Did you know...
The Loma mountains are the highest mountains in the West African country of Sierra Leone. The highest peak is Mount Bintumani, which rises to a height of 1,948 meters (6,381ft). The area has been designated a non-hunting forest reserve since 1952. The reserve cover an area of 33,201 hectares.
Mount Bintumani isn’t known as 'the king of the mountains' for nothing (‘Loma Mansa’ to the kuranko). Even finding yourself at the foot of its 1,948m, among the range of the Loma Mountains, takes some doing, and trying to manage an ascent in the rainy season approaches madness; not that people haven’t done it. Look out for Bintumani herself – the name of the female spirit that lives on the mountain. There are many ways to climb the mountain: you can scale the beast in a day if you're dead set on speed; or seven, if you're keener on taking your time, camping out in the wilderness, spotting herds of buffalo and trekking through rain forest that even the rebels didn't reach.
A team of experts who visited in 2008 finally made the clear-cut case to turn the mountain into a national park and made wildlife preservation in one of the country's most diverse ecosystems a priority.
ANIMALS The Loma Mountain none hunting Forest Reserve (LMNHFR), of which Mount Bintumani is a part, contains potentially the largest area of undisturbed Montana forest within the upper Guinea region: of its 332km, approximately 75% of the original canopy survives.
Resent research by Kortenhoven undertaken for the university of Miami has shown that the 49 species found on Loma represent greater than 70% of Sierra Leone's large mammal fauna, 31% of them don't occur outside West Africa and 14 are endemic to the upper Guinea forest zone.
Of particular interest, Kortenhoven's research reveal an estimated chimp population of more than 200, giving Loma the highest density of chimpanzees in the country. Kortenhoven's research also revealed that two species at risk of extinction in Sierra Lone and endangered throughout their range - the pygmy hippopotamus and bongo - were recorded in the recent research, as were leopards, golden cats and several cats. The ; Loma Mountain are also home to bay duiker, black duiker, water chevrotain, red colobus, and Diana monkey, all of which are endangered. If a local guide start enthusiastically pointing out large troops of 'gorilla' and 'baboons', it's well worth knowing (before you start bragging about your trip to see Sierra Leone's best-kept secret).
BIRDS The Loma Mountains also count as one of Sierra Leone's ten important Birds Area, and surveying suggest they are home to at least 332 birds species more than half of the species recorded in the country.
PLANTS Nine species of plant are also known to be endemic to the Loma Mountains. A more recent survey of the vegetation in the range found 13 species that were recorded for the first time in Sierra Leone, extending the range of these species further west of Liberia and Ivory Cost, and one species of sterculiaceae (cola spp) that has never seen before, and is currently being studied at the university of Coody in Ivory Coast.
THE CLIMB There are three main routes up the mountain. Some take longer than others but in all case reasonable fitness and unflagging desire to keep going is needed much more than skill - there's no need for climbing equipment (unless a particular rock formation takes your fancy).
However, the going is steep most of the way, with few flat stretches, and some people don't make it right to the top. Make sure you have comfortable, worm in walking boots and waterproofs that keep out rain without retaining too much heat. Most important is taking a little time to organise water intake and other provisions on the ascent.
Climbing should be avoided in the rainy season - not only because of the hazards of climbing but also because the dirt routes to the mountain bases can become completely impassable.
CHIEF, GUIDES, AND PORTERS Whichever village you take as your jumping-off point, pay your respects to the local chief (offering money - Le 50,000 is a good amount, although you may be asked for significantly more and /or other small gift such as soap and sugar).
Even if the maps were good enough (which they are not), you'd be crazy not to go with a guide who knows the mountain. Bush paths covered by tall elephant grasses, confusing forest tracks and gnarly tree that all look the same would be among the least of your concerns should you decide to attempt the trek on your own.
While it's pretty humbling to huff and puff your way up behind backpacks laden potters scampering ahead of you in plastic flip-flops only the keenest, sturdiest and most pig - headed of visitors would carry their own kit, food and water. It's easy easy to arrange for a porter at one of the starting points - about Le 100,000 - 150,000 a day is the going rate, although you may initially be asked to pay twice that amount, so expect to negotiate. Don't worry this is my responsibility to negotiate.
Plan to bring enough provision to feed your porters a full three meals a day. ( You can try asking them to bring their own food along with them, but several experience have proven that you'll likely end up feeding them anyway.) It's good idea for everyone in the party to bring high energy snacks.
CLOTHING Walking boots and a couple of pairs of socks are the best footwear option. Wear long trousers - despite heat, covered legs will minimize the discomfort of the biting insects and scratching leave that easily draw blood. Similarly, threading your way through tall, razor sharp grasses means you'll be glad of some lightweight full-length sleeves on top too. The top of Mount Bintumani is exposed to fairly strong, chilly winds, and the whole area is prone to rainfall during the wet season, so pack a waterproof or wind breaker. It's cold in December for example.
DAY 1 Travel from Freetown to Kabala, and Sinekoro
DAY 2 Hike to camp Two
DAY 3 Scale the peak and go back down to Sinekoro
DAY 4 Back to Kabala, move straight to Freetown.
Note: It's also possible for us to make this journey and back within three (3) days.