Markus was an excellent leader and in control the group at all times. Of course he has super-human vision & hearing, but he was also very helpful. And most wonderfully, he gave everyone who wanted a copy of some of his bird photos from the trip. I am not a photographer and this was so wonderful – I have viewed them several times since I returned and I will certainly view them a number of times in the future. The best possible souvenir from the trip!
Our new, comprehensive Ghana birding tour itinerary affords even more time in the ancient forests of this great West African birding nation. We spend a full day in the gallery forest of Kalakpa, which offers such star species as Puvel’s Illadopsis, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Capuchin Babbler and many more. In addition we spend four full days exploring the wonders of Kakum National Park, as well as birding remote forests in the Brong-Ahafo region where the much sought-after White-necked Rockfowl has recently been rediscovered. We have obtained special permission to visit these colonies located in community-managed forests and our stay will aid in the conservation of these endangered birds. Other forests near Kumasi and Atewa will also be explored on this very exciting Ghana tour.
White-necked Rockfowl, Egyptian Plover, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Fraser’s Eagle-Owl, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Standard-winged Nightjar, Yellow-footed Honeyguide, Oriole Warbler, Blue-moustached & Black Bee-eater, Capuchin Babbler, Black Dwarf Hornbill, Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, Tessmann’s & Nimba Flycatcher, African Piculet, Puvel’s Illadopsis, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye
African Elephant, King Colobus, Patas Monkey, Pel’s Anomalure, forest duikers
lowland rainforest, broad-leaved woodlands, wetlands, Sahelian savanna
hot conditions; dry in the north and humid in the south
moderate pace, undemanding forest and woodland trails
Kakum canopy walkway, Farafara tribesmen, Cape Coast Slave Castle, Larabanga mosque, Mole National Park
Day 1: Arrival in Accra
On arrival at Katoka International Airport in Accra, you will be met and transferred to a hotel at the edge of the capital city.
Day 2: Shai Hills, Volta region and Sakumono Lagoon
In the early morning, we will pay a visit to the nearby Shai Hills Resources Reserve. This sanctuary, situated about an hour outside the capital, is an expanse of grassland and woodland dominated by the steeply rising Shai Hills. The birding here is very good and we are bound to turn up something interesting; this is the best site in Ghana for White-crowned Cliff Chat and an excellent spot for Stone Partridge, African Hobby, Blue-bellied and Purple Rollers, Vinaceous Dove, Double-toothed Barbet, Greater and Lesser Honeyguides, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Violet Turaco and Tree Pipit.
After lunch, we will visit the Volta Dam, one of the largest dams in Africa, where we will search for Mangrove Sunbird, African Pygmy Goose and the attractive and rather localised White-bibbed Swallow. In the afternoon, we will then bird the coastal estuary of Sakumono Lagoon. This estuary hosts a large diversity of wetland birds, including Spur-winged Lapwing, Western Reef Heron, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted and Common Redshanks, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Collared Pratincole, Royal and Black Terns and Plain-backed Pipit. In the late afternoon, we have an excellent chance to see hunting African Hobby and Peregrine Falcon over the lagoon while Western Marsh Harrier are often seen patrolling the wetland as well. Sakumono Lagoon is also well known for rarities and species that have turned up before include African Skimmer, Red-necked Phalarope, American and Pacific Golden Plovers and Baird’s, White-rumped and Buff-breasted Sandpipers. In the early evening, we will return to our comfortable hotel in Accra.
Day 3: Accra to Kakum National Park
After an early breakfast, we head west along the coastal highway, passing the organised chaos that so typifies West Africa. Tiny food stands (with hilariously grandiose names like ‘Consuming Fire Fast Food’!), repair shops, traditional medicine stalls and taxis all compete for space in this entrepreneurial wonderland.
Further west we bird a productive grassland reserve on the Winneba Plains. Here we will search for Black-bellied Bustard, Flappet Lark, Red-winged and Moustached Grass Warblers, Short-winged and Croaking Cisticolas, Copper Sunbird, Black-necked Weaver, Northern and Black-winged Red Bishops, Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Orange-cheeked Waxbill and the Black-faced form of Quailfinch (sometimes considered a separate species). We will also try here for the rare and nomadic Black-backed Cisticola, represented here by a separate sub-species named after these Winneba Plains where it was discovered during Admiral Lynes’ great Cisticola-expedition of the 1930’s.
After lunch, we will then take time out to visit one of Ghana’s most notorious edifices, the Cape Coast Castle. Originally built by the Swedish in 1653, it is now a World Heritage Site and a chilling reminder of the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. In particular, a visit to the dank dungeons and the notorious “Door of No Return” is a deep and sobering experience. During the height of this abhorrent trade, it is estimated that between 12 and 20 million West Africans were removed to the New World! We then continue on to our well-appointed accommodations close to the Kakum National Park Headquarters.
Days 4 to 6: Kakum National Park and surrounding areas
This 607 km² National Park is the jewel in the crown of Ghana’s protected reserve system. The park conserves a critically important block of primary and secondary upper Guinea forest that is surrounded by a sea of humanity and its resultant deforestation. During our days in this area, we will explore several sections of this vast protected area.
Easily accessible from the park headquarters at Abrafo is the world famous Kakum canopy walkway, the only such structure of this size on the African continent. It is 350 m long, between 40 and 60 m high and is suspended between 7 emergent forest trees, with support platforms stable enough to allow telescope use. We will make special arrangements for the early opening and late closure of the walkway, thereby allowing us patronage during these critical birding hours.
Amongst the many species we hope to see from the walkway are some of West Africa’s most sought-after forest jewels. Species that regularly attend the multi-species canopy bird waves include the cotinga-like Blue Cuckooshrike, Violet-backed Hyliota, Sharpe’s Apalis (an upper Guinea endemic), Rufous-crowned Eremomela, African Shrike-flycatcher, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Green Hylia, Yellow-mantled and the beautiful Preuss’s Weavers, Cassin’s Honeybird, Willcocks’s and the extremely rare Yellow-footed Honeyguides, White-headed and Forest Wood Hoopoes, Tit-Hylia, Grey Longbill, Red-headed and Crested Malimbes and Grey-headed, White-breasted and Chestnut-breasted Nigritas. Other species we hope to see include the elusive canopy-dwelling Fernando Po Batis, indescribably beautiful Black Bee-eater, Yellow-spotted and Hairy-breasted Barbets, family flocks of the striking Red-billed Helmetshrike, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, which also travel in small family groups, the strange-looking Naked-faced and Bristle-nosed Barbets, Sabine’s Puffback and Maxwell’s Black Weaver.
The tree platforms provide a fabulous vista over the forest and forest edge, thereby providing a unique opportunity for sighting passing birds. Raptor watching is particularly productive and previous trips have produced unbeatable views of the rarely seen Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Red-necked Buzzard, Palm-nut Vulture, African Harrier-Hawk, African Cuckoo-Hawk and African Hobby. Other birds that we might see on our Ghana birding tour include Piping, Black Casqued Wattled, Yellow-casqued Wattled and Brown-cheeked Hornbills, Grey and Red-fronted Parrots, Rosy Bee-eater and mixed flocks of swifts that often include Cassin’s and Sabine’s Spinetails and, if we are lucky, Black Spinetail. Velvet-mantled Drongo is in constant attendance, as are a wide variety of sunbirds including Fraser’s, Little Green, Collared, Olive, the stunning Buff-throated, Olive-bellied, Superb and sought-after Johanna’s.
We will also walk the forest trails, covering both deep interior forest and forest edge at Abrafo and Antwikwaa (various sections of Kakum). This is the realm of greenbuls and there is certainly no shortage of these sociable birds. Species we hope to find include Little, Little Grey, Plain, Slender-billed, Yellow-whiskered, Golden, Honeyguide, Swamp Palm, Icterine, Red-tailed and Western Bearded Greenbuls, as well as Grey-headed and Red-tailed Bristlebills and Western Nicator. Further birds of the forest interior include Red-chested Goshawk, White-spotted Flufftail, Blue-headed Wood Dove, Yellow-billed Turaco, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Black-throated Coucal, Red-billed Dwarf, Black Dwarf and the bizarre White-crested Hornbills, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Rufous-sided Broadbill performing its incredible circular dance routine, Finsch’s Rufous Thrush, Fraser’s Forest Flycatcher, Blue-headed Crested Flycatcher, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Western Oriole and Shining Drongo. Although the forest interior birding is challenging, hard work and perseverance should net us a good selection of these species.
We will also be ever alert for Safari Ant activity, not only in order to avoid their painful bites, but also as they provide us with our best opportunity for viewing shy ant-attending birds such as the three species of Bristlebill, White-tailed Alethe, Western Forest Robin and White-tailed Rufous Thrush. Rarities that we will be on the constant lookout for include Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, Forest Francolin and Spotted Honeyguide. These all occur in Kakum but we would be extremely fortunate to find any of them!
The forest edge is also extremely productive and supports a different cast of species including Ahanta Francolin, the seldom seen Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Yellow-billed Barbet, Yellow-rumped, Speckled and Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds, Buff-spotted, Brown-eared, Gabon and Fire-bellied Woodpeckers, the rare Kemp’s Longbill, Yellow-browed and Olive-green Camaropteras, Green Crombec, Dusky-blue and Ussher’s Flycatchers, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Black-winged Oriole, Splendid, Copper-tailed and Chestnut-winged Starlings, and Blue-billed Malimbe
We will also undertake several nocturnal excursions in the hope of finding Fraser’s and Akun Eagle-Owls, Red-chested Owlet and the very rare and aberrant Brown Nightjar.
Rainforest mammals are not conspicuous but we should see several species of primates that may include Spot-nosed and Lowe’s Monkeys and Olive and Geoffroy’s Pied Colobus. Night excursions will provide an opportunity of finding Potto, a slow moving and primitive primate that subsists largely on tree-gum, as well as the fast moving Demidoff’s Galago. We can also count on seeing several species of squirrel, including African Giant Squirrel.
Day 7: Kakum to Kumasi via Bonkro Forest and Rockfowl colony
This morning we will more than likely spend a little time at Abrafo Forest searching for any species we may have not yet seen on our Ghana birding tour. If the road to the Aboabo area is in decent repair then we will spend some time at this site. Here potential targets include Red-vented Malimbe, Thick-billed Honeyguide, Tessman’s Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Barbet, African Piculet (a very rare bird in West Africa), Black-capped Apalis and the elusive Long-tailed Hawk, amongst a multitude of more widespread forest species. In the late morning, we then carry on towards a remote forest patch where we will wait patiently for the bizarre and pre-historic looking White-necked Rockfowl to appear at its nesting colony in the late afternoon. Although the birds will not be nesting, they regularly roost at the nest site and we, therefore, stand an excellent chance of seeing this near-mythical species.
In the evening we will transfer to Ghana’s second largest city, Kumasi, for a one night stay.
Day 8: Kumasi to Mole National Park via Opro Forest
Today will be filled with new birds as we head into a new biome, the Guinea Savanna belt. We do however have a considerable journey to get there, and as we progress northwards the habitat begins to change dramatically. We should have time today to visit a small patch of rainforest en route to Mole where we are likely to encounter a host of forest species already seen at Kakum. However, we may also find a few special new species including White-throated Greenbul, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Many-coloured and Fiery-breasted Bushshrikes, and Blue-moustached Bee-eater. This will also give us an additional chance for difficult species such as Capuchin Babbler, Puvel’s Illadopsis, Forest Scrub Robin, Yellow-footed Honeyguide and we are likely to see sought-after and often-tricky species including Buff-throated Sunbird and Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike.
As we continue further north we will keep a lookout for the beautiful Blue-bellied and Abyssinian Rollers, Dark Chanting Goshawk, attractive Grasshopper Buzzard and, if we are exceptionally lucky, we may encounter the scarce and localised White-throated Francolin. In the late afternoon, we will arrive at the Mole Park Headquarters.
The broad-leaved woodland zone here superficially resembles the Miombo woodlands of south-central Africa and is likewise inhabited by a wonderful assemblage of good looking species, which in many cases represent northern sister-species of their south-central counterparts.
Days 9 & 10: Mole National Park
The 4840 km² Mole National Park is Ghana’s second most well-visited protected area after Kakum. Our hotel here is scenically situated on a 250m high escarpment within the National Park and overlooks a seemingly endless vista of broad-leaved woodlands and wetlands. Frolicking pachyderms sometimes populate an elephant-wallow at the base of the escarpment. The elephants of Mole are renowned for their tolerance and on foot it is possible to get very close to them. From the viewing platform at the lodge, we are also able to scan over the marsh and see Defassa Waterbuck, Common Bushbuck and handsome Kob.
The woodland surrounding our lodge is a superb place to begin birding. Seedeaters abound and we should find mixed flocks of Lavender Waxbill, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Red-billed and Bar-breasted Firefinches, Pin-tailed and Exclamatory Paradise Whydahs, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow and Yellow-fronted Canary. We will also explore the rocky escarpment below the lodge and here we hope to find family groups of Stone Partridge and Double-spurred Francolin.
The moist woodland surrounding the swamp is home to some special birds and in particular, we will search for the highly desirable Oriole Warbler, one of West Africa’s most beautiful birds. In fact, colourful birds are the rule here rather than the exception! Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Violet Turaco, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Senegal Parrot, Blue-breasted and Grey-headed Kingfishers, Red-throated and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Abyssinian, Purple and Broad-billed Rollers, Bearded Barbet, Western Violet-backed, Green-headed, Pygmy, Beautiful and Splendid Sunbirds, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrikes and Lesser Blue-eared, Purple and Long-tailed Glossy Starlings are just some of the possible species on offer!
The broad-leaved woodlands through Mole offer up a wonderful assortment of targets and these include Black Scimitarbill, Fine-spotted and Brown-backed Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Dorst’s and Rufous Cisticolas, mega Emin’s Shrike, White-winged Black Tit, African Spotted Creeper, rare Gambaga Flycatcher, Black-faced and Black-bellied Firefinches, uncommon Togo Paradise Whydah and Brown-rumped and Cabanis’s Buntings while more widespread species include Green Wood Hoopoe, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Grey Woodpecker, African Thrush, Senegal Eremomela, Northern Crombec, Northern Black, African Blue and European Pied Flycatchers, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Senegal Batis, African Golden Oriole, Northern Puffback, Yellow-billed Shrike, Brubru, White-crested Helmetshrike (this race topped with an enormous, floppy crest), Red-headed Weaver and the ubiquitous Bush Petronia.
The more densely wooded regions of the park are often good areas to find Swamp Flycatcher, White-crowned and Snowy-crowned Robin-Chats, Blackcap and Brown Babblers, Yellow-throated Leaflove and Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike. Time will also be spent exploring the deeper reaches of Mole NP where superb broad-leaved woodland can be found. Here natural openings in the woodland often get burnt at this time of year attracting some very interesting species such as Forbes’s Plover and the scarce Rufous-rumped Lark. Other species associated with these burns include White-fronted Black Chat, Sun Lark, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark and Four-banded Sandgrouse.
Raptors are particularly prolific in Mole and regularly encountered species include White-backed, White-headed and Hooded Vultures, Beaudouin’s, Western Banded and Brown Snake Eagles, Bateleur, Lizard Buzzard, Wahlberg’s, Booted and Martial Eagles, Ayres’s and African Hawk-Eagles, Lanner Falcon and African Hobby.
During our Ghana birding tour, we will also venture out on a couple of nocturnal excursions to look for the likes of Greyish Eagle-Owl, Northern White-faced Owl, and Freckled, Long-tailed, Plain and the spectacular Standard-winged Nightjar.
Day 11: Mole National Park to Bolgatanga
We will depart Mole after some final early morning birding. Our first stop will be the nearby village of Larabanga, famous for its traditional mud-and-stick mosque, claimed to be the oldest extant building in Ghana. This site can often be a good location for Red-chested Swallow.
On the drive up we will make a few stops at roadside wetlands. One, in particular, seems to produce fabulous species and viewing opportunities are generally very good. During the heat of the day a plethora of seed-eaters come down to drink and we stand good chances at seeing Quailfinch on the ground, Orange-breasted and Black-rumped Waxbills and African Silverbill in and amongst the more regular seed-eaters. Here we should also find Northern Red and Black-winged Red Bishops, Heuglin’s Masked and Black-headed Weavers and Red-billed Quelea all in non-breeding plumage.
In the late afternoon, we will find ourselves in the seldom visited and remote frontiers of northern Ghana. The dry Sahelian Zone extends a finger down to this remote region on the Burkina Faso border, and we can, therefore, expect to find some birds that are seldom encountered elsewhere in Ghana. We should have time to visit the Tongo Hills where a number of sought after species occur. Some of the star attractions include Fox Kestrel, Lavender Waxbill, Booted Eagle, Eurasian Wryneck, Blue Rock Thrush, White-crowned Cliff Chat, Gosling’s Bunting and Rock-loving Cisticola. If we are very fortunate we may also find Ortolan Bunting.
Day 12: Tono Dam and surrounding areas
Depending on the conditions, the large Tono Dam is sometimes home to a healthy population of water birds and is an important breeding site for a variety of ducks, herons and egrets, as well as an important wintering site for a large number of waders. We will also spend time looking for the avian inhabitants of the dry woodland that hems the dam. Our target species include Gabar and Dark Chanting Goshawks, Grasshopper Buzzard, White-bellied Bustard, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Sun Lark, Rufous Cisticola, Pygmy Sunbird, Piapiac, Chestnut-bellied Starling, Bush Petronia, Speckled-fronted Weaver, Red-winged Pytilia and African Silverbill.
In the afternoon we will make our way east towards the Volta River where we stand an excellent chance of finding the incredible Egyptian Plover, one of the most desirable birds on the continent. We will make a concerted effort to track this beautiful species down while we are in this area. Other species that we may also encounter in the area include White-billed Buffalo Weaver and Black-headed Lapwing. Of particular interest in this seldom-visited region are the fascinating mud homesteads of the local Farafara tribe’s people.
Day 13: Bolgatanga to Kumasi
Today we will depart early on the very long drive south back to the town of Kumasi, where we will overnight.
Day 14: Kumasi to Atewa
This morning we will visit the Bobiri Butterfly and Forest Reserve, a small forest sanctuary close to town that is renowned for its diversity and abundance of butterflies. The bird community here is similar to that of Kakum and we, therefore, have a further opportunity to search for any species we may have missed on our Ghana birding tour. Interesting species that are possible include Congo Serpent Eagle, Forest Woodhoopoe, Forest Francolin, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, Afep Pigeon, Black Dwarf and White-crested Hornbills, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Red-billed Helmetshrike and African Piculet. One of the factors that make lowland forest birding potentially frustrating is that although the species diversity is huge, many of the individual species occur at a very low density and are therefore seldom encountered. However, they can appear at any moment and the golden rule is hence maximum time in the field for maximum species! In the afternoon we will transfer to our accommodation near the rich Atewa forest.
Day 15: Atewa Range
We have a full day of our Ghana birding tour to explore the infrequently visited forest that cloaks the Atewa Range, situated on the South Volta Scarp and one of the only higher-lying areas in Ghana. Atewa is managed as a logging reserve but is still covered in extensive forest and offers one a chance of encountering a range of seldom-seen and little-known species. The birding is extremely productive here and we have our final opportunity to see some of the rarer forest species as well as giving us additional chances of locating more of the Upper Guinea specials.
Today is a long and fairly tiring day as we will be on our legs for a long time. We will begin early in the morning, taking a packed lunch with us and beginning the 6 km (3.75 mi) hike up Atewa. We will initially pass through the secondary farm bush habitat and then begin the gradual ascent up the mountain. On our way up the mountain we will keep an eye open for Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, the impressive Great Blue Turaco (now a rare bird in Ghana), Little Green Woodpecker, Square-tailed Saw-wing, Black-capped Apalis, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Brown and Puvell’s Illadopsises, Yellow-billed Barbet, shy and secretive Black-throated Coucal and Green Twinspot. The top of Atewa will be our main focus of the day and many very special and often difficult species will be searched for up here. These include both Blackcap and the endangered Rufous-winged Illadopsises, rare and localised Nimba and Little Grey Flycatchers, striking but elusive Many-colored Bushshrike, Brown-chested Alethe (a very localised bird in Ghana), Red-tailed, Grey-headed and most notably Green-tailed Bristlebills, Western Bearded and Red-tailed Greenbuls, secretive Forest Scrub Robin, seldom-recorded Red-fronted Antpecker, Fernando Po Batis, African Shrike-flycatcher, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Long-tailed Hawk and if we are very lucky we may even bump into the highly elusive Spot-breasted Ibis. Atewa is the only site in Ghana for the dazzling Blue-moustached (-headed) Bee-eater and we have a very good chance of seeing this spectacular bee-eater during our day on the mountain. In the mid-afternoon, we shall begin our descent back down the mountain to meet up with our bus that will take us back to our nearby hotel to relax and freshen up before dinner.
Day 16: Atewa to Accra and depart
This morning we should have time to bird the Farm Bush at Atewa. This uniquely West and Central African secondary habitat is usually extremely productive for forest-edge birds and we may be entertained by a number of exciting species such as Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Cassin’s Honeybird, Black-bellied Seedcracker, Western Bluebill, Marsh Tchagra, Compact Weaver, Black-winged Bishop, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, nomadic Magpie and Black-and-white Mannikins, African Hobby and White-spotted Flufftail. In the late morning, we will return to our hotel to freshen up before we depart back to Accra to connect with our international flights home.
What our clients say about tours to Ghana
- EL, Ghana 2015
Wayne Jones is a terrific guide, and the local guides/vehicle/driver were excellent. I got 60-odd new birds, which I think was very good. Your office staff are excellent: helpful, on-the-ball and quick.JH, Ghana 2017
David was the most skilled birding tour leader that I’ve ever encountered in getting his telescope on a bird in record time. As a result, we saw beautiful images of many species that would have been difficult to observe with bins only. David is also very congenial and easy to talk with. His enthusiasm is contagious and he was generous in sharing his considerable knowledge.ND, Ghana Highlights
Excellent isn’t really adequate to describe the skills and personality of Keith. Phenomenal would be closer to the truth.JA, Ghana 2015
A good tour. Wayne Jone’s planning and re-planning abilities, in addition to his bird-finding skills made for a pleasant trip that was enjoyed by all.IS & NS, Ghana 2017
Markus was great, I’ve been looking forward to travelling with him. His birding skills and management of the group were both excellent.CM, Ghana 2015
Wayne Jones is an exceptional birding guide with his ability to hear, identify, spot and describe the field marks of so many elusive birds.MW, Ghana
Markus is an exceptional guide, and I enjoy his dry wit. Despite a knee replacement only 3 months ago, I took this tout at this time in a large part because Markus was the guide.JN, Ghana 2015
Heard all about the trip from the guys and they all reckoned it to be their best ever to West Africa. All the pax only had praise for you… Thanks a million for the few days we had in the field together and overly impressed by your bird finding and leading skills. Way better than I ever was at your age and you have so much patience and never stop smiling … what is your secret?Ian Sinclair, Ghana