Lying on the Gulf of Guinea along Africa’s tropical western coast, Ghana is rich both in ancient tradition and in the history of Europe’s early colonial expansion into West Africa. Today it is a vibrant and colorful country stretching from the blinding white beaches of the Atlantic through dense, deep-green rainforest to the open savannah of the Sahel, a range of habitats that plays host to over 750 bird species.
Our tour begins amid the lagoons of the Gold Coast, where migrant waders from Europe swell the numbers of resident waterbirds. We’ll then move inland to the primary tropical rainforests of Kakum National Park, home to a world-famous canopy walkway that will place us at eye level with a vast array of rainforest species, including numerous hornbills, greenbuls, and barbets. Our tour also includes an exciting couple of days at Ankasa, an area seldom visited by birders, and a trek into the forest to the secret home of the cave-dwelling Yellow-headed Picathartes, one of Africa’s most evocative birds.
Elsewhere we’ll visit the wide-open spaces of Mole National Park, an essential part of any visit to Ghana, where Bateleurs float across the golden grasslands and Red-throated Bee-eaters hawk for insects in the rich woodland. Ghana has a well-deserved reputation as one of Africa’s friendliest and safest countries, qualities that are still only enjoyed by a small number of tourists.
Day 1: The tour begins this evening in Accra. Night near Accra.
Day 2: Because the vast majority of international flights arrive late into Ghana, we’ll have a relaxed start this morning, enjoying breakfast before departing our hotel for the Winneba lagoon. This coastal lagoon supports a wide range of resident and migrant waders and terns. White-fronted Plover is possible, alongside Yellow-billed Kites, Pied Kingfishers, and our first selection of doves and sunbirds. After lunch we’ll continue toward Kakum and an afternoon of birding in the farmland scrub close to our hotel. We hope to see Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Compact Weaver, Splendid and Copper Sunbirds, and both Red-faced and Whistling Cisticolas. As dusk falls, we’ll make our first attempt to see Fraser’s Eagle Owl. Night near Kakum.
Days 3–4: Kakum National Park, part of a huge protected area of rainforest covering 375 square miles, is the focus of our attention for the next two days. Besides the fabulous forest, Kakum is perhaps best known for its amazing aerial walkway that stretches through the forest canopy 120 feet above the ground. The forest canopy is rich in bird life, and no two visits to the walkway are the same. With an ever-changing mix of Upper Guinea forest specialties and superb African birds, we can hope to see any of the following species: Congo Serpent Eagle, Blue-headed Wood Dove, Red-fronted Parrot, Melancholy Woodpecker, and Yellow-billed and possibly Great Blue Turacos. Hornbills are well represented, and we could encounter Piping and White-crested as well as a selection of greenbuls and over 15 species of sunbird including Buff-throated, Blue-throated Brown, Little Green, and Collared.
On one afternoon we’ll return to the canopy, where the hornbills become more active as they feed before roosting. This offers our best chance of Brown-cheeked and both Black and Yellow-casqued Hornbills. The atmosphere in the afternoon can be very different from the morning, and if we stay until dark we hope to hear, and possibly see, Brown Nightjar and we’ll have another chance for Fraser’s Eagle Owl.
We’ll also be birding other areas of the park, where we’ll search for such gems as White-spotted Flufftail, Rock Pratincole, Black and Rosy Bee-eaters, Red-billed and Black Dwarf Hornbills, and White-throated Blue Swallow. There is still much to discover in these areas, and if we are lucky the surprises may include an African Piculet.
During the heat of the day there will be a chance to swim or relax at our hotel. Nights near Kakum.
Day 5: After a final morning around Kakum we’ll continue our journey westward to spend two nights in Ankasa, an area of pristine tropical rainforest on the border with Ivory Coast. It is said to be one of the last homes of Chimpanzee in Ghana, although they are seldom seen. Because there are no suitable hotels within two hours of the forest, we’ll spend two nights camping. Our ground agents will have walk-in tents, with beds, all ready for us on arrival. There are also toilet and shower facilities, power, our own chef, and cold drinks! This allows us to be on site for first and last light—a very special experience. Night in camp.
Day 6: At the time of writing only a few birding trips have been made to Ankasa, but the mouth-watering list of birds includes a second chance for many of the species from Kakum along with many new birds, possibly including Hartlaub’s Duck, African Finfoot, Shining Blue, White-bellied, and Chocolate-backed Kingfishers, and Yellow-bearded Greenbul. In the evening we’ll head out for some night birding; our main target is the very rare Akun Eagle Owl but African Wood Owl is also present and we could even hear the near mythical Nkulengu Rail. Night in camp.
Day 7: We’ll spend the whole morning birding around Ankasa before an early lunch back at camp and the start of our journey back toward Kakum. Birding en route, we hope to find Orange Weaver and both Brown and Reichenbach’s Sunbirds. After several days of forest birding, there will be a change of scenery before we get to our hotel.
The Brenu beach road offers some excellent open-country birding with Black-winged Kites and Lanner Falcons likely overhead and passerines in the scrubland, including Marsh and Black-crowned Tchagras, Oriole Warbler, and Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike. Night near Kakum.
Day 8: After a final morning birding around Kakum our attention will turn toward the main target of our tour, the Yellow-headed Picathartes. Everything about this bird is special, and after around an hour’s walk up a forested hillside we’ll take our places and wait patiently for the star to appear. Numbers vary, but we stand a very good chance of seeing this elusive forest species as it returns to its rocky overhang to roost. We’ll then make our way back downhill and to the bus, arriving at our next hotel for a late dinner and (hopefully) a celebratory drink! Night in Kumasi.
Day 9: Our modified itinerary now includes a visit to the Offinso forest, just a couple of hours away from Kumasi. This has become one of the more reliable sites in the country for not only Blue-moustached Bee-eater but also Capuchin Babbler. The forest also contains Black Sparrowhawk and Bioko Batis, and if we’re lucky we may see Yellow-footed Honeyguide. After a morning’s birding we’ll eat lunch in a local restaurant before starting the drive to Mole. Along the way we’ll notice the bird life start to change as we reach drier country. African Grey Hornbill will become the default hornbill, and new raptors should include Grasshopper Buzzard, Dark Chanting Goshawk, and possibly Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle. Once we reach our lodge, we can head straight for the terrace, enjoy a cold drink, and have our first look at the water hole as dusk approaches. Species here should include Hamerkop, Black Crake, Broad-billed Roller, and Grey-headed Kingfisher. Mammals will also be present, and although African Elephant is rare at this time of year, we’ll see Kob, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, and Warthog. Olive Baboons and several species of monkey also inhabit the park. Night at Mole.
Days 10–11: We’ll have two full days to explore Mole National Park, where we hope to see a wealth of savannah species, including Stone Partridge, Violet Turaco, various rollers and bee-eaters, Brubru, Scarlet-chested and Pygmy Sunbirds, and Striped Kingfisher. In the heat of the day there will be a chance for a swim in the pool, easily the best place to watch raptors drifting overhead, from Martial and Wahlberg’s Eagles to White-headed and African White-backed Vultures. Alternatively, we can sit in the shade and scan the watering hole, where there is a good chance of visits from Spur-winged Goose and Saddle-billed and Woolly-necked Storks.
We’ll tailor our afternoon to search for missing species, but all manner of birds are possible, including Forbe’s Plover, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Bruce’s and African Green Pigeons, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Red-headed Lovebird, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, and Spotted Creeper.
In the evenings we’ll stay out until dark to look for Grayish Eagle and African Scops Owls as well as Long-tailed Nightjar. In some years Standard-winged Nightjars are also present. Nights at Mole.
Day 12: After some final birding around Mole we’ll begin our journey back toward the more humid, forested south. There will undoubtedly be birds along the road, but our main aim will be to reach Bobiri in time for a few hours of birding. Long-tailed Hawk and various dwarf hornbills may be possible, and as dusk falls we stand another chance of at least hearing Brown Nightjar. Night in Kumasi.
Day 13: We’ll start the day with an early visit to the Bobiri butterfly reserve. This stretch of forest is rich in bird life, and specialties may include Long-tailed Hawk, Narina’s Trogon, Afep Pigeon, Tambourine Dove, and both Crested and Red-headed Malimbes.
After a mornings birding we continue south, stopping for lunch en route before arriving at Shai Hills reserve for a few hours birding before dark. This is a great area for Lizard Buzzard, Oriole Warbler and Ahanta Francolin, and being here in the evening will give us new possibilities including Barred Owlet and both Black-shouldered and Plain Nightjars. Night near Shai Hills.
Day 14: We’ll return to Shai Hills after an early breakfast. The mixture of savannah scrub and rocky outcrops is home to several species that we will not have seen previously, notably White-crowned Cliff-chat, Rock Martin, and Double-toothed Barbet, but there will be plenty more to keep us busy. The open landscape is good for raptors, rollers, barbets, and cisticolas. After lunch at our hotel we’ll drive to the Sakamona lagoon, which holds some great African species such as Black Heron, Kittlitz’s Plover, Malachite Kingfisher, and Yellow-throated Longclaw but is also home to scores of wintering waders and terns, including Collared Pratincole, Curlew Sandpiper, and Little Stint. It has as well an unbeatable reputation for rarities, especially American shorebirds, so we may have one last surprise in store. We’ll return to our hotel, where we have arranged a late checkout and a chance to repack, shower, and meet for an early dinner before making our way to Accra’s international airport, where the tour concludes in time to check in for overnight flights home.