Simple Living In Guinea

Our West African adventure now continues with a look at a dirty yet scenic capital, nearby island life and a surprising waterfall — all in the country of Guinea.

After parting ways with Alana in Guinea-Bissau, I flew back to Dakar, Senegal, and from there I flew onward to the country of Guinea, which was formerly colonized by the French and formerly known as French Guinea.

Guinea borders Guinea-Bissau. A direct flight to Conakry, the capital of Guinea, would normally only take about 40 minutes, but the way I traveled took an hour to get to Dakar and another two hours to arrive in Conakry. Despite some complications from the recent coup in the region, I was able to get a visa on arrival with special authorization.

The immigration officials seemed happy to welcome tourists back to the country. after covid and a very recent coup d’etat

Welcome to Conakry

Conakry is located on a fairly large peninsula on the Atlantic coast, which was news to me. The location is quite scenic, with three or four nearby islands that I would visit situated just a couple of kilometers offshore.

There’s also a big dirty city with some surprisingly nice hotels, which is where I went after I got picked up by my cool, interesting tour guide who had rasta-style hair, which I didn’t really expect because Guinea is a predominantly Muslim country with 85% of the population practicing Islam.

There are some nice mosques here, but overall, Guinea is much more relaxed about Islam than I had imagined.

First, we went to get a PCR test, which I would need to leave the country a few days later. Then we went to the hotel, which was pretty nice. It was in a very new building in the best part of Conakry and had security, good standards, and a nice pool. I settled in at the hotel and rested in bed for a bit before going out on a sightseeing tour of the city on foot.

A beautiful blue view from my hotel

Conakry is a big city that can be quite dangerous, but the wealthy parts near the center, such as where my hotel was located, are pretty okay. Even there, it was quite sketchy and a bit run down, but I still did a walking tour with my guide.

A little slice of paradise in a dangerous country 😎

The Walking Tour

We walked along the streets and went to a museum, where I learned a bit about the history, wildlife, and culture of Guinea and Conakry, which was quite interesting to see before getting to know the country myself.

Further inland, extending all the way to the border of Mali, Guinea is quite famous for its mining of bauxite, of which it is the world’s second largest producer, as well as gold, iron, ore, and diamonds, which was developed under colonial rule. I wasn’t able to go there to see it, but from the museum, I got a good impression of what it is like.

Sculpture outside of the national museum

We then walked a bit further to the harbor, where the next morning I would take a boat to a nearby island. For now, we were just visiting the fishermen. I got some nice shots of the fish market and a bunch of boats in the area.

Hustle and bustle around the fish market — not quite the bloodbath that is the Mogadishu fish market

Right next to the fish market, we found the large government palace, which is a famous building. There was also a huge skyscraper there, which apparently houses another high-end hotel.

A bit of modern architecture in Conakry

We walked more around the town, where we saw the presidential palace, which was actually the parliament. There were no photos allowed because the country has a long history of coup attempts.

The most recent coup occurred just a couple of months before our visit, when gunfire in the capital ended with the president (the first to be democratically elected in the history of the country) captured and the government overthrown. There were still a lot of military and tanks on the street, but other than that, the city was pretty peaceful.

A lovely cemetery in a country with a violent past

We walked through the amnesty quarter, which a couple of years before had some kind of African Union meeting there. They built big villas for every African country, which was a visible example of the concentration of extreme wealth in a very poor city.

Some hip new architecture in a very poor country

In the evening, I settled down at the hotel and had a nice dinner. There were quite a few locals and foreigners partying there, so I had some fun before bed. 🥳

More Island Hopping in West Africa

The next morning, we were going to one of the islands off the coast of Conakry in a very basic pirogue, which is a long, thin, wooden boat. We skipped the public boat and opted to take a private one for about 30-40 minutes through the very nice, calm water, which wasn’t stirred by much wind.

A plethora of pirogues

The island was quite big, and we walked around most of the time that we were there. We were picked up later by the pirogue about five or six kilometers away from where we had been dropped off, so we didn’t have to walk back, but we did quite a lot of walking on this island.

A nice, quiet beach on the island

We saw a nice viewpoint which led us to the beach where I chilled in a nice hammock. There was a French restaurant there that had been opened on the beach by a lady who made very good food. I mostly hung out on the nice sandy beach which had a lot of boulders.

Taking a break in a hammock on the beach

From there we went to another island where we chilled and walked around a bit, and also enjoyed the sea. Then we went on a long walk through some local villages to another beach which had some fishing villages situated alongside the water.

One of the fishing villages

We walked along a stone quarry to another beach, which is very popular with the local expat families who work with NGOs, embassies, and so on. Apparently, they always come there on weekends to enjoy their time at the beach with some food and drinks.

The sign was clearly written in English for tourists.

It’s quite a nice beach which had a lot of people swimming in the water. Some expats had private yachts and boats out there, which the local kids tried to swim up to, hoping to take pictures on. They got caught by one of the owners of the beach, who very angrily told them to get off the boats, which we thought was quite funny. 🤣

Kids will be kids!

We took some pictures at the beach, ran around a bit, and had some drinks with my guide and the hotel owner. By then, it was about time to go back to the boat, which we rode for nearly an hour to get all the way back to the fishing pier in Conakry. From there, we returned to the hotel to rest in the late afternoon and have dinner.

View of Conakry from the sea

Chasing Waterfalls

We had only been there for a couple of days, but the next day was already my last, so we went to take a tour outside of Conakry to see a famous waterfall. We drove for about 2.5-3 hours to arrive at Dubreka Waterfall, which was very nice and in a well-developed area.

It was a bit far, but worth the long drive!

The peninsula is very flat, but Guinea actually has some beautiful volcanic landscape right off the coast, so I was looking forward to seeing that too. On our way to the waterfall, we made a few stops, which included a town in the mangroves that also had a beautiful view. We walked around a bit, took some nice pictures of the mangroves and enjoyed the nice scenery.

Some picturesque landscape in the distance

We stopped for lunch along the way at a fast-food restaurant, which was surprisingly good. I had some nice fries with chicken there.

Not too shabby for a fast-food joint

Then we went to the waterfall which was remote but very nice. We were the only tourists there because it was a Monday, and tourists usually visit on the weekends.

It was a great waterfall. We could swim in the river just beneath it, but the river had a very strong current so there was a rope to keep people from drifting away because it could be very dangerous. The current was so strong though that I almost drifted away beneath the rope, so I needed to use a lot of muscles to grab the rope to get to shore again. After that, I just enjoyed the shallow, cool water which was a nice contrast to the hot weather outside. 🥵

Don’t let the serene setting fool you into thinking that it’s safe!

Heading South to Sierra Leone

From there we went back to Conakry to rest. The next day I was going overland directly to Sierra Leone.

I was picked up quite early to drive all the way down south to the border with Sierra Leone. I don’t remember why we did it overland instead of flying, but I think that there were no flights between Guinea and Sierra Leone. The two countries are very different because Guinea was colonized by the French, and Sierra Leone by the British, so the cultures are not so similar, and maybe the countries don’t have the best relationship. I saw something similar in other parts of Africa, where the countries colonized by the same colonial power had flights between them, but you typically had to take overland transit to neighboring states.

The traffic is usually terrible, but it wasn’t so bad in the early morning.

On the ride down south, my guide and I passed many Guinean towns and villages. The roads got very bad as we got farther from Conakry, but eventually, we made it to the border without making many stops. I said goodbye to my Guinean guide and prepared to cross the border.

Along the main road to the southern border

Trouble at the Border

Getting out of Guinea was easy, but entering Sierra Leone was a bit of an adventure, even though I already had my guide with me, who was arguing with the immigration officers. There was apparently some kind of mistake with my papers, and they were arguing and shouting really loudly, so I was really scared about what would happen.

My guide told me later that it was just part of the culture there. But since they were fighting in Creole, their native language, rather than English, I didn’t realize that it was all in jest, and that’s just how people communicate there. I would have never dreamed of shouting at an immigration officer, but that’s exactly what my guide did. In the end, everything was fine and they allowed me to enter.

Apparently they didn’t need to be bribed, just yelled at a bit.

We drove for another two or three hours from the border to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

Driving on our way to Freetown

Check in next time to read about my journey through Sierra Leone followed by Liberia, one of the poorest countries in the world.