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GHANA

1–18 November 2022

This Upper Guinea rainforest and savannah special tour will take us to the rarely-visited and unspoilt Ankasa rainforest, the only site in Ghana for White-breasted Guineafowl. We will also visit the world-famous Kakum National Park with its canopy walkway, Mole National Park with its Savannah Elephants, the Atewa Range for Blue-moustached Bee-eater and, a highlight of the tour, a White-necked Rockfowl (Yellow-headed Picathartes) nesting site.

Day 1 Flight from London to Accra where our local guide will meet us. We will then transfer to a comfortable hotel about an hour’s drive away in Tema for an overnight stay.

Day 2 Our first full day in Ghana and we head for the open grassland savannah of the Shai Hills Reserve, an expanse of savannah, grassland and woodland. Here the birding is excellent and we will be looking for Red-necked Buzzard, Stone Partridge, African Grey Hornbill, Senegal Parrot, Northern Crombec, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, African Pygmy-kingfisher, Cardinal Woodpecker, Double-toothed and Vieillot’s Barbets, Mocking Cliff-chat, Rock Martin, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Senegal Batis, Blue-bellied Roller, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Brown and Blackcap Babblers, Copper and Splendid Sunbirds, White Helmetshrike, Croaking and Siffling Cisticolas, African Thrush and Green Woodhoopoe to mention a few of the species on offer here. After an introductory morning birding we head for the Sakamona Lagoon, and there is usually an abundance of birds to see here. Depending on the level of water we hope to see Garganey, African Spoonbill, Long-tailed Cormorant, Western Reef-heron, Black, Grey, Purple, Squacco and Striated Herons, Cattle, Intermediate and Little Egrets, African Swamphen, Spur-winged Lapwing, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Senegal Thick-knee, Common Ringed and Grey Plovers, Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Common, Curlew, Marsh and Wood Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Stint and Giant, Malachite, Pied and Woodland Kingfishers. Next, we set off towards Kakum National Park through the busy city of Accra stopping for lunch on route before heading to a grassland reserve where we hope to find Black-bellied Bustard, Black-winged and Black (Yellow-billed) Kites, Grey Kestrel, Lizard Buzzard, Blue-spotted Wood-dove, Western Plantain-eater, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Black-crowned Tchagra, Plain-backed Pipit, Moustached Grass-warbler, Flappet Lark, Red-winged Prinia, Yellow-crowned and Black-winged Bishops, Yellow-mantled Widowbird and Black-necked Weaver amongst other species. At the end of the day we will arrive at Rainforest Lodge, our base for the next three nights.

Day 3 After an early breakfast, we will make prompt starts to be at the world-famous canopy walkway at Kakum National Park at first light. We will be spending the most critical bird-viewing hours 40 metres above the forest floor on the canopy walkway on seven platforms large enough to support telescopes. The 360 km² Kakum National Park protects secondary semi-deciduous tropical rainforest and it is a wonderful feeling being so close to the canopy of this beautiful forest. Our main target species during our time on the canopy walkway will be the Upper Guinea endemics: Brown-cheeked Hornbill, Little Green Woodpecker, Sharpe’s Apalis, Copper-tailed Starling, West African Batis and Blue Cuckooshrike. More widespread species we may see include Grey, Brown-necked and Red-fronted Parrots, African Green-pigeon, African Emerald Cuckoo, Speckled and Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Cassin’s Honeybird, Green Hylia, African Pied, Black-and-white-casqued and Black-casqued Hornbills, Forest and White-headed Woodhoopoes, Fanti Drongo, Violet-backed Hyliota, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Chestnut-capped, Little Grey and Ussher’s Flycatchers, Blue-throated Brown, Collared, Green and the beautiful Buff-throated Sunbirds, Grey-headed and White-breasted Nigritas, Golden, Little Grey and Slender-billed Greenbuls, Black-headed and Black-winged Orioles, Splendid Starling, Chestnut-winged Starling, Sabine’s Puffback, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Preuss's and Black-headed Weavers and Crested, Red-headed and Red-vented Malimbes. Some of the more difficult but still possible species from the canopy include Black Dwarf Hornbill, Yellow-footed Honeyguide and Black-collared Lovebird. Additionally, we will keep a lookout for raptors through the canopy, which may include Palm-nut Vulture, African Hawk-eagle, European Honey-buzzard and the rare Congo Serpent-eagle. After a wonderful morning, we return to our lodge to freshen up and enjoy our lunch. During the heat of mid-afternoon, you will have the option of resting in your air-conditioned rooms, relaxing around the pool and bar or you could choose to go on a cultural excursion to Cape Coast castle. We will re-visit the canopy walkway in the evening when our main targets will be Yellow-casqued Hornbill, Great Blue Turaco, Brown Nightjar and Fraser’s Eagle-owl amongst other specialities. We will return to the lodge after dark for dinner and complete our checklist for the day.

Day 4 As will be the norm on the tour we will have another early start, this time to visit the Antwikwaa section of Kakum National Park to add some more amazing birds to our growing list. Species we will be looking for include Black, Little and Rosy Bee-eaters, Blue-throated Roller, Piping Hornbill, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Cassin’s and Sabine’s Spinetails, Didric Cuckoo, Buff-spotted and Melancholy Woodpeckers, Grey and Kemp's Longbills, Western Nicator, African Forest-flycatcher, Johanna’s, Olive-bellied and Superb Sunbirds, Violet-backed Starling, African Yellow White-eye, Western Bluebill, Vieillot’s Weaver, Bronze Mannikin, Orange-cheeked Waxbill and sometimes, White-spotted Flufftail. Amongst the more difficult species are Ayre’s Hawk-eagle, Ahanta Francolin, Yellow-billed Barbet and Forest Penduline-tit to mention a few. We then go to a river site to look for the beautiful White-throated Blue Swallow, Preuss’s Swallow, Rock Pratincole, White-headed Lapwing, and if we are lucky (which we sometimes are), African Finfoot may make an appearance. In the afternoon we will concentrate our attention on the many trails within and surrounding the park, which should prove to be very productive. We hope to find White-tailed Alethe, Grey-headed and Red-tailed Bristlebills, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Forest Robin, Yellow-billed Turaco, Fire-bellied Woodpecker and many others. Once again we will remain until dark trying for owls and nightjars that we may still need before returning to our accommodation for our meal and the checklist.

Day 5 This morning we will be concentrating our time on the farmland scrub, forest edge and forest trails at Abrafo, a section of forest habitat near to Kakum National Park. Our guides are always focused on getting our clients good views of all species and this morning is no different as we search for Red-chested Goshawk, African Harrier-hawk, Forest Francolin, Black-throated Coucal, Guinea Turaco, Gabon Woodpecker, Blue Malkoha (Yellowbill), Hairy-breasted and Naked-faced Barbets, White-crested Hornbill, Black-headed Paradise-flycatcher, Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Puvel’s Illadopsis, African Pitta, Spotted Honeyguide, Pale Flycatcher, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Lowland Sooty Boubou, Olive-green Camaroptera, Red-faced and Whistling Cisticolas, Lesser Striped Swallow, Fanti Sawwing, Fraser's and Little Green Sunbirds, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Swamp Greenbul, Common Fiscal, Spotted and Yellow-whiskered Greenbuls, Finsch’s Flycatcher-thrush, Black-and-white Mannikin and the more sought-after difficult species that include Rufous-sided Broadbill, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher and Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo. We check out of our hotel after lunch and set off westwards for what should prove to be a major highlight of your time here in Ghana. Our destination is Ankasa Reserve, Ghana’s only wet evergreen rainforest that is in near pristine condition but we will make stopes en route for species like Marsh Tchagra and Water Thick-knee. Ankasa is an exceptional forest in a rarely-visited remote location which protects many rare and sought-after bird and mammal species. We will check into our lodge or a nearby guesthouse with mains electricity and private bathrooms on arrival before heading out for early-evening birding where we hope to see both Akun Eagle-owl and African Wood-owl. Our local guide will also be looking for the legendary Nkulengu Rail. Three nights in the fabulous Ankasa Forest Reserve.

Days 6–7 Our local guide will be up before first light listening for the unmistakeable call of the Nkulengu Rail, and, if he locates this species, he will alert the group before breakfast. Without the need to waste two hours travelling, we can set off early venturing deeper into this lush forest with our main targets being the Upper Guinea endemics Yellow-bearded Greenbul, Blackcap, Brown, Pale-breasted and Rufous-winged Illadopsis and Green-tailed Bristlebill. In addition, there are many other species to look for including the rare and shy Olive Ibis, Ansorge’s, Icterine and Red-tailed Greenbuls, Western Bearded-greenbul, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, Shining Drongo, Cassin’s Flycatcher, White-throated Bee-eater, Chestnut-breasted Nigrita, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Black-capped Apalis, Tiny Sunbird and Red-fronted Antpecker. As we walk towards the watering holes located deeper inside the forest we hope to see Crested Guineafowl on the road. Our target birds will include Hartlaub’s Duck, Dwarf Bittern, African Dwarf, Blue-breasted, Shining-blue and White-bellied Kingfishers. Forest raptors are always welcome and we hope to see Long-tailed Hawk and Crowned Eagle as well as Square-tailed Sawwing as we scan the sky. There are some very rare species here including White-breasted Guineafowl, White-crested Bittern, Grey-throated Rail, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Red-chested Owlet and Shelley’s Eagle-owl but luck has to be with us to see more than one of these. A second evening at our camp enjoying good food and discussing the days birding over a cold refreshing drink.

Day 8 On this final morning's birding at this wonderful location, we will be targeting species we may have missed or would like to get better views of. After a full morning’s birding, we return to our camp to pack our bags and take lunch before we head back towards Kakum National Park. During our journey we will be targeting several species not seen in other parts of Ghana and these may include Little Grebe, African Pygmy-goose, Reichenbach’s Sunbird and Orange Weaver. A new habitat is in store for us before getting back to Kakum as we head for Brenu Akyinim and the coastal savannah plains. There are some special species found in this area and new birds we hope to see include Marsh Tchagra, Compact Weaver, Double-spurred Francolin, Oriole Warbler, Red-headed Quelea, Black-rumped Waxbill and possibly Wilson's Indigobird, Yellow-winged Pytilia and Wattled Lapwing. If we decide to stay after dusk this should give us the opportunity to see Greyish Eagle-owl and Long-tailed and Plain Nightjars before we arrive back at the Rainforest Lodge for our evening meal and an overnight stay.

Day 9 Today is special and it may be difficult to focus our minds on anything other than the afternoon visit to the White-necked Rockfowl (Yellow-headed Picathartes) nesting site! We have a full morning's birding to enjoy first however, so, after an early breakfast and checking out of our hotel, we head to Abrafo forest where we will be targeting species we may still require from this habitat. After a morning's birding, we set off northwards stopping for lunch en-route, before arriving at a remote village close to a small Upper Guinea rainforest in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. All of the known nesting sites for the White-necked Rockfowl are in forest reserves that are not well protected. This location has more nesting sites than any other in Ghana and our ground agents are proud to be actively involved in protecting this habitat from illegal hunting and logging activities by sponsoring twenty-four community forest committee members from the surrounding villages to patrol and stop illegal hunting and logging activities. It is imperative to show the local surrounding communities of the benefits of protecting this species and its endangered habitat so all proceeds from our visit go directly to a community fund part of which is being used to build an eleven-classroom school and future plans include a reception centre and accommodation for nature lovers. Due to this action, there has been a dramatic reduction in tree felling and our groups are enjoying better views than ever of more birds when visiting the White-necked Rockfowl nesting site. There are around 20 nesting sites in this small forest and we will visit one of the largest colonies that has approximately 30 nests. As we set off on the walk through this beautiful forest you can see why it is one of the most sought-after species in the world and the total experience adds to this mythical bird’s reputation. As we arrive at the nesting site we need to be very quiet as we take our seats on bamboo benches purposely made for viewing. The overhanging rock face and small cave with mud nests sets the atmosphere as we wait for the birds to come back from foraging for snails, frogs and insects during the day. These legendary prehistoric-looking birds hop and jump on the rocks whilst preening themselves just metres from our eyes (no telescope needed). Once we have enjoyed good views we leave the birds in peace as we set off back through the forest to our twin-bedded chalet-type accommodation in Bonkro village for a two-night stay, which avoids the long drive to Kumasi.

Day 10 A more leisurely breakfast this morning as we are close to the forest trails of both Bonkro and Kwabena Sam Forests where we will spend the entire day, only returning to the village for lunch and evening meal. These are very productive forests and will give us additional chances for many specialist birds of the Upper Guinea Forest zone plus the extremely rare and difficult-to-see Western Wattled Cuckooshrike, which is regularly seen here. These are also excellent forests for seeing Pangolins with both Long-tailed and Tree Pangolins present.

Day 11 After an early breakfast we set off for an interesting forest in a transitional zone between the southern wetter forests and northern drier woodland habitats where we find some quality species. We will have approximately three hour's birding here and will need to walk as the road is in poor condition. Species possible to see here include Afep Pigeon, Red-billed Helmetshrike, Fiery-breasted, Lagden’s and Many-coloured Bushshrikes. Black Goshawk and Red-thighed Sparrowhawk whilst our main target will be Capuchin Babbler and Forest Scrub-robin. Our time, however, will be limited, so luck will need to be on our side before we set off for Ghana’s premier game viewing park found in the Northern Region. It is approximately a five-hour drive from Offinso to Mole National Park and we will be stopping for lunch and several leg stretches en-route where we may see Namaqua Dove and Black-rumped Waxbill. We can expect to see different species of birds as we head northwards as the habitat changes to the drier, broad-leaved Guinea woodland and savannah. Your guides will be keeping an eye open for the many raptors we hope to see during our journey, which may include Beaudouin’s Snake-eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Grasshopper Buzzard and Shikra amongst others. Mole is Ghana’s largest National Park protecting an area of 4847 square kilometres of the Sahelian savannah plains of northern Ghana where almost 100 species of mammal and 330+ species of birds have been recorded. Our hotel is situated on a 250-metre-high escarpment overlooking the park and offers breath-taking views from the terrace and swimming pool; sometimes with Savannah Elephants bathing in the two nearby watering holes inhabited by crocodiles! After our evening meal, we shall set visit the Mole Airstrip where we hope to see displaying Freckled and Standard-winged Nightjars. The airstrip is also productive for owls and we will be looking for African Scops-owl and Northern White-faced Owl before we retire for the evening. Three nights Mole National Park.

Days 12–13 We will start early on both days, watching the dawn activity from the hotel terrace. Mole is a real nature lover’s paradise and we are in for a treat over the next two full days as we immerse ourselves into the exceptional West African birds and mammals found here in the national park. We will be setting off after breakfast walking and driving deeper into this savannah in the cooler early mornings. Our expert guides know all the best locations for numerous species which may include White-faced Whistling-duck, Spur-winged Goose, Black, Saddle-billed and Woolly-necked Storks, Hadada Ibis, Spotted Thick-knee and Greater Painted-snipe around the waterholes whilst the stately Denham’s Bustard, White-throated Francolin, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Bruce's Green-pigeon, Black-billed Wood-dove, Vinaceous Dove, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Red-headed Lovebird, African Grey, Brown-backed, Fine-spotted and Golden-tailed Woodpeckers, the stunning Northern Carmine-beater, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Abyssinian Ground-hornbill, Violet Turaco, Red-throated Bee-eater, Familiar Chat, White-fronted Black-chat, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Swamp Flycatcher, Grey Tit-flycatcher, Yellow Penduline-tit, White-shouldered Black-tit, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Woodchat Shrike, Northern Puffback, Rufous Cisticola, Senegal Eremomela, Beautiful, Pygmy, Scarlet-chested, and Western Violet-backed Sunbirds, Bronze-tailed, Greater Blue-eared, Lesser Blue-eared, Long-tailed Glossy and Purple Starlings, Lavender Waxbill, Red-cheeked Cordonbleu, Bar-breasted, Black-bellied and Red-billed Firefinches and Brown-rumped Bunting throughout the park. Raptors are common and we hope to see Bateleur, Booted, Martial, Tawny and Wahlberg’s Eagles, Hooded, White-backed, White-headed Vultures, Gabar Goshawk, Dark Chanting-goshawk, Western Marsh-harrier, African Fish-eagle, Brown and Short-toed Snake-eagles, Osprey, African Hobby and Lanner Falcon are amongst the huge list of other species we may see. We obviously have our main target species of difficult birds not easily seen in other parts of Africa and these include Forbes's Plover, African Spotted Creeper and Rufous-rumped Lark. During the heat of the early afternoons you can bird around the hotel grounds or relax on the terrace around the pool before further late afternoon walks. In the early evenings we will search for nightjars, owls and the amazing Pel's Fishing-owl if we haven’t found one at a daytime roost. As well as Savannah Elephants, other mammals are in abundance here and we may find the stunning Roan Antelope together with Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Kob and Hartebeest, Green Vervet and Patas Monkeys.

Day 14 After an early breakfast, we set off from Mole heading back southwards towards Kumasi. We will however, make a diversion to enjoy a major highlight of the tour visiting the White Volta River to see the beautiful Egyptian Plover. We have a 100% record of seeing this species during our tours to Ghana and will spend time watching and photographing the birds before we continue on south to overnight in Kumasi.

Day 15 The nearby Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary is back in Upper Guinea Rainforest habitat so with an early start this morning we will seek out birds we may have missed before or those we want better views of. Some of the specialities here include African Cuckoo-hawk, Narina Trogon, African Piculet, Dusky Tit, Blue-headed Crested-flycatcher and Green-headed Sunbird amongst more widespread species such as Red-chested Cuckoo. After a hopefully productive morning, we head south towards Atewa stopping for lunch en-route. After some rest and relaxation we set of for the lower farmland bush at Atewa where we hope to see Klaas’s, Levaillant’s and Yellow-throated Cuckoos, Black-headed Paradise-flycatcher, Tessmann’s Flycatcher and Grosbeak Weaver with the possibility of Baumann’s Greenbul and Bat Hawk. Two nights Tafo.

Day 16 Atewa is a critically-endangered highland Upper Guinea rainforest habitat and as it protects so many quality and rare species, we will dedicate the entire day birding here taking packed lunches with us to minimise the walking and maximise our time. The main target bird here is the scarce and unobtrusive Blue-moustached Bee-eater but there are potentially many other new birds here including African Goshawk, Dusky Crested-flycatcher, Nimba and Olivaceous Flycatchers, Little and White-throated Greenbuls, Brown-chested Alethe and Lowland Akalat amongst others.

Day 17 After an early breakfast we will head back up into the Atewa Forest to find species we may still need or want better views of. The whole morning will be dedicated to enjoying this endangered forest habitat that protects so many rare and sought-after species We will return to our guesthouse to freshen up, have lunch, pack our bags and return to Accra where we will have an early evening meal and do our final checklist before transferring to the airport for the return journey home.

Day 18 Arrival back in the UK at the end of the tour.

General Information It will generally be warm to hot and rain may be experienced despite it being the dry season. Humidity can be high in the south and central regions. The pace is easy, but the heat can be uncomfortable at times. Some days we will split the birding into two sessions, with a break at the hotel in the middle of the day so we can relax. There are a number of health requirements and you must consult your GP in this respect. Insects are not a major problem. Accommodation is in twin-bedded rooms in medium-standard hotels or the best available in the area with private facilities and air-conditioning except for two nights in Ankasa camp where there are twin-bedded tents and shared bathroom facilities. Visas are required.

Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 12 with 2 leaders.

Blue-moustached Bee-eater

Blue-moustached Bee-eater

Recommended books available from NHBS