There are few places in the world that can compete with Tiwai Island in terms of wild primate viewing. On the island, there are eleven species of primates that make the island home and other than the one nocturnal specie, it’s completely possible to see a majority of them in just one day. While the island is a target for those looking for Chimpanzees especially, there are also sooty mangabees, three types of colobus monkeys, the beautiful Diana monkeys, and much more. Furthermore, the wildlife viewing doesn’t end with the primates. There are also pygmy hippos, red river hogs, and a number of other mammal species on the island. It’s hard not to find yourself impressed with this incredible place.
Time Needed: 2-3 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 40USD a Day
Things to do and See on Tiwai Island
- Wildlife walks: Most of the time people do a 2 hour walk around first light in the morning. The walks are amazing and the guides are very good. You’ll likely see between 4-7 species of primates on the tours. For chimps or hippos, you’re better off on a boat.
- Pirogue rides: The afternoon is the best time to be on the boat as many of the chimps come to feed on the trees over the river. In the dry season, you might also be able to spot some hippos along, or in, the water.
- Village tours: Although not on the island itself, you can organize a trip to one of the nearby villages with the guides on the island.
- Beaches: In the dry season beaches form along the river. You can actually sunbathe mid-day. Just keep your eyes out for hippos.
Staying and Eating on Tiwai Island
There is a wildlife camp where all non-research guest must stay. Here there are open huts that they’ve set up tents with mattresses in for guests. It’s quite comfortable. They will also make all your meals on the island and they are very good. Beer, soda, and water are all available in the camp as well.
Getting to Tiwai Island
It’s not exactly easy, but it can be reached in a day from either Monrovia or Freetown. From Freetown, you’ll need to catch the bus to Bo. From there, find a poda poda to the town of Portoru. At Portoru you’ll need to hire a moto-taxi to take you the rest of the way to the village. From the village, someone will meet you and take you across to the island. It’s best to call ahead before turning up. To get to Monrovia, it’s a bit of a mission. Personally, I just found the best way to do this is on moto. The roads are rough the whole way to the border of Liberia, and there’s not a lot of public transport. From the border of Liberia transport is easy to find and direct to Monrovia, the highway is good, and paved, from the border onwards.