From the soaring peaks of the Loma Mountains of the north, to the palm-fringed beaches of the south, to the wildlife-rich forest reserves of the east; Sierra Leone is a land of surprising beauty. Freetown, the laid-back capital, is home to some of West Africa’s finest beaches. Lakka Beach and No. 2 River Beach are both within 20-minute drives of the centre, offering top facilities to match the quality of the scenery. But for somewhere truly off the beaten path, make the short hop across to Banana Island, where you’ll likely have a secluded stretch of sand all to yourself. Venture inland, and you’ll soon discover another side to Sierra Leone. Climb the summit of Mount Bintumani – the highest point on the continent west of Cameroon – to take in the sweeping views, track chimpanzees and elephants in the Kangari Hills, or watch the elusive pygmy hippo wallow in the Moa River from the shores of Tiwai Island. All this natural beauty is reason enough to visit Sierra Leone, but its greatest asset are the warm and friendly locals who will always welcome visitors with a smile. Most accommodation, including hotels and guesthouses, is strung along the coast, around Freetown and towards Banana Island. There are some lodges available to rent near the forest reserves.