| | | |

How To Visit The Banana Islands In Sierra Leone: Guide, Activities & Tips

If you’re heading to Sierra Leone one place you have to visit is the Banana Islands. There’s three islands but it’s the biggest that gives the group its namesake. Banana Island is easily accessed from the mainland by boat.

It’s a wonderful, peaceful place to visit. We spent one night but actually, we could have spent much longer relaxing in the hammocks, taking refreshing dips in the ocean and having fun with the water sport activities offered at our guesthouse. 

One night in the Banana Islands wasn’t enough! 

In this guide, I’m sharing with you exactly how to get to the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone, where to stay, the activities on offer and how much you should budget.

Abi laying in the hammock at the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone
Lounging on a beach at Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse

Short on time? How to get to the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone at a glance

  • Travel from Freetown to Kent Beach
  • Boat transfer from Kent Beach to Banana Island
  • Stay at Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse
  • Enjoy snorkelling, kayaking, beach, and wildlife tours. 
  • Cost for 2 peps/ 2 nights is est. 4,100 Le.

*I stayed in the Banana Islands on a sponsored trip with Banana Island Sierra Leone at Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse: however, all opinions are my own. 

How to get to the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone

The fishing boat at Kent Beach, to take us to the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone
Local fishing boat at Kent Beach

First of all, you’ll need to get to Kent Beach, this is where the boats leave from to take passengers to the Banana Islands. 

To get to Kent Beach, you can arrange transport through Banana Islands Sierra Leone (website) or if you want to arrange transport yourself you can jump in a tuk-tuk for about 400 from Freetown. The journey takes about one hour and it’s relatively comfortable. We travelled in a tuk-tuk around Sierra Leone; it can comfortably fit three people with space for small luggage. 

Kent Beach, Sierra Leone
Kent Beach, Sierra Leone

You can also use a taxi car. This journey will cost a little more but it fits four people. However, I like travelling in the tuk-tuk as it’s more traditional and a slight novelty, plus the breeze is great!

Pro tip >> If you want to travel by tuk-tuk contact our driver Alhaji ( +232 7420253) he is a good guy and will get you around Freetown without any issues and make sure you’re safe. Just refer to me (Abigail Dalton) when you contact him.

In Sierra Leone (Salone as it’s often referred to by locals) the tuk-tuk is called a kay kay. It’s also known as a rickshaw depending where you travel. But, it’s all the same vehicle. 

Another thing to keep in mind is the police checks/road blocks. You will pass a few on your way to Kent Beach and you might get stopped. If you use our driver he can usually get you moving without any problems; however, sometimes you might have to give a small thing so they allow you to pass through, how much depends on the officer but it’s usually no more than 20 leones per vehicle. 50 leones is the max. 

Pro tip >> If you want to learn more about the “small thing”, the money and how it works in Sierra Leone, I’ve got a guide coming soon !

How to get from Kent Beach to the Banana Islands

Abi crossing over to The Banana Islands on a local canoe/fishing boat
Crossing over to the Banana Islands, Sierra Leone

There are two ways to do this, you can either organise the boat through Banana Island Sierra Leone which is more straightforward and how I recommend you to do it. Or you can make the trip yourself using the local fishing boats.

We did the second option but unless you’re okay with negotiating it can get a little hairy. The reason we did it this way was for two reasons; ultimately, it’s my preference to spread the money around a bit more but also because we wanted to experience the fishing boats. 

King Wharf at the Banana Islands, Sierra Leone
King Wharf.

However, Banana Island Sierra Leone have their own boat and will run you between Kent Beach and the islands, which is much easier. 

The price is the same with either option. You’ll need to budget 350 leones per group for a one way trip, max four people. (There’s also a 10 leones pp charge to enter Kent beach). Keep in mind the guesthouse boat transfer ends at 3:30pm.

If you choose to go over on a fishing boat, they are pretty rugged, basically a wooden canoe. Ours was filling with water and the young lad was constantly bailing the water out. But it’s the local way to travel and it’s quite fun!

Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse boat
Dalton’s private boat

Negotiations are key to a successful trip. We agreed a price the day before as we made a quick stop in Kent on our return from visiting a friend; you won’t need to do this. However, by the morning, the price had changed and there was a slight kerfuffle before our original price returned. Ultimately it was the threat of calling up Greg (our contact at Dalton’s Guesthouse) to send their boat for the same price. 

This changing of price is common in Sierra Leone; however, stand by your guns otherwise you’ll find your visit a very expensive trip! 

Pro tip >> Only ever pay at the end of the service; whether it’s a boat or tuk-tuk ride. And don’t pay for something you haven’t yet done. For example, the boys we arranged the fishing boat with wanted us to pay upfront for both journeys; going and coming. When we said we’d pay our return trip the next day they put the price up. This is when we almost called the guesthouse to send their boat. 

Anyways, it’s all part of the experience and I enjoy the bartering, so for me it’s all quite fun. Having lots of patience is important and never get annoyed, either, it’s just how things are.

Read next>> Why is Sierra Leone worth visiting? Find out why I love this country so much and the reasons for visiting!

Where To Stay On Sierra Leone’s Banana Islands

The best hostel on the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone

I recommend staying at Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse as this is where we stayed and it was great; however, there are a couple more accommodations on the island. 

As for Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse, it’s basic accommodation but with a great atmosphere. You’ll find it busy on the weekends but it’s likely you’ll have the place more or less to yourself during the week. 

A fish and rice dish at the Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse, Sierra Leone
Delicious food is served at the Guesthouse!

The guesthouse utilisers solar power and has it’s own water well, which, by the stories, was quite an achievement since the bedrock is pure basalt and extremely hard to dig through. 

The solar power allows you to charge electronics, have light 24/7, cold beers, drinks and power the bedroom fans (for the fanned rooms). The well provides clean, fresh water for washing and cooking. It’s also possible to drink, although I’m not sure it’s offered as drinking water, you’ll be given bottled water for sure. 

The standard room at Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse, Sierra Leone
The standard bedroom.

As for the communal area, it’s a large open space with dining tables, a bar, hammocks and seating areas ideal for long siestas and evening gatherings. It’s all directly on the beach, you couldn’t get closer if you tried, which means there’s usually a refreshing sea breeze to cool you down in the evenings. 

The communal areas at Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse, Sierra Leone
The communal dining area

All in all, if you’re happy with simple accommodation and want to stay a few nights on one of the best islands in Sierra Leone, Dalton’s Guesthouse is going to be perfect.

Directions to Daltons Guesthouse

If you’ve come over on the local boat, you’ll find it sometimes drops you at King Wharf which is about a 5-minute walk through the village of Dublin and along jungle paths. If you catch the guesthouse’s “official” boat it will drop you directly out the front of the guesthouse. 

It’s really simple to get to the guesthouse, and if you get confused just ask someone as there are always plenty people around. Otherwise once you depart the canoe, walk straight up into the jungle past the abandoned building and along a small dirt track. 

Directions to Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse, Sierra Leone

You will soon arrive at Dublin playing grounds, community centre and medical centre. There’s a huge sign for Abbot St. to the right, follow it along the trail.

Next you’ll pass the village water well, dug in 1813 it provides water to the village throughout the year. Keep on walking straight until you reach a large junction/cross path and take a right, from here you’ll be at the guest house in no time. 

The walk through the village is a nice experience, but you could get the captain to drop you directly at Dalton’s Guesthouse, we got picked up from there. They prefer to drop you at King Wharf as to save a little money on petrol. 

Path the the Guesthouse through the Island
Path to the Guesthouse through the trees

Activities With Banana Island Excursions at Dalton’s Guesthouse

“The aim of Banana Island Excursions is to capture the interest of travellers who want to explore the island through experience based activities”.

When I asked Greg about what makes Dalton’s Guesthouse worth visiting over the other activity based companies in Sierra Leone or accommodations on the island, he explained that they are one of the only places in not only Sierra Leone but West Africa to offer such a diverse range of activities. 

And it’s true, you’ll be amazed at what you can do!

Dublin village at the banana island in Sierra Leone
The well in Dublin village at the Banana Islands

Water Based Activities

I mean, it is an island after all, so you’d expect water activities but the range here is huge. There’s so much to do that you’ll need a few days to feel like you’ve made full use of the facilities; we could have easily stayed longer. 

The main activities with Banana Island Excursions include snorkelling and scuba diving, kayaking, SUP bording, sport fishing and tubing.

During the months of August through October the Banana Islands are in a prime location to witness the migration of the whales and their newly born calves north along the Sierra Leone coast. 

There’s also a small reef and a 1747 shipwreck complete with canons and it’s own ecosystem to visit for any divers out there. If you don’t have your dive certificate you can have a go at Discover Scuba with a certified guide. 

Here’s some more information on water sport activities offered by Banana Island Excursions. (Keep in mind prices are subject to change so check with them before booking travel).

  • Scenic boat ride 600 Le.
  • Snorkeling 1,000 Le. per group of 2, then 500 per person.
  • Scuba diving for beginners (Padi DSD program) 3,000 Le.
  • Scuba dive for certified diver 1000 Le.
  • Watersports (ringos, banana, kneeboard, combi ski, monoski, wake board, windsurfing,) 1,000 Le. per ride
  • SUP, kayak 500 Le.
  • Sport-fishing 1,000 per group of 2 ,then 500 per person
  • Whale watching trips (when in season) 2,000 Le. per group

Adrenaline watersports level 1 and 2 don’t require skill. For example, tubbing, kayaking, snorkelling, SUP boarding and knee boarding. Level 3 + and activities such as wakeboarding, mono skiing, combi skiing and windsurfing require experience.

All activities come with a trained guide to ensure your safety. In the 17 years the company has been operational, there have been no accidents.

Land Based Activities 

Dublin village on the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone
Dublin village at the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone

As for the land activities, there are a number of interesting options. I went on the historical tour which last about an hour and follows jungle trails to significant points of interest.

Since the Banana Islands we’re used as a base for holding slaves, the majority of this activity is focused around the buildings, defense and remaining sites which were used during this period. 

There are other activities, such as guides forest walks, wildlife tours and bird watching. There is a rare species of owl living in the Banana Islands, and also bats, other small mammals and reptiles, such as the West African monitor lizard. 

Here’s some more information on the land based activities offered by Banana Island Excursions. (Keep in mind prices are subject to change so check with them before booking travel

  • Guided forest walk 180 Le.
  • Historical tour 100 Le. per group

Island Adventures

Hammock on the beach in Sierra Leone, the Banana Islands
My favourite place to chill!

The final type of activity offered by Banana Island Excursions is a visit to the Turtle Islands. The Turtle Islands are a group of tropical islands off the Sierra Leonean coast and idyllic to visit. 

On a previous trip to Sierra Leone we visited one of the Turtle Islands and spent the night on the beach under the stars, it was a once in a lifetime experience. We visited the village, made friends with the locals and explored the mangroves, beaches and shoreline.

With the Banana Island Excursions you’ll be able to have a similar experience. The tour provides one to three night excursions, a guide, meals, tents, water and activities. 

Visiting the Turtle Islands was one of my favourite things to do in Sierra Leone, and if you get the opportunity I definitely recommend you visit. 

Here’s some more information on the Turtle Island trip offered by Banana Island Excursions. (Keep in mind prices are subject to change so check with them before booking travel)

  • Turtle Islands excursion 1-3 days 20,000 Le. per group

Budgeting For Your Trip To The Banana Islands In Sierra Leone

Sunset over the water on the Banana Islands
Sunset time on the Banana Islands – it was beautiful.

Your budget is going to depend on the number of days and activities you do. However, Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse is a budget friendly accommodation and the Banana Islands Sierra Leone offer reasonable prices, so your visit is going to be much cheaper than you think! 

For a 2-night trip including three activities, you should budget in the region of 4,100 leones (under $200!)

Let’s take a closer look at the breakdown:

  • Transport to Kent Beach 400 leones 
  • Boat transfer 700 leones x group (4)
  • Accommodation per night for 2 standard room – includes 2 meals – 1,300 leones
  • Historic tour 100 leones x 1 person
  • Snorkeling 1,000 leones x 2 people
  • Scenic boat trip 600 leones x 1 group (4)

*At the time of writing, the exchange rate is around 24 leones per USA $.

Pro tip >> For tipping guides and staff, I recommend 20 to 40 leones. For any other small things 5 to 10 Le. is appreciated. That said, tipping is at your discretion; however, it is customary to tip small amounts in Sierra Leone if anyone helps you in any way. If you prefer not to tip, don’t accept help from anyone. Example, carry your bags.

What To Pack For Your Trip 

Abi and father crossing the gap between the Banana Islands and Kent beach in Sierra Leone
Dad and me on the way back to the mainland.

When we were there, the Banana Islands were pleasant, temperature wise. Since Dalton’s Banana Guesthouse is directly on the waterfront, there was a lovely breeze. Even the room was cool.

You’re not going to need much in terms of clothing; I stayed in my swimming costume and dress for most of the trip. During the historical tour, I had shorts, a shirt and my hiking boots which I always travel in.

I’ve put some essentials together for you:

  • Sunscreen | Make sure you protect your skin.
  • Water Bottle | We always leave the hotel with our water bottle; it is our favourite.
  • Hiking Boots | I have these boots, and they are the most comfy for all-day walking.
  • Rain Jacket | If you’re visiting during the rainy season, have a waterproof jacket.

Final Thoughts | How to get to the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone

Let me finish this guide with some final last words of our visit to the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone. By now, I think it’s quite obvious that we had a lovely time at Daltons Banana Guesthouse. We were the only ones there during our weekday visit which meant it was very peaceful and relaxing; however, the guesthouse is only small so I doubt the site ever feels crowded. 

The weekends tend to bring more people so if you’re after a little more atmosphere this is the time to go. For us, mid week was great. 

The historical tour I went on was interesting, and my guide was great but keep in mind the sites have been left abandoned with no immediate action to maintain. You’ll find this quite common in Sierra Leone. 

Nevertheless, I recommend visiting the Banana Islands for a few nights, if anything, it’s the perfect place for a relaxing getaway. 

FAQs | Visiting The Banana Islands in Sierra Leone?

How many days do you need?

I recommend at least 2 nights on the Banana Islands: however, there are enough activities to keep you busy for over a week. If you’re happy to just relax by the beach, there’s no reason you couldn’t stay longer. 

How long is the journey to the Banana Islands?

If you’re travelling from Freetown to Kent Beach, you’ll need to set aside about an hour. The boat transfer takes about 20 to 30 minutes. There is usually a wait time at Kent Beach so I’d add another 30 minutes to be safe. In total it should take about 2 hours to get to the Banana Islands from Freetown, Sierra Leone.

What are the other accommodations on the island?

At the time of writing there are two other accommodations on the island: Baffa and Banana Island Gueathouse. You’ll find that places often open and close after a short while. Dalton’s Guesthouse is the oldest remaining and has been there for over 17 years. 

Can I camp on the island?

It is not possible to wild camp on the island. However, Dalton’s Guesthouse does have tents available to stay in and areas to pitch tents.

How safe are the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone?

The Banana islands are an isolated group of three islands off the mainland in Sierra Leone. From our experience, they are very safe in terms of violent crime; however, Sierra Leone is notorious for pickpocketing and theft. I recommend keeping valuable belongings with you at all times and never leave bags unattended. 

That said, the Banana Islands is a small community and it’s unlikely you will have any issues. 

igoa-adventure travel blog
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions shoot me a message.