Most folks wouldn’t immediately connect ecotourism with Liberia. It’s not the first destination that might spring to mind for a nature-focused adventure. But that’s precisely why it’s such a hidden gem waiting to be discovered! However, Liberia’s ecotourism scene offers an enriching experience for travelers seeking adventure, sustainability, and a connection with nature.
Notably, Libassa EcoLodge stands out as a leader in this field, seamlessly weaving together environmental preservation, community upliftment, and unforgettable guest experiences.
Getting the Liberia visa can be a tricky proposition. However, Lisa the owner of the EcoLodge prepared all of the paperwork for us and got us the Liberian visa within 1 day. We arrived on election day and therefore were a little worried about the logistics and process of getting through customs and through the airport.
Thankfully, Lisa had a person greet us prior to customs and helped us through the whole process – which for West Africa standards was incredibly simple. The cost of this service and the visa itself was $150 USD per person.
Getting to the EcoLodge
Getting to Libassa EcoLodge was bumpy but straightforward! Lisa’s driver picked us up from ROB (the International Airport) and drove us the 40 minutes or so to the lodge. The road is terrible and has been under construction for years. As an aside, the drive to Monrovia (the capital of the country) can be a 2-4 hour commitment.
The Liberian Dollar is the official currency of the Republic. However, the United States Dollar is a legal tender here as well and is used along side the Liberian Dollar currency. At the EcoLodge we used credit cards (although we were charged a small premium to do so). For other purchases and donations at the sanctuary and school we used the good ‘ole US dollar and folks were very happy to receive it.
The Orange SIM card works well in Liberia. However, we found that staying at the EcoLodge we really didn’t need it. There was a moderate level of wifi. Not great, but enough to do some work and even stream some Netflix.
A Bit of History
Liberia was founded in 1822 as an outpost for returning freed slaves from the Americas. It grew into a colony and eventually became a commonwealth, and achieved independence in 1847 with the help of the American Colonization Society (a private organization based in the United States). Descendants of the freed slaves, generally known as Americo-Liberians, remained in social and political control of the country until 1980.
The country remained independent while other African countries were colonized by Europeans in the late 19th century. President William Howard Taft of the United States strongly supported the country and it’s independence.
In the 20th century, Liberia’s economy focused on natural resources, especially rubber controlled by the Firestone Company. Until 1980, Americo-Liberians, descendants of African-American settlers, held political power despite being a small minority. A violent coup in 1980 ended the Americo-Liberian rule. In addition, there were two devastating civil wars that followed: one from 1989 to 1997 and another from 1999 to 2003.
Since 2011 the country has been able to hold free and democratic elections every six years. We happened to land in ROB (the International Airport) on the day of the 2023 elections and witnessed a lot of peaceful excitement about the possibilities for the countries’ future.
The Libassa EcoLodge was the reason that we came to Liberia. It is a family run business which started from a dream to help others enjoy Liberia’s wild and beautiful nature in an ecofriendly way. Lisa, the owner and her family live on the property and do their best to meet all of their guests needs. Lisa and her husband are also deeply committed to sustainable ecotourism, and keeping our impact on the environment, while on the property to a minimum.
Situated amidst the lush jungle between a virgin lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean, the Libassa EcoLodge offers a unique opportunity to explore the natural beauty of Liberia while adhering to sustainable practices. The lodge is powered by solar energy and features rainwater harvesting systems, showcasing its commitment to environmental responsibility.
The resort has 20 rooms (mostly duplex huts) and suites, built with natural local materials, in harmony with nature. The design of these accommodations is inspired by local traditional houses used by natives for generations. The thatch roofs and lodge layout within the forest keeps the dwellings cool even in the hottest hours of the day. Hot showers, ceiling and floor fans and electricity are provided in each room. So so internet and a good breakfast are included in the nightly price.
In addition, there is quite a bit to do here! Guests can enjoy the 5 swimming pools on the property as well as swimming, kayaking or paddle boarding in the lagoon or the ocean. There are also guided hikes through the surrounding forests where one can observe diverse bird life and other animals. And to boot, the wildlife sanctuary is located right on the property for guests to enjoy either in the morning or the afternoon as the visits are guided.
Furthermore, a trip to the Butterfly Early Learning Center is a must. It will help the school, the children and their families. In addition, you will be participating in Liberian cultural activities and learning about the way of life in these villages.
The lodge has 3 restaurants and 3 bars which offer a variety of western and African dishes as well as delicious vegan and healthy choices.
Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary: A Haven for Local Flora and Fauna
The EcoLodge works closely with the Wildlife Sanctuary, a 750-acre haven for rescued and rehabilitated animals. This sanctuary provides a safe haven for injured and orphaned animals, including various species of monkeys, pangolins, reptiles, birds and duikers to name a few. They have had over 70 different species come through the sanctuary since it opened.
The focus here is on the rehabilitation of the animals and their eventual release back into the wild. The goal of the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary is to return all of the animals back into the wild.
Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection: Protecting Liberia’s Primates
The Liberia Chipanzee Rescue and Protection (LCRP) is a vital organization working tirelessly to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintroduce chimpanzees into the wild. Their efforts are crucial in addressing the decline of chimpanzee populations in Liberia and West Africa overall. This is primarily due to habitat loss, poaching, and the illegal pet trade.
The LCRP stands as the only chimpanzee sanctuary and conservation center in Liberia. Their vital work focuses on rescuing chimpanzees, primarily babies and children, who have suffered through the illegal bushmeat and pet trades.
Currently, LCRP provides care for nearly 100 orphaned chimpanzees. This number continues to grow due to their ongoing efforts to collaborate with authorities in confiscating captive chimpanzees, a crucial step in enforcing Liberia’s wildlife laws.
Without the ability to confiscate wildlife, authorities lack the power to effectively protect and preserve chimpanzees within the country. LCRP’s role in this process is truly critical, offering a safe haven for these vulnerable animals while supporting the preservation of chimpanzee populations in Liberia.
While Libassa EcoLodge does not directly house chimpanzees, its commitment to sustainability and wildlife conservation aligns with LCRP’s mission, and guests can support their work through donations and awareness campaigns. Prior to the pandemic, guests could visit the rescue chimpanzee island (from a boat). However, at this time the center has not yet been re-opened. There is a hope and expectation that the LCRP will start welcoming visitors again within the next year (2024).
Cultivating the Future: Butterfly Early Learning Center
The EcoLodge recognizes the importance of education and actively contributes to community development. One of those initiatives is the Butterfly Early Learning Center which is located near the lodge. This early development school provides high-quality education and care for children from the surrounding villages.
This school focuses on holistic development, fostering critical thinking, creativity, and a deep appreciation for the environment. For many of these children the lunch that they receive from the school may be the only meal that they eat that day. School uniforms are also provided for the children at no cost.
Rob and I were fortunate to visit the school. We got to know some of the wonderful teachers and students. In addition, we were shown around the village and learned about the types of grains, vegetables and spices that are typically used in Liberian cooking. It was a very special experience.
The Libassa Ecolodge is beyond an Eco-Accommodation. It is a truly holistic ecotoursim experience. Choosing this EcoLodge is more than just enjoying a luxurious stay in a beautiful setting. It’s an opportunity to become a part of a larger movement that prioritizes environmental protection, community empowerment, and wildlife conservation.
By engaging in responsible tourism practices and supporting initiatives like the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary and the Butterfly Early Learning Center, travelers can contribute to a brighter future for Liberia and its precious natural resources. We are very grateful that we got a chance to experience this side of Liberia and give back to some of the initiatives that we believe in.
Have you been to any of these types of ecotourism places? We really enjoyed the Pongo Songo Chimp Island Sanctuary in Cameroon as well as the Gorilla Trekking and Conservation in the DRC. Do you have a favorite conservation or ecotourism place? Please share them in the comments!