Abandoned cities, crumbling stelaes, slave trade relicts – Africa really does have some remarkable ruins.Read more...
Sherbro Island - A view from our expert author
With no vehicles and only the sounds of birds to disturb the peace, Sherbro Island is the land that time forgot.
If parts of Sierra Leone seem isolated, Sherbro Island is the land that time forgot. No vehicles, hardly any noise, little but the birds to keep you company. Peculiar vestiges of a bygone age – defunct wrought-iron water hydrants, an old red telephone box, a smattering of tumbledown, long-abandoned shopfronts along the shoreline – only serve to reinforce how worn down and out of the way the island has become. Even Sierra Leoneans don’t want to live there: when a hopeful charity set up an amputee camp on the island following the end of the hostilities, the country’s war-wounded turned their noses up and refused to relocate. Yet the island has a slow, easy charm borne of being about for donkey’s years, with no pretence. A world away from Freetown, it is a wonderful place to spend a couple of lazy hassle-free days, exploring by bicycle, and by boat.
The real secret of the place, at least for the visitor, is not so much the island itself as the waters around it. You haven’t captured the spirit of Sherbro until you have cruised, perused, and meandered its waterways. These rivers, estuaries and the nearby Atlantic are its link to the rest of the world, supporting creaking wooden boats laden with commuters, tangled mangrove swamps and raffia trees, riverside rice plantations, and birds aplenty. Maribou storks and colonies of pelicans nest on the local shores, seabirds drop in, and kingfishers and tropical birds can be seen on inland sorties.