''....we really enjoyed our experience in Ghana, very much appreciated the wonderful birds and the varied habitats. It was fascinating to observe the election build up and to see the country in all its vibrant and colourful people ..... I especially loved meeting the children. It was an experience we will not forget. James was a superb guide and amazing birder and all the members of the group gelled well, thank you especially for including everybody, for your kindness and patience and for helping me achieve everything you asked us to do.''.... Mr and Mrs M. Nov 16
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Ghana stands out as a beacon of hope in a region desperate for change . English speaking, friendly, safe and hassle-free, the visitor receives a warm welcome throughout the country. For the birdwatcher, a visit offers sightings of Upper Guinea endemics in the humid south and easy birding in the dry northern savannahs. Perhaps most significantly, Ghana is home to the most reliable site of the Yellow-headed Picathartes in the world.
A relatively short flight from the UK takes us to some of the most accessible tropical birding in Africa. Outstanding local guides and a first rate field guide make for a very rewarding experience, whilst an ever improving infrastructure (the road to Mole NP is surfaced all the way today) makes our visit all the more comfortable.
We start our journey with two nights in Accra, where we have productive visits to Sukamono Lagoon and Winneba Plain. Next comes a five night stay on the edge of Kakum National Park, with its famous canopy walkway. Bird diversity is very high here, and we need all the time we have to find those special Upper Guinea endemic birds. We then journey north, punctuated by a visit to the Picathartes site and nights in Kumari and Techiman. On our way there are forest sites that are home to the dazzling Blue-moustached Bee-eater and Congo Serpent-eagle. When we reach Mole National Park it will be clear that the journey was worthwhile, for the sight that greets the visitor is not easily forgotten. Perched on a small escarpment, the hotel overlooks a waterhole that proves attractive to birds and mammals alike, with dry woodland and savannah stretching out as far as the eye can see.
ACCRA AND THE SUKAMONO LAGOON
Our flight will arrive in Accra in the early evening, and it is just a five minute drive to our hotel. Ghana is in the same time zone as the UK, so we can look forward to a good rest with no jet lag. The next day we will visit Sukamono Lagoon, a coastal wetland that was designated a Ramsar site in 1992. Large acacias in the car park are frequented by dazzling Purple Glossy Starlings, whilst groups of Piapiacs search more open areas. Skulking Yellow-crowned Gonoleks betray their presence by loud calls. Once we reach the waterís edge we will be greeted by a plethora of wetland species. White-faced Whistling-duck, African Jacana, Black Heron, Hammerkop, Spur-winged Plover and Marsh Sandpiper should all be present. Winding Cisticolas and Plain-backed Pipits are found on the edge of the marsh.
The next morning we will rise early to beat the Accra traffic, and drive west towards Kakum. We will break this three hour journey with a visit to Winneba Plain, a seasonally flooded grassland that is home to Lizard Buzzard, Black-bellied Bustard, Levaillantís Cuckoo, Black Coucal, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Red-winged Warbler, Copper Sunbird, Black-necked Weaver, Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Black-rumped Waxbill and Orange-cheeked Waxbill.
KAKUM NATIONAL PARK
Kakum National Park protects a critically important area of Upper Guinea rainforest; the most accessible in the country. Five nights at Rainforest Lodge puts us close to the park, and in particular to the famous canopy walkway, the only such structure in Africa. Over 1000 feet long and 130 feet high, it is suspended between huge emergent forest trees. Our ground agents are able to arrange access for us before the park is open to the general public. Shortly after dawn, as the forest slowly comes to life, we are treated to the rare privilege of observing canopy life at eye level.
Some of West Africaís most highly sought forest species can be found, such as the stunning Black Bee-eater, Blue Cuckoo-Shrike, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Sharpeís Apalis, Preussís Weavers, Grey Longbill and Chestnut-breasted Nigrita. Malimbes are a group of particularly striking weavers. Red-headed, Blue-billed and Crested Malimbes can all be seen here, whilst Red-vented occurs nearby.
As the day warms up, raptor watching can be productive from the platforms, with the chance of Cassinís Hawk-Eagle, Palm-nut Vulture, Congo Serpent-Eagle and Long-tailed Hawk. Other species to lookout for include African Grey Parrot, Yellowbill, Black Dwarf Hornbill, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Ussherís Flycatcher and Sabineís Puffback. Sunbirds are particularly well represented and include Collared, Little Green, Olive, Fraserís, Olive-bellied and Superb. The prehistoric-looking Long-tailed Pangolin can sometimes be found sunbathing on top of the canopy. At the other end of the day we can wait until dark in the hope of glimpsing a Brown Nightjar or Fraserís Eagle-owl, as well as Pelís Anomalure, a type of flying squirrel.
There are many other great birding opportunities around the national park. One such site holds Rock Pratincole and White-throated Blue Swallow. At others there are White-crested Hornbills, Fire-bellied Woodpeckers, Black-winged Orioles, Blue-throated Rollers, Rufous-sided Broadbills, Oriole Warblers and Red-bellied Paradise-flycatchers. Our local guide will help us make sense of the bewildering variety of greenbuls which include Little, Little Grey, Plain, Slender-billed, Yellow-whiskered, Golden, Honeyguide, Swamp Palm, Icterine, Red-tailed and Western Bearded.
On day eight we will begin our journey north, a total travel time of about 14 hours, but broken by two overnight stops. We will visit a nesting site of the near mythical Yellow-headed Picathartes. Once feared extinct in Ghana, these birds are now protected by local villagers, and our presence here is a classic example of how ecotourism directly benefits local people and the conservation of rare species alike. We can expect great views as they bound over rocks and from vine to vine. Once replete, we will continue our journey to Kumasi.
We will spend most of the next day birding in a patch of forest just west of the Techiman road. Blue-moustached Bee-eater is the foremost species; a range restricted bird which is breathtakingly beautiful. Yellow-billed Turaco, Western Nicator, White-tailed Alethe, Chestnut Wattle-eye and Red-billed Helmet-shrike are amongst a myriad of other forest species. From here it is just a short drive to Techiman, our next stop over. On day ten we will head north again, spotting ever increasing numbers of raptors. Grasshopper Buzzard is very common, with Dark Chanting Goshawk and Beaudouinís Snake-eagle also in evidence.
MOLE NATIONAL PARK
Three nights at Mole National Park is a lovely way to conclude our tour, with easy birding and good mammal viewing opportunities. From our elevated position on top of a small escarpment we can watch African Elephants visiting the pools, whilst Red-throated Bee-eaters and Pygmy Sunbirds flit around at eye-level. In fact, the hotel is so nicely situated, you might feel tempted to spend the day right there, but this would be at the expense of a huge range of other birds which can be found in the dry woodland, riparian forest and savannah. The list of species possible is very long and includes Forbesís Plover, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Abyssinian Roller, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike, Black Scimitarbill, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, White-crowned Robin-Chat, African Golden Oriole, White-crested Helmetshrike and Black-bellied Firefinch. Any downtime can be spent relaxing on the terrace, watching the comings and goings of Elephant, Warthog, Bushbuck and Waterbuck. It is perfectly safe to walk around the hotel area, which is good for Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Lavender Waxbill, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu and Red-billed Firefinch. Evening excursions should produce sightings of both Long-tailed and Standard-winged Nightjars, with a chance of Greyish Eagle-owl, and maybe a Small Spotted Genet.
Finally, after 12 thrilling days we will drive a couple of hours east to Tamale Airport, taking a domestic flight which connects with our return flight home.
CLIMATE AND PACE
Ghana enjoys a tropical climate, with year-round hot and humid weather in the south and hot dry in the north. The rains finish in October, so it should be mostly dry, although rain is always a possibility. The Harmattan, a very dry and dust filled wind, does not start until January, making this the optimum time to visit. Breakfast will mostly be taken early (7am or earlier). Due to the high midday temperatures we plan to do morning and late afternoon excursions, with time off in between to siesta. Basic fitness is all that is required. Walking is mostly on the flat, but at Kakum there is a short uphill walk to get to the start of the canopy walkway. Seeing the Picathartes involves a gentle uphill walk of 30mins, with the last section being short but steep. It is a long way from the nearest town, so we will not get to our hotel until around 9pm.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full-board accommodation is provided, with two nights at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Accra, five nights at the Rainforest Lodge, Kakum, one night at the Royal Basin Hotel, Kumasi, one night at the Encom Hotel, Techiman and three nights at the Mole Hotel. Hotels are of a good standard, although Mole is the exception, with the a/c not working and hot water being brought to your room. All rooms have an en suite bathroom.
PRICE INCLUDES Ö..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guides, full-board accommodation (starting with breakfast on 27th, ending with lunch on 8th), soft drinks at meal times, bottled water throughout, transport by mini-coach, reserve entrance fees, domestic flight and international flights.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry. An entry visa must be purchased in advance (currently £50).
Return flight from most UK airports to Accra (via Amsterdam) using the scheduled services of KLM. Outbound flight departs early morning, return flight arrives back early morning. Direct flights with British Airways from Heathrow are also available, for a small surcharge.
Red-throated Bee-eaters are common in the north of the country.
Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher is one of many stunning birds in the rainforest.
A morning on the famous canopy walkway at Kakum is one of the highlights of the trip.
Blue-moustached Bee-eater is a scarce and highly sought-after forest bird.
Black Dwarf Hornbill can sometimes be seen from the walkway at Kakum.
click here to see the photographs in our Ghana Album
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