visit to Sapo National Park, Liberia


A trek in one of the most remote and unspoiled rainforests in West Africa takes careful planning. Lisa and I made a plan to spend three days hiking beneath the canopy of the towering tropical rainforest in Sapo National Park. The park is located in south central Liberia, approximately 60 kilometers inland from Greenville. Greenville is the largest nearby city (Buchanan, at 197 kilometers from the park, is larger but farther away). From Mamba Point, Monrovia, the distance to the park is close to 330 kilometers. After Buchanan, the road is laterite and clay of varying degrees of maintenance. Near Buchanan it is possible to gain speeds of 50 kilometers per hour between villages. By the time you reach Rivercess county, the rolling hills and narrow bridges degrade the roadway and speeds will be reduced even in good weather. Low washes tend to soften and erode the surface, creating treacherous potholes. Villages may have numerous speed bumps to slow traffic. Overall, the roads are in decent condition for March, though isolated rainstorms can pool water in the lower, swampier sections of the roadway. All bets are off during the rainy season, and the park is generally not taking visitors during the worst months of the rainy season. There are checkpoints along the way, and the policemen seem friendly enough to direct your travels.

Thomas leads us through a stand of Uapaca trees in a swamp forest of Sapo National Park.

Before leaving Monrovia, it is necessary to fill out proper forms and pay fees to the Forestry Development Authority. They are located heading towards Kakata from Redlight (Somalia drive) a few kilometers past the Coca Cola bottling plant. The turn is one intersection past Weintown Drive. Turn left onto FDA Drive (look for a concrete arch with the words “Forestry Development Authority”) and proceed along a pot-holed track leading to Mount Barclay. Forestry Development Authority is 1.5 kilometers from the arch to the top of the hill. Contact Jerry 07764 62564, or 08864 62564, or his secretary Peaches 08865 38592, or 07709 17233, to make an appointment. They should produce the paperwork including the fees schedule (prices vary from fee schedule, in some cases) and the indemnity clause for you to sign and pay. Fees are assessed differently for Nationals and non-Nationals, and generally are less by 50% for Nationals than what is listed here for non-Nationals. Fees include park entry, per person of USD $10. Hiking is $5 per person, per day. Vehicle fee to access the park headquarters is $25 per vehicle. Note that you cannot drive to, or into the park. It is approximately 3 kilometers of walking from park headquarters office following a  footpath to reach the river bordering the park. The fee to photograph (commercially) in the park is $200 for up to three days, though it is unclear if personal photography is fee-based. Be prepared to discuss this issue. Obtain a receipt for your payments, to present when you arrive at park headquarters.

A kite passes a canopy break along the Sinoe River, marking the western border of the park.
A kite passes a canopy break along the Sinoe River, marking the western border of the park.

Our plan was to spend a night in Greenville. We made a reservation with Moses Banks at 08867 00812 to stay at the Mississippi Guest House, just after the Total Gas Station on Tubman Street entering Greenville. Our clean room had air conditioning, running water, electricity 7pm to 7am, for $50. The travel time from Monrovia was eight hours. We had dinner (fish and rice) at the Forum Restaurant downtown, as the other restaurant, the Mississippi Blues Pub, was without power and not cooking. It is wise to fill your vehicle at Total before leaving Greenville, for there is not a proper gas station between Greenville and the park. A full tank should take you from Greenville to the park and back to Monrovia. Be aware that phone service will be limited to nonexistent as you approach the park. Lonestar was the choice of the guides. We had no Cellcom signal.

Before arriving at the park, it is possible to see wildlife like soaring eagles, hornbills, mongooses crossing the road, or these two Great blue turacos, feeding near a plantation.
Before arriving at the park, it is possible to see wildlife like soaring eagles, hornbills, mongooses, or these two Great blue turacos, seen feeding near a plantation.

Once you reach the park, there are more fees. Passing through the nearest village, Jalay Town, we were welcomed by a traditional celebration of dance and singing, and several small donations were encouraged before we were allowed to continue through the village. Someone will direct you to the park headquarters. When you arrive, your guides will be chosen, and camping fees assessed. We were assigned three guides, two to accompany us on our forest treks, and one to maintain our camp. Guides are paid $5 per day, and camping is $5 per night. In addition, you will be expected to provide not only your own food, but the food for the guides. It is possible to give the guides money ($10 to $20, total) to purchase their own food, as rice, fish and peppers may be available in Jalay Town. If provisions aren’t available, you may have to drive to the next village, or, planning ahead, arrive prepared. Having rice and dried fish, local peppers, and something like “arome” seasoning with you when you arrive will save time and scrambling for supply.

Uapaca trees are supported by stilt roots in Sapo National Park.
Uapaca trees are supported by stilt roots in Sapo National Park.

Because of the challenging logistics of getting in and out of Sapo Park, a day-trip is not very practical and will not allow enough time for a forest experience. Planning a minimum stay of two nights will give you a better experience.

Kollie crosses a small ravine near the Sinoe River.
Kollie crosses a small ravine near the Sinoe River.

The guides will help you carry your provisions, but may not have a spare backpack, so if you can provide that, it will be useful. Leaving your car at park headquarters, begin your walk back through Jalay Town, stopping to meet the village chief and elders. They impart a blessing (also for a donation) for your journey. It is approximately a one-hour walk to the river, then a canoe will take you across to the park. The canoe is $10 roundtrip. Once across the river, you begin your trek into the forest and a thirty to forty-minute walk will bring you to a clearing in the forest, Vera Camp.

Vera Camp, in the park, is the base of hiking adventures in Sapo.
Vera Camp, in the park, is the base of hiking adventures in Sapo.

Vera Camp has a wooden house built several years ago as a research facility and is now used as an elevated tent platform. There are two interior rooms for sleeping. Having a tent to keep out mosquitos and other critters, and a camping mattress will make the hard wood floors slightly more comfortable. There are no beds, and no running water at the site. Camping gear like headlamps, candles, eating utensils, toilet paper, and rope will be useful. Cooking is done over a campfire, and we were able to have water from a nearby stream heated for soup and hot drinks, and canned foods (or pasta noodles, rice, etc.) warmed in a pot over the fire. Simplicity in food preparation is key, as there is one fire, limited cooking pots, and most of the day will be spent away from camp. Bathing is done in a nearby stream and is crucial at the end of a hot, sweaty day of trekking in the heat and humidity of the jungle. We brought bottled water, a minimum 1.5 liters per person, per day, and relied on boiled water from the nearby stream for cooking and hot drinks. A short walk into the forest from camp is a simple pit-drop toilet. Bring your own toiletries.

We had few problems with insects, and saw very few mosquitos. There are likely to be some bees and biting flies, depending on the season. There may be a few ticks in the forest, and it would therefore be wise to spray your shoes and pants with an insect repellent. Here and there you may encounter great ant migrations crossing the trails. Walking into one of these ant carpets will divert their migration onto your legs. You will know the true meaning of ants in your pants. Paying attention to the guides, and to where you put your feet, is always a good idea.

Sapo_8514_DKortePhotoOur guides were very knowledgable about animals and trees in the forest. Observing wildlife will depend on whether animals are in the vicinity, and also will depend on how much noise you make in the forest. Talking and clomping through dry leaves will inform the animals that you are coming and they will hide from you. Whispering, walking quietly, and stopping often to listen to the forest sounds will help to identify if there are animals present. Wearing proper clothing (blacks, browns, dark greens) is advised to blend in to the environment. If you discuss your hopes and expectations with the guides before entering the forest, they will be most helpful to give you a meaningful experience. We were able to observe Diana monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, a mystery duiker, zebra duikers, and squirrels. We heard galagos and tree hyraxes in the night. There are many birds to hear and see, including turacos, hornbills, owls, eagles, and flocks of small birds feeding through the trees.


Kollie spots a hornbill in the canopy above.
Kollie spots a hornbill in the canopy above.

If you expect to see chimpanzees, pygmy hippos, elephants, and leopards, you will likely be disappointed. Though these animals live in the park, years of hunting, mining, and other encroachments have taught them to stay out of sight. The guides are skilled in recognizing the tracks of many of the animals in the park, and during our treks, we discovered tracks of pygmy hippopotami and elephants. And of course, there is always the possibility of a surprise appearance. Keep your eyes and ears open!

Lisa crosses a break in the forest created by a treefall.
Lisa crosses a break in the forest created by a treefall.

Walking beneath ancient towering trees, listening to the chatter of monkeys in the canopy, the smell of lush vegetation, watching giant hornbills sail overhead, waking to the trill of galagos in the night, or the crowing of turacos at sunrise, these are forest experiences that are waiting for you at Sapo National Park. Bring all of your senses.

Lisa, Thomas, Kollie. Sapo National Park.
Lisa, Thomas, Kollie. Sapo National Park.

14 responses to “visit to Sapo National Park, Liberia”

  1. Alexander T. Wright Avatar
    Alexander T. Wright

    It was nice viewing some wonders of the park, i wish hope to pay a visit in the park soon when i return home to see those wonders physically. Thanks to the Liberian government for such preservation.

    1. Thank you Alexander. It is a beautiful park. Be sure to travel during the dry season, as the rainy season may make the roads impassible.

  2. Hello! These pictures are beautiful. I would love to post a few on an upcoming website and give you credit. The website will teach children about Sapo National Park and its endangered inhabitants. Can we discuss. Thanks so much.

  3. Hello, Lovely pictures, really enjoyed looking at your posts. My wife and I are cycling through West Africa and going through Liberia in February. From Monrovia we want to head to Harper taking in Sapo. How bad is the road from Buchanan to Greenville? and is there one onto Harper? or do you have to travel via Zwedru? We are used to a fair bit of hardship having cycled the Himalayas last year! Also any other information on road travel in Liberia would be most appreciated.
    Thankyou so much for your time.
    Dave and Helen

    1. Linta: Liberia National Tourism Association. 0888 879 879
      The above information I took from #lintaliberia on instagram. They may be more current on the state of roads in Southwest Liberia (Buchanan to Harper). Since the new president’s term began, infrastructure improvement is allegedly happening, especially roads along the SW coastline. I don’t know how fast the improvements are taking place, as I left Liberia several months ago. February is mostly dry season, so even if the roads are still gravel, they should be passable, especially by bicycle. Sounds like a great plan and what should be an enjoyable trip. Communication will be the biggest challenge, probably. Elizabeth Village & Resort
      Pipeline Road – Buchanan, Liberia Tel : +231/(0)776.812.314 a nice stop along the way between Monrovia and Harper…

  4. Sam-Abel Gbinsay Avatar
    Sam-Abel Gbinsay

    Your information was so helpful. I must be thankful to you for providing such resource.
    I’m planning a trip to the park and never knew where to begin.
    Thanks a lot.

    1. Thank you. I hope you get to Sapo National Park and find your experience enjoyable.

  5. What a wonderful post!
    Before then I wasn’t involved in Sapo National Park Management, but I am grateful that I am serving as Park Biologist.
    We welcome everyone to visit the Sapo National Park.

  6. Hello David. I am hoping to visit Sapo National Park next year and really appreciated reading your description of your trip. Do you have e-mail addresses for any of the guides? I would love to be able to make contact prior to the trip. Thank you, Ian Thompson

    1. Hello Ian, So much has changed in the years since I was in Liberia (2016-2018). Since the pandemic, I am sure logistics have changed. The Liberia National Tourism Association (LINTA) may be of help with information regarding guides, etc in Sapo National Park (Liberia). Sorry I am no longer in touch with current guiding resources in Liberia, but working with LINTA may bring success. The roads to and from the Capital (Monrovia) were mostly impassible during rainy season, but as we were leaving, the road system was being improved and by now may be passible year-round. Trekking in Sapo may still be seasonally dependent, as local roads and hiking trails may be challenging during the rains.
      Jerry Garteh:, is a local naturalist in Monrovia and he may be able to connect you to guides familiar with Sapo. His number was 077-646-2564 a few years ago. I believe one of our guides was: He may still be working for Fauna-Flora, and based in Monrovia. Joey: was constructing an EcoLodge in Edina, Liberia at the time we were there and may have options or connections for visiting Sapo. Lisa Antoune:, may still be on the board of LINTA and may be able to connect you with guiding resources. A stay at Libassa Ecolodge, in Marshall, near Monrovia, would be highly recommended.
      As I have learned countless times, phone numbers, etc. change often in Liberia. Good luck, and do contact me at if you need additional information. David Korte

    2. Another name that may be current Park Biologist, Ben B. Tally:

  7. Chandra Bharadwaj Avatar
    Chandra Bharadwaj

    Wonderful experience. Very detailed blog and it is very useful. This is Chandra Bharadwaj writing from Florida. I love traveling and am in the process of visiting Sierra Leone and Liberia next month. My goal (expectation) is to see pygmy hippos and a guide suggested Sapo National Park. Looks like from your article it may not be possible. The suggested East Nimba Reserve to see hippos but the guide said there is only a mountain range and some mining activity. Any suggestions for a 7 day trip to Sierra Leone and Liberia? Is there a way I can contact you? my phone +1 6363466050 (WhatsApp)

    1. Hello Chandra, Your guide is right that East Nimba in mostly (mined) mountain range and some forest. Pygmy hippos are very secretive and we found sign of them (tracks and scat) in Sapo National Park. I think you may have additional luck researching Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone. There is a river in the park that did offer a high-end experience, and there is remote camping available within the park. I do not have contact with guides currently in the park, but googling “Pygmy Hippos in Sierra Leone” will offer up a website for the Gola Rainforest site. You may have better luck seeing hippos in Sierra Leone vs. Liberia, but it will be a matter of luck and persistence that may ultimately bring success. The last time we were in West Africa was 2018, and since the pandemic, I am sure logistics have changed.The Liberia National Tourism Association (LINTA) may also be of help with information regarding guides, etc in Sapo National Park (Liberia). Wishing you success, David Korte

  8. Dear David
    Let me introduce myself
    I am an architect currently developing in Conakry Guinea
    & During the past few years have developed an interest in Classical African Art
    Please visit my site –
    For our new exhibition in Muza – Eretz Israel museum- Tel Aviv
    I would like if possible to use one of your photos to show sapo reserve – the birth place of Grebo art . – please advise …..

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