At the end of a long sandy road lies an unexpected Liberian paradise, where the fauna and flora are considered equal to humans. Framed by palm trees, mangrove forest and sedative views, it’s an intimate equatorial oasis.
Libassa Ecolodge, a 10-hectare retreat on the Atlantic Ocean, complete with its own natural lagoon, was opened by Lisa and Rudolph Antoune in 2012 out of a deep reverence — and desperation — for the outdoors. “There was no place to go where everything was about nature,” says Lisa. So they bought their own land for weekend visits. Six years later, Libassa has evolved into an idyllic respite from the maddening noise and pollution of the capital, Monrovia, which is about 45 minutes away on a good traffic day.
Frequent visitor Julie Nicholson agrees. The deputy country director for an international nongovernmental organization in Liberia says the retreat is “very therapeutic.” Walking through the site, the trees “create a magical little archway,” she explains, and “you can hear the waves crashing.” Other guests compare their experience to something you’d find in Europe or the United States — its ilk is rare for a country recovering from 14 years of civil war and the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak. The Antounes are setting a new example, and while they like roughing it, they accommodate those who don’t.
The 10 thatched lodges hidden among the treetops — with names like Crocodile, Pangolin and Pygmy Hippo — were built by local artisans.
On the one hand, sipping Liberian rum beside an illuminated pump-powered lazy river might feel a bit like Vegas. On the other hand, you’re immersed in deep undisturbed nature. Not a single tree was removed during construction, Lisa notes. The resort recycles as much as possible, all food waste is composted and the goal is to have 100 percent power sourced from renewable resources. The 10 thatched lodges hidden among the treetops — with names like Crocodile, Pangolin and Pygmy Hippo — were built by local artisans. “I love that they’ve kept everything natural,” says Nicholson. “Palm leaves cover the awnings when you lay in the sun, [and] you get to chat with the person who made the bread you’re eating.”
For those simply seeking hedonism, there are four pools to choose from, including a waterfall pool. And for those interested in the lodge’s eco efforts, there’s an on-site wildlife sanctuary where animals seized for bush meat are rehabilitated. So far about 50 percent of animals brought to the volunteer-driven sanctuary since 2016 have been released back into the wild. Other activities include forest hikes, beach yoga and canoeing in the lagoon.
People who lack time or funds to spend the night can pay a small fee to access all the facilities, or enjoy a meal. The restaurant serves both Western and native dishes, using local, seasonal produce like fresh pineapple and mango. Lisa says that some guests have expressed disappointment in food choices, so they are adding greater variety to the menu, including Indian food.
Unfortunately, for now Libassa doesn’t see many foreign tourists because the country isn’t equipped to accommodate them, according to Lisa. She and her husband hope to fix that with the Liberian National Tourism Association — an organization they founded to help improve the country’s viability as a destination.
Getting to Liberia is the hard part. Once you’re there, it’s easy to reach Libassa. And definitely worth the effort.
Go there: Libassa
- Getting there: Get a taxi (either at the airport or from Sinkor in the capital) and tell the driver to take you to Libassa Ecolodge via Marshall Junction. It will cost roughly $25–$30.
- Hours: Open Thursday to Monday.
- Cost: Lodges run from $125 per night for two people to $550 per night for a family suite.
- Pro tip: If you’re with friends and you have the budget, book the Love Bird Nest situated at the resort’s highest point. It comes with 180-degree views and a private swimming pool.
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