Imagine you’re travelling on smooth highways, and then get tempted by a dusty turn-off signed Adventure. Well, that turn-off is Guinea. Little known to most of the world, this is a land of surprising beauty; from the rolling mountain plateau of Fouta Djalon to wide Sahelian lands and thick forests. Overland drivers have long been drawn here for the challenge of steering their vehicles over rocks and washed-out paths. Nature lovers lose themselves on long hikes past plunging waterfalls, proud hills and tiny villages; or by tracking chimpanzees through sticky rainforest. But the best thing about Guinea is that almost nobody else bothers to take this turn-off â€“ meaning you’ll likely have the country to yourself.
Îles de Los
A 30-minute boat ride off Conakry, the ÃŽles de Los are a small huddle of palm-fringed islands that tempt with tropical beach dreams. There are three main islands (and a couple of rocky islets) though only two, ÃŽle de Kassa and ÃŽle Room, are kitted-out for visitors. All have beautifully forested, bird-filled interiors that reward some gentle exploration. During the dry season (October to May), the islands are a very popular weekend getaway for expats and well-to-do locals escaping Conakry. However, all’s not perfect here â€“ debris from the mountains of plastic and other rubbish that utterly blankets the Conakry shoreline drifts across to many of the islands beaches in the currents. Even so, a visit here is a hugely welcome relief from the chaos of Conakry.
Green rolling hills, balmy temperatures, forest-filled valleys and gushing waterfalls make the Fouta Djalon region one of West Africa’s most enchanting corners. But this undulating, kilometre-high, plateau isn’t just pleasing to the eye, it’s also superb hiking country, where experienced local guides can take you exploring along a web of walking trails snaking between interesting villages and impressive natural sites.
Conakry doesn’t try to please its guests, and yet, slowly, many are eventually won over by its charms. There aren’t many sights in this dusty (and/or muddy, depending on time of year) mess of crumbling buildings, pollution, rubbish and traffic jams, but there is plenty of buzz. From the pungent fishing port of Boulbinet and the street kitchens of Coronthie to the containers-turned-shops of Taouyah, this city goes about its business noisily and with ingenuity, proud and unruffled by the visitor’s gaze.
Chutes de Kambadaga
The chutes de Kambadaga, around 35km west of Pita, make for a brilliant day out. The waterfalls crash over three separate falls and they’re surrounded by jungle where monkeys and a wealth of colourful birds are common.
You’ll need your own wheels. Head first to Bourouwal TappÃ, a small village on the main road south of Pita, from where it’s a bumpy 17km along a dirt track to the village of Hakkunde Miti. From here put on your hiking boots in preparation for a sweaty, steep 40-minute hike to the waterfalls.
Other Places Of Interest
Centre d'Exposition Artisanal de N'zérékoré
This modern and impressive arts and handicrafts centre allows you to watch craftspeople carving, weaving, hammering and stitching dyed mudcloth, wooden carvings and raffia bags, among other things. If you’re lucky you’ll also get to catch some traditional dancing. There are a few statues and carvings on display as museum pieces.
It’s a little tricky to find but it’s just off the road north out of town surrounded by forest and close to the carwash area.
Parc National du Haut Niger
Covering some 1200 sq km, the Parc National de Haut Niger is one of West Africa’s last significant stands of tropical dry forest and one of the most important protected areas in Guinea. The forest, which is pock marked with areas of tall grassland savanna and run through by the River Niger, has plenty of wildlife including significant numbers of chimpanzees, buffalo, duikers and waterbuck as well as crocodiles and hippos.
However, you would be very lucky indeed to actually see much wildlife thanks to the dense foilage, a general sense of caution of most of the animals and a near total lack of visitor facilities. Dedicated birders though will likely find the forest highly rewarding.
Jardins Auguste Chevalier
Established by a French botanist in 1908 to discover what European and Asian plants would flourish in Guinea, the Jardins Auguste Chevalier offer an enjoyable place to unwind in the shade of huge century-old oaks and forests of bamboo. The gardens are 7km north of Dalaba, just off the Pita road and close to the village of Tinka.