Liberia is an enigma, and the oldest black African republic, but it is sometimes difficult to determine whether it was the first or the last of the West African territories to achieve independence under majority rule.
Liberia began life as a solution to the problem in the antebellum United States of black freedmen stirring up sentiments of liberty and emancipation. A handful of these were repatriated to the west coast of Africa where in due course a society of elitist Americo/Liberians instituted a system of colonial oppression, not unlike similar European models springing up all over the continent. A republic was declared in 1847, but it was not until 1980 that a military coup toppled Amerco/Liberian rule in favour of indigenous, albeit military rule. This sadly triggered the spiral of violence and genocide into which Liberia was plunged for the remainder of the 20th century.
Nowadays, under the leadership of the first female head of state in Africa, this small West African state is groping its way towards gradual recovery. The scars are deep, and the residue of hatred and lawlessness not entirely expunged, but Liberia, as with many other African countries recovering from the paroxysms of the 1980s and 1990s, in the midst of a renaissance of sorts. It is a uniquely interesting country, once one of the most densely forested regions of world, and still a society of wide cultural and ecological diversity.
Travel To & Within Liberia
Why Travel to Liberia
In this world there is travel and there is tourism, and the difference between the two is profound. For the true traveller the cross-cultural experience is much more one of emersion than it is a search for a medium of relaxation, stimulation and pleasure. A traveller desires to seek, to learn, to be taught, and to teach, and Liberia is one of those destinations that feeds the rat in everyone’s soul. While the gleaming smiles of happy natives, the white sandy beaches and the green equatorial landscape will invoke images of a tropical idyll, it will be the humanity of the Liberian experience, etched into the buildings, into the faces of the people, and into the art, music and patois, that will linger much longer.
While this is so, there is also much pleasure to be had. Liberia is emerging as something of a surf destination. Independent filmmaker and international surf junkie Nicholai Lidlow recently released Sliding Liberia, the story of four young surf enthusiasts following the waves in the war torn country, and exposing along the way the unique potential, and possible future direction, of the local tourist industry.
What the film has also tended to expose is that there is no particular infrastructure in Liberia to support a tourist industry, and so travel in the region is rough travel Africa style, which is pretty rough travel. However that is not necessarily a bad thing, because it is the beginning, and Liberia is emerging into a new dawn, and such things are rare in the life of true travellers in a world were so few places have anything unique and untapped to offer.
When to Visit Liberia
The only time definitely to avoid in Liberia is the summer rainy season between May and November when precipitation and humidly throughout the country is high. Annual temperature variations are not extreme, so during the dry winter months it is still warm to hot during the daytime, with dry and balmy nights, but without the attendant humidly, and certainly without the ubiquitous summer rains.
While the systematic insecurity that accompanied the wars of the 1990s and early 2000s has given way to a measure of peace and order, the country is still over armed and under policed, meaning that violent crime at the very least remains a real and constant threat. This is particularly the case in the capital city Monrovia, and it is definitely advisable to exercise caution at all times, and in particular at night.
Malaria is a problem throughout Liberia, as are waterborne diseases, yellow fever and cholera. The specific HIV/AIDS prevalence in Liberia is not known, but can be expected to be high, so avoiding high risk sexual activity is advisable.