GHANA – Picathartes & Upper Guinea Forest Specials

Tour Dates: Saturday 13th – Wednesday 24th April 2019 (Accra to Accra)
Tour Price: £2,499 per person plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Accra direct approx. £600 return

Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: Approx. £240
Deposit: £450 per person
Minimum Number required for trip to run
: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 8 people
2 nights Accra, 2 nights Kakum NP, 3 nights Ankasa NP, 1 night Kakum NP, 1 night Kumasi, 2 nights Tafo (Atewa)

Key Birds:

Yellow-headed Picathartes, Black Bee-Eater, Blue-moustached Bee-Eater, Rosy Bee-Eater, Hartlaub’s Duck, White-bellied Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Great Blue Turaco, Akun Eagle Owl, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Black Dwarf Hornbill, Long-tailed Hawk, numerous Greenbuls, Kemp’s Longbill and much more!

Key Mammals:
Lowe’s Monkey, Lesser Spot-nosed Monkey, Demidoff’s Galago

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

This tour will directly contribute to a specific project associated with Ghana. Either continuing our suport for the BTO’s Tracking Cuckoss in Africa Project or working to create greater protection for an already designated Important Bird Area (IBA) in Ghana. Details will be confirmed nearer the time of the tour following discussion with the Ghana Wildlife Society. More details can be found on our Conservation Projects page.

A 12 day itinerary  focused on the Upper Guinea Forest Specialities and of course the magical Picathartes! It also includes 2 full days in the fantastic birding site of Ankasa National Park. Often missing from many Ghana birding tour itineraries, yet it has some of the best quality forest & birds in the country!
Our first day will be fairly relaxed as we acclimbatise to the heat and spend the day birding the savannah and wetland habitats close to Accra. On our second full day we travel west along the Cape Coast and before too long we will find ourselves within easy 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 of the more tricky species in good numbers. We have two full days to explore this fantastic area. Then we 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. More excellent forest birding awaits us at Atewa where we shall search for the beautiful Blue-moustached Bee-Eater as well as numerous other forest species. Our tour then concludes back in Accra where we should have time to visit Sakumono Lagoon.

Meet in Accra and transfer to an excellent beach hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Our first day’s birding in Ghana will be a leisurely one as we spend the day birding the Savannah habitat of the Shai Hills and the wetland RAMSAR site of Sakumono Lagoon. Both sites are within an hour of our hotel and we should see many species not encountered anywhere else during the tour. Target species include: Yellow-throated Longclaw, Green Turaco, Violet Turaco, Croaking Cisticola, Short-winged Cisticola, Senegal Batis, Mocking Cliff Chat, Northern Crombec, Black Heron and numerous waders.
Overnight Accra

DAYS 3 – 4
We shall set off reasonably early and head west along the Cape Coast birding en route and reaching our main destination in the afternoon, the Kakum Forest NP. We shall check into our hotel which shall be home for the next 2 nights. Our hotel 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 have access (on two mornings and one evening) to the canopy walkway suspended some 30M above the forest floor and allowing 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 inthe 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 nocturnal 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

We shall spend another morning birding a different section of Kakum Forest where we shall continue to search the forest trails ifor species like, Kemp’s Longbill, Forest Robin, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, White-tailed Alethe 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 Carmelite Sunbird. We may also get lucky with African Finfoot. On arrival at our hotel on the coast, we should find our third sunbird target ifor the day, in the form of Reichhenbach’s Sunbird that can often be found in the hotel garden. Overnight near Ankasa NP

Days 6 & 7
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 next two full days 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, Dwarf 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 Rail. Ankasa also holds some impressive mammals such as Forest Elephant, Bongo and even Chimpanzee, though we would be exceptionally lucky to see these species. Two nights near Ankasa NP

Day 8
We shall depart our coastal hotel early. leaving Ankasa behind us, but arriving back at Kakum in good time to explore some other areas of this huge 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, Sabine’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 9
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 return to their nests to roost before dark and we shall spend our time searching the vines and forest floor for these amazingly shy birds before leaving them as they go roost. Overnight in Kumasi

Day 10
In the morning we shall visit Bobiri Butterfly Reserve. The potential species list here is endless and it is a superb birding site where we hope to find some quality species. Nosiy groups of Red-billed Helmetshrikes are possible along with other gems like the Hairy-breasted Barbet or the stunning Yellow-billed Barbet! Hornbills are a bit of a speciality here too as we shall try to obtain good views of White-crested Hornbill due to the more open area of forest with easier viewing. However, it is the elusive Black Dwarf Hornbill that is the real prize along with its cousin the Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill. It is a good place to see the unmistakable Long-tailed Hawk with its outrageously long tail as well as Tit-Hylia, one of Africa’s smallest birds! Other species include: Blue-headed Wood-dove, Levaillant’s, Klaas’s and African Emerald Cuckoo, Yellowbill, Yellow-spotted, Naked-faced and Hairy-breasted Barbets, Speckled Tinkerbird, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Red-tailed and Icterine Greenbuls. Grey-headed Bristlebill, Western Nicator, Finsch’s Flycatcher-thrush and much more!

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 in Tafo

Day 11
Early the next morning we will visit the Atewa mountain range, which is the only place 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. The best birding is to be found at the top of the ridge, so 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! Atewa has also recorded the rare Nimba Flycatcher with its unique habit of running along branches in search of insects! Other species that we may see 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 the rare Yellow-footed Honeyguide. Overnight in Tafo

Day 12
After a final morning birding the lower slopes of Atewa for any species that we may be missing, we shall have lunch en route to Accra. In the late afternoon we shall have a second visit to 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 where our tour ends.

Leaders: Local guide Robert Ntakor & Wise Birding leader
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 just fans.
Single Supplement: Maximum of £299
Max. Group Size: 8
Transport: A/C Coach
Difficulty: The walking throughout is mostly easy. There are a number of steps up to the canopy walkway and the walk to the Picathartes site takes around an hour at slow pace. Atewa is the toughest walk (approx. 6Km up hill on main track). Alternative options can be made on this day.
Climate: Hot & humid. Some rain mainly in small bursts in the afternoon.
Meeting Point: Accra Airport, Ghana
Tour End: Accra airport, on the evening of day 12
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.