Outamba Kilimi National Park – 3 days
Your experience begins shortly after arrival, with a river-trip of between one and 2.5 hours (depending on the point the animals have chosen to rest) taking you up alongside a pod of around 20 hippos. Here, you can observe the splashes and snorts of these huge animals as they surface, duck under and re-surface again… with perhaps a little trepidation that one isn’t going to pop up too close.
Hippos or no hippos, the journey along the river is, itself, magical, with an extended canoe trip an option for your second day. Reflections of monkeys swinging between overhanging trees, the sight of birds perched on rocky outcrops mid-river and the rhythmic chirpings of nature accompany any paddle downstream. Indeed, nine primate species and around 150 species of birds grace the surrounding forest, including the rare Pallid Harrier migrant.
We rise at dawn the following morning to cross the river and take the two-hour guided round-trip up and down Karangia Hill (The Hill of Learning); the best time to catch sight of birds, monkeys and other wildlife before they take shade in the heat of day, and to witness a spectacular sunrise from the peak. At sunrise, rays of light illuminate the mist-clad canopies of the rolling rainforest and grasslands of OKNP as Mt Outamba and the Kuru Hills – that mark the border with Guinea – slowly come into full-view.
You can then either head back to camp to relax (with fishing rod in hand if desired), embark on an extended canoe trip, orextend the guided hike for an hour or two – or even the rest of the day – deep into rainforest along the Gongollo and Maffaie Trails. This is the real jungle adventure. A cutlass is essential to hack your way through head-high grasses that shoot up beneath towering Cotton and Kola trees, as you track the footprints and sporadic destruction wrought by occasionally-sighted elephants and ‘bush cows’ (buffalo).
Further birdwatching is an option for the following morning before your departure, or, if you prefer, break the journey at Kamakwie to explore local villages and visit artisanal mines on the back of quad bikes.
Transfer from Freetown to Outamba Kilimi National Park
Drive from Freetown to OKNP (6.5hrs), departing 7.30AM. Lunch at Kamakwie, Growth Centre. In the afternoon/evening do a Hippo canoe trip (2.5 hours, max.) before returning to camp for dinner.
Full day at ONKP
In the morning, climb Karangia Hill at daybreak for views across OKNP and chance to see numerous birds and wildlife. (2-2.5hrs) before going back to rest at Camp in the late morning/afternoon.
Depart Outamba Kilimi National Park for Freetown
In the morning rise early and enter the forest for further bird-watching adventure, leaving OKNP by 9AM for Freetown. Optional stop at ‘The White House’ in Kamakwie to take quad bikes out to see local villages and artisanal mining (extra costs apply). Arrive at Freetown early evening.