Hello Mr President….Sierra Leone

Mention visiting Sierra Leone to anyone and initial questions after “Is it safe?!” typically cover blood diamonds, civil war and Ebola.  A reaction which reinforces the fact that Sierra Leone is indeed still far from the tourist trail. img_740228229

A lack of information, infrastructure and fellow travellers; teamed with recent storms and mudslides partially destroying some tourist attractions, does make it a hard destination to explore.  However beaches are plentiful, and in the 1980’s one of Sierra Leone’s featured in the Bounty chocolate bar “taste of paradise” advert.  So perhaps one for the bucket list!

On my first day I managed to meet the President when I was caught in a cordoned off area alone with his security entourage.  We stood together and watched him approach the airport terminal from the mainland in his private boat.  Meanwhile a couple of people quickly laid a threadbare red carpet along the deck.  When the president arrived there was myself and several armed soldiers all standing in line to salute and bid him good morning.  Quite surreal…

A definite highlight was the chimpanzee sanctuary.  It rescues orphaned or enslaved apes and educates them through a staged process to be able to live back in the wild.  Sadly due to continued risk of being captured for a household pet, being poached for meat or killed for alleged medicinal purposes; these endangered chimpanzees remain here in the next best thing – an enormous enclosure with minimal human contact.  Signage before you enter the sanctuary reads “beware of the chimpanzees throwing rocks, they have a very good aim”.  How reassuring!  Thankfully the juvenile chimpanzees were too busy chasing each other to work on their target practice.  I loved watching these intriguing intelligent animals, who just sat contentedly and just watched me back.  I wish I could have stayed longer…bounty

Exasperation came with the money situation.  The maximum ATM withdrawal amount was 400k Sierra Leonean Leone’s, which equates to 40 notes and just US$47.  There are two issues with this; the first being that ATMs rarely have any cash in as everyone extracts the maximum 40 notes, and secondly the cost of daily living for tourists exceeds US$47.  You don’t have to be a mathematician to see that this situation is untenable.

So for those interested in the facts, and why Sierra Leone is indeed safe and worth a visit:

– The civil war started in 1991 and spanned 11 years leaving over 50,000 people dead and millions displaced, at a time when the population was approx. 7million.  And yes, it was partly funded by the greed for diamonds though this is rarely spoken about.

– The Ebola outbreak is thought to have been initially contracted by a family in Guinea through their diet of bats in December 2013.  It quickly spread across the border and left 2,536 dead in Guinea and 3,955 in Sierra Leone.  The survival rate after international aid boosted local medical care was 64%.  It was the most widespread Ebola epidemic ever recorded, and was declared eradicated by the World Health Organisation mid-2016.

– In August 2017 heavy rainfall lead to severe mudslides which killed 1,141 people and displaced a further 3,000 people in the capital, Freetown alone.

Categories: adventure, Africa, beach, culture, wildlife | Leave a comment

All that glistens….The Solomon Islands

When Spanish explorers came across this group of Pacific Islands, they discovered alluvial gold and thought they had found the source of the biblical King Solomon’s wealth.  Hence the name the Solomon Islands was coined.Solomon

I am unsure where to start when writing about my time in the Solomon Islands, as I like to keep my blog positive.  But I was disappointed.  The local people are great, and very down to earth.  But I feel the ideology and greed of the more influential people is exploiting this country instead of building a long-term vision.

*Intensive logging is destroying the countryside, great scathes of woodland is being felled daily.  Dirty brown tracks run through the countryside, and large tankers float off-shore awaiting the next tug boat full of timber.  This industry has undoubtedly driven a significant economic boost for the country but at a cost.

In a similar vein, only a minimal number of shops and companies appear to be owned by locals.  Instead a large flux of predominantly Asian investors are running Honiara’s economy, with locals continuing their less profitable traditional practices of fishing and selling local produce in the cities markets.

Now for some more encouraging and interesting pieces of information about this Pacific country – Hooray!

  • The Solomon Islands has some fantastic snorkelling.  The waters are crystal clear, and there is a multitude of colourful fish.  Shark gracefully glide through the waters close by, the blue starfish are huge and there are even occasional crocodile – not convinced this is a good thing!  Several divers regularly return to this destination.
  • 10% of the population is blonde, this is the highest proportion of any non-European influenced country.  The high incidence of blonde hair is due to a specific protein.
  • One of the local dialects uses the same word for blue and green, the two most prominent colours, but has five different words for “fart”!
  • Shell money is still used on certain islands, although it’s typically more of an offering during wedding ceremonies, rather than your weekly groceries.


* On a more positive note the logging practice is under review and has actually slowed recently.

Categories: adventure, Australia / Pacific, beach | 1 Comment

Destination Melanesia….

It seems the 136th largest country in the World, the Solomon Islands, is barely on the global radar (unless you are a diver).  I will definitely need to do some full on research whilst travelling to find out more about this nation.



I will also need to be on my best behaviour as swearing is illegal.  Interestingly you can be sued by those within earshot and can even be jailed.  Let’s just hope I don’t come across any of their venomous sea snakes or salt water crocodiles whilst snorkelling then!






Categories: adventure, Australia / Pacific, beach | 1 Comment

Two more sleeps till Sulawesi….

…. so that’s two more sleeps till swimming in a lake full of jellyfish.  Just because I can!jellyfish

Sometimes life is full of wow moments, surely this will be another one of them – fingers crossed!


Categories: adventure, Asia, beach, wildlife | 2 Comments

Continually changing times in the Balkans

The Balkans continue to be a volatile region of Europe.  A beautiful area with many qualities to offer tourists whether that be beaches, lakes, culture or history.  But peer under the surface, and not unsurprisingly a bitterness remains.  Plus the uncertainty with Kosovo lingers on…..

  • Take in the renowned Exit music festival in an ancient citadel, Novi Sad (Serbia).  Amazing venue.


  • Now for some history.  In 1992 the city of Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) was surrounded by Serbian and former Yugoslav troops in a siege that lasted almost four years.  Being located in the foothills allowed the opposing forces to have a strong vantage point on the civilian city.  Appallingly 11,000 people were killed and eminent graveyards are a strong reminder of the siege.  But the city has bounced back.  It’s a fantastic place to visit; the people are amazing, the food is tasty and beer cheap.  I just can’t recommend Sarajevo enough.
  • Due to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s fragile status and it’s three divided ethnic groups, it has some unique features:
    • It has three presidents.
    • The design for national flag couldn’t be agreed upon, so it was outsourced to another country.
    • The national anthem words have not been finalised, people hum to the tune.
  • Indulge in a Slovenian horse burger.  OK so I didn’t try one (they weren’t all that cheap!) but here is suppose to be the best place to sample one.
  • Check out the innovative award winning “Museum of Broken Relationships” in Zagreb (Croatia).  It has an interesting array of objects donated by the broken hearted and an explanation as to why the object is relevant to the demise of aforementioned relationship.  It’s funny, sad and shocking.  Definitely worth a visit!

Stunning views

  • Croatia and Montenegro hog the majority of the Balkan coastline.  They play host to  many beautiful towns including the spectacular Dubrovnik and quaint Kotor respectively.  However after a couple of weeks I needed to escape these walled cities.
  • Best remember to set your alarm clock when you have a ferry then plane to catch.  Waking up just after the ferry had left for Venice I had to take on mission impossible to catch my flight.  I paid 120Euro for a taxi from Croatia, through Slovenia to northern Italy.  Then made a dash for the slow train to Venice, hoping to then make the bus connection to the airport.  I arrived with just minutes to spare, having aged some five years in the process.
Categories: beach, culture, Europe, people | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Mozambique live up to the hype?

Sadly no.  It was most disappointing.  I’ve met many a person who’ve raved about this country which boasts swathes of South African coastline.  I personally failed to see what all the excitement was about and the logistics are a total headache. 

  • There is no infrastructure, so I spent days on a bus getting to a beach on a par with Scarborough, Yorkshire.  Now don’t get me wrong I love Scarborough, but I’d never board a bus for two days to get there.
  • A mouse ate my pants. They were a decent pair too, why couldn’t he have chewed through my old ones??  Typical!

Mozambique flag

  • Watch a football match.  I’ve been to some serious matches but the security at this one was intense.  Armed police in bulletproof vests manhandled me through the gated entrance, whilst fierce police dogs pulled at their leashes.  I expected violence, but thankfully none erupted, even though a group of home supporters did a couple of circuits of the stadium carrying a coffin with RIP Zambia on the side.  Outrageous!!  Mozambique played poorly and deserved to lose 2-0.
  • There is a machine gun on their flag.  Random.
  • Ranking right up there with my worst nights sleep ever was staying in a brothel in Tete.  Once again due to a lack of planning and no available accommodation, I had to make the best of a bad situation.  Conditions were horrible, there was no runnning water, no locks on the doors and it was filthy.  Thankfully it was a week night so not much in the way of workers nor clientele, but it remains an experience I don’t wish to revisit.
Categories: Africa, beach, culture | Tags: | Leave a comment

A melting pot of influences to explore in Belize

Heavy influences from relationships with the British and Caribbean nations ensure that Belize is a unique country in Central America.  The food is spicy, people speak Creole and the Queen stares out from their currency.


  • Search for the elusive manatee off the world’s second largest barrier reef.  This endangered animal is one of nature’s slowest most docile creatures.  Sadly it is hunted for its back muscle which is sold in Asia as an apparent aphrodisiac.
Categories: beach, Central America, The Americas, wildlife | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Discover remoteness and the “Survivor” island in Fiji

This Pacific island is a favourite haunt of Australians and New Zealanders alike.  It’s close to home, but rather exotic and intriguing too.  Used as a base for a television series of Survivor shows just how isolated it can be.

  • Sample the traditional brew of kava, a tree root extract mixed with water.  It looked like puddle water served

    It tastes as bad as it looks…

    in a coconut shell, and didn’t taste much better.  Effects are a numb and tingly feeling in your mouth, with a hangover not worthy.

  • Swim in the tepid ocean and keep your eyes peeled for sea snakes.  These waters are the world’s most densely populated when it comes to these creatures, although they are unable to open their jaws wide enough to bite you.  Reassuring?  No, not really!
Categories: Australia / Pacific, beach, wildlife | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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