Ghana - Specialities of the Gold Coast 2015
Sunday 2nd November – Tuesday 13th November 2014
Our special 10 day tour of the delightful birding hotspot of Ghana is designed to give us the opportunity to see many of the Upper Guinea Forest specialities, as well as a huge variety of other West African birds. With a species list of 755, Ghana is an ideal birdwatching destination being a reasonable flight time from the UK/Europe, having great weather, decent accommodation and food, plus many great birds. We begin at the Shai Hills Reserve where the savanna and woodland will provide us with a great introduction, followed by a spot of coastal wader watching. We then base ourselves at Kakum National Park, whose canopy walkway is rather unique in Africa and provides us with chances of seeing some startling and very special birds such as Congo Serpent-eagle,Yellow-casqued and Black-casqued Hornbills, Sharpe's Apalis, Blue Cuckoo-shrike and Tit-Hylia. We will also explore the numerous trails and other areas of this fabulous area before spending some time amidst the unspoilt evergreen forest of Ankasa, which is close to the border with the Ivory Coast. This is a beautiful area protecting some wonderful quality species and is the only rainforest in Ghana where White-breasted Guineafowl is known to occur. More special birds await us here, from Hartlaub's Duck and Dwarf Bittern to Green-tailed Bristlebill and Rufous-winged Illadopsis. Moving on via the coast to the northern areas of Kakum National Park in search of African Piculet, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, West African Batis and Red-vented Malimbe, we shall then head towards what should be the undoubted highlight of the tour. It is here that we will search for the 'ultimate' prize of any Ghana tour, when we visit a very special site for the truly amazing Yellow-headed Picathartes. Waiting quietly in the late afternoon we have an outstanding chance to see these strange magical forest birds returning to roost at their rocky caves and can hopefully enjoy close views. Bobiri Forest Reserve is next on the agenda, followed by some exciting birding in the Atewa hills where anything seems to be possible! As we are dedicating the majority of our time to rainforest birding we are enhancing our chances of finding the more sought-after and secretive Upper Guinea endemic species, which will lead to an extremely impressive quality birdlist.
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Day 1 UK - Accra - 2nd November
After an international flight from the UK/Europe we will arrive at Accra in the evening and transfer to a nearby hotel for the night. Overnight in Accra.
Day 2 Accra - Shai Hills - Kakum NP
Our first full day in Ghana will begin with an early breakfast before setting off to visit the nearby Shai Hills Reserve, an expanse of savannah, grassland and woodland, and provides a perfect introduction to the wealth of birdlife to be found in this 'crown jewel' of west African birding destinations. There is so much to see here but amongst the wealth of possibilities we hope to find Helmeted Guineafowl, Stone Partridge, Double-spurred Francolin, Brown Snake-eagle, Senegal Parrot, Red-headed Lovebird, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Northern Red-billed and African Grey Hornbills, Blue-bellied and Rufous-crowned Rollers, Rosy and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, Violet and Green Turacos, White-crowned Cliff-chat, White-crowned Robin-chat, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Senegal Batis, Rock Martin, Northern Puffback, Piapiac, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Pale and Lead-coloured Flycatchers, White-shouldered Black-tit, Green-headed and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Black-faced Quailfinch and if we are lucky, African Barred-owlet amongst other species. After a productive morning we will return to our hotel and enjoy our lunch before checking out and heading for the nearby Sakumono Lagoon. Here we hope to find Black, Striated and Squacco Herons, Intermediate and Western Reef Egrets, Glossy Ibis, African Spoonbill, Long-tailed Cormorant, Garganey, Black-winged Stilt, Senegal Thick-knee, Spur-winged Lapwing, Collared Pratincole, Kittlitz’s Plover, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers, and a variety of other more familiar western palearctic waders and terns. After some good birding we head west leaving the busy city of Accra behind. Our destination is the amazing Kakum National Park. En route, we will be stopping at a grassland reserve and lagoon where we hope to find both Black-shouldered and Yellow-billed Kites, African Hobby, Grey Kestrel, Lizard Buzzard, African Wattled Lapwing, Blue-spotted Wood-dove, Flappet Lark, Plain-backed Pipit, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Black-crowned Tchagra, Splendid and Copper Sunbirds, Red-winged Prinia, Siffling and Short-winged Cisticolas, Western Grey Plantain-eater, Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Black-necked Weaver, Blue-billed and Bar-breasted Firefinches, and Black-bellied Bustard to mention a few. Around the lagoon, we aim to see Purple Heron, Purple (African) Swamphen and African Pygmy-goose amongst others. Then we will head to the Rainforest Lodge, our base for the next 3 nights whilst we visit Kakum National Park. At the end of the day we can retire to our air-conditioned rooms after our evening meal, checklist and discussing the day’s sightings.
Day 3 Kakum National Park
After an early breakfast we head for the world famous canopy walkway at Kakum National Park which is approximately a 15 minute drive from our hotel. We aim to get there for first light (as we have special access) enabling us to spend the most critical bird viewing hours 40 meters above the forest floor on the canopy walkway where we can scan with scopes from the excellently positioned viewing platforms. The 360 km2 Kakum National Park protects secondary Upper Guinea tropical rainforest and holds a wealth of very special birds and we hope to see a good selection from our vantage point along the walkway with species such as Brown-necked and Red-fronted Parrots, Black-casqued, Black-and-White-casqued and White-crested Hornbills, Black and Rosy Bee-eaters, Little Green, Melancholy and Fire-bellied Woodpeckers, Bristle-nosed, Naked-faced, Yellow-spotted and Hairy-breasted Barbets, Speckled, Red-rumped and Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds, Yellow-billed Turaco, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Sabines Puffback, Sharpes Apalis, the strange Preuss’s Golden-backed Weaver that creeps along branches in a nuthatch-like fashion, Red-headed and Red-vented Malimbes, Buff-throated, Fraser's, Johanna's, Tiny and Little Green Sunbirds, Blue Cuckoo-shrike, Green Hylia, Violet-backed Hyliota, Yellowbill, Little Grey, Usher's and Shrike Flycatchers, Grey-headed, White-breasted and Chestnut-breasted Negrofinches, Black-winged Oriole, Grey Longbill, White-headed and Forest Wood-hoopoes, Blue Cuckoo-shrike, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Ansorge's, Yellow-whiskered, Honeyguide and Icterine Greenbuls, Velvet-mantled Drongo, and if we are lucky, Black-collard Lovebird and Yellow-footed Honeyguide. Tree platforms provide a fabulous vista over the forest, ideal for raptor watching and we hope to see Red-necked Buzzard, Palm-nut Vulture, African Harrier-hawk, the tricky Congo Serpent-eagle, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Long-tailed Hawk and both Ayres’s & Cassin's Hawk-eagles to mention just a few. Mammals are also a key feature of Kakum and it is not unusual to enjoy good views of Lesser Spot-nosed Monkey and Ursine Colobus from the canopy walkway. During the heat of mid-afternoon, you will have the option of birding around the hotel with your guide, resting around the pool and bar or you could choose to go on a cultural excursion to Cape Coast castle where you will be accompanied by an experienced cultural guides for the one hour tour. In the evening we re-visit the canopy when our main targets will be Brown-cheeked, Black and Yellow-casqued Hornbills, the huge Great Blue Turaco, Brown Nightjar and Fraser’s Eagle-owl amongst other specialities. Our evenings will be spent at the hotel restaurant and bar discussing the day’s sightings, adding to our checklist and enjoying the atmosphere of our surroundings. Night at Rainforest Lodge, Kakum.
Day 4 Kakum National Park
This morning we visit the Antwikwaa section of Kakum National Park for early morning birding hoping to see White-spotted Flufftail, Black Sparrowhawk, Woodland Kingfisher, Tambourine Dove, African Green-pigeon, White-throated, Rosy and the much-wanted Black Bee-eater, Blue-throated Roller, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Bristle-nosed Barbet, Speckled Tinkerbird, Black, Mottled, Cassin's and Sabine's Spinetails, Thick-billed, Levaillant’s and African Emerald Cuckoos, Piping and White-crested Hornbills, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Kemp's and Grey Longbills, Buff-throated and Western Olive Sunbirds, Ussher’s, Black-and-white and Fraser’s Flycatchers, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Willcock's Honeyguide, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Bioko’s Batis, Crested and Red-headed Malimbes, Chestnut-winged Starling, Magpie Mannikin, and maybe Long-tailed Hawk. We can also enjoy a short excursion for the beautiful White-throated Blue Swallow, Rock Pratincole, and White-headed Lapwing before returning to the hotel for our lunch. In the afternoon we will be concentrating our attention on the many trails within and surrounding the park, which should prove to be very productive. We hope to find Red-chested Goshawk, Blue-headed Wood-dove, Black Dwarf and Brown-cheeked Hornbills, Olive Long-tailed and Black Cuckoos, Fire-bellied and Gabon Woodpeckers, Yellow-billed Turaco, Ethiopian and Rufous-chested Swallows, Marsh and Brown-crowned Tchagras, Common Fiscal, Singing, Red-faced and Croaking Cisticolas, White-tailed Alethe, Red-tailed and Grey-headed Bristlebills, Collared and Olive-bellied Sunbirds, Blue-headed Crested Flycatcher, Forest Robin, Chestnut-breasted and White-breasted Negrofinches, Slender-billed Weaver, and if we are lucky, we may spot Forest Francolin or a Spotted Honeyguide, as well as numerous Greenbuls including Swamp Palm, Yellow-whiskered, Little, Simple and Swamp Palm. We will also remain for some exciting night-birding before returning to our hotel in the evening. Night at Rainforest Lodge, Kakum.
Day 5 Kakum National Park - Ankasa
Another early start this morning as we visit a different section of Kakum National Park, hoping to see species we may have missed previously. Our main targets will be Red-billed Helmet-shrike, Black-bellied Seedcracker, Forest Penduline-tit and Rufous-sided Broadbill. Other species present here include Emerald, Thick-billed and Black Cuckoos, Western Black-winged and Black-headed Orioles, Sooty Boubou, Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike, Willcock's Honeyguide, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Blackcap and Puvel's Illadopsis, Western Bluebill, Red-headed Quelea, and the beautiful Blue-billed Malimbe. We leave after the morning session and set off for Ankasa in the western region of Ghana for what should be a major highlight of our time in this wonderful country. Ankasa is Ghana’s only pristine wet evergreen Upper Guinea rainforest, a rarely visited beautiful forest protecting some wonderful species. We arrive at Half Assini in the afternoon for a 2-night stay, which is located along the coast where we have lunch before heading to Ankasa for some early evening birdwatching. We hope to see one of Africa’s most sought-after but rarely seen owls here, Akun Eagle Owl, along with African Wood Owl and Fraser's Eagle Owl also being present here, before returning to our accommodation in preparation for the next morning’s birding.
Days 6 - 7 Ankasa - Cape Coast
Early starts once more as we dedicate Day 6 and the morning of Day 7 to birding in the rarely-visited Ankasa, situated in western Ghana and close to the Ivory Coast, which protects an assortment of highly-prized specialities. With very few birders having visited this superb area we could be in for a surprise or two! So we will be on the lookout for Hartlaub’s Duck, African Jacana, African Finfoot, Olive Ibis, Dwarf Bittern, the rare White-breasted Guineafowl, African Crowned Eagle, Brown Nightjar, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Great Blue and Yellow-billed Turacos, as well as having further chances of Yellow-casqued, Black-casqued, Red-billed Dwarf and Black Dwarf Hornbills should we have missed them at Kakum National Park. Other highlights here include White-bellied, Shinning Blue and Chocolate-backed Kingfishers, Olive and Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoos, Red-billed Helmet-shrike, Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike, Square-tailed Saw-wing, Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Black-capped, Pale-breasted, Rufous-winged and Brown Illadopsis, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Red and Green-tailed Bristlebills, Yellow-bearded, Western Bearded, Cameroon Somber and Red-tailed Greenbuls, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Red-fronted Antpecker, Shining Drongo, and there's always a chance of Nkulengu Rail. After a final morning's birding in Ankasa on day 7 we set off back to Cape Coast, stopping for lunch at Takoradi before heading on to Brenu Beach, an area of grassland savannah for our evening birding. Here we hope to find Vieillot’s Barbet, Preuss’s Swallow, Brown Sunbird and Marsh Tchagra amongst other species. We then continue to the Rainforest Lodge once again for our evening meal, checklist and to reflect on a productive day.
Day 8 Aboabo - Kakum NP - Kumasi
Early start as we head towards Aboabo on the North West boarder of Kakum National Park, which is undoubtedly the most productive section of Kakum National Park, and the birdlife here never disappoints. We take a packed lunch with us which will allow us to dedicate the whole morning trying to add more species to our rapidly growing lists amidst the open forest habitat which makes viewing here easier than some other places on the tour. We hope to see White-spotted Flufftail, African Grey and Brown-necked Parrots, Yellow-throated and Black Cuckoos, Black-throated Coucal, African Piculet, Naked-faced, Bristle-nosed and Spotted Barbets, Black-capped Apalis, Blue-throated and Little Green Sunbirds, Red-vented and Crested Malimbes, Western Nicator, Finsch’s Flycatcher-thrush, Kemps Longbill, Chestnut-capped, Red-bellied Paradise and, if we are lucky, the much sought-after Tessman’s Flycatcher, Red-tailed and Icterine Greenbuls, Copper-tailed Glossy-Starling, and both Maxwell’s Black and Yellow-mantled Weavers amongst other species. After enjoying our packed lunch we set off for a remote village. On our arrival we trek into a nearby forest where our destination will be a nesting site for one of the most sought-after birds in the world, the prehistoric looking Yellow-headed Picathartes. There are around 30 nests at this location and catching a glimpse of this remarkable bird is an amazing feeling. Once everyone has enjoyed good views we set off for Kumasi, the Capital of the Ashanti region. On arrival we check into our hotel and enjoy a cold drink over our evening meal whilst reflecting on one of the most memorable birding days of our lives. Night at Ankasi.
Day 9 Bobiri Forest Reserve - Atewa
We wake early to visit Bobiri Forest Reserve, which is actually a butterfly sanctuary. Upon our arrival, we will search this lush forest for Forest Francolin, Afep and Bronze-naped Pigeons, Red-billed Dwarf, Brown-cheeked and White-crested Hornbills, Blue-throated Roller, Little Green Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, Tit-Hylia, Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatcher, Yellow-footed Honeyguide, Green-headed Sunbird, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Brown Illadopsis, Western Nicator, Swamp Palm Bulbul and Golden Greenbul. Some of the many raptors present include Cassin's Hawk-eagle, Red-thigh Sparrowhawk, African Cuckoo-hawk and Long-tailed Hawk to mention just a few. After lunch we set off for Atewa and bird the lower portion of the range in the afternoon which should prove to be very productive. Here we hope to see Blue-headed Coucal, Dideric Cuckoo, Black-bellied Seedcracker, Compact and Grosbeak Weavers, Western Bluebill, Rufous-winged Illadopsis, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye and sometimes Baumann’s Greenbul. Night at Taso.
Day 10 Atewa - Accra - End of Tour - 11th November
Our last morning and we will dedicate this to birding the Atewa mountain range, as this is the main site in Ghana where we can see Blue-headed Bee-eater. Atewa also holds a similar range of forest birds to that of Kakum but some species are easier to encounter here, so we may well see the endangered Whistling Cisticola, as well as Ahanta Francolin, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Narina Trogon, Simple Leaflove, Rufous-winged Illadopsis, Many-coloured Bush-shrike, Forest Scrub-robin, African Yellow White-eye, Olive-green Camaroptera, Forest Robin, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Fraser’s, Buff-throated, Johanna’s and Tiny Sunbirds, Grey-throated Tit-flycatcher, Shining Drongo, Heuglin’s Masked, Grosbeak and Compact Weavers, Chestnut-winged Starling, and Black-and-White Mannakin amongst others. After a wonderful morning we will return to the hotel to freshen up, take lunch and rearrange our bags before setting off for Accra. Depending on flight departure times we can visit a nearby local restaurant to relax and enjoy an early evening meal before our international flight home after an unforgettable 10 day rainforest birdwatching tour of Ghana.
Leaders: Nick Bray and local guide.
Ground Price: £1850.00 - Accra/Accra
Airfare: £650.00 (Approx) - UK/UK
Zoothera tour prices explained
Single supplement: £225
Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 5 and maximum 8 with 2 leaders.
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin rooms en-suite, all meals, bottled water, all entrance fees, ground transport throughout in a/c coach and 4x4 (at Atewa), and services of leaders.
Not included: International airfare, insurance, drinks, tips, visa fee, and items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: Our accommodations range from good to basic and all in close proximity of birding areas to be visited. All room are en-suite and generally 2 twin beds with air conditioning.
Tour Code: This is a standard birding tour with early mornings and evening birding essential to make the best of our birding opportunities. This does make for long days in the field and if the weather is hot we will try to rest during the middle of the day. The weather can be unsettled at this time of year, so be prepared for the occasional shower.
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