Plate With A View: Bureh Beach, Sierra Leone
Saturday 28 June 2008
Fish and chips, and not a newspaper in sight. The catch of the day is fresh from the Atlantic that you gaze over from Bureh Beach. It could be barracuda, bonita or whatever the fisherman brings in on his precarious waist-width canoe dug out of a tree trunk. The fish is covered in a thick garlic sauce and grilled beachside. As a suitably tropical cocktail accompaniment, don't miss the aged Coconut Man, custodian of the beach, who dons his machete to crack open his favourite offering. Before the main event, and almost an indulgence too far, order oysters from the nearby rocks with limes squeezed straight from the tree. For the connoisseur, there's lobster and cold beer as the sun goes down. Simple, and simply perfection too.
There are beaches and then there are beaches. Bureh sweeps so far away you'd think it could go round the globe and back. A little over an hour from the traffic and sweat of Sierra Leone's hilly capital Freetown, if you visit this crescent of shiny yellow sands on a weekday you can have the place to yourself. Not just the restaurant – a single scarlet tablecloth under a thatch umbrella – but the beach, the warm sea, hundreds of birds and the spectacular backdrop of mist-shrouded green mountains too.
The outfit is run by the local development association – headed by the improbably named Prince Williams, quite as regal and charming as his name suggests – to share proceeds with the local village.
Spend the night and they'll make a bonfire. Sometimes it feels like they've even rigged up the stars and the full moon for you.
Sierra Leone might be one of the world's least-developed countries, but with time a bit of tourism might just change that. The 1991-2002 civil war is long-gone; places like Bureh prove it.
The price is as perfect as the setting. A plate of fish is 25,000 leones (£4.20), a dozen oysters 40,000 leones (£6.70) and lobster priced by size, but unlikely to be more than 60,000 leones (£10).
Bureh Town Beach Boys' Organisation, Bureh Beach, off Peninsula Road, Western Area, Sierra Leone (00 232 77 424 902). Open daily, all day and night. Just book ahead and order your catch of choice
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