Now that I have settled in to paradise, let me give you a virtual tour: Mr. Ali and Courtney picked me up from Aberdeen port after a smooth, night speedboat ride from Lungi, where the airport is located. It was quite late getting back so I said some hellos and made a beeline for my beach hut. After 8 hours of sweet sleep with nothing but the sound of the waves lapping against the shore, I awoke to a symphony of noises serenading me from the forest behind. Breakfast with the team and a tour of the grounds from the already well-integrated Courtney who arrived a month ahead of me. First stop compost toilets (her favourite), solids in the back, liquids in the front and the addition of some saw dust turns this concoction into powerful fertilizer for the banana trees and permaculture garden next door. This is where the magic happens! From tomatoes to squash to Aubergine – the aim for the team this season is to introduce a wider variety of herbs and to become 100% self-sufficient for the tribe and guests. Salone looks a lot different at the end of the wet season, lush greens and flowers cover the red dirt, it’s a feast of colour!
Next is the chop house, breakfast is oats or eggs and toast, lunch is local chop (Cassava, country rice, fish) and dinner is a fish BBQ with whatever the local fishermen have managed to catch that day and salad from the gardens. No complaints from me! Kat, an Australian nutritionist who lived here last year spent a great deal of energy ensuring high standards and very importantly reduced the consumption of palm oil by about 80%.
The solar house is a funky looking wooden structure that powers the entire project. Light is turned on when it gets dark at 7.30pm each day and we have bonfires on the beach, but that’s more atmospheric than functional, well not if you consider roasting marshmallows a must. The lightning storms, which happen about every third night, are a spectacle to behold as well but with the end of the rainy season they will cease to be pretty soon.
Accommodation ranges from organic looking earth bagged honey domes, to wooden beach huts and camping on the beach for the more adventurous. I am currently living in one of the beach huts that look out onto the lagoon but will be moving around depending on our occupancy.
This place really is a little oasis from the polluted and overcrowded villages and towns. Being in such a beautiful environment is definitely food for the soul! Tribewanted has successfully built a sustainable model of tourism that is run by and for the local people and welcomes guests from all over the world to enjoy the culture and beauty of Salone and contribute to the protection and development of the local area. Many of our visitors are international NGO workers looking for a place to come and chill after a stressful week, each with their own story, making the dinner table conversation enthralling at the best of times. International tourists are on the rise but nowhere near the levels of neighbouring African countries as Sierra Leone is slowly losing its war-torn stigma.
My role here is community development co-ordinator and in my first week I have been busy getting to know who is who in the village. I have had some meetings with the community and established a committee comprising of one or two representatives from each main group incl. the Harbour Master, the Community Headman, the reverend/teacher, the Imam, women, some youths and elders. This committee will be my source of information and link to the wider community and one big task ahead is to conduct a needs analysis in order to develop both a short-term and long-term plan for the development of John Obey. Other projects on list include working with the committee and other locally operating NGO’s to come up with an alternative to the sand mining, which is rapidly destroying the beach next door.
We actively encourage guests to get involved and learn about community culture and development. I am in the process of creating some reading material outlining responsible tourism in a developing country and take our visitors to see the current projects while they are here. Others prefer to wind down from the stresses of their own jobs and enjoy the nature, the local beer and the comfy hammocks.
Anyway time to get back to work!!!