A couple days ago I allowed myself to be taken on VisitSierraLeone.org’s yearly Banana Island Tour. A quick ride through town with about 25 holiday makers, moms, and young Sierra Leoneans and we arrived at Kent, one of the many fishing villages on the Freetown peninsular. Then a shaky start on a canoe,and we were out to calm waters that seperate Banana island from the mainland. In the distance, I could see the outline of dozens of fishermen alone in their boats calmly awaiting the days catch. We boat people share stories of Sierra Leone’s history: “how did that Bai Bureh song go?” So we sang.
We arrived on the island 25mins after departure as promised, to be welcomed by local tour guides running the Banana Island Chalets guest house. There were small groups of foreign tourists sitted at tables, with cold bottles of the local star beer, and novel for company. The expression on their faces told me we had interrupted their solitude.
We were led through and around a village of 150 residents, of mostly the very old and very young. After the first Portguese explorers who built churches and left behind a well put together by oyster shells and rail tracks Banana Island was soon transformed into a slave port, a departure point for many sherbro rice cultivators sent to the carolinas. Much of the historical artifacts and remains have crumbled to a trace held together by the local Ministry of Tourism guides (so this is not a trip for those seeking for the Elmina or Goree experience).
However, you will find solace in the quiet, peaceful calm of island life of lobster, swimming, and hammocks, an escape from the madness of Freetown.