag featuring equal horizontal bands of green, white, and blue.
Green represents agriculture and the Mountains in Sierra Leone, while white represents unity and justice. The blue represents the body of water and the country’s aspiration to contribute to world peace through its natural harbor.
Discovering More Fun Facts About Sierra Leone
While these are some of the most interesting facts about Sierra Leone, there is a lot more to discover. This is a country filled with rich culture, not to mention its picturesque landscapes and opportunities for adventure. Although it is not the easiest destination to visit, there is still plenty worth knowing about.