Sierra Leone’s Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary can be visited on a day trip from the capital Freetown, but we opted to stay overnight in one of the six eco lodges.
The perfunctory welcome simply asked what time we wanted dinner and breakfast, when it would have been helpful to know more about the solar generated power, the lack of sockets in rooms (charging facilities were available in the dining area), and Wi-Fi (available when the generator was on, which appeared to be from 2pm to 5pm and 8am to 10am).
Our lodge, Muma Lucy, the newest and therefore the furthest away, required negotiating a path with lots of loose gravel, branches, steps and stones. Whilst this wasn’t too bad during the day, in the evening it wasn’t well lit, and our head torches were essential.
Each lodge is named after a chimpanzee and Mumma Lucy, was a treehouse loft. The ground floor had a small kitchen with gas stove, basic cutlery and crockery, a dining table and two chairs. Off the kitchen was the bathroom with loo, basin and shower (cold water only) and no fripperies like a hairdryer. Fortunately, there was also no mirror, so I couldn’t see the state of my hair.
Up a narrow spiral staircase of eleven open steps was the bedroom, with sofa, double bed and bedside tables.
Although a mosquito net was twisted up above the bed, we decided against unfurling it as it looked a little complicated. The bed was firm, and they could have been more generous with the pillows, which were on the small side and encased in floral blue fleecy cases. This made us think about our childhood when winter flannelette sheets were changed for cotton ones in summer. There was no duvet inside the duvet cover, but fortunately it was warm during the night. Attractive African inspired décor including weavings, wooden masks and raffia objects adorned the walls.
Bearing in mind the position of the bathroom and bedroom, a bucket created an ‘ensuite’ upstairs which avoided negotiating the spiral staircase in the middle of the night.
There were two areas for sitting out: a ground floor terrace, and a balcony off the bedroom overlooking the rainforest treetops. Unfortunately during the afternoon, the noise of the generator marred the peace and quiet.
There were three doors to the lodge: the main one and one leading onto each balcony. All had metal grills and difficult locks with big metal bolts that had to be pushed into place.
During our stay we had a breakfast, lunch and dinner and as we discovered, the kitchen is located some distance from the dining area resulting in slow service.
At our arrival lunch, we were presented with two casseroles: one with rice and the other with a potato leaf curry with vegetables. It was pretty tasty, but there was a huge volume.
Dinner was similarly large, but as it was served in tureens which we helped ourselves from, hopefully leftovers were reused. A lettuce and cucumber salad starter was excellent with fresh ingredients and a tasty dressing. Two legs of rather over barbecued blackened chicken were accompanied by rice, chips, butternut squash curry and mixed vegetables in a light sauce whilst a bowl of refreshing chopped papaya finished our meal. As the national Star beer had run out, we tried the alternative Mutzig and estimated how many we thought we would drink at the beginning of the meal, because of the slow service.
Despite ordering breakfast for 8am, we waited until 8.25am, but it was worth the wait – two warm, long baguettes and a thin omelette cut into quarters, a bowl of salad and another of chopped watermelon. You could make your own tea and coffee from a table, but only powdered milk was available.
Credit cards are not accepted, and bills can only be paid by some sort of local wire transfer which we didn’t understand, the local currency, Leone, or $50 or €50 bills.
Basic is probably an understatement, and whilst it was interesting, there are no additional behind the scenes experiences that encourage overnight visitors. With hindsight, we could have made the day trip from the comfort of a Freetown hotel. If you do decide to stay, I’d recommend one of the lodges nearer the dining area which are all on one floor.