GHANA: Picathartes and Plover Tour

DATES & PRICES
Dates: Saturday 10th NOVEMBER – Monday 26th NOVEMBER 2018 (Accra to Accra)
Price : £2,799 per person plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Accra direct approx. £650 return

Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: Approx. 1.5% of tour price per person (£40pp)
Deposit: £500 per person
Minimum Number required for trip to run
: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 8 people
Accommodation:
1 night Accra, 2 nights Kakum, 2 nights Ankasa, 1 night Kakum, 2 nights Kumasi, 3 nights Mole NP,  2 nights Bolgatanga, 1 night Kumasi and 2 nights Tafo (Atewa)



Key Species:

Yellow-headed Picathartes, Egyptian Plover, Black Bee-Eater, Blue-headed Bee-Eater, Standard-winged Nightjar, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Black Dwarf Hornbill, Long-tailed Hawk, Congo Serpent Eagle, Great Blue Turaco and much more!

Conservation work that you will directly contribute to by joining this holiday:

This tour will either continue to support the BTO’s Tracking Cuckoos in Africa Project or a donation will be made to our central conservation fund and will be used to support a larger scale conservation project in the near future. More details can be found on our Conservation Projects page. More details can be found on our Conservation Projects page.

TOUR SUMMARY & FULL ITINERARY

This is a 16 night  full tour of Ghana.
The itinerary covers a great variety of habitats with forest, coast & savannah grasslands. We aim to target as many of the speciality birds as possible in this vibrant and very friendly country.

We start in the south of EP-400-widethe country and head west along the coast. Before long we are within striking distance of the famous Kakum Forest. We shall spend three nights here (two nights followed by one night later in the trip). Without doubt one of the tour highlights will be a visit to the canopy walkway suspended some 30 metres above the forest floor allowing eye-level views of some tricky canopy birds. We then continue our journey west, to the less visited but fantastic birding site of Ankasa NP, part of which borders the Ivory Coast. The forest here is some of the best in Ghana and the birds are very special too with many sought after species such as Great Blue Turaco and Hartlaub’s Duck. We then head back east and inland to some important forest near Assin Fosu to look for what is probably the most sought after bird in Ghana, the wonderful Yellow-headed Picathartes. Here we hope to enjoy close views of these magical forest birds returning to roost. Two nights close to Kumasi will allow us time to explore the excellent birding at Bobiri Butterfly Reserve where we will also try for many nocturnal species such as Brown Nightjar.

We then travel to the arid north and Mole National Park famous for its Elephants. Here we shall spend three nights to enjoy the wealth of wildlife available. Numerous birds of prey shall keep us busy here and as dusk falls the fantastic Standard-winged Nightjar should perform! We then travel  further north close to the Burkina Faso border and the Bolgatanga region where we will search for the Egyptian Plover and spend two nights.

We then return via Bobiri and more excellent forest birding awaits us at Atewa where we shall search for the beautiful Blue-headed Bee-Eater as well as many other forest species. Our tour then concludes back in Accra where we shall still have time to visit Sakumono Lagoon.

DAY 1
Canopy-Walkway-400ACCRA
Meet in Accra and transfer to an excellent beach hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Overnight Accra

Orange-Weaver-400

DAYS 2 – 3
KAKUM NP
We shall set off reasonably early travelling west along the Cape Coast and birding en route. We should reach our main destination in the afternoon, the Kakum Forest NP. Our hotel which shall be home for the next 2 nights  is surrounded by a lake and one of the defiite highlights of a stay here are the busy weavers that can be seen adding grasses to their nests and all from the comfort of the restaurant! Three Weaver species are found here, Village Weaver, Viellot’s Black Weaver and the very localised Orange Weaver. We are also just a 25 minute drive from Kakum NP where we shall spend much of our time.

Kakum Forest is a fantastic forest reserve crammed full of many great birds many of which can be tough to see. However, we shall spend much of our time on the canopy walkway suspended some 30M above the forest floor. This allows us the best chance to find many of the great species that live here. Specialities that we shall hope for include the gentle giants of the forest with both Yellow-casqued and Black-casqued Hornbills and maybe even the endemic Brown-cheeked Hornbill. The fantastic White-crested Hornbill with its unmistakable long tail will be high on many people’s target lists, as will the beautiful Long-tailed Hawk. Yellow-billed Turacos will flash their crimson wings at us as they fly below us, Rosy Bee-Eaters will hawk above the clearings, the amazing Blue Cuckoo-Shrike should give itself away by its song and colourful Malimbes will entertain us in Ankasa-400the vine tangles. The distinctive song of the Sharpe’s Apalis should lead us to this endemic and maybe the stunning Fire-bellied Woodpecker too. The possibilities are endless from the walkway with very rare species such as the Congo Serpent Eagle seen on occasions as well as commoner species like the stunning Blue-throated Roller. Mammals are possible too, as monkeys can also be viewed from the walkway with both Lesser Spot-nosed Monkey and the superb Black and White Colobus! It shall certainly be an unforgettable experience.
An evening visit to Kakum during our stay will hopefully allow us to find some of the Birding-Aboabo-400nocturnal specialities of the park with highly sought after species such as Brown Nightjar and the beautiful Fraser’s Eagle Owl. Nocturnal mammals are also possible with species like the elusive Pel’s Anomalure, a species of Giant Squirrel.
Two
nights at Hans Cottage.

DAY 4
KAKUM & ANKASA NPGolden-Greenbul-400
We shall spend the morning birding a different section of Kakum Forest where we shall continue to search the forest trails for species like Forest Robin, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher and numerous skulking Greenbuls including Little Grey Greenbul, Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, Icterine Greenbul and Golden Greenbul to name but a few! By midday we shall be on our way heading further west, towards Ankasa. Although mostly a travel day, we will stay have plenty of opportunities for some birding en route as we make some roadside stops for some key sunbirds, namely Brown Sunbird and Reichenbach’s Sunbird. On arrival at our hotel we should find our third sunbird target for the day, in the form of Carmelite Sunbird. Overnight near Ankasa.

BM-Bee-eater-400Days 5 
ANKASA NP
Ankasa NP was established in 1976 the 490 sq. km Park incorporates the former Nini-Suhien National Park, opened to the public in March 2000. The forest is virgin evergreen rain forest with exceptional botanical species as well as birds! The Park is often left out of many Ghana birding itineraries, but holds probably some of the best and most exciting birding in the country. We shall spend the day and the following morning exploring the park, leaving our hotel very early in the morning and targeting the key species found here amonst the forest and many forest pools. Targets will include: Hartlaub’s Duck, African Finfoot, Spot-breasted Ibis, L-G-Woodpecker-400Dwarf Bittern, White-bellied Kingfisher, Great Blue Turaco and the very rare White-breated Guineafowl. The list in the park is endless and we can focus on the trickier species such as Yellow-bearded Greenbul, Green-tailed Bristlebill and we might even get lucky with Red-fronted Antpecker, Latham’s Forest Francolin, Red-chested Owlet or some of the more skulking Illadopsis! We shall spend an evening searching for the many exciting night birds that Ankasa holds such as Akun Eagle Owl, African Wood Owl, Brown Nightjar and even Nkulengu Sabine's-Puffback-400Rail. Ankasa also holds some impressive mammals such as Forest Elephant, Bongo and even Chimpanzee, though we would be exceptionally lucky to see these species.
Overnight near Ankasa

Day 6
ANKASA / KAKUM
Pica-PeteWe shall have one last morning in Ankasa before arriving back at Kakum in good time to explore more of this great area. Again, many species are possible including highly prized species such as the stunning Black Bee-Eater, Rosy Bee-Eater, the near endemic Buff-throated Sunbird, Fraser’s Forest Flycatcher, GEagle-Owl400Sabine’s Puffback, Little Green Woodpecker, Fire-bellied Woodpecker and Red-thighed Sparrowhawk. Dependent on our success with forest specialities, we may have time to visit the Cape Coast where we hope to increase our species further and have a break from forest birding. Highlights are sure to include some varied species such as Grey Kestrel, Green Turaco, Marsh Tchagra, Double-spurred Francolin, Common Gonolek and Preuss’s Cliff Swallow as they come in to roost. In the evening, we may try for further night birds in Kakum that might have eluded us so far. Long-tailed Nightjars can often be found very close to our hotel. Overnight Hans Cottage

Day 7
ASSIN FOSU
After a final morning’s birding in another part of Kakum, we shall head for what is a “must see” species and probably the most desired bird species of any trip to Ghana – the fantastic Yellow-headed Picathartes. However, beforehand we shall stop at a river en-route to search for some key birds, namely Rock Pratincole, White-throated Blue Swallow and with luck the African Finfoot. After lunch we shall make our way to a small village and begin our walk into the forest where a breeding colony of Yellow-headed Picathartes can be found. This for many will be the undoubted highlight of the tour as we get to spend an afternoon searching for this amazing bird. These unique cave nesting birds regularly return to their nests to roost 1-2 hours before dark. Often birds visit early to see it is safe to roost and we should be treated to excellent views as these magical birds literally bounce from vine to vine just metres in front of us! We shall then take the long journey to Kumasi. Overnight Kumasi

Day 8
BOBIRI
Today we will spend the whole day exploring Bobiri Butterfly Reserve. Our hotel is just a short distance away and therefore allows us time to rest during the heat of the day. The potential species list here is endless and the nocturnal birding is very exciting too. We shall make a special effort to try for both Brown Nightjar and both Fraser’s and Akun Eagle Owls. Overnight Kumasi

Days 9 -11
MOLE NP
We set off from Kumasi fairly early as we make the long journey north to Mole National Park. It will be mostly a day of travel, but it shall be worth it as we leave the Upper Guinea Forests behind us and enter the Guinea Savannah Belt. As the habitat begins to change we will begin to encounter many different birds such as the Grasshopper Buzzard, the exceptionally beautiful Blue-bellied Roller, the dazzling Scarlet-chested Sunbird and classic wooded savannah species such as Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird and White Helmetshrike. We hope to arrive at the park by the early evening where we shall check into the Mole Hotel. It is situated in a prime position nestled on top of an escarpment overlooking a waterhole. This shall be our base for the next 3 nights.

Mole has so many quality species and our first morning shall be an exciting one! Of course it is not just birds that are found in Mole, in fact is probably more famous for its Elephants that we shall see as we begin our day just metres from our rooms overlooking the waterhole. Other mammals we should see from our viewpoint include, Common Bushbuck, Kob, Defassa Waterbuck and Common Warthog. The lodge itself is a superb place to begin birding. We will check any puddles for drinking Seedeaters where we will hopefully find a good mix of species. These may include: Lavender Waxbill, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Red-billed and Bar-breasted Firefinches, Pin-tailed and Long-tailed Paradise Whydahs, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow and Yellowfronted Canary. Later in the morning we shall venture out below the rocky escarpment to find family groups of Stone Partridge, Double-spurred Francolin White-fronted Black Chat and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting.

There are many targets all in the near vicinity of the lodge and we shall try to find some of the specialities of the area. No doubt the giant and prehistoric looking Abyssinian Ground Hornbill shall be at the top of many people’s wish lists as well as the highly desirable Oriole Warbler, stunning Long-tailed Glossy Starlings or Red-billed Hornbill. Dependent on the rainfall and the amount of standing water, we may even be lucky and find one of the best prizes in the whole of Mole, the simply cracking Pel’s Fishing Owl that sometimes roost in the trees close to the waterhole.

During the next three days we shall spend time exploring the different areas within the Mole NP searching out the savannah specialities, many of which are very colourful like the lime and yellow Bruce’s Green Pigeon or the stunning Violet Turaco. Other species that we shall spend time looking for whilst in the park include: Rose-ringed Parakeet, Blue-breasted and Grey-headed Kingfishers, Red-throated and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Abyssinian, Purple, Broad-billed and Blue-bellied Rollers, Bearded Barbet, Violet-backed, Green-headed, Pygmy, Beautiful and Splendid Sunbirds, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrikes,Greater Blue-eared, Lesser Blue-eared and Purple Glossy Starlings.Target species in these woodlands are endless! They include: Vinaceous Dove, Green Wood Hoopoe, Black Scimitarbill, Greater and Lesser Honeyguides, Fine-spotted, Grey and Brown-backed Woodpeckers, Fanti Saw-wing, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Yellow-throated Leaflove, African Thrush, Senegal Eremomela, Northern Crombec, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Northern Black, African Blue, European, Pied and Swamp Flycatchers, White-crowned Robin-Chat, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Senegal Batis, Blackcap and Brown Babblers, White-winged Black Tit, Spotted Creeper, African Golden Oriole, Northern Puffback, Yellow-billed Shrike, Brubru, Red-headed Weaver, Black-faced and Black-bellied Firefinches and Brown-rumped and Cabanis’s Buntings.

Raptors are a real treat to see in Mole and you are literally spolt for choice with many possibilities. Regularly encountered species include: White-backed, White-headed and Hooded Vultures, Short-toed, Beaudoin’s and Brown Snake Eagles, Bateleur, Lizard Buzzard, Wahlberg’s and Martial Eagles, Ayres’s and African Hawk-Eagles, Lanner Falcon and African Hobby.

Finally, we shall spend at least one night searching for some of the nocturnal species that can be found in the park. Greyish Eagle Owls are often in the near vicinity of the hotel as can the Freckled Nightjar. However, the real start of the show will hopefully be the performance from a male Standard-winged Nightjar as it dances down the Mole airstrip! Four nights at the Mole Hotel – Note: as this region becomes very hot during the day, there will be opportunities to relax around the hotel during the hottest part of the day and make use of the swimming pool!

Days 12 & 13
BOLGATANGA
We will head north from Mole NP into the hot, dry Upper East region and during the next couple of days we shall explore the Tongo Hills, Tono Dam and the Volta River.
On day 11, we shall pass through good habitat and will be on the lookout for further quality savanna woodland birds such as Rufous-crowned and Blue-bellied Roller, the ever present Grasshopper Buzzards and the odd Dark Chanting Goshawk that can often be found sat by the roadside. In the afternoon, we shall explore the Tongo Hills where  speciality bird possibilities include: Fox Kestrel, Chestnut-bellied Starling and Rock-loving Cisticola before arriving at our hotel in Bolgatnga. On day 12, we shall have an early start seeing the sunrise at the Tono Dam where specialities may include: Four-banded Sandgrouse, Black-headed Lapwing, Spotted Thick Knee and Black-faced Qualfinch.  After lunch, we shall drive to the White Volta River where we hope to find what must surely be one of the trip highlights as we search a number of spots for the beautiful Egyptian Plover! This species is also known as the “Crocodile Bird” (named because of its alleged symbiotic relationship with crocodiles – feeding on flesh caught in the teeth of crocodiles!). We shall spend two nights at Bolgatanga.

Day 14
This shall mostly be a day of travel as we take the long journey south back to Kumasi.
Night Kumasi

Days 15 & 16
BOBIRI & ATEWA
In the morning, we shall explore the Bobiri Forest Reserve for any species that we have missed. From here, we shall head to the Atewa mountain ridge where we should arrive by the late afternoon. We shall spend the evening birding around the farmbush habitat at the base of the ridge where we may pick up species such as Whistling Cisticola, Heuglin’s Masked Weaver, Compact Weaver, Grosbeak Weaver, Compact Weaver, Simple Leaflove, Magpie Mannakin, Western Bluebill and African Hobby and maybe even a Bat Hawk. Overnight Tafo

Early the next morning we will visit the Atewa mountain range, which is one of the only places in Ghana to find the fantastic Blue-headed Bee-eater. Atewa holds a similar range of forest birds to that of Kakum but some species are easier to encounter here. We need to get to the top of the ridge and although this used to be possible in a 4X4, the road is now impassable, so the only way is to walk! We shall take it slowly, as we have the whole day to do a fairly steep climb for approximately 6Km up the main track. However, at the top of the ridge it shall be worthwhile as we spend the day birding the forest. There are many specialities to be found here, similar to the species that occur in Kakum, but sometimes easier to see! However, it is the stunning Blue-headed Bee-Eater that will be worth the walk alone, as this is the only place in Ghana that this beauty is found. Birds are often hawking insects just metres away from you! Another recently discovered regular species in Ghana is the Nimba Flycatcher that we will be very privileged to see with its unique habit of running along branches in search of insects! Other species that we may see here include: Long-tailed Hawk, African Crowned Eagle, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Olive-Green Camaroptera, Kemp’s Longbill, White-tailed Alethe, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Black-capped Apalis, and maybe even the rare Yellow-footed Honeyguide. Overnight in Tafo

Day 17 
SAKUMONO LAGOON / ACCRA

After a good rest we shall make the return journey to Accra. We shall spend our last afternoon in Ghana exploring Sakumono Lagoon for a nice selection of water birds such as Black Heron, African Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Marsh Harrier and African Wattled Lapwing to name just a few. We shall be on high alert for vagrants too as in recent years this wetland has become a hotspot for nearctic waders with Pectoral Sandpipers and American Golden Plovers being recorded in the last few years. Terns fly in to roost in large flocks containing Royal Terns and the odd surprise, whilst Yellow-throated Longclaws can be found in the accompanying grasslands.

We shall then drive back to Accra where we have day rooms to freshen up and take a shower in time for an early evening transfer to Accra airport.


IMPORTANT HOLIDAY DETAILS
Leaders: Chris Townend & Robert Ntakor / Robert Oteng-Appau
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals, water, all entrance fees, ground transport and services of leaders
NOT Included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water, any airport/visa fees and items of a personal nature
Accommodation: Hotels are clean but basic, all en-suite most with a/c or sometimes only fans.
Single Supplement: £199
Max. Group Size: 8
Transport: A/C Coach or Minibus
Difficulty: The walking throughout is mostly easy going. The walk to the Picathartes site takes around 45 minutes at slow pace. Atewa is the toughest walk (approx. 6Km up a gradually sloping hill on a main forest track). Alternative options can be made on this day.
Climate: Hot & humid in the south and dry and hot in the north. Some rain mainly in small bursts in the afternoon.
Meeting Point: Accra Airport, Ghana in the evening of Day 1
Tour End: Accra airport, in the evening of Day 17
Suggested Airlines: British Airways direct from London and KLM via Amsterdam
Note: This is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted in relation to arrival and departure times, weather conditions and other related factors.