Sierra Leone lies on the Atlantic Ocean in West Africa.
The name comes from the Portuguese words for Lion Mountains – Serra Leoa.
Sierra Leone has a tropical climate with a diverse landscape, including savannah and rainforest. There are four geographical regions: the coastal swamp, the Sierra Leone Peninsula, the interior plains and the interior plateau with the mountains.
The wildlife of Sierra Leone is very diverse due to the variety of different habitats. There are approximately 147 known species of wild mammals within Sierra Leone.The endangered Pygmy Hippopotamus has territories around the islands on the Moa River and is widespread in the Gola Forest area.
The capital Freetown was a refuge for freed slaves. A group of former slaves arrived here from England in 1787 to start a settlement. Freetown has one of the world's largest natural harbours.
Most of the population works in agriculture, but Sierra Leone is also a mining centre. It produces diamonds, gold, titanium, bauxite and rutile (titanium dioxide).
The first language is Krio, a mixture of English and several African languages.
An outstanding feature of the country's cultural life is dancing. Different communities have their own costumes, ceremonial dresses and dances. You may hear about the Sierra Leone National Dance Troupe, which is well-known across the globe.
Football, baseball and basketball are popular sports. The national football team is called Leone Stars.
Sierra Leone joined the Commonwealth in 1961.
It made its debut, as a British Protectorate, in the Cardiff 1958 Commonwealth Games. The country took part again in 1966, 1970 and 1978, before returning permanently in 1990. In 2010 Sierra Leone competed in six sports.