A tour of Dublin – but not in Ireland

1043 Reviews

Star Travel Rating

4/5

Review type

Destination

Location

Date of travel

January, 2023

Product name

Banana Islands

Product country

Sierra Leone

Product city

Kent

Travelled with

Couple

Reasons for trip

Culture/Sightseeing

Sierra Leone’s Banana Islands comprises of three small islands. The name is not as a result of their delicious bananas, but because, when the Portuguese first saw them, they thought the long shape of the islands resembled a banana.

We stayed for two nights on the largest island, Dublin, at Bafa Resort and during our stay enjoyed a guided tour of the community of Dublin.

Having been discovered initially by the Portuguese, there are still relics from this time, and we passed an old ornate street lamp and lots of bathing birds in the surrounding puddles.

However, the island was later a British slave trading centre, when up to 2,000 slaves per day waited for the ships that would transport them to the west. A track through the forest led to the old slave fortress, now a mound of rocks, and the slave pit where captured escapees were incarcerated. Further signs of its grim past were canons on the edge of the fortress.

Now the island relies on tourism, and as it’s only a 45-minute boat ride from Freetown, it attracts day trippers and wealthy weekenders. However, from the ramshackle state of many buildings, Covid had clearly affected the economy.

The island, with a population of around 800, has a single primary school. The door was open, and several inquisitive children spotted us and ran out, giving us the opportunity to peek in where around 15 children of all ages were being taught in the one room. Outside, an old gas canister had been transformed into the school bell.

We saw the remains of the old Catholic church, and the new white washed St Luke’s church, dedicated in 2011, with the bell from the old church outside. The door was locked, so we contented ourselves with peering through an open window to see the dark wooden pews and the words ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’ written above the table alter. In contrast, the Zion Church was built from red brick, but once again it was locked.

Impressive, large street signs, with English connotations, George Street, Thomas Street, appeared out of keeping with the dirt paths they named.

Passing through a gate with a Beware of the Dog sign, the path led to Big Sand Beach, the largest on the island but unfortunately, a large volume of rubbish from Freetown washes up here. Whilst our resort saw sunrise, this is the place to see the sunset, but we figured the return walk was too far in the dark. We were told the nearby house belonged to the Head Woman, Veronica Sakey, who married a Russian, and there was a skeleton of a huge boat “The Ark”, whose conversion to a floating supermarket had been put on hold due to the invasion of Ukraine.

A short cut took us down through the trees to the main public jetty: we had arrived directly onto the beach at Bafa Resort. Here there was a huge kapok tree, several fishing boats on the beach and others moored offshore. The latter were said to belong to fisherman from another area who would come for a few days, camp on the shore and not return until their boats were full. Walking back up the jetty a large banner proclaimed, ‘Welcome to Dublin, Banana Island – The centre of tourism in Africa’, whilst stones on either side commemorated the 2020 bi-centenary celebration.

The island has the Maternal and Child Health Post, supported by the US Agency for International Development, and we met a nurse who had travelled on the boat with us to the island. Here mosquito nets, vitamin and worming tablets could all be obtained, as well as vaccinations for many diseases, including Covid.

We then returned back to base having had a lovely leisurely 2-hour stroll on reasonable paths. As we had passed a variety of fruit trees, including banana, plantain, mango, and papaya, it seemed appropriate that fruit featured so much on the menus of Bafa Resort.

See also the review of Bafa Resort.

Helen Jackson

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