Freetown, Baby!

Turtle Island by jc2010sl
April 13, 2010, 10:39 pm
Filed under: photos, travels | Tags: ,

I was joined over the Easter weekend by my attorney and another associate. I thought I would treat them to more than just the hustle of Freetown and pristine beaches of Peninsula, so I booked a trip to the Turtle Islands – a collection of islands cast into the Atlantic off the south coast. These are the stuff of castaway movies – little more than sand bars covered with palm trees. They are truly idyllic.

Fisherman head out for the day

But I wondered if it was so for the locals. The islands are exceptionally remote – 4 hours by speedboat from Freetown, and 24 hours by public ferry. Our arrival was greeted with some fanfare and on some islands I suspect we were the first white faces they had seen. I imagine many people had never left the archipelago, and therefore have no reference point to compare with the incredible place they live in.

But even those who’ve never set foot anywhere else are aware of what their compatriots on the mainland can access – electricity, running water, televisions, a community larger than 300 people where you have the freedom to move. On one island an elder spoke to us about his hope to “develop” the island. It was a comma in the ocean; no more than 40 meters wide and 150 meters long. What does “development” even mean in this context I wondered?

The very remoteness, and lack of basics that we take for granted is precisely what attracts the western tourist to these places. But I’m not sure that’s how the islanders see it.