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GHANA

15 November–1 December 2018
1–17 November 2019

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 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, Oriole Warbler, Blackcap and Brown Babblers, Copper and Splendid Sunbirds, White-crested Helmetshrike, Croaking and Short-winged Cisticolas, African Thrush and Green Woodhoopoe to mention a few species on offer here. After an introductory morning birding, we head for more familiar birding at 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, 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-shouldered and Black (Yellow-billed) Kites, Grey Kestrel, Lizard Buzzard, Blue-spotted Wood-dove, Western Plantain-eater, Common Gonolek, Black-crowned Tchagra, Plain-backed Pipit, Moustached Grass-warbler, Siffling Cisticola, Flappet Lark, Red-winged Warbler, Yellow and displaying 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 African 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, Velvet-mantled Drongo, Violet-backed Hyliota, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Chestnut-capped, Little Grey and Ussher’s Flycatchers, Blue-throated Brown, Collard, 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 Yellow-backed 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-collard 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 specials. 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, 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, 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-bibbed (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 so 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, Hairy-breasted and Naked-faced Barbets, White-crested Hornbill, Fire-crested Alethe, Black-headed Paradise-flycatcher, Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Puvel’s Illadopsis, African Pitta, Spotted Honeyguide, Pale Flycatcher, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Sooty Boubou, Olive-green Camaroptera, Red-faced and Whistling Cisticolas, Lesser Striped-swallow, Fanti Sawwing, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Fraser's and Seimund's 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. An exceptional forest in a rarely-visited remote location, Ankasa protects many rare and sought-after bird and mammal species. Due to the remote location and near two-hour travelling distance to any alternative reasonable standard accommodation, our ground agents have established their own camp inside the forest. The camp leader and his assistants will be waiting to greet us on arrival and take us to our large tents with comfortable mattresses, pillows and sheets. In addition there are flushing toilets and cold shower facilities and our cook will keep us well fed. There is mains electricity and a backup generator if needed so cold beers and non-alcoholic beverages are available so it is hardly ‘rough camping’! As we arrive in the late afternoon, we will settle into our camp before heading out for early-evening birding where we hope to see both Akun and Fraser’s Eagle-owls and African Wood-owl. Our local guide will also be looking for the legendary Nkulengu Rail. Two nights at camp enjoying the atmosphere of being at one with nature.

Day 6 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, Western 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 Tiger-heron, 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 7 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 mornings 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, Brown and Reichenbach’s Sunbirds and Orange Weaver. 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 8 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 meters 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 vehicle and drive to Kumasi where we will check into our hotel for the night.

Day 9 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 and Red-thighed Sparrowhawks and Guinea Turaco whilst our main targets will be Blue-moustached Bee-eater, Capuchin Babbler, Yellow-footed Honeyguide 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. 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 African 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 Greyish Eagle-owl and northern White-faced Scops owls before we retire for the evening.

Days 10–11 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. Your expert guides know all the best locations for species we hope to see, which will include Saddle-billed and Woolly-necked Storks, Hadada Ibis, Senegal Thick-knee, Greater Painted-snipe around the waterholes and White-throated Francolin, Bruce's Green-pigeon, African Grey, Brown-backed, Fine-spotted, Grey and Golden-tailed Woodpeckers, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Abyssinian Ground-hornbill, Violet Turaco, Red-throated Bee-eater, Familiar Chat, White-fronted Black-chat, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, Swamp Flycatcher, Grey Tit-flycatcher White-shouldered Black-tit, Yellow-breasted Apalis, 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 and Purple Starlings, Lavender Waxbill, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Bar-breasted, Black-bellied and Red-billed Firefinches and Red-headed Quelea throughout the park. Raptors are common and we hope to see Bateleur, Booted, Long-crested, 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 amongst others but, 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 afternoon 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.

Day 12 A final morning's birding at Mole where we aim to pick up species still needed and to also get better views of birds we might have had only glimpses of previously. Birds we could add before leaving include Black Stork, Vinaceous Dove, Black-billed Wood-dove, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Red-headed Lovebird, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Woodchat Shrike, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Yellow-throated Leaflove and Northern Red Bishop before we set off towards Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region of Ghana. We will have the option en-route of visiting the nearby Larabanga mud and stick Mosque. Built in traditional Sudanese style and dating from the 14th century the Mosque apparently houses one of the original copies of the Koran. As we continue on our journey the landscape changes from the broad-leaved guinea woodland of the Northern Region to more open savannah as we head further northwards. After lunch at a hotel in Tamale capital of the Northern Region and Ghana’s third largest city, we continue to the beautiful Tongo Hills where we will be targeting species only found in this unique habitat of natural boulders and inselbergs. Birds we hope to see here include Fox Kestrel, Rock-loving Cisticola, the coronata white-crowned race of Mocking Cliff-chat and Brown-rumped Bunting amongst other species possible. After another full day's birding, we continue the short journey into Bolgatanga and check into a guesthouse for the next two nights where we can reflect after our evening meal on another productive day.

Day 13 Another major highlight in the morning is to visit a river location to see the beautiful Egyptian Plover. Our ground agents pay locals in the area to protect and monitor this species to ensure its continued breeding success as otherwise, eggs will be taken from nests. This has ensured we have a 100% record of seeing this species during tours to this part of Ghana and as you look across the White Volta River you can see Togo and Burkina Faso in the distance. Other species we hope to see during our time here include Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Chestnut-bellied Starling, African Mourning-dove, White-billed Buffalo-weaver, Zebra Waxbill and possibly Red-winged Pytilia amongst other species before we set off back towards our hotel for our lunch and short siesta. Our afternoon will be dedicated to birding at the Tono Dam close to the border of Burkina Faso where we will look for Spotted and Water Thick-knees, Forbes’s Plover, White-faced Whistling-duck, Spur-winged Goose, Arabian, Denham’s and White-bellied Bustards, Namaqua Dove, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Yellow Penduline-tit, Black-rumped Waxbill, African Silverbill, Cut-throat, wintering Common Whitethroat and European Turtle-dove and if we are very lucky the nocturnal Bronze-winged Courser. We return to our hotel to relax for the evening.

Day 14 Today is mainly a travel day as we retrace our journey back southwards towards Kumasi. Depending on which species we may still require it is possible to revisit the Offinso Forest or alternatively Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary for evening birding when arriving in Kumasi.

Day 15 The 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, Yellow-spotted Nicator, 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 Whistling Cisticola, Klaas’s, Levaillant’s and Yellow-throated Cuckoos, Red-bellied Paradise-flycatcher, Tessmann’s Flycatcher and Grosbeak Weaver and with the possibility of Baumann’s Greenbul and Bat Hawk before we check into our nearby guesthouse for the evening to relax, reflect and enjoy our evening meal.

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 morning birding here. It is quite a steady uphill walk to get to the top of the range and with this in mind we will take a packed lunch (or decide to have a late lunch) with us to minimise the walking and maximise our time here. The main ‘target’ bird here is the scarce and unobtrusive Blue-headed (Blue-moustached) Bee-eater but there are potentially many other new birds here including African Goshawk, Dusky Crested-flycatcher, Olivaceous Flycatcher, Little and White-throated Greenbuls, Brown-chested Alethe and Lowland Akalat amongst others. We will then return (downhill!) to our guesthouse to repack our bags and wash and change before an early evening meal and final checklist then transfer to the airport for the return journey 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 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.

Great Blue Turaco

Great Blue Turaco

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