Don't Miss Places In Guinea
“We prefer poverty in liberty to wealth in slavery.” said Sekou Toure, who became the first president of an independent Guinea in 1958. Until now, Guinea remains poor, although huge reserves of bauxite and diamonds promise future wealth. Most Guineans are farmers, growing plantains, cassava, and rice. The largest group of people is the Fulani, who live on the dry central plateau. The Malinke live in the savannah of Upper Guinea, and the Susu on the swampy coast. Forest clad mountains rise in the southeast.
People have lived here since prehistoric times. During the Middle Ages, Guinea was ruled by various African empires. Europeans then began to arrive and by the 1600s were shipping Guineans off to the Americas as slaves. The country was governed by France from 1891 until 1958. Sekou Toure’s presidency failed to improve living standards and a military government headed by Colonel Lansana Conte took over when he died in 1984. The first multiparty election was held in 1993 and returned Conte to power.
Here is a rundown of the not to be missed places in Guinea…
Iles de Los (Los Islands)
The Iles de Los is an island located in Conakry, a capital full of colors, scents, music, and beautiful people. To get to this island you must take a canoe that makes a day trip. You will arrive in an island and be pleasantly impressed by the serene beauty of nature and the friendliness of the locals. You can spend time walking around the island, which has no electricity and uses well water for all of their domestic and hygiene needs. The basic facilities are just a few of the difficulties that the poor people face every day and you can read on their faces an aura of peace that is not resignation but serenity.
In this island with few inhabitants, you can find a small hospital which is directed by a single nurse and a midwife. The property is donated by the Japanese and seems to be in good condition and only needs a little maintenance. It is a hospital that does not have in-patient and out-patient activity but plays a substantial (40-50 patients a day mainly children). A quick tour and visit here is like receiving in exchange a life lesson and be impressed by the resiliency of its people.
The Los Islands are located off Conakry and consists of 3 small islands; Kassa, Room and Fotoba. The first 2 have hotels; the last is wilder with a small beach. This is the perfect (and one of the only) place to leave Conakry and relax without having to travel for hours. Count 30 minutes to go to Kassa and 60 minutes to get to Room. The boat departs from Boulbiné, a local fishing port that was recently refurbished. You can rent for your own canoe that can take up to 20 passengers depending on the boat’s model. Kassa has the advantage of being close and where it is ideal to spend the day.
The Bamana hotel is the closest in Conakry, the beach is nice but dirty a bit not maintained well. It is a simple hotel with small individual pens for most with a small fan and sarong as a sheet. A bit so basic (if you absolutely need the air conditioning and hot water, this is not for you), but it has electricity from dusk to 5-6 hours of the morning. On the menu, they serve grilled large fish, monkfish skewers, chicken leg and big shrimps, calamari and fried alocos. The Hotel Le Sogue has sea view room with a balcony on stilts. The exterior of the hotel is nice and well landscaped with plants and flowers. The beach is small but nice. This is the side of the island facing off so the sea is rough (current and small wave). These two hotels are ideal for spending a weekend or a day of quiet and away from the exhaust gases of the city. It is one of the only nice and easily accessible activities in the dry season. For holidays outside Conakry, this is the place that is not too expensive and where you can relish seafood prepared to perfection.
National Museum of Guinea (Muse National)
The National Museum of Guinea or the Musee National is centrally located in the Guinean capital, in the neighborhood of Sandervalia KA.019. The National Museum of Guinea holds a remarkable collection of statues, masks, ancient musical instruments and very interesting villages of models reflecting the daily life of the Guinean farmers and fishermen. The staff took great effort in putting different regions of Guinea, from sea to forest Guinea and Sousou ethnicities, Fulani, and Malinke. It is a pity that it is prohibited, the digital era and photographing the exhibits.
The museum admission is free but each donation enables it to offer its audience a beautiful artistic page about Guinean culture, even if that place can not erase the camp Boiro disaster where so many opposing Guinean which the fire writer Ray Autra said Mamadou Traoré, author of the interpretation of African dreams, suffered in the time of Sekou Toure. This is a place that you have to go if you want to know the past history of Guinea. It serves as a real pilgrimage for anyone who comes and sees the exhibits. This place is worth a visit in a country that lacks its own cultural place. Visit this small but functional national museum in the city center to revisit the recent history and customs of Guinea. See their huts, boats, jobs, heroes, etc.
Niger River Bron
The source of the Niger River lies with Niger River Bron in Faranah, 562 kilometers from Conakry and its mystery has attracted many adventurers and historical expeditions in the past. The Niger River is one of the largest rivers of Africa and flows from north to south-western and passes to the highlands through Mali, Niger, and then to return to Nigeria.
In the northeast plains stretch the savannahs of the Sahel into Mali. To the south are mountains known as the Guinea Highlands. If you want to experience this river cruise you can contact a local tour operator in Conakry upon your arrival to the city.
Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve
The Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve is situated in Guinea and it is officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Area. It is the highest mountain in Africa where you can have the opportunity to see plenty of wild flowers and rare wild animals, chimpanzees who are smart enough to make stone implements to survive in the wild and is the recognized habitat of the endemic warm-blooded frog which can only be found along the lush parts of Guinea. Mount Nimba lies partly in Ivory Coast, Liberia and Guinea and consists of a series of five mountains and containing a wealth of mineral resources like, bauxite, diamond, iron ore and copper.
Since it is officially declared as a protected area, permits needed to be secured from a designated authority who manages the conservation of natural resources and protection of the forest in Guinea. Hire a porter guide who knows well the ins and outs of the forest. Be sure to bring a good camera and enough space in your memory card to capture its rich flora and fauna. This mountain is said to contain more than 40 natural springs and water resources. The reserve is so vast that it covers two states in the African region.
The "Slavenweg Conakry" is a joint project of UNESCO and OMT and is a route that runs along the coast of Conakry via Forecariah, Dubreke to Boke and all the way to Boffa. The road recalls the grim days of the slave trade and is accessible on paved roads, and paths within a river road. Preserved as a historical site, this site once served as the first slave port of Guinean slaves who are bound for America.
Today, the place is considered a formidable landmark with its own museum. It shows the designated holding cells for slaves that were scheduled to leave and board the ship. It also has lots of secret and underground passages that once served as hiding cells and where slaves are punished and hidden from public view. Most of the slaves that work in huge plantations in South Carolina during that era came mostly here from Guinea. Picture taking is allowed and there is an entrance fee leading to the underground dungeons and tunnels.
The town of Kindia is well known for the weavers who make the characteristic strips of cloth. Behind the railway station you can visit their actual weaving are and shops. The market is near the city center where they also know how to produce indigo. The clothing market is one of the largest revenue earners of Guinea. The Bridal Veil Falls (La Voile de la Mariee) is one of the main attractions of Kindia,which is located about 14km outside the city, but a visit is allowed only during the rainy season when there is enough water. There is also a small restaurant here where you can have for only US $ 6 a simple meal and you can hire one of the 10 bungalows.
Kindia is about 140 km from the capital city of Conakry and is accessible via transport bus. The town is also well known as the fruit basket of Guinea because most of the freshest fruits in the city are derived from here. The fruit is in abundance and to help preserve their freshness some of the fruits are processed, bottled or canned so it can last for a longer time. Kindia the (fruit) garden of Guinea and the only fruit even the dried fruit business of the country is located there. Abroad, Kindia is best known for the bauxite industry. The city lies at the foot of Mount Gangan on the southern border of the Fouta Djalon. Kindia is a small town in the center with a Catholic church and many old colonial houses. Besides the "Flamboyants Hotel" there is a good restaurant called the "Ma Maison" (French Catalan cuisine). A trip through Coyah Conakry and Mamou is a journey through a wonderful nature and an experience in itself.
Kankan is the second city of Guinea and became more popular because it is the spiritual center of the once mighty people of the Malinke, also known as Mandingo. Even the Malinke from Senegal and Gambia, they see the city as a kind of capital with lots of families living. It used to be the capital of the ancient empire of Mali; now it is quiet. The most important places of the city are the open market with its gallery with arches, covered market and the Grande Mosque. The caretaker of this Mosque will lead you around for a small fee.
Opposite the mosque is a small factory where they make sculptures. The old presidential palace, overlooking the River Milo, is also worth the time and effort. Kankan is located 500 km from Conakry. The city of Kankan is an important and influential site that is surrounded by high walls. It is located in Milo on a tributary of the River Niger. Kankan was a crossroads for caravans from the southern to the northern savannah forests. The ancestors of the Mandingo of Manika-Mori were the ones who have developed Kankan and founded it in the 17th century.
The city of Guéckédou is located along the Guinea Forest and near the border of Sierra Leone and Liberia and has an important commercial center. The Wednesday market here is mostly huge, with local traders coming from across Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali. One can buy anything here in all currencies.
The market is unique and its gets filled with people during market day. Since it is the only place in Guinea with a reliable water supply, it is the only place with a functioning public toilet in Guinea. Outside the market, the small town offers so little but there are some budget hotels and places for transients. Guinea Forest is a highland area located in the rainforest and pre-Islamic tribes still live here. Guéckédou is located about 700km south-east of Conakry and the road is completely paved.
The Fouta Djalon is the center of the Fula population and a green and watery mountain range where the highest peak is the Mount Loura that measures almost 1,700 meters high. This allows the Fouta Djalon to be also called as the water tower of Guinea. The city has rivers and streams along its fifteenth century fortifications. Famous are the waterfalls which belong to the village of Kinkon Pita and among the finest in the world (75 meters high). It houses the origin of the largest rivers of West Africa, Niger (although it rises in a mountain edge, but owes its size still to a large extent on the waterfront of the Fouta Djalon). Furthermore, the Bafing and Bakoye in Mali coalesce into the Senegal River; Bani, the major tributary of the Niger, and finally the Gambia. Who Labe is the biggest town in the Fouta Djalon but it is only accessible by traveling to Mali-ville and you need to cross about 15 kilometers north of Labe up to a small ditch.
The river flows first eastwards down the hill and then to a lower plateau north to the border with Senegal. Numerous tributaries ensure that the river which is a few tens of kilometers from the source has a respectable size.
It is close to the town of Mali –and to avoid confusion with the country of Mali the people referred to it as Mali-ville – with a peak of 1500 meters the highest part of Guinea. The city is malaria-free, because mosquitoes are not found and one of the few places in Africa where potatoes are grown. The town of Mamou is a small but lively village with an outdoor cinema and delicious street food. Dabala is located on the main road of Mamou and is an excellent starting point for walks. It is dubbed as the therapeutic center of the French because its height there is very cool at 1000 m. Outside the town, you can find the "Centre d'Accueil" which in former times the colonialists themselves stayed and found shelter. Even now it is the best place to find information about the city.
Faranah Guinea is a city located on the banks of the Niger and on the main road of the country, between the cities of Conakry and Kissidougou. The city has benefited from the accession to the presidency of the republic in 1958, Ahmed Sékou Touré, who was born in 1922 when it was then a village and declared it as a city and part of the region in Guinea.
La Dame de Mali
The Lady of Mali or La Dame de Mali is a “woman” of remarkable beauty that stands the test of time. The graceful female figure is formed by wind erosion from a rock of Mount Loura at an altitude of 1.500m. Like the "Smoking Dog" in Dubreka the "Lady of Mali" is a masterpiece of Mother Nature. Mali is 588 km away from Conakry. According to legends, a local housewife went home on a Friday (the holy day for Muslims) and caught her husband cheating and as punishment God had turned him into a stone figure of a woman.
Guinea offers a host of off the beaten path adventures covering the mountain peaks and tropical rainforest of Africa. Discover off the beaten path trails, treacherous hikes, and a chance to meet their poor but hospitable locals who always welcome anyone who is interested to learn anything about their country. A visit here is a humbling and eye opening experience and will make you feel more grateful of your blessings and sympathize with the impoverished families here in Guinea.