A mere 6-hour flight from Jo’burg will get you to Accra, a short distance from West Africa’s best and most affordable birding experiences. Designed to get you 400+ species, this expedition includes your best opportunity to see the Yellow-Headed Picathartes and the charismatic Egyptian Plover. Along the way we experience the rainforests at Kakum National Park and Africa’s highest and longest aerial boardwalk, the prolific woodlands of Mole NP, the savanna in the north and a community project on the shores of Lake Volta devoted to protect the iconic Egyptian plover.
Great people, the tastiest food in the region and comfortable accommodation makes Ghana an unrivalled choice to get your West Africa list kick-started in style.
Join Africa Geographic’s leading guides as they unveil the magic of this birding realm. With a maximum of 8 guests and 2 expert leaders working the flocks, this trip will surely be a milestone in your birding endeavors.
Day 1: Accra
After your arrival in Accra (Ghana’s coastal capital city) you will be transferred to your city hotel for the night.
Overnight Full board at Alexis Hotel (Internet available).
Day 2: Sakumono, Winneba Plains to Kakum
In the early morning we visit the highly productive Sakumono lagoon , nearby our hotel. Here we feast our eyes on thousands of birds working the muddy shores, including Kitlitz’s plovers and collared pratincoles. herons and egrets wading in the deeper waters could include black herons with their bizarre ‘umbrella’ fishing style, and rafts of terns out on the lagoon islands. The lake edges should deliver western plantain-eaters and yellow-crowned gonoleks, amongst other avian jewels. From there we will make our way to Winneba Plains and several wetland sites along the way.
While in the vicinity we will also take time out to visit Ghana’s notorious Cape Coast Elmina Castle. Originally built by the Swedes in 1653, it is now a World Heritage Site and a chilling reminder of the horrors of the Trans Atlantic slave trade. In particular, a visit to the dank dungeons and the notorious “Door of No Return” is a sobering experience. During the height of this abhorrent trade, it is estimated that between 12 and 20 million West Africans were removed to the New World!
At the end of the day we’ll arrive at Rainforest Lodge, our base for the next few nights.
Full board at Rainforest Lodge (Internet available).
Driving times : Accra – Winneba Plains (2.5hrs); Winneba Plains to Kakum (2.2 hrs)
Days 3 – 4: Kakum NP
An early start will see us head for the canopy walkway at Kakum, where we will spend the better part of two days. Kakum’s canopy walkway is 150-m high and the only one of its kind in an African rainforest. Although Kakum may not hold the world’s most pristine forest, it supports the vast majority of the regular forest birds. The walkway is often alive with birds buzzing all around you, some at close quarters. Here we are bound to see many hornbill species, including black-casqued, yellow-casqued, wattled, white-crested, black dwarf, black-and-white-casqued and brown-cheeked. We can also expect to see sabine’s puffbacks, Sharpe’s apalis, yellow-billed turacos, fire-bellied woodpeckers, red-vented malimbes, chocolate-backed kingfishers and rosy bee-eaters.
Moving in flocks through the canopy we may soon find ourselves amongst yellow-mantled weaver, red-headed malimbe, chestnut-bellied helmetshrike, blue cuckooshrike, forest and white-headed woodhoopoe, chestnut-capped flycatcher, rufous-crowned eremomela, lemon-bellied crombec, fernando po batis, African grey parrot, Cassin’s spinetail, hairy-breasted barbet, slender-billed and honeyguide greenbuls, black-winged and western bBlack-headed orioles, chestnut-winged and splendid starlings, green, buff-throated and blue-throated brown sunbirds, chestnut-breasted, white-breasted and grey-crowned negrofinches, just to mention a few.
We will also descend to the ground and onto the many trails, searching for such prize birds as red-billed helmetshrike, finsch’s flycatcher-thrush, Gray’s malimbe, and the stunning rufous-sided broadbill. A late afternoon trip back up onto the walkway can be good to search for red-fronted parrots and more hornbills passing overhead on their way to roost, while after dark we will listen out for brown nightjar.
The forest is also full of monkeys and we will be on the lookout for monas and lesser spot-nosed monkeys, amongst others.
We will also explore the western reaches of Kakum NP (Antikwaa) for the electric-blue spangled black bee-eater, white-spotted flufftail, blue cuckooshrike, kemp’s longbill, and many other rainforest birds. During our stay we will venture out to a seldom visited, wooded reservoir where will be on the lookout for the orange-footed African finfoot.
Overnight on Full board at Rainforest Lodge (Internet available).
Driving times: Jukwa and Antikwaa (45 mins).
Day 5: Aboabo to Kumasi (Picathartes day)
Aboabo is the northern sector of Kakum NP, and the more open forest allows for great viewing opportunities. The elegant Long-Tailed Hawk may make an appearance as we approach his favorite hunting spot and we’ll be on the lookout for black-capped apalis, blue-headed crested-flycatcher, a few cuckoo species including the local yellow-throated cuckoo. Large treetop multiple species flocks may even include the strange Preuss’s weaver.
After a roadside lunch we will reach a small but devoted community project, keenly protecting the last remaining yellow-headed picathartes in the area. A short hike through a winding and steamy jungle will lead us to a monolithic overhang, were this phenomenal species often breeds and gathers in the afternoons. Here, we will wait, wait some more, and wait until it happens. Scouring every inch of forest floor, rainforest vines and canopy twitch, becoming aware of many other living creatures, but all the while in silence and focused and praying for “rockfowl”. His GRACE, and entourage…generally makes an appearance in the afternoon, and when that happens, all waiting, pains, itches and sore muscles will be forgotten. There is no doubt that this species will be your tour highlight. People come form all corners of the globe to see this insanely unique bird.
Overnight on Full board at Hotel Rexmar in Kumasi (no Internet available).
Driving times: Jukwa (Kakum) to Aboabo sector in Kakum NP (2.5hrs), Aboabo to Picathartes stakeout (road, excl walk into cave) –(2.5hrs), Picathartes site to Kumasi (2.5hrs)
Day 6: Kumasi to Mole NP
Leaving the rainforest belt that swaddles the southern half of Ghana, we head north for the exciting and productive belts of Guinea savanna woodlands that stretch across the north. The switch in habitats will be dramatic and we will soon be feasting on savanna species such as bearded barbet, abyssinian roller, senegal eremomela, African golden oriole and pearl-spotted owlet.
Overnight on Full board at Mole Hotel (No Internet available).
Driving times: Kumasi to Mole (stopover for lunch and birding en route) (9hrs).
Days 7 – 8: Mole NP
We will leave Kumasi at the crack of dawn to make it to Mole National Park. This is Ghana’s premier wildlife reserve, with good sightings possible of elephants and other game such as kob, waterbuck, and bushbuck. The area is covered by superb Guinea savanna, full of good birds, and offering a tally of very different species from those found in more southerly forests. The presence of waterholes and marshy areas within the park attracts a plethora of finches, with five species of firefinch, along with red-winged pytilias, lavender, orange-cheeked and black-rumped waxbills, village indigobirds and cinnamon-breasted and cabanis’ buntings.
Technicolor avian gems include barbary gonolek, white-fronted black chat, brown-backed woodpecker, exclamatory paradise whydah, stone partridge, common wattle-eye, abyssinian roller, bateleur, senegal thicknee, bruce’s green pigeon, longtailed nightjar, northern carmine bee-eater, redthroated bee-eater, violet turaco, bearded barbet, senegal parrot, red-shouldered cuckooshrike, snowy-crowned robin-chat, whitewinged black tit, northern crombec, fairy blue flycatcher, southern pygmy sunbird, yellowbilled shrike and bush petronia. A deserted runway near camp is a well known stakeout for the magnificent male standard-winged nightjars, while Northern white-faced owl and even the glowing Pel’s fishing-owl can be found within the park, whilst grayish eagle owls and freckled nightjars can both be regularly found hunting at camp next to the pool.
Overnight on Full board at Mole Hotel (No Internet available).
Day 9: Tongo Hills and Bolgatanga
Today we push north into the hot, dry Upper East region. Our destination, Tongo Hills, offers a great chance to make our acquaintance with a select cast of hill country birds such as fox kestrel, grasshopper buzzard and rock-loving cisticola. Remnant patches of savanna woodland along the way are often strongholds for roaming parties of white helmetshrikes, rufous-crowned and blue-bellied rollers, and dark chanting goshawks which may be found scouring the roadside verge.
Overnight on Full board at Ex-Tee Crystal Hotel (Internet available).
Driving times: Mole to Bolga (stopover for lunch and birding en route) (7hrs). Bolga to Tongo Hills (45mins each way).
Day 10: Tono Dam and Volta River (Bolgatanga)
Depending on the conditions, the large Tono Dam is sometimes home to a healthy population of water birds and is an important breeding site for a variety of ducks, herons and egrets, as well as an important wintering site for a large number of waders. The most spectacular wader however is not a migrant but an African resident – the incredible Egyptian plover – one of the most desirable birds on the continent. We will make a concerted effort to track this beautiful species down while we are in this area.
We will also spend time looking for the avian inhabitants of the dry woodland that hems the dam. Our target species include gabar and dark chanting goshawks, grasshopper buzzard, white-bellied bustard, black-headed lapwing, four-banded sandgrouse, swallow-tailed bee-eater, sun Lark, rufous cisticola, pygmy sunbird, piapiac, chestnut-bellied starling, bush Petronia, speckle-fronted weaver, red-winged pytilia and African silverbill.
Overnight on Full board at Ex-Tee Crystal Hotel (Internet available).
Driving times: Bolgatanga to Tono Dam to (45mins).
Day 11: Bolgatanga to Kumasi
Today we will be travelingsouth from the Upper East region, to Kumasi, birding en route at selected spots, and enjoying colorful markets, stalls and the sheer vibrancy of Ghana’s roadside villages and villagers.
Overnight on Full board at Silicon Hotel (No Internet available).
Driving times: Kumasi to Bobiri (9hrs).
Day 12: Bobiri Forest and Kalakpa Special Game Reserve
Bobiri is a secluded forest that is a key site for the diminutive red-billed dwarf hornbill. The site also offers up Africa’s smallest bird, tit-hylia and Africa’s smallest woodpecker, the tiny African piculet. We will also look for black dwarf hornbill, black-throated coucal, purple-throated cuckooshrike, gabon woodpecker, fraser’s forest flycatcher and the magnificent long-tailed hawk. After lunch we shall drive through to Kalakpa Special Reserve.
Overnight on Full board at Kalakpa(No Internet available).
Driving times: Kumasi to Bobiri (45mins); Bobiri to Kalakpa (2.5hrs).
Day 13: Kalakpa Special Game Reserve
This fabulous reserve protects some 320km of savanna and gallery forest and we have a full day to explore the area. Some of the sought-after possibilities here include the beautiful guinea and violet turacos, thick-billed cuckoo, retiring white-throated greenbul, grey-headed bristlebill, the rare blue-shouldered robin-chat, red-cheeked wattle-eye, puvel’s and brown illadopses and the highly elusive capuchin babbler. Kalakpa also hosts several mammals but we would be very fortunate to find any of the larger species.
As we head back after dusk we will look for African scops and African wood owls, and black-shouldered and long-tailed nightjars. During our nocturnal excursion we may even hear Nkulengu Rail, a near impossible rail to see! These large forest rallids roost high in the trees and emit their loud “Congo-drum” duets after dusk and in the pre-dawn.
Overnight on Full board at Kalakpa (No Internet available).
Day 14: Shai Hills and back to Accra
After an early departure from Kalakpa Reserve, we shall spend the early morning enjoying the open savannas at Shai Hills, looking for yellow-billed shrike, senegal parrot, violet turaco and stone partridge. Shai Hills offers savanna habitat just east of Accra. Mocking Cliff-chats can be found on the escarpment, croaking cisticolas in the dry grasslands, double-toothed barbets in the open woodlands, and swallow-tailed bee-eaters can be found along the lake shore. We return to Accra in the late afternoon where this tour will draw to a close, transfer to Accra International airport for evening departures.
Driving times: Kalakpa to Accra (3 hours).
Climate: For the most part it will be hot (28-35C), and very humid. There is a chance of short heavy bursts of rain at this time of year, which should not interrupt birding too much. The savanna areas of the north are dry and hot.
Difficulty: Walking the trails is easy throughout the trip. There is one slightly demanding hike to get to the Picathartes, it takes around an hour to reach the cave at a slow and stealthy pace.
Accommodation: In general, food and accommodations are of a moderate to high standard compared to the rest of West Africa. Please note that hot water is not always available at Mole NP or Bolgatanga, but the climate is hot and humid, so hot water may not be 100% essential. All accommodation offers private en-suite facilities.
Price includes: All accommodation, meals, snacks, mineral water, local brand drinks and access to all parks and reserves. Transportation around Ghana in air-conditioned vehicles, fuel, driver, park entrance fees and guide fees.
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Price excludes: International flights, visas, items of personal nature, telephone calls, laundry, alcoholic drinks other than those mentioned above, travel and medical Insurance, tips, excess baggage charges, any activities not specified in the itinerary.
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