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Freetown isn’t the best walking city, but it’s certainly doable. A particularly good spot for a long walk or jog is the stretch of flat sand at Lumley Beach (about six kilometers); early morning is a good time to head there. Aside from that, your best bet for physical exertion is dancing in one of Freetown’s many clubs—Aces in Aberdeen is a popular one, particularly for Thursday reggae nights—or splurging on one of the few hotels with a gym or swimming pool. Then get out of the city and head south to the great outdoors.
HIKE, SWIM, PADDLE
The most serious hiking can be done at Sierra Leone’s highest point, Mt. Bintumani (1,948m), in the remote, nationally protected Loma Mountains, northeast of Freetown. It’s said to be a rewarding climb through pristine rainforest, but there’s no straightforward way of arranging a guide in advance of showing up. According to the Bradt guidebook, you should be able to hire a guide/porter at whichever nearby village you start out from (you’ll also have to pay your respects to the village chief).
March 2013 update: Sierra Leone Adventures, a Freetown-based outfitter, now offers guided tours up Mt. Bintumani as well as to a number of other spots around the country. Contact them for rates and availability.
Between dips in the ocean, the Freetown Peninsula, one spectacular beach after another, is perfect for easier hiking excursions. From John Obey beach, a particularly nice short hike along the coast and through a shady forest is to Black Johnson Beach (pictured above); a local guide can be arranged at Tribewanted if you’re staying there (see Where to Stay). Longer hikes (Koba Water to Big Water; uphill to Pickett Point) can also be arranged at Tribewanted, as can the “borrowing” of canoes to paddle around the John Obey lagoon.
Another great place in the country for outdoor exercise is beautiful Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary (Tiwai Island, map), a tropical wildlife sanctuary and community conservation program in the Moa River, about five hours southeast of Freetown. Aside from the draw of its secluded beauty, you come here to experience one of the world’s densest and most diverse populations of primates (chimps and pygmy hippos too, though it’s unlikely you’ll see those), which you’ll see during guided early-morning or late-afternoon forest walks. There’s also a 30-minute self-guided trail accessible from camp, as well as opportunities to hire a guide to hike straight across the forested island (to a stunning beach, we hear).
Gorgeous Bureh beach (above), in the southern part of the Freetown Peninsula, is the only place celebrated for surfer-friendly waves, and that’s mostly in the rainy season (try high tide otherwise). A surf school is being built as we write, but you can still hire a board for now and head out on your own. Reward yourself afterward with a cold beer and these local oysters.
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