Entertaining kids can present an interesting challenge.
For those based in Freetown, the obvious starting point is the beach. But even that’s not as simple as it might seem.
The handiest, Lumley Beach, is a two-mile stretch of sand, backed by palm trees and a continuous promenade. You’ll rarely go short of a snack, with plenty of peanut and popcorn vendors, along with those selling grilled meat and cold drinks.
And if you need a sit down, then across the road there are numerous bars and restaurants.
The prom is a great place to saunter among the locals, or perhaps trundle on a scooter, with free entertainment in the form of artisanal fishing, informal football games, fitness workouts and even practice sessions of acrobatic troupes.
Swimming, however, is a different thing entirely. The minute you step onto the beach you’re aware of the rubbish: nappies, broken glass and hypodermic syringes included.
And with medical waste discharged just around the coast, plenty avoid the water altogether.
Roughly speaking, beaches get progressively cleaner as you head south along the Peninsular highway but some have better clean-up regimes than others.
Dangerous currents can be a problem, while some beaches increasing in depth dramatically quite close to the shoreline.
But at their best these beaches are stunning places, set against a backdrop of lush mountainsides. Most have restaurants selling simple but delicious grilled fish skewers with chips for around Le40,000 (£5) a plate.
If your kids are into surfing or bodyboarding, Bureh is a good bet – and the Surf Club there should be able to advise about conditions.
Sussex Beach is one of a few crossed by a river where seawater meets rain draining from the mountains, making it good for paddling. Cockle Point – a beach on the Number Two river, just inland from the famous beach, is said to be perfect for toddlers.
If, like me, you’re not the sort of person who can spend every spare moment soaking up sun, then it can get a bit tricky.
Playgrounds of the sort seen in practically every park in the UK are non-existent here.
In Freetown, you can pay Le10,000 (per adult and child) to use Family Kingdom’s rather tired looking playground which has various swings, a trampoline, ballpool, see-saw, climbing frames and slides, with the added attraction of terrapins in a fountain and deer wandering about the place.
However, beware the odd rusty hinge or protruding screw. It’s not a place for the faint-hearted in terms of health and safety.
Other options include paying for access to private members clubs, such as at the Young Sportsmen’s Club and Aqua Sports Club (about £100 per quarter for family membership). Both have kiddies playgrounds but, again, rein in your expectations on safety. None of that bouncy recycled rubber surface to fall on here.
The Aqua Sports Club has a seawater swimming pool, although we’re told it’s not chlorinated and the water is only refreshed once a week. The Family Kingdom has a pool (Le60,000 per entry), while hotels such as the Country Lodge offer day passes to their pools for upwards of Le50,000 a day.
Visiting Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary (about 20 mins outside Freetown) at feeding time is a fun experience, with tours costing $30.
The animals are mostly rescued pets being slowly rehabilitated and are both comical and terrifyingly powerful. Spending a night in a jungle lodge there is also fun, with the chance to see many birds and even the odd monkey, and costs $90 for a one-bedroom lodge, or $180 for a two-bed, with breakfast. Dinner costs $15 Per head extra.
An informal group of at-home parents with young children meets on Thursday afternoons, when members take it in turns to host. The kids all muck in together with any available toys, while the parents try to maintain a sensible conversation.
This sort of gathering can not only help preserve your sanity but open up opportunities for socialising with others constrained by the yoke of their offspring. Post on Freetown Announce Yahoo Group if you’re interested in joining.
There are fun places to eat. Scoops, next door to Family Kingdom, serves up (pricey) dollops of ice cream and tasty milkshakes and its location near the beach makes it a popular spot for those who like to look good while getting the kids out of the house.
If you’re still despairing at what to do, simply walking around with a foreign-looking child (particularly a blonde, blue-eyed one) can provide plenty of entertainment.
You’ll find no shortage of people keen to say hello, tug your little one’s cheeks and pick them up. It’s lovely. Sometimes it even goes down well the child.
If your offspring are of a certain age then you’ll find the birthday party circuit as hectic – if not more – as it is back home.
Wealthy Salonean families put some serious effort into their children’s special days, with venues hired for dozens of children and their families, enormous banquets and party bags not far sure of what Santa delivers to many kids. The pricier it looks, the better.
While this might mean an instant headache for those who find doing the rounds of kids’ parties tiresome at home, it does mean you don’t have to worry about entertaining your youngster for the afternoon.
Also, if you’re happy to let them get on with the celebrations lightly supervised, you might just get time for a sensible chat, uninterrupted for more than a minute or two, with another adult.