17 October–2 November 2017
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-headed 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 for an overnight stay.
Day 2 Our first full day in Ghana will start early at the nearby Shai Hills reserve, an expanse of savannah, grassland and woodland. The birding here is excellent and we will hope to find African Grey Hornbill, Mocking Cliff-chat, Senegal Parrot, Croaking Cisticola, White-crowned Robin-chat and many more species. After a late breakfast we will visit the nearby Sukumona Lagoon to look for Black and Striated Herons, Long-tailed Cormorant, Garganey, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, African Spoonbill and Senegal Thick-knee. Later we will head west towards the Cape Coast to the amazing Kakum National Park. En route we will stop at a grassland reserve and lagoon to search for Siffling Cisticola, Copper Sunbird, Flappet Lark, Red-winged Prinia, Yellow-shouldered Widowbird, Black-necked Weaver, Common Gonolek, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Moustached Grass-warbler, displaying Black-winged Bishops, Black-crowned Tchagra, Plain-backed Pipit and Black-bellied Bustard. Around the lagoon we will look for Squacco and Purple Herons, African Swamphen, Spur-winged Plover, African Pygmy-goose, Western Reef-heron, Yellow Bishop and many more species. Hans Cottage, our base for the next three nights, is a very comfortable hotel built over a lake that contains Nile Crocodiles and is teeming with birdlife including African Pygmy-kingfisher, Pied, Giant, Woodland and Malachite Kingfishers and Vieillot's, Village and Orange Weavers.
Days 3–4 We will make prompt starts at the world-famous canopy walkway at Kakum National Park. Over these two early-mornings we will be spending the most critical bird-viewing hours 40 metres above the forest floor on the canopy walkway on platforms large enough to support telescopes. The Kakum National Park protects critically-endangered primary guinea tropical rainforest and the species we will hope to see from the canopy include Green Hylia, Violet-backed Hyliota, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Little Flycatcher, Grey-headed, White-breasted and Chestnut-breasted Nigritas, Grey Longbill, White-headed and Forest Woodhoopoes, West African Batis, Western Bluebill, Blue Cuckooshrike, Chestnut-bellied Helmetshrike, Large-billed Puffback, Sharpe's Apalis, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Brown-cheeked, Black-and-white-casqued, Black-casqued and Piping Hornbills, Preuss's and Golden-backed Weavers, Red-headed and Red-vented Malimbes, Rosy Bee-eater, Yellow-spotted and Hairy-breasted Barbets, Red-fronted, Brown-necked and Grey Parrots and Velvet-mantled Drongo. The raptors we will aim to see include Red-necked Buzzard, Palm-nut Vulture and Congo Serpent-eagle. During the heat of mid-afternoon our options will be birding in the forest close to our hotel, resting around the hotel pool and bar or going on a cultural excursion to Cape Coast visiting Cape Coast and Elmina castles. We will visit the Antikwaa section of Kakum National Park for late-afternoon birding hoping to see Little and Black Bee-eaters, Blue-throated Roller, White-crested Hornbill, Red-rumped and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds, Kemp's Longbill, Ussher's Flycatcher, African Forest-flycatcher and, if we are lucky, White-spotted Flufftail.
Day 5 Another early start will be made to go birding on the many trails within and surrounding the park. These can be very productive and we will aim to find Fire-crested Alethe, Common and Grey-headed Bristlebills, Collared and Olive-bellied Sunbirds, Blue-headed Wood-dove, Black and Red-billed Dwarf Hornbills, Black-headed Paradise-flycatcher, Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Forest Robin, Red-chested Goshawk, Long-tailed Hawk, Guinea Turaco, Fire-bellied and Gabon Woodpeckers, Black-throated Coucal, Western Black-headed Oriole and African Finfoot; if we are lucky we may spot Congo Serpent-eagle, African Pitta, Forest Francolin, Forest Scrub-robin or Spotted Honeyguide. After a late breakfast we will set off for Ankasa in the western region of Ghana for what should be a major highlight of the tour. Ankasa is a rarely-visited pristine tropical Upper Guinea rainforest protecting some wonderful species. We will arrive in the late afternoon and check into our accommodation for a three-night stay before heading to Ankasa for early-evening birdwatching, where we will hope to see Akun and Fraser's Eagle-owls and African Wood Owl.
Days 6–7 We will dedicate Day 6 and the morning of Day 7 to birdwatching in Ankasa. Species we will hope to find are Olive Ibis, Hartlaub's Duck, African Finfoot, Crowned Hawk-eagle, Great-blue and Yellow-billed Turacos, Yellow-casqued Hornbill, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Chestnut-bellied Helmetshrike, Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike, Blackcap, Puvel's and Brown Illadopsis, Common and Green-tailed Bristlebills, Yellow-bearded and Red-tailed Greenbuls and, if we are lucky during early-evening birding, Shelley's Eagle-owl and Nkulengu Rail. After a final morning's birding we will set off for Brenu Beach, where our main target will be Preuss's Swallow.
Day 8 Today we will head to Aboabo on the northeast border of the park. We will arrive before first light and will hope to find Plain and Long-tailed Nightjars on the road leading up to the camp. We will spend all morning birding the area. After lunch we will set off for a remote village in the Ashanti region of Ghana for what should be the highlight of the tour. On our arrival we will trek into the forest to a nesting site for White-headed Rockfowl. There are around 30 nests at this location and catching a glimpse of this remarkable bird will give us an amazing feeling. We will then transfer to Kumasi, check into our hotel and reflect on a wonderful day's birdwatching.
Day 9 We will leave Kumasi after breakfast, heading towards Mole National Park. We can expect to see different bird species when we reach the Sahelian savannah plains of northern Ghana. On our arrival at Mole National Park we will check into Mole Hotel, the only accommodation in the area, for a three-night stay. Situated on a 250-metre high escarpment overlooking the park, it offers breathtaking views and from next to the pool on the hotel terrace we can watch Savannah Elephants bathing in the two nearby watering holes. In the evening we will set off for some birding around the Mole Airstrip, where we will hope to see displaying Standard-winged and Freckled Nightjars. The airstrip is also productive for owls.
Days 10–11 We will start early on both days, watching the dawn activity from the hotel terrace. We will hope to see Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, Lavender and Orange-cheeked Waxbills, Red-throated Bee-eater, Grey Woodpecker, Red-billed and Bar-breasted Firefinches, Senegal Batis, Stone Partridge, Beautiful and Pygmy Sunbirds and Abyssinian Ground-hornbill. The watering holes attract Senegal Thick-knee, Greater Painted-snipe, Saddle-billed and Woolly-necked Storks and Hadada Ibis. Raptors are common in Mole and we could see White-headed, Hooded and White-backed Vultures, African and Ayres's Hawk-eagles, Bateleur, Short-toed and Brown Snake-eagles, Lizard Buzzard, African Hobby, Lanner Falcon and several species of harrier. We will take guided walks into the woodland that surrounds the waterholes in the cooler early mornings and late afternoons. We will expect to encounter Bruce's Green-pigeon, Purple Starling, Long-tailed Glossy-starling, White-shouldered Black-tit, Senegal Eremomela, Oriole Warbler, Violet Turaco, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Blackcap and Brown Babblers, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Spotted Creeper, Northern Puffback, Rufus Cisticola, Swamp Flycatcher, Grey Tit-flycatcher and Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird. During the heat of the afternoon our options will be a cultural excursion to nearby Larabanga to see the 14th-century mud-and-stick mosque, birding around the hotel grounds or relaxing on the terrace around the pool. In the early evenings we will search for the amazing Pel's Fishing-owl.
Day 12 After a final morning's birding on the terrace of the hotel, and a hearty breakfast, we will depart for Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region. As we venture northwards we will pass through many villages and stop at Tamale for lunch and refreshments. Tamale is Ghana's third-largest city and is the capital of the Northern Region. We will arrive in Bolgatanga in the late afternoon and check into our guesthouse for two nights. We will set off for late-afternoon birding in the Tongo Hills, where our main target species will be Fox Kestrel and Rock-loving Cisticola, before returning to our accommodation in the evening.
Day 13 An early start will see us watching the dawn activity around Tono Dam, where we will hope to find a variety of egrets, waders and herons. In the late afternoon we shall bird the surrounding woodlands looking for Dark Chanting-goshawk, Stanley and White-bellied Bustards, Forbes's Plover, Red-winged Pytilia, Swallow-tailed and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters and many more species, followed by dinner and more birding around the dam, which is particularly productive for owls.
Day 14 After breakfast we will set off on the journey back to Kumasi. En route we will stop for lunch and birding breaks. If time permits on our arrival in Kumasi we will visit the Owabi reservoir for early- evening birding before transferring to our hotel.
Day 15 We will leave early to visit Bobiri Forest Reserve, a butterfly sanctuary. We will search this lush forest for Swamp Greenbul, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-chested Cuckoo, Green-headed Sunbird and Yellow-spotted Nicator. Some of the many raptors here include Cassin's Hawk-eagle, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk and African Cuckoo-hawk. After a late breakfast we will set off for Atewa, arriving early-afternoon for a late lunch. The afternoon will be spent birding before heading to our hotel.
Day 16 Sadly this is our final day in Ghana. We will start early and go to the Atewa Range. This is the only site in Ghana where Blue-headed Bee-eater occurs. Other specialities include the endangered Rufous-winged Illadopsis, Narina Trogon, Great Blue Turaco, Dusky Crested- flycatcher and Olivaceous Flycatcher. We will set off for Accra after lunch, arriving in time for dinner. After washing and changing in our day-rooms we will transfer to the airport for our flight home.
Day 17 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 with private facilities and air-conditioning, except at Mole Hotel, where we will have fans. Visas are required.
Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 12 with 2 leaders.