Birding Tour Ghana: Upper Guinea Forest to the Sahel
Dates and Costs
26 February-19 March 2023
Spaces Available: 7
Price: US$7,225 / £6,138 / € 7,241 per person sharing based on 4 – 9 participants,
Single Supplement: US$975 / £828 / €978
* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.
01-22 March 2024
Price: US$7,990 / £6,788 / € 8,007 per person sharing based on 4 – 9 participants,
Single Supplement: US$1,071 / £910 / €1,073
(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)
Duration: 22 days
Group Size: 4 – 9
Tour Start: Accra
Tour End: Accra
Please note that we have lots of ground to cover on this tour, and sometimes driving distances are quite long.
Accommodation (Please be aware that accommodation on this tour can be more basic than on most of our tours, but we generally use the best places available and stay as close to where the birds are as possible.)
All meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks
International tour leader and local guide
Park entrance fees
All guide fees
Professional care and attention
Transportation in and around Ghana
Ghana entry visas
Soft and alcoholic drinks
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Gifts and other items of a purely personal nature
Birding Tour Ghana: Upper Guinea Forest to the Sahel
February 2023/March 2024
Ghana is arguably the best and easiest country in which to start one’s West African birding career, as its huge range of habitats is easily accessible and all the special birds, including the charismatic White-necked Rockfowl (Yellow-headed Picathartes), are amazingly well staked-out. While a lot of birders start their West African birding with a visit to the tiny Gambia, the larger and more varied Ghana has a great deal more to offer, including 180 of the “Guinea-Congo Rainforest” birds (which will basically all be life-birds for anyone who has not yet been to West Africa) and 12 of the 15 Upper Guinea Forest endemics (which are restricted to a much smaller part of West Africa, i.e. part of the Bulge of Africa). These Upper Guinea endemics can be found in neighboring countries, but birding gen is lacking compared with Ghana, and travel for English-speakers is more difficult in the other countries.
White-necked Rockfowl is one of our special targets on this Ghana birding tour.
Ghana certainly does have a wide range of different habitats, and we look not only for forest birds at sites including one of Africa’s most impressive canopy walkways, but we also look for some charismatic arid-area birds. Standard-winged Nightjar is almost guaranteed, as is the incomparable Egyptian Plover.
Ghana must rank as one of the best countries to find Standard-winged Nightjar (photo Don Cowan).
Itinerary (22 days/21 nights)
Day 1. The birding starts around Accra
Most flights into Accra arrive in the late evening, but if you do arrive earlier, birding the hotel grounds can be quite productive. Either way, our guide will fetch you at the airport and transfer you to the hotel so you can check in.
Overnight: Tulip Inn near Kotoka International Airport, Accra
The gorgeous Black Bee-eater is a denizen of the forests.
Days 2 – 4. Birding the fabulous Kakum National Park
After a probable late arrival on day 1 and to avoid the notorious Accra rush hour traffic, we’ll fetch you at 9 a.m. today, after you’ve enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. We’ll accumulate a respectable bird list pretty fast, as we stop for new bird after new bird. But our focus this morning will be the Winneba lagoon, which usually has many species of migrant shorebirds and terns. We’ll be sure to arrive in Jukwa, where we’ll spend the next three nights, early enough for birding. Bar-breasted Firefinch, the extravagant Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Compact Weaver, Red-headed Quelea, Copper Sunbird, the aptly named Splendid Sunbird, Whistling Cisticola, and Red-faced Cisticola are some of the many possibilities in the scrub and subsistence farmland around here.
We’ll spend a good amount of time birding the nearby canopy walkway of Kakum National Park, which makes seeing some of the canopy birds much easier than usual! These often include the likes of Blue Cuckooshrike, Grey Parrot (it’s truly wonderful seeing this popular cage bird in the wild!), three nigrita species (interesting West African finches), the truly magnificent Long-tailed Hawk, Congo Serpent Eagle, Violet-backed Hyliota, the beautiful Yellow-spotted Barbet and the strangely named Hairy-breasted Barbet, Brown-cheeked Hornbill and the monstrous Black-casqued and Yellow-casqued Hornbills (it’s quite something to hear their amazingly heavy wingbeats), two different Wood Hoopoe species (White-headed and Forest), Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, and a host of other tantalizing West African birds.
Long-tailed Hawk will be searched for in Kakum National Park (photo Niall Perrins).
We’ll also be sure to spend enough time at the Antwikwaa section of the national park. One of the biggest stars is always Rosy Bee-eater, the beauty of which almost defies belief. Once we’ve become desensitized to this gorgeous bird, we’ll be less blasé about two other marvels of the bird world, Black Bee-eater and White-throated Bee-eater. Blue-throated Roller, Forest Robin, Red-billed Helmetshrike, and Yellow-billed Turaco are also wonderfully colorful. It’s a paradise for hornbills, and we hope to get acquainted with Black Dwarf Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, and others. Two species of bristlebill (unusually good-looking greenbuls) are usually present. White-spotted Flufftail skulks on the forest floor but is not quite as elusive as most other flufftail species. Melancholy Woodpecker, Fire-bellied Woodpecker, and various cuckoos, including the brilliant Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo and the equally amazing (rather tiny) Yellow-throated Cuckoo, are quite possible. White-tailed Alethe is often seen on the forest floor. Two bat-like swift species, Sabine’s Spinetail and Cassin’s Spinetail, flutter over the forest. The list continues, though, as we might also see Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, Forest Penduline Tit, Black-bellied Seedcracker, Willcocks’s Honeyguide, and plenty more.
Night birding in this area can generate Long-tailed Nightjar, Brown Nightjar, and Fraser’s Eagle-Owl.
Overnight: Rainforest Lodge, Jukwa
Day 5. Nsuta Forest
We continue westward for some of Ghana’s trickiest but most desirable birds. A lot of luck is needed, but the possibilities include Spot-breasted Ibis, Akun Eagle-Owl, and Rufous Fishing Owl! Easier birds we’ll be looking for around here include some of the bright-red forest weavers called malimbes, Chestnut-winged Starling, Copper-tailed Starling, and Swamp Palm Bulbul.
Overnight: D & A Guesthouse, Sekondi, which is a basic place but gives access to some of the most exciting possible birds of the tour
Red-chested Owlet occurs widely in the forests throughout the country – but nowhere is it easy to see, and we’ll need a bit of luck to track down this bird.
Days 6 – 8. Ankasa National Park
This is the most pristine forest of the trip, and it’s worthwhile for the star birds we find here. White-breasted Guineafowl might put in an appearance, but this is another extremely difficult bird to pin down. Nkulengu Rail will get a lot of attention from us, and hopefully we’ll manage to get decent visuals on this species. Grey-throated Rail is also possible. Very beautiful kingfishers abound. We might see Shining-blue Kingfisher beside a quiet pond, and we usually also find White-bellied Kingfisher and Chocolate-backed Kingfisher. We have stacks of greenbuls to find, including Red-tailed Greenbul, Plain Greenbul, Yellow-bearded Greenbul, Western Bearded Greenbul, and two bristlebill species. We might also see three illadopsis species with their pleasant, liquid calls, not to mention Black-throated Coucal, Yellow-billed Turaco, the truly huge Great Blue Turaco, Blue-headed and Dusky Crested Flycatchers, and Crowned Eagle. Red-fronted Antpecker is always one of the biggest stars, and Red-chested Owlet is sometimes seen. Near water, the interesting West African forest duck, Hartlaub’s Duck, is often found, along with Dwarf Bittern and the elusive African Finfoot.
Overnight: Ankasa Reserve Lodge, Ankasa
Hartlaub’s Duck is a scarce West African duck, where it frequents forested rivers and waterbodies.
Day 9. Brenu Beach and other sites
We’ll likely spend the morning birding (depending on what we still “need”) before we start heading back eastward. On our route back to the Kakum area we’ll be sure to stop for some mangrove specialists in the form of two Sunbirds (Blue-throated Brown and Reichenbach’s). We also look for the beautiful Orange Weaver. Naturally, we’re likely to find other more widespread water-associated birds as well, which at this site often includes the magnificent Giant Kingfisher. Next on the agenda are some desirable species such as Preuss’s Cliff Swallow, the brightly colored, absolutely brilliant, rather strange Oriole Warbler, Red-winged Pytilia, Marsh Tchagra, and Vieillot’s Barbet.
Overnight: Rainforest Lodge, Jukwa
Day 10. White-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes) – the most exciting day of the trip
The two species of charismatic, cave-roosting, and cave-nesting rockfowl (picathartes) are both West African endemics and both Vulnerable (partly due to their need for caves within rainforest, not a common combo). Needless to say, seeing either of the two representatives of this family is high on the wish list of many a birder. The site we visit is arguably the best place on earth to find White-necked Rockfowl – we’ve had a 100 % success rate so far.
Overnight: Picathartes Guesthouse, Bonkro, in the Ashanti region
Days 11 – 13. And now for something completely different: Mole National Park
En route to the savanna and dry woodlands of Mole National Park, a brilliant game reserve that has a whole new suite of birds awaiting us along with elephant, crocodiles, and a lot of other good animals, we stop at Offinsu Forest. Here Blue-moustached Bee-eater is always a real highlight, but other pickings include at least three possible bushshrikes, the names describing these fabulous birds well (e.g., Many-colored Bushshrike and Fiery-breasted Bushshrike). We might see Thick-billed Honeyguide or its smaller relative, Cassin’s Honeybird. Rufous-sided Broadbill and Capuchin Babbler are also possible.
Forbes’s Plover will be sought once we get into the interior of Ghana.
The truly spectacular Standard-winged Nightjar is one of Mole’s most famous avian specials, which we look for around the airstrip at dusk. Pel’s Fishing Owl is also possible in the park. The West and Central African endemic, Forbes’s Plover, is also sought here, as are African Spotted Creeper (more of a miombo woodland bird in southern Africa), Pygmy Sunbird (a stunner with its incredible, long tail), Beautiful Sunbird, several woodpeckers, Senegal Batis, Red-throated Bee-eater, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, the interesting Stone Partridge, and some pretty Waxbills in the form of Orange-cheeked and Lavender.
Overnight: Mole Motel, with a view over Mole National Park’s savanna
Day 14. Tongo Hills via Bolgatanga
Targets today, as the vegetation becomes increasingly arid, include Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, the good-looking Fox Kestrel, the nicely named Rock-loving Cisticola, and the striking White-crowned Cliff Chat.
Overnight: Premier Lodge, Bolgatanga
Bearded Barbet will be one of the important targets on this tour (photo Niall Perrins).
Day 15. Egyptian Plover
Tono Dam on the northern border is where we look for what is usually regarded as one of the top two or three birds of our Ghana birding tour, the spectacularly plumaged and quite localized Egyptian Plover. The habitat is different from anything we will have encountered so far, meaning we’re bound to add a lot of other birds to our growing list. The pickings include a number of seedeaters such as White-billed Buffalo Weaver, Black-bellied Firefinch, African Silverbill, the aptly named Cut-throat Finch, etc. However, it is the stunning Abyssinian Roller with its spectacular tail streamers and bright colors and the even more dazzling Northern Carmine Bee-eater that are in general the most admired. Black-headed Lapwing and Four-banded Sandgrouse are also very popular, though.
Overnight: Premier Lodge, Bolgatanga
Day 16. Travel to Bobiri Forest and Butterfly Reserve
The day is mostly set aside as a travel day, as we transit south to Kumasi. Opportunistic stops along the route will feature, and should we have time available in the afternoon, we may try and get a head start on the Bobiri Forest and Butterfly Reserve species listed below.
Overnight: Royal Basin Resort, Kumasi
Days 17 – 18. Bobiri Forest and Butterfly Reserve to Atewa Range Forest Reserve
We’ll look at the amazing butterfly spectacle, but Bobiri Forest and Butterfly Reserve also happens to be one of the best places to find some forest birds we won’t have seen yet, including Yellow-footed Honeyguide, the wonderful, tiny woodpecker called African Piculet (a massively important West African endemic, despite its diminutive size), Tit Hylia (Africa’s smallest bird, and another fine West African endemic to see), Black-capped Apalis, Golden Greenbul, and Tessmann’s Flycatcher. Difficult-to-see Latham’s Francolins are also possible here. Duetting pairs of Black-throated Coucal might also be seen.
The diminutive and inconspicuous Tit Hylia is a highly sought-after West African species, and it is also Africa’s smallest bird!
Our afternoon birding will be at the Atewa Range Forest Reserve, where we might be able to acquaint ourselves with a different Coucal, Blue-headed, along with Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Baumann’s Olive Greenbul, and Red-cheeked Wattle-eye. There are many different sunbirds here, including Johanna’s Sunbird, Tiny Sunbird (even smaller than most sunbirds), and Fraser’s Sunbird. Forest Scrub Robin, Rufous-winged Illadopsis, and, importantly, Nimba Flycatcher are often around. Western Bronze-naped Pigeon and the gorgeous Narina Trogon will also likely entertain us.
Overnight: Nelsban Palace Hotel, Koforidua
Days 19 – 20. Atewa to Kalakpa Resource Reserve
The very large Thick-billed Cuckoo with its aerial display and the very small Yellow-throated Cuckoo (one of the many West and Central African endemics we’ll be seeking on this tour) are two of the targets today, if we have not already seen them. Puvel’s Illadopsis usually needs a bit of patience to be seen well, as does the skulking Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat. Pied-winged Swallow and Yellow-throated Leaflove are more conspicuous.
On one of the evenings we plan to look for the tiny African Scops Owl (its incessant call is one of the characteristic sounds of the African savanna at night) as well as for Black-shouldered Nightjar.
Overnight: Chances Hotel, Ho
Yellow-throated Cuckoo is yet another desired West African species that we’ll target on this tour.
Day 21. Back to Accra via Shai Hills Resource Reserve
We plan to clean up on any missing birds in the morning, and then we usually have lunch along the lovely Volta River. Our final birding for the day, as well as for the next morning, is at Shai Hills Resource Reserve, which is good for Piapiac, the colorful, prehistoric-looking Violet Turaco, its very different cousin (one of the green turacos) Guinea Turaco, Stone Partridge, the dazzling Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Blue-bellied Roller, Red-headed Lovebird, Senegal Parrot and, last but not least, yet another brightly colored bird, Double-toothed Barbet.
Overnight: Tulip Inn near Kotoka International Airport, Accra
Day 22. Final birding before departure from Accra
The tour will end at lunchtime today after which we’ll catch our flights home.
Overnight: Not included
Red-throated Bee-eater is one of several dazzlingly colored bee-eaters we should see on this exciting tour.
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.Download Itinerary
Ghana: Upper Guinea Forest to the Sahel
PASSPORT AND VISA
Your passport must be valid for a period of at least six months after the date of your arrival in Ghana. Please make sure that there is at least one full empty page available in your passport. Please make sure that you also bring a photocopy of your passport, to be kept in a different location from your passport, in case of loss. Most non-African countries require a visa which needs to be arranged in advance, while most African countries are either exempt or can obtain a visa on arrival. Please make sure you find out accordingly, and well in advance of your tour.
Birding Ecotours can assist in providing documentation to confirm your participation on the tour, in support of your visa application. The onus is on you, as a client, to secure your visa to travel here.
We require (see Birding Tours Terms and Conditions – Birding Ecotours) that you purchase trip cancellation insurance in case you have to cancel due to illness just prior to the tour departure date, to protect yourself against accidents, medical, illness, loss of valuables, luggage etc. and travel interruptions or delays of all kinds. Allianz Travel and Generali Global Assistance are two options to consider.
Please carefully read the Center for Disease Control (CDC) information for travelers to Ghana (or your government’s equivalent health travel advice for Ghana). Below we have mentioned a couple of specific items but first and foremost kindly be advised by the updated information at the above link.
Required immunizations for travel to Ghana: Yellow Fever vaccine.
It is recommended that you are up to date with all routine vaccines, such as polio and measles-mumps-rubella (MMR). Additionally, it is also recommended getting vaccines for Hepatitis A and B, meningitis, rabies and typhoid. Please keep in mind that if you have not had any of these, one should make sure that you have been inoculated at least six weeks prior to your trip to take full effect.
We strongly recommend anti-malaria drugs for travel to Ghana. Note that as per the CDC, Chloroquine prophylaxes are not effective here. The following are recommended chemoprophylaxis: atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine and tafenoquine. Please consult with your doctor.
Mosquito repellant, long trousers/jeans and long-sleeved shirts, particularly at night when malaria (Anopheles) mosquitos bite, are advised, in addition to the drugs.
Please make sure that you are covered with medical insurance in case of an emergency while on these trips. Without insurance the cost of medical care can be extremely high.
Please notify us at the time of registering for the tour of any medical conditions you think we should know about (including allergies, heart conditions, epilepsy, etc.). This will greatly help us to cater to your needs.
We provide unlimited bottled water in the tour vehicles, and you are welcome to take water from the vehicle for evenings when not provided in the hotel rooms. More expensive bottled water at restaurants is excluded from the tour cost and is for your account, but (again) you can take water from our tour vehicle whenever you want.
Breakfasts and dinners will generally be enjoyed at our hotels and lodges, with lunches a mix of sit-down restaurant meals and packed lunches. Occasionally, packed breakfasts are required as well.
As always, please do inform us if you have any food allergies or other dietary requirements. Kindly note, that we cannot guarantee these can be accommodated throughout the tour. If you have special requirements/allergies, we kindly ask if you can bring along appropriate/replacement foods.
CURRENCY AND MONEY
The Ghanaian cedi (GH₵) is the official currency, and it is suggested to ensure you have sufficient cash in local currency to cover expenses such as drinks, tips, and for other items of a personal nature (such as gifts). Credit cards are not widely accepted for payment.
You will be able to exchange or draw money at the airport upon our arrival, and when we pass through larger towns during the tours. Note that exchanging money is only easily possible at the airport on your arrival – it is very time consuming to do so during the tour. Visa and Mastercard are accepted for drawing cash from ATMs. Note: US and Canadian dollars, pound sterling and euros cannot be used for purchases.
Conditions will generally be warm and humid. As always, it is good practice to ensure you have some warmer clothes, as some folks may feel the need for a jersey/jacket in the evenings, and a raincoat. Although we visit during the dry season, unseasonal rain is not impossible.
The standard voltage is 240 V. If you intend to recharge video batteries etc. in your hotel room you will need an international adapter. Note that in Ghana, the power plug sockets generally make use of either Type D, or Type G (see link).
All of our hotels/lodges will have access to electricity throughout the day/night, and many have backup generators, in case of power failures or power outages. Remember, this is rural Africa, and sometimes the electricity does go out.
A good torch will also be useful if you fancy joining us for a night walk or drive. If you intend to do any trips, you’d be advised to bring at least one good torch, preferably with a strong beam. All the places we will stay at will have electrical outlets for chargers and laptops.
All of the hotels and lodges we stay at have access to Wi-Fi internet. Kindly note that in many places, this is not accessible from your rooms, but only the main reception area/dining area.
LENGTH OF DRIVES
Kindly note that this tour takes place in a third-world country, and roads are often narrow, potholed and busy. Do not expect highways and quick travel between destinations. Unfortunately, this does mean we will spend quite a bit of time in the vehicles, travelling to and from birding sites, and transiting between destinations. Additionally, there are a few days with particularly long drives – especially as we transit to and from Mole National Park in the north of the country.
Air-conditioning is available in our tour vehicles.
Some roads can be dusty so please consider bringing a scarf (or other measures) in case you’re birding along an unpaved road and a car goes past putting up dust.
Note that there is a fair bit of walking needed on this tour. Many of our birding sites require birding from foot, as opposed to from vehicles, and will require us being on our feet for several hours at a time. Participants should be able to manage these conditions, and be comfortable on their feet.
Note that the Kakum Canopy Walkway towers high above the ground, and requires one to navigate stairs to get to the top.
PACE OF TOUR
This is an intense tour, with long days required most of the time. We will generally start the days off early, before returning to our hotels/restaurants for a lunch-break, and resuming in the afternoons. Several nocturnal trips are also undertaken to search for various nightjars, owls and other exciting nocturnal creatures.
It is possible to opt out of some activities, should you not feel up for it, but this generally won’t be possible on the days where we transit between places.
Please note that the accommodation used on this tour ranges from ‘standard’ to ‘basic’ (and below the standard we use on our southern/East Africa tours). En-suite bathroom facilities are available throughout the tour.
Kindly be aware that two new establishments; Ankasa Reserve Lodge and Picathartes Guesthouse (in Bonkro) have limited rooms, and depending on total participants and the structure of single versus sharing clients, participants may need to share rooms. These two new lodges are necessary as they cut out a significant amount of what would otherwise be extra driving time.
WHAT TO BRING
Clothing – Casual and informal dress is fine in the hotels. Loose lightweight field clothing works best, with a warm fleece or jacket for cooler weather. As mentioned before, it is good practice to bring some warmer clothing, certainly a minimum of a warm fleece and a rain jacket. Rain is always a possibility, so an umbrella and or rain gear is always useful to have.
Sunglasses, sunhat and sunscreen (rated SPF 30 or higher) are essential. A pair of trousers or a long skirt, and a long-sleeved shirt should be included to help protect against forest vegetation and the sun. Swimwear can be brought as there are swimming pools at some of the lodges.
We would recommend lightweight walking boots for when out on foot, and bringing a second pair is often useful. Please ensure that whatever footwear you bring, that it is comfortable, as much time is spent on your feet on this tour. You might like to consider sandals/tevas as well, for use around the hotels/lodges.
Do not forget – BINOCULARS, prescription drugs (also bring the generic names for these drugs), toiletries, prescription glasses (and a spare pair), insect repellant, camera, flashlight, batteries (for electronic equipment and chargers for the re-chargeable batteries), plug adaptors, alarm clock, mosquito repellant, money pouch, field guide(s), a soft-sided duffle-style luggage bag is recommended (hard-sided luggage is not always ideal), daypack/backpack, and your favorite road snacks!
Key documents and cash – Passports, your travel or health insurance cards (you can send us copies to file in case of emergency), credit cards – Visa and Mastercard are best – see above, US dollars, euro or pounds can be exchanged for local currency at the airport as you arrive into the country (if you prefer not to simply draw from ATMs), cash for drinks, gifts, tips, items of a personal nature etc.
Luggage – Due to restricted space in the vehicles, please pack as lightly as possible. A medium-sized, soft-sided duffle bag (not the hard-sided cases) works best for packing in the vehicles. This allows us to better fit the bags. Please bring a daypack to keep items that you wish to use or need on a daily basis.
‘Thank you for organizing this trip for me, thank you for your patience during these troubled times. I will return for sure, to Ghana and maybe to neighboring countries. I’d love to see the very difficult Black-collared Lovebird. Or the Timneh Parrot (Psittacus erithacus timneh). And when I return, I’d love to stay a bit longer in Bonkro. I simply adore that place, the comfort of the lodging, the birding location, the peace and quiet. It was by far the best lodging (and food) of the whole trip. And, of course the out-of-this-world-bird, the Picathartes.
Thank you all for a very successful and fun trip.’