We will be met at Lungi airport from where we will transfer by min-bus and fast-boat to Freetown and our hotel near Lumley beach.
This morning we visit some of the sites of Freetown including the Cotton tree, the Anthropological Museum and a local crafts market. After lunch we head out of town into the forested hills behind Freetown where the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is located. Depending on the state of the road leading up to the sanctuary we may have to walk the final section (about 30mins). Sierra Leone has one of the healthiest chimp populations in West Africa with a 2010 census putting the numbers at 4000 animals living in the wild, double the previous census count. The Tacugama chimps however were rescued either from captivity or as orphaned wild infants and are going through the very lengthy process of gradual rehabilitation. There are different sized enclosures introducing the chimps to increasingly natural and wild environments and we are shown each of these and will meet infant, teenage and adults groups of the primates. Our guide for the tour will be one of the chimps' carers and so he or she will know the personalities of individual animals. Later this afternoon we return to Freetown.
After an early breakfast wel drive north out of town and on one of the country's best (and very recently paved!) roads to Bo, the second city (about 3-4 hours once we are free of Freetown traffic). The drive passes the Peninsular Mountains before the terrain levels off to a large plane interspersed with tiny self-sufficient villages surrounded by crop trees. Time allowing, we'll stop for lunch en route and make a visit to the busy market at Bo. Another 2-3 hours on a smooth, but unpaved road brings us to a village from where we take the short boat ride across the beautiful Moa River to Tiwai Island Wildlife Reserve, our home for the next couple of nights. We should, hopefully, be arriving early enough for a walk in the forest before it gets dark. Late afternoon and early morning are the times when the jungle wildlife is most active and we'll go looking for chimpanzees. Tiwai was the first place chimps were filmed planning their use of tools. They bring flat stones up from the river to the middle of the forest where their favourite nut trees grow to crack the seeds against the roots. The chance of seeing monkeys, including the endangered and colourful Diana and colobus monkeys are good. We will learn about the different bird song and should be able to see some of the eight types of hornbill that this island hosts.
This morning we cross over to Kambama Village to learn about village life, local cuisine and the chieftain structure that still dominates politics (both local and governmental) in Sierra Leone. We will walk to another nearby village enjoying the environment the local villagers call home. After lunch and a bit of relaxing we will board our small boat again and explore the river in search of some of the birds, monkeys and other wildlife that inhabit the area. After the boat safari we head back onto dry land for dinner at the camp.
We head back into the forest this morning in search of Tiwai Island's local residents. We follow our local guide as we make our way across some of the 50kms of tracks to spot wildlife. We return to the mainland and head back towards Bo and on to the town of Makani, known for its tie-dye and batik The landscape changes as we leave the forest for the savannah grasslands which predominate in this region.
This morning we go out of town to visit the Bumbuna Falls, the largest in Sierra Leone. There is the opportunity for bird aficionados to see a number of species endemic to this area. Chimpanzees have also been spotted in this area and whilst sightings here are not that common, we may get lucky. We return to Makeni for a city tour before heading back towards the coast and River no. 2 Beach. Here there is a small community and perhaps West Africa's most beautiful beach: a long, white, fine powder-like sand stretch backed by deep green palm and jungle clad mountains. It was here that Bounty's 'Taste the Paradise' adverts were filmed
Today is a free day. There are a number of options available. Those who want can take a day trip from here to Banana Island, the laid-back island is home to the laid-back community of Dublin. The islands past is still evident with a number of cannons laying in the grass and the ruined remains of what was once a Slave Fort where slaves would be held before boarding a ship to take them across the Atlantic. Another option is to take a boat and walk up to some nearby waterfalls. Birds, monkeys and crocodiles can all be seen along the way. Another trail available is the Guma Valley Nature Trail which takes you out towards the woods of the peninsula. Alternatively, you can always take the day off and just relax on the beach.
After a relaxing morning we head along the Peninsula on a short journey to Sussex Beach and the legendary (for Sierra Leone residents) Franco's. Franco moved to Sierra Leone from Europe and built an Italian style villa on the water's edge to serve as home, restaurant and hotel. He remained in the country during the conflict and would take his family out in his motorboat whenever combatants were close. Now reopened for business, he serves great food and we'll stop for our final lunch (paid locally). We will then continue towards Freetown and cross back to Lungi and the airport in time for our flight home.
The group flight arrives in London in the morning.