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  • Writer's pictureShaun Yeo

The Banana Islands off Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is not really a place most divers would look to dive at. I am a person who likes to travel to, and dive in places less known to people, and off the beaten track, a place that isn’t touristy!

Whilst doing some research looking for a Dive Centre in West Africa, other than finding a Dive Centre in Senegal, which I visited and dived in last month, I found a Dive Centre in Sierra Leone! The Dive Centre was actually on an Island off the main coast of Sierra Leone, so getting there and back was actually an experience in itself, and quite the journey! I had looked up some YouTube videos on diving there, and I could see the visibility and marine life wasn’t the best, but I did not care, it was something different!

Coming from Gibraltar, the easiest option I found was to fly from Malaga, over in Spain, to Casablanca in Morocco, and then get a connection flight to Sierra Leone. The Airport at Sierra Leone is outside the capital; Freetown. The flight landed just before 5AM, after sorting out a VISA, immigration and baggage. I was met by an executive who took me to a bus terminal outside the airport. Because the airport is outside the capital, due to road conditions which would take 3 hours to get to the centre, the quickest way is via sea! A bus picked a few of us up, then took as on an unpaved road to a pier on a beach, 10 minutes away from the airport. Here I boarded a “Sea Coach” a small ferry, which took around 40 minutes to cross a bay, before arriving at a pier at Freetown. Due to the long journey to Freetown, I decided to stay in the capital for the day and night, before heading to the Island the next day.

I picked up a Taxi that next morning which took me to the village of Kent, about an hour’s drive away from my hotel in Freetown. Here I was picked up at the beach by a boat transfer to the Banana Islands. The Dive Centre and my accommodation was on Dublin Island. The boat transfer took about 30 minutes.

At Dublin Island, I was greeted by the owner of the resort, who was the person taking me scuba diving. I was taken to my room, where I quickly setup my underwater camera, and then had a briefing about the diving around the Banana Islands, before heading out for my first dive.

Staying on the Island itself was an experience. A basic African hut, in the middle of the forest, surrounded by wildlife. The beds were covered in mosquito nets, due to the high risk of Malaria in the country. I had brought my own nets too, mosquito repellent and was on Anti-Malaria pills.

I didn’t realise that although it was summer for us here in Gibraltar, it was rainy season in Sierra Leone in August! The rain made the running off mud from the Island, wash into the Sea. This made the visibility whilst diving quite bad. I’ve dived in such bad visibility before, but this was actually the worst I had ever dived in. Nonetheless, I enjoyed searching for marine life to photograph during my 2 full days on the Island. Fish were hard to capture, as due to the bad visibility, I had to get up close enough to see them in the first place, and that scared them off by the time I was too close! My underwater photography setup for the dives were Macro.

Although I had a full week to explore Sierra Leone, and could have spent more time on the Island and scuba diving, I thought two nights in the basic hut was enough for me!

The remaining days, I spent exploring around Freetown, such as the Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

Below is a link to a small video I put together:

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