Introducing Liberia

Bomi Lake © Wikimedia Commons

*Liberia is one of three countries at the heart of the Ebola outbreak currently causing serious alarm in West Africa. Travellers are advised to familiarise themselves with the disease and current health and travel advice for the country before travelling to Liberia. Some travel restrictions may be in place due to the Ebola outbreak.

One of the poorest nations in Africa, and only recently emerging from a bloody civil war in which 300,000 of its people died, Liberia is a land boasting 350 miles (563 km) of tropical beaches juxtaposed by pristine wildernesses and verdant rainforests. It may be on the mend under the highly regarded President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, re-elected in peaceful elections in 2011, but sadly travel to Liberia is currently not recommended due to the political situation and lack of infrastructure. Travel experts like the UK Foreign Office advise against all travel to certain areas of the country.

Originally founded as a refuge for liberated American slaves, this struggling country is located just north of the equator on the western bulge of Africa, and there is still much evidence of its onetime link to the US. The capital of Monrovia is named after the fifth President of the United States, James Monroe, and the country's flag closely resembles the American flag.

There are several worthwhile attractions outside of the dilapidated capital, Monrovia. The city of Buchanan offers breathtaking beaches, a modest selection of restaurants and a handful of guesthouses. A day trip to Robertsport is a must; here visitors can take a peek into the cultural history of Liberia and relax on some of the cleanest and most beautiful beaches in the country. A tent camp for those wishing to spend the night on the beach has been set up by a group of South Africans while the UN also offers accommodation on a first-come basis.

Liberia's key attraction is the Sapo National Park, the largest untouched tract of rainforest in Western Africa, incorporating the Nimba Mountains, which are abundant in spectacular wildlife such as elephants, leopards, buffalo, pygmy hippos and monkeys. Game viewing by taking a boating trip along the Sinoe River is a popular activity.

Foreigners are advised to travel only in an organised tour and never venture out alone. Gangs of former combatants are known to walk around the poorer areas of Monrovia while women should prepare themselves for plenty of unwanted attention and marriage proposals from local men. Health care facilities are sparse and diseases such as typhoid and malaria are very common. Travellers are advised to take care with their personal hygiene, as there are many health risks involved in everyday situations.

Although it is not a popular tourist destination right now, when the political turmoil clears Liberia is sure to be near the top of the list of West African destinations to visit due to its natural splendour and off-the-beaten-track allure.

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