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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
A birding trip to Cameroon - December 1997,
PART I: GENERAL INFORMATION
Flight and visa
Food and drink
Health certificate and medical precautions
Transport and roads
Entrance fees national parks
Nomenclature & taxonomy
Maps and sketch maps
PART II: ITINERARY
PART III: NATIONAL PARKS AND SITES
- Korup National Park
- Bafut-Nguemba Forest Reserve
- Mount Kupé National Park
- Sanaga River near Edea
- Limbe Botanical Gardens
- Ngaoundaba Ranch
- Dang Lake
- Benoue National Park
- Waza National Park
PART IV: DAILY LOG
PART V : SYSTEMATIC LIST
- Systematic list
- Systematic list of mammals
This report covers a visit to Cameroon from 30th November to 22nd December 1997.
I was accompanied by Vital van Gorp and Eric Wille for the whole period and Gerald Broddelez was with us in the south. Cameroon is still virtually unknown as far as most birders are concerned, which is astonishing when one realises that it is much the richest country in the whole of West Africa for birds.
Cameroon is probably the most accessible country in West-Central Africa and a top birding destination.
Lying at the junction between West and Central Africa, Cameroon and its highland chain supports over 900 bird species, amongst them seven endemic species. Cameroon has a little of everything that Africa has to offer, from the southern tropical rainforests to the Sahelian region in the north, and from rolling plains to volcanic beaches and mangrove swamps. Most of the speciality species, including the endemics, are concentrated in the forests of the south.
Our trip covered as wide a variety of habitats as was possible in a 23 days period, the only significant area not visited being Mount Cameroon.
The total of 535 species seen and 4 heard during the 23 days trip was well in excess of our pre-trip expectations and included most of the key species.
Other wildlife, such as elephants, monkeys, hippos, lions, antelopes can also be seen, mainly in the north of the country.
FLIGHT AND VISA
We travelled to Cameroon via Brussels and Paris. The flight was fast, approximately 6 hours and 30 minutes.
Our return-ticket (Air France) for the air journey cost us about ¦ 2,100,--. The flights were almost punctual and troublefree. The internal flight in Cameroon (Cameroon Airlines) from Douala to Garoua and back cost about ¦ 350,--. When using internal flights ensure that you check the flight schedule just before you leave Europe.
In our case all went well, but in the past quite a few birders had some unpleasant surprises.
A visa is necessary for a visit to Cameroon (Amaliastraat 14, The Hague).
When you're leaving Cameroon, you have to pay departure tax (CFA 10,000). Be sure to confirm your reservations for your return flight and the internal flights at least 72 hours before the flight.
The Cameroon currency is the Central African Franc (CFA), which is linked to the French Franc. The exchange rate is now CFA 100 : FF 1. The best currency to take to Cameroon is French Francs because of the fixed exchange rate. French Francs are accepted widely, but not everywhere, e.g. not in Mundemba and other small villages.
All major credit cards and traveller cheques are accepted. Changing money at any of the commercial banks is usually easy and often, but not always, quick.
All sites have convenient hotel facilities fairly close by. In the north there are safari-type lodges.
Some of the hotels are very basic, but adequate for most birders. The prices are low, generally under CFA 25,000 per double room per night. Good hotels in Douala are much higher in price.
Hotel Ibis, Douala
CFA 34,000 for a double room with hot showers
Baptists du Cameroun, Station
Boualembe, Douala CFA 22,000 for a four-bed room
Hotel Iyaz, Mundemba CFA 8,500 for a double room
Hotel Mondial, Bamenda CFA 10,000 for a double room with hot showers
Guest House, Nyasoso CFA 6,000 for a double room
Ngaoundaba Ranch CFA 29,000 for two double rooms (special price)
Campement du Bufflé Noir CFA 26,000 for a double room
Campement de Waza CFA 24,000 for a three-bed room
FOOD AND DRINK
Reasonable meals were available almost everywhere, but
snack-food was most difficult to come by, so it is worth bringing a supply of
say biscuits, muesli bars, sausages, cheese as we did. Drinks can be found anywhere.
HEALTH CERTIFICATE AND MEDICAL PRECAUTIONS
A Yellow Fever Inoculation Certificate is required to enter and leave the country. Do take this with you or otherwise you will have big problems at the airport! Eric Wille forgot his certificate, was lucky when he entered the country, but when he left Cameroon he had to bribe an official at the airport (CFA 9,000) to get permission to leave the country.
Check with your physician for the latest news on the need for malaria prophylaxis and recommended vaccinations before leaving home. Cholera, typhoid and hepatitis are recommended. Probably the main health concern is malaria.
Some birders have caught malaria in Cameroon (the potentially fatal falciparus strain) and full precautions should be taken, as well as other preventive measures, such as using insect repellent.
Be sure to get enough malaria tablets for your trip, and do take them! Take the Lariam Roche tablets rather than the nivaquine/chloroquine combination, because of the high level of chloroquine resistance in Cameroon.
We were in Cameroon in the dry season and we experienced hardly any problems with mosquitoes, but used mosquito nets almost everywhere. Mount Kupé is loaded with vicious little flies and here you definitely need insect repellent.
Finally, beware of the sun. Hats and long‑sleeved shirts are essential kit.
Cameroon is a bilingual country, the language division based on the old division between British and French Cameroon. In the Southwest and Northwest provinces English is the main language. In the rest of the country, including Douala French takes over.
For birdwatchers the best time is the dry season from December through March or April, although a number of species are not in breeding plumage at this time, especially in the north.
During the time we spent in Cameroon Africa it was mostly dry and sunny with the exception of a few days at Mount Kupé, where we had a few heavy showers in the late afternoon. The lowlands in the south were generally hot and humid, especially Douala as was Limbe to a lesser extent.
TRANSPORT AND ROADS
The major roads in the north are 'fine' (potholes especially from Garoua - Maroua), but in the south some are in a very poor state and during the heavy rains (June-October) many are impassable. The dirt road from Ekondo Titi to Mundemba (Korup NP) is very rough and with a standard saloon car you will never make it, however the bush taxis in Cameroon are no normal saloon cars and we did make it. On every tarmac road you have to pay toll (CFA 500) every
50 - 100km. In the south (Korup, Mount Kupé, Bamenda Highlands, Limbe & Sanaga River) we did all our transport with a bush taxi. Always negotiate the price before you get in.
Some prices of bush taxis:
Douala - Kumba
CFA 30,000 (minibus)
Kumba - Ekondo Titi CFA 25,000
Ekondo Titi - Mundemba CFA 25,000
Kumba - Bamenda CFA 40,000
Loum - Douala CFA 15,000
Douala - Limbe (all day) CFA 50,000
Birders wishing to cover as much of the country as possible in a very short period will need to endure the expanse of car hire and internal flights.
In the north it's best to hire a car if you can afford it. For car rental, you will need a major credit card and a valid international driver's license.
Car hire in Cameroon is very expensive, because there are few all-inclusive rates and the kilometre rate is extortionate. We booked a car through Avis from Belgium, but when we arrived at the office in Garoua, they had never heard of us.
Rates of Avis in Garoua:
Daily Rate CFA 23,000
Collision Damage Waiver CFA 5,000 per day
Theft Protection CFA 2,500 per day
Kilometre Charge CFA 215 per km
ENTRANCE FEES NATIONAL PARKS
Entrance fees of national parks in Cameroon:
Korup NP CFA 3,500 annual
fee p.p., CFA 3,500 transport to the park, CFA 3,500 a day for a guide, CFA 2,000
a day for a porter and CFA 500 p.p. to camp
Mount Kupé NP CFA 2,000 per person a day
Benoue NP CFA 5,000 annual fee p.p., CFA 2,000 for a camera
Waza NP CFA 5,000 annual fee p.p., CFA 3,000 (minimum) a day for a guide
Cameroon is an extremely friendly country, pretty well tourist‑free at present and a very safe place to travel.
The people in Cameroon are very friendly and sociable people. Except for the occasional child asking for pens or money, we were not hassled or bothered while birdwatching around the country. Still, in the larger cities (Douala) you should take precautions against pick-pockets and other theft. Lock your car at all times, never leave valuables in open sight.
Do not approach elephants, hippos, lions or other large animals too closely in the reserves in the north of the country.
The police check points especially in the southern part of Cameroon are a pain in the ass. During our drive in the south we had encounters with these checkpoints in almost every village, manned by armed policemen or soldiers.
In the Ekondo Titi area we had to stop 5 times on a 8km stretch (2 policeforces, army). Almost every time they want to see your passport. Stay calm and keep smiling.
Our taxi drivers often had to pay CFA 500 - 1,000 fines for 'nothing'. The police are very corrupt in Cameroon.
A small tape recorder and the excellent bird call sets of Claude Chappuis discs of West African Birds are quite useful for drawing in birds. A good torch is a must. A telescope is useful at coastal sites and lakes and very useful for viewing canopy species especially from roadsides. An altimeter is very useful while visiting the mountains.
Photography in the north is NOT difficult, as birds are easy to approach and light conditions are good.
NOMENCLATURE & TAXONOMY
In Africa there is much confusion regarding the English names for birds, and often each author, having their own preferences which results in the same species having up to 3 or 4 different names.
I have decided to follow the English names of James F. Clements (July 1991, Birds of the World, A Check List).
Species in brackets are the English names in "The Birds of Africa, Volumes I - V" by E.K. Urban, C.H. Fry, S. Keith, but only mentioned when these differ significantly from the Clements Check List.
MAPS AND SKETCH MAPS
A road map is essential. A good map is the MacMillan Road Map. Nearly all sketch maps in this trip report are orientated so that north is at the top. Although I have tried to make all the maps as accurate as possible, please allow for the vagaries of memory. The sketch maps are NOT to scale!
The following list of birds we saw frequently and if you spend any sort of time in the right habitats you will too:
Long-tailed Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Hamerkop, Hadada Ibis, Black Kite, Hooded Vulture, Helmeted Guineafowl, Wood Sandpiper, Laughing Dove, Vinaceous Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Speckled Mousebird, Senegal Coucal, African Palm-Swift, Little Swift, Abyssinian Roller, African Grey Hornbill, Fork-tailed Drongo, Pied Crow, African Thrush, Lesser Blue‑eared Glossy‑Starling, Northern Black‑Flycatcher, Whinchat, Barn Swallow, Common Bulbul, African Yellow White-eye, Willow Warbler, Brown Babbler, Grey‑headed Sparrow, Bush Petronia, Red‑cheeked Cordonblue, Black‑and‑white Mannikin, Yellow Wagtail, Village Weaver, Vieillot's Black Weaver, Pygmy Sunbird, Olive‑bellied Sunbird.
Many thanks to Chris Steeman, Jon Hornbuckle and Mark
van Beirs for their great help and valuable advises in planning this trip on
such short notice. We had originally planned a trip to New Guinea, but at the
last moment we had to cancel this trip, due to the forest‑fires.
Ranch de Ngaoundaba
B.P. No. 3
Fax: (237) 251905
B.P. No. 169
Fax: (237) 251777
Tel: (237) 251148/251672
WWF-Cameroun/Mount Kupé Forest Project
PMB 1 Bonanjo
To Gerrit Vossebelt/Chris Wild
Fax: (237) 432171
Tel: (237) 430664
A lack of a decent field guide for West Africa is among the greatest challenges and frustrations facing birders in Cameroon, although the forthcoming guide by Robertson, Demey & Borrow will hopefully rectify this situation in the next couple of years.
The only in-print guide available, that by Serle, Morel & Hartwig, is a long way from the high standards of more recent guides covering other parts of the world and is especially poor in its coverage of Cameroonian birds.
Ber van Perlo's Illustrated Checklist of the " Birds of Eastern Africa." proved invaluable in the field and can be highly recommended. More than 80% of the species of Cameroon can be found in this book. Another 10% can be found in "A Field Guide to the Birds of West Africa" and the excellent " A Field Guide to Birds of The Gambia and Senegal.".
We also put together a fieldguide for the trip by making copies of the plates of the more difficult species out of a number of books such as "Birds of Africa", Volumes I - V, and the Identification Guides "Finches & Sparrows", "Tits, Nuthatches & Treecreepers", "Swallows and Martins". These were further supplemented by photocopies of papers on the identification of honeyguides and greenbuls from the African Bird Club.
The best idea is to bring as much reference materials with you as possible. In addition to the literature listed below, it is highly recommended to bring papers about greenbuls, cisticolas and honeyguides as these families tend to be the most problematic to identify.
Nigel Wheatley's "Where to watch birds in Africa" is useful at the planning stage.
- Clive Barlow, Tim Wacher and Tony Disley. A Field Guide to Birds of The Gambia and Senegal.
- Peter Clement, Alan Harris and John Davis. Finches & Sparrows, An Identification Guide.
- James F. Clements. Birds of the World. A Check List.
- C. Hilary Fry, Katherine Fry and Alan Harris. Kingfishers, Bee-eaters & Rollers.
- Simon Harrap and David Quinn. Tits, Nuthatches & Treecreepers.
- Jonathan Kingdon. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals.
- Mackworth-Praed, C.W. and Grant, C.H.B. Africa Handbook of Birds. Series 3: Birds of West Central and Western Africa - Volume 2.
- Ber van Perlo. Birds of Eastern Africa.
- W. Serle, G.J. Morel, W. Hartwig. A Field Guide to the Birds of West Africa.
- Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey & Warwick Tarboton, Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa.
- E.K. Urban, L.H. Brown, K.B. Newman. The Birds of Africa, volume I. Ostriches to Falcons.
- E.K. Urban, C.H. Fry, S. Keith. The Birds of Africa, volume II (Gamebirds to Pigeons), volume III (Parrots to Woodpeckers), volume IV (Broadbills to Chats) and volume V (Thrushes to Puffback Flycatchers).
- Nigel Wheatley. Where to watch birds in Africa.
REPORTS AND ARTICLES
- P. Smith et al. Cameroon 9 - 29 January 1989.
- Eddie Williams. Birding South West Cameroon 20 March - 18 April 1991.
- Steve Keen. Cameroon September 16th - December 3rd 1992.
- Richard Webb. Cameroon 27 December 1994 to 18 January 1995.
- Jon Hornbuckle. Cameroon: 20 March - 13 April 1997.
Richard Webb's report was the principal source of reference
of our trip, an excellent site guide.
PART II: ITINERARY
We spent the bare minimum of time at Korup National Park and the Bamenda Highlands.
Extra time would have been particularly useful at Korup.
November 30 Chaam * Brussels - Paris -
Douala (Air France)
December 1 Douala * Kumba * Ekondo Titi * Mundemba
December 2 Korup National Park
December 3 Korup National Park
December 4 Mundemba * Ekondo Titi * Kumba * Bafoussam * Bamenda
December 5 Bamenda Highlands (Bafut-Nguemba Forest Reserve) * Bafoussam * Nyasoso
December 6 Mount Kupé National Park (Max's Trail)
December 7 Mount Kupé National Park (Farmbush Trail & Max's Trail)
December 8 Mount Kupé National Park (Shrike Trail)
December 9 Mount Kupé National Park (Max's Trail)
December 10 Nyasoso * Loum * Douala * Sanaga River (Edea) * Douala
December 11 Douala - Garoua (Air Cameroon) * Ngaoundéré * Ngaoundaba Ranch
December 12 Ngaoundaba Ranch
December 13 Ngaoundaba Ranch
December 14 Ngaoundaba Ranch
December 15 Ngaoundaba Ranch - Ngaoundéré (Dang Lake) * Benoue National Park
December 16 Benoue National Park
December 17 Benoue National Park
December 18 Benoue National Park * Garoua * Maroua * Mora * Waza
December 19 Waza National Park
December 20 Waza National Park
December 21 Waza * Maroua * Mora * Garoua - Douala (Air Cameroon)
December 22 Douala * Limbe (Limbe Botanical Gardens) * Douala - Paris - Brussels (Air France) * Chaam
*PART III: NATIONAL PARKS AND SITES
For a detailed report of species and numbers please refer to the systematic list at the end of this report.
Details of all sites are well documented in Richard Webb's report, but the following notes may be useful.
KORUP NATIONAL PARK
Accommodation: Hotel Iyaz in Mundemba.
Korup National Park (1259 km2) is situated on the Cameroon/Nigeria border in south‑west Cameroon. There are two HQs for Korup, at Mundemba in the south and at Nguti in the north.
Potential visitors to the southern part of Korup during the heavy rains (late July-September) should bear in mind that, even with four-wheel drive vehicles reaching Mundemba can be extremely time‑consuming.
This extensive park protects an area of species‑rich, moist lowland evergreen rainforest. Korup has an impressive list of lowland forest birds, which includes species such as Long‑tailed Hawk, Black Guineafowl, Rufous‑sided Broadbill, Blue Cuckoo‑Shrike, Black‑eared & Grey Ground‑Thrush, Rachel's Malimbe, Yellow & Kemp's Longbill and Grey‑necked Rockfowl. Interested birders will find nearly 400 species of birds in Korup.
We visited the southern part of Korup. Access to the southern section of the park is by means of a famous suspension bridge over the Mana River about 10km from Mundemba.
At Mundemba we arranged, permits and a compulsory guide at the WWF-office. We had a young guide called Ephe Kennedy. He was a bit shy and not a very keen birder, but he knew some calls and had his own binoculars. To find Picathartes Knoll you will certainly need a guide.
There are a number of maintained foot trails (120km) and four camps with shelters and latrines.
A night at the VERY basic Rengo Camp (you have to sleep on a table, if you don't bring your tent with you) is essential to have a good chance for the Rockfowl. Although December is reputedly not a good time to see Grey‑necked Rockfowl, we saw a pair in the late afternoon at Picathartes Knoll, about 1.5 km from Rengo Camp and 180m north of Hunter's Trail.
The two days we spent at Korup was certainly not enough to do it justice, and we missed some good birds that other birders have seen in the past. Prior homework or experience on greenbuls is a necessity at Korup!
Birds seen during our trip:
Little Egret, African Fish‑Eagle, Palm-nut Vulture, Congo Serpent‑Eagle, African Harrier‑Hawk, Forest Francolin, Common Sandpiper, Rock Pratincole, Cameroon Pigeon, African Green‑Pigeon, Grey Parrot, Yellow‑billed Turaco, Great Blue Turaco, Levaillant's & Red‑chested Cuckoo, African Emerald Cuckoo, Yellowbill, African Palm‑Swift, Little Swift, African Pygmy & Woodland Kingfisher, White‑throated Bee‑eater, Blue‑throated & Broad‑billed Roller, African Pied, Piping, Black‑and‑white-casqued, Black‑casqued & Yellow‑casqued Hornbill, Speckled Tinkerbird, Yellow‑spotted Barbet, Buff‑spotted & Golden‑crowned Woodpecker, Rufous‑sided Broadbill, Blue‑headed Crested‑Flycatcher, Black‑headed Paradise‑Flycatcher, Square‑tailed & Shining Drongo, Blue Cuckoo‑Shrike, Brown‑throated, Chestnut & White‑spotted Wattle‑eye, Rufous Flycatcher‑Thrush, Red‑tailed & White‑tailed Ant‑Thrush, Black‑eared Ground‑Thrush, Brown‑chested & Fire‑crested Alethe, White‑browed Forest‑Flycatcher, Forest Robin, Little, Grey, Ansorge's, Plain, Slender‑billed, Sjostedt's, Simple, Icterine, Xavier's, Eastern Bearded, Red‑tailed & White‑bearded Greenbul, Yellow‑whiskered Bulbul, Leaf‑Love, Common & Green‑tailed Bristlebill, Yellow‑spotted Nicator, Senegal Eremomela, Yellow Longbill, Green Hylia, Wood Warbler, Blackcap & Brown Illadopsis, Grey‑necked Rockfowl, White‑breasted & Pale‑fronted Negrofinch, Black‑bellied Seedcracker, Black‑headed Waxbill, Yellow & African Pied Wagtail, Vieillot's Black Weaver, Red‑vented & Gray's Malimbe, Green, Collared, Little Green & Olive Sunbird.
Birds we did not see:
White‑crested Tiger‑Heron, Long‑tailed
Hawk, Black Guineafowl, Nkulengu Rail, Afeb Pigeon, Olive Long‑tailed
Cuckoo, Red‑billed Dwarf‑Hornbill, Sjostedt's Owlet, Brown Nightjar,
Bare‑cheeked Trogon, White‑bellied & Chocolate‑backed
Kingfisher, Blue‑headed Bee‑eater, Elliot's Woodpecker, Spotted
& Willcock's Honeyguide, Sooty Boubou, Grey Ground‑Thrush, Olivaceous
Flycatcher, White‑throated Blue Swallow, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Maxwell's
Black Weaver, Crested & Rachel's Malimbe, Johanna's Sunbird and many other
BAFUT-NGUEMBA FOREST RESERVE
Accommodation: Mondial Hotel in Bamenda.
This reserve is situated 18 km south of Bamenda. In the past most birders wanting to see the Bamenda Highlands specialities normally visited the remnant montane and riverine forest on the slopes of Mount Oku.
Now there is however another site where all the specialities (Bannerman's Turaco, Banded Wattle‑eye and Bannerman's Weaver) can be seen with relative ease, the Bafut-Nguemba Forest Reserve.
This "reserve" seems destined at least in the short term to be the best site for birders with limited time to visit.
Access is considerably easier and quicker than at Mount Oku and in the small forest patches the birds are considerably easier to see. In a few hours we saw all the specialities and a number of commoner birds, but for how long?
Birds seen during our trip:
Black‑shouldered Kite, Short‑toed Eagle, Gabar Goshawk, Red‑necked Buzzard, Cassin's Hawk‑Eagle, African Hobby, African Green‑Pigeon, Speckled Mousebird, Bannerman's Turaco, African Cuckoo, Grey Woodpecker, Purple‑throated Cuckoo‑Shrike, MacKinnon's Shrike, Common Fiscal, Yellow‑breasted Boubou, Mountain Boubou, Banded Wattle‑eye, African Thrush, Chestnut‑winged Starling, Little Grey Flycatcher, Mountain Robin‑Chat, Common Stonechat, Forest Swallow, Petit's Sawwing, Cameroon Mountain Greenbul, Mountain Greenbul, Cameroon Olive‑Greenbul, Brown‑backed Cisticola, Black‑collared Apalis, Grey Apalis, Bangwa Forest‑Warbler, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Ruwenzori Hill‑Babbler, Black‑crowned Waxbill, Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Bannerman's Weaver, Baglafecht, Black‑billed & Preuss' Weaver, Yellow Bishop, Cameroon & Orange‑tufted Sunbird, Yellow‑fronted Canary, Thick‑billed Seedeater, Oriole Finch.
Birds we did not see:
Blue‑breasted Bee‑eater, Elliot's Woodpecker,
Cassinn's & Thick‑billed Honeyguide, Black‑faced Rufous Warbler,
Fernando Po Oliveback, Brown‑capped Weaver.
MOUNT KUPE NATIONAL PARK
Accommodation: at Nyasoso (850m) where the WWF is based, is within a stone's throw of Mount Kupé.
Accommodation is available in the village with local families who will cook for you assuming that you fancy Cameroonian cuisine. We stayed at a guesthouse run by local women and had made the reservation via the WWF.
The WWF had terminated their successful program, but when we were at Nyasoso Gerrit Vossebelt, a countryman of mine and project manager of the WWF, told us that the program would be restarted at the 1st January 1998!
Mount Kupé is situated a three hour drive from Douala via Loum and Tombel. The road is paved as far as Loum, but from Loum to Nyasoso the road is diabolical. In the wet season a 4WD is needed.
Mount Kupé is the premier birding site in Cameroon. At only 25 km2 it is relatively small, yet over 320 species have so far been recorded including some of Africa's rarest birds, not least Monteiro's Bushshrike and Mount Kupé Bushshrike.
In addition to these bushshrikes the mountain is home to a total of 27 bird species restricted to the montane forests of Western Cameroon and neighbouring Nigeria along with many species which despite having a more extensive range are difficult to see anywhere in Africa.
Apart from the bushshrikes, five other species are treated in full by the African Red Data Book, four more classified as near-threatened and a further 29 are listed as candidate species for inclusion in the red data list.
The species mentioned in the Red Data Book are, by definition, the most important in conservation terms, but the overall diversity is also high. For example there are 8 species of kingfishers, 8 woodpeckers, 3 trogons, 7 honeyguides, 21 greenbuls, 14 shrikes, 5 wattle‑eyes and 17 sunbirds.
There are three main trails leading from Nyasoso onto Mount Kupé.
The Max's Trail is without a doubt the best trail on Mount Kupé. It passes through farms and secondary forest (farmbush) for the first 2 km, up to 1,050m and then continues through primary forest right to the summit.
It is the farmbush which provides the best birdwatching in terms of diversity and numbers of birds being visible and it is quite possible to spend a day in the field without even reaching the forest.
The farmbush holds a number of 'lowland' species not found easily in the primary forest itself.
Amongst the species we saw were Blue, Many‑coloured, Fiery‑breasted & Grey‑green Cuckoo‑Shrike, African & Black‑and‑white Shrike‑Flycatcher, Yellow‑footed & Dusky‑blue Flycatcher, White‑chinned Prinia, Green Longtail, Black‑throated & Buff‑throated Apalis, Pale‑fronted & Grey‑headed Negrofinch.
In the primary forest the trail is hard going, steep in places, but nowhere near as steep as the Shrike Trail and the birding is far better. Zenker's Honeyguide is regular seen at around 1,050 - 1,150m, as we did.
Other birds to be seen are Bar‑tailed Trogon (easy), Bare‑cheeked Trogon, Black Bee‑eater, African Piculet, Grey‑headed Broadbill (1,350 - 1,450m), Green‑breasted Bushshrike (1,400 - 1,600m), Monteiro's Bushshrike (rediscovered in 1990 at 1,400m), White‑throated Mountain‑Babbler (from 1,250m upwards) and White‑tailed Warbler.
There is a very primitive campsite at about 1,550m (just an open spot in the forest). At the campsite we recorded amongst others Red‑thighed Sparrowhawk, Green‑breasted Bushshrike, Fernando Po Oliveback (dozens) and Red‑faced Crimsonwing.
The trail eventually reaches the mountain summit.
The Shrike Trail is the steepest and very quickly reaches primary forest. Most sightings of Mount Kupé Bushshrike have been along this trail between 950 and 1,350m.
Birding is much quieter than on Max's Trail, but Grey‑necked Rockfowl has been seen a few times and White‑throated Mountain‑Babbler are often around above 1,200m.
There is a basic campsite at 1,200m on a elevated bench
at the ridge top. Higher up the trail is hardly visible (since WWF stopped the
project in 1996, due to lack of money, the trail is overgrown) and the markers
at some places are very difficult to find. It is essential for anyone planning
to reach the summit to employ a local guide or you will spend some nights on
the mountain, trying to find your way back. But then again Chris Wild, manager
of the Mount Kupé Forest Project (WWF) promised us that he would clear the trail
on short notice.
The shortest and easiest of access is the Nature Trail which despite being less than 1 km long and being right at the edge of the village has many of the specialities, including Grey‑necked Rockfowl (rare). However we spent a day at the Farmbush below the Nature Trail and on this 'new' trail we saw many Mount Kupé specialities.
In the systematic list it is called the Farmbush Trail.
The farmbush below the Nature Trail can be reached by going towards the Nature Trail, but continuing straight on over the stream instead of turning left at the small Mount Kupé signpost before the stream.
A path goes up a hill, skirting the forest and then curves round to the right through nearly 180 degrees, before dropping back down to the stream. This trail was especially good for Barbets and Tinkerbirds.
All the trails can be hard to find, and the local guides, who can be arranged at Nyasoso (HQ or at the guesthouse), are recommended, at least for the first time.
Birds seen during our trip at Mount Kupé including the Nyasoso area:
Cattle Egret, Palm‑nut Vulture, African Harrier‑Hawk, Lizard Buzzard, Red‑thighed Sparrowhawk, Black Goshawk, Ayres' Hawk‑Eagle, Cameroon Pigeon, Tambourine Dove, Blue‑headed Wood‑Dove, African Green‑Pigeon, Speckled Mousebird, Guinea & Yellow‑billed Turaco, Olive Long‑tailed Cuckoo, Klaas', African Emerald & Dideric Cuckoo, Yellowbill, Blue‑headed & Senegal Coucal, Black‑shouldered Nightjar, Black Spinetail, Little & Bates' Swift, Bar‑tailed Trogon, Black Bee‑eater, Naked‑faced, Bristle‑nosed, Yellow‑spotted, Hairy‑breasted, Double‑toothed & Yellow‑billed Barbet, Western Green‑Tinkerbird, Red‑rumped, Yellow‑throated & Yellow‑rumped Tinkerbird, Thick‑billed, Zenker's & Cassin's Honeyguide, African Piculet, Tullberg's & Cardinal Woodpecker, Grey‑headed Broadbill, Chestnut‑capped Flycatcher, African Blue‑Flycatcher, White‑bellied & Blue‑headed Crested‑Flycatcher, Black‑headed & Rufous‑vented Paradise‑Flycatcher, Shining & Velvet‑mantled Drongo, Western Black‑headed & Black‑winged Oriole, Grey, Blue & Petit's Cuckoo‑Shrike, Mackinnon's Shrike, Red‑eyed, Pink‑footed & Large‑billed Puffback, Mountain Boubou, Grey‑green, Many‑coloured, Fiery‑breasted & Green‑breasted Bushshrike, African & Black‑and‑white Shrike‑Flycatcher, Brown‑throated, Chestnut, White‑spotted, Black‑necked & Yellow‑bellied Wattle‑eye, African Thrush, Brown‑chested Alethe, Narrow‑tailed & Chestnut‑winged Starling, Purple‑headed Glossy‑Starling, Yellow‑footed & Dusky‑blue Flycatcher, Bocage's Akalat, White‑bellied & Snowy‑crowned Robin‑Chat, Barn Swallow, Lesser Striped‑Swallow, Forest Swallow, Square‑tailed, Mountain & Petit's Sawwing, Common Bulbul, Cameroon Mountain, Little, Mountain, Honeyguide, Sjostedt's, Swamp, Grey‑headed, White‑throated & Icterine Greenbul, Yellow‑whiskered Bulbul, Cameroon Olive‑Greenbul, African Yellow White‑eye, Chattering Cisticola, White‑chinned & Banded Prinia, Green Longtail, Black‑capped, Black‑throated, Buff‑throated & Grey Apalis, Grey‑backed & Olive‑green Camaroptera, Black‑faced Rufous Warbler, White‑tailed Warbler, Rufous‑crowned Eremomela, Green Hylia, Black‑capped Woodland‑warbler, Willow warbler, Yellow‑bellied & Violet‑backed Hyliota, Grey‑chested Illadopsis, White‑throated Mountain-Babbler, Woodhouse's Antpecker, Pale‑fronted & Grey‑headed Negrofinch, Fernando Po Oliveback, Red‑faced Crimsonwing, Black‑crowned Waxbill, Black‑and‑white & Magpie Mannikin, Pin‑tailed Whydah, Baglafecht, Spectacled, Black‑billed, Vieillot's Black & Forest Weaver, Black‑winged Bishop, Scarlet‑tufted, Green, Collared, Bates', Olive, Cameroon, Green‑headed, Green‑throated, Ursula's, Northern Double‑collared, Olive‑bellied, Johanna's & Superb Sunbird.
Birds we did not see:
Long‑tailed Hawk, White‑naped Pigeon, Fraser's
Eagle‑Owl, Sjostedt's Owlet, Bare‑cheeked Trogon, White‑bellied
& Chocolate‑backed Kingfisher, Mount Kupé Bushshrike, Monteiro's Bushshrike,
Crossley's Ground‑Thrush, Alexander's Akalat, Mountain Robin‑Chat,
Grey‑necked Rockfowl, Tit‑hylia, Chestnut‑breasted Negrofinch,
Green‑backed Twinspot, Green‑breasted Pitta and many other birds.
SANAGA RIVER NEAR EDEA
Accommodation: a hotel in Douala or at Edea.
We had to go here, because we feared that we would dip the Grey Pratincoles in the north at the Benoue River and we were right, because we did not see them in the north.
The Sanaga River lies c. 60km east of Douala en route to Yaoundé (N3) near the city of Edea. Just before crossing the Sanaga River turn right on the dirt road to Dizangua for c. 10km until the road runs alongside the Sanaga River.
From here follow the river and check the sandbanks in the river for Grey Pratincole, Egyptian Plover and African Skimmer. The sandbanks run for 5 - 6km depending on the water levels.
It is possible to get fishermen to take you out onto the river, so that you can walk on the sandbanks, as we did.
It is also worthwhile to make a stroll on the bridge across the Sanaga River on the N3 near Edea. On the telephone wires we saw hundreds of Preuss' Swallows and in the reed along the river a pair of Orange Weavers.
Birds seen during our trip:
Grey & Squacco Heron, Osprey, Palm‑nut Vulture, African Harrier‑Hawk, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Black‑winged Stilt, Egyptian Plover, Grey Pratincole, White‑fronted Plover, White‑headed Lapwing, Black Tern, Palm & Little Swift, Giant & Pied Kingfisher, Little Bee‑eater, White‑throated Blue Swallow, West African Swallow, Preuss Swallow, Singing Cisticola, Tawny‑flanked Prinia, Black‑and‑white Mannikin, African Pied & Yellow Wagtail, Orange Weaver, Vieillot's Black Weaver, Black‑winged Bishop, Olive‑bellied Sunbird.
Birds we did not see:
LIMBE BOTANICAL GARDENS
Accommodation: Miramar Beach Hotel in the gardens or a hotel in Douala.
The Limbe Botanical Gardens are situated on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The last day of our trip we spent a day in the gardens and still added 8 species to our triplist, amongst them three lifers.
Most of the time was spent in the park, along the river and along the coastline. The gardens include an area of lowland rainforest which apparently holds White‑bellied Kingfisher.
Birds seen during our trip:
Long‑tailed Cormorant, Little, Great & Intermediate Egret, Western Reef‑Egret, Squacco Heron, Pal‑nut Vulture, African Fish‑Eagle, African Harrier‑Hawk, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Wood & Common Sandpiper, Royal Tern, Red‑eyed Dove, Blue‑headed Wood‑Dove, Speckled Mousebird, Dideric Cuckoo, Palm Swift, Giant & Malachite Kingfisher, White‑throated Bee‑eater, African Blue‑Flycatcher, Rufous‑vented Paradise‑Flycatcher, MacKinnon's Shrike, Brown‑throated Wattle‑eye, African Thrush, Spotted & Cassinn's Flycatcher, Winding Cisticola, Grey‑backed Camaroptera, Grey‑headed Negrofinch, Black‑and‑white Mannikin, Slender‑billed Weaver, Spectacled Weaver, Vieillot's Black Weaver, Reichenbach's Sunbird, Green‑headed Sunbird, Carmelite Sunbird, Olive‑bellied Sunbird.
Birds we did not see:
White‑fronted Sandplover, Yellow‑throated Tinkerbird, Western Bluebill, Superb Sunbird.
Accommodation: Ngaoundaba Ranch, chalets with private facilities.
Ranch de Ngaoundaba is situated 40km south‑east of Ngaoundéré. The ranch is a former hunting lodge situated in a superb setting alongside an ancient crater lake.
Surrounded by forest savannah mosaic, the lake and the remnant patches of gallery forest provide a perfect introduction to the birds of the Adamawa Plateau. Over 200 birds have been recorded at this ranch, amongst them a number of species difficult to see anywhere in Africa e.g. Schlegel's Francolin, Brown‑chested Lapwing, Puvel's Illadopsis, Thrush Babbler, White-collared Starling, Bamenda Apalis & Dybowski's Twinspot. Some of the best birding is around the ranch buildings.
During my birding trips I have visited more than 50 countries and indeed this area is definitely in my top ten list of best birding spots in the world. The ranch was a delightful place with a very relaxing atmosphere and the best food we enjoyed in Cameroon.
Birds seen during our trip:
Little Grebe, Long-tailed Cormorant, African Darter, Spur‑winged Goose, Little Egret, Grey & Black‑headed Heron, Great & Cattle Egret, Squacco & Striated Heron, Hamerkop, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Palm-nut, Hooded & White‑backed Vulture, Brown Snake‑Eagle, Western Marsh‑Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, African Harrier‑Hawk, Gabar & Red‑chested Goshawk, Shikra, Grasshopper & Red‑necked Buzzard, Wahlberg's Eagle, Eurasian & Grey Kestrel, Red‑necked Falcon, Double‑spurred Francolin, White‑spotted Flufftail, Black Crake, Lesser Moorhen, African Jacana, Common Snipe, Wood & Common Sandpiper, Wattled Lapwing, Laughing, African Mourning, Vinaceous & Red‑eyed Dove, Blue‑spotted Wood‑Dove, Namaqua Dove, Bruce's & African Green‑Pigeon, Senegal Parrot, Red‑headed Lovebird, Speckled Mousebird, White‑crested & Ross' Turaco, Western Grey Plantain‑eater, Klaas' Cuckoo, Yellowbill, Senegal Coucal, Black‑shouldered & Long‑tailed Nightjar, African Palm‑Swift, Horus Swift, African Pygmy‑Kingfisher, Malachite, Grey‑headed, Blue-breasted, Striped, Giant & Pied Kingfisher, Red‑throated Bee‑eater, African Grey Hornbill, Yellow‑rumped & Yellow‑fronted Tinkerbird, Vieillot's & Double‑toothed Barbet, Lesser Honeyguide, Green‑backed, Cardinal, Grey & Brown‑backed Woodpecker, African Blue‑Flycatcher, African Paradise‑Flycatcher, Square‑tailed & Fork‑tailed Drongo, Piapiac, Pied Crow, African Golden‑Oriole, White‑breasted & Red‑shouldered Cuckoo‑Shrike, Common Fiscal, Yellow‑billed Shrike, Northern Puffback, Marsh & Black‑crowned Tchagra, Tropical Boubou, Sulphur‑breasted & Grey‑headed Bushshrike, White Helmetshrike, Grey‑headed & Black‑headed Batis, Brown‑throated Wattle-eye, African Thrush, White‑collared, Violet‑backed & Wattled Starling, Purple, Bronze‑tailed, Greater Blue‑eared, Lesser Blue‑eared & Splendid Glossy‑Starling, Pale, Gambaga & European Pied Flycatcher, Northern Black‑Flycatcher, Common Nightingale, Grey‑winged, Snowy‑crowned & White‑crowned Robin‑Chat, Whinchat, Familiar Chat, Barn Swallow, Common Bulbul, Simple & Yellow‑throated Greenbul, Leaf‑love, African Yellow White‑eye, Whistling, Croaking, Siffling & Zitting Cisticola, Tawny‑flanked Prinia, White‑chinned Prinia, Red‑winged Grey Warbler, Yellow‑breasted & Bamenda Apalis, Grey‑backed Camaroptera, Moustached Grass‑Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Greater Swamp‑Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Senegal Eremomela, Northern Crombec, Willow & Wood Warbler, Yellow‑bellied Hyliota, Greater Whitethroat, Thrush Babbler, Blackcap & Brown Babbler, White‑shouldered Black‑Tit, Yellow Penduline‑Tit, Sun Lark, Bush Petronia, Grey‑headed Oliveback, Brown & Dybowski's Twinspot, Bar‑breasted, Red‑billed, Black‑bellied & African Firefinch, Orange‑cheeked, Common & Black‑crowned Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin, Variable Indigobird, Yellow Wagtail, Yellow‑throated Longclaw, Plain‑backed & Tree Pipit, Baglafecht, Spectacled, Black‑necked, Village & Compact Weaver, Red‑headed Weaver, Yellow‑shouldered Widowbird, Western Violet‑backed, Violet‑tailed, Pygmy, Green‑headed, Scarlet‑chested, Variable, Olive‑bellied, Copper & Splendid Sunbird, Yellow‑fronted Canary.
Birds we did not see:
Schlegel's Francolin, Brown‑chested Lapwing, Bronze‑winged
Courser, Willcock's Honeyguide, Puvel's Illadopsis, Red‑faced Pytilia,
Accommodation: A hotel in Ngaoundéré or at the Ngaoundaba Ranch, chalets with private facilities.
Dang lake is a large shallow lake, just north of Ngaoundéré near the university alongside the road north to Garoua and is visible from the main road.
It is best to visit this lake in the early morning, so that the heat haze is greatly reduced. We explored the lake from three different places: from the road to Garoua and from two different places at the university.
However it was impossible for us to identify the birds on the middle of the lake.
Birds seen during our trip:
Little Grebe, Long‑tailed Cormorant, White‑faced Whistling‑Duck, African Pygmy‑Goose, Yellow‑billed Duck, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Great Egret, Squacco Heron, Black Kite, Hooded Vulture, Western Marsh‑Harrier, Lesser Moorhen, African Jacana, Lesser Jacana, Wood & Common Sandpiper, Spur‑winged Plover, Pied Kingfisher, Woodchat Shrike, Sedge Warbler, Crested Lark.
BENOUE NATIONAL PARK
Accommodation: Campement du Bufflé Noir, chalets with private facilities.
Benoue National Park is situated roughly halfway between Garoua and Ngaoundéré in the northern Guinea savannah belt in north Cameroon and the two national park entrances are at the small towns of Mayo Alim and Banda.
The low rocky hills covered with orchard-like open forest support an avifauna similar to that of Senegal & Gambia, although Adamawa Turtle-Dove, Grey Pratincole, Emin's Shrike and Rufous‑rumped Lark are specialities which occur here but not in Senegal & Gambia.
It is only possible to visit this reserve with a vehicle. We did it with a saloon car, but were only able to drive on the main roads in the park, the other roads were too bad, especially at the small watercourses.
Some of the best birding is in the campement's garden along the Benoue River. Specialities on the river are Grey Pratincole and Egyptian Plover. At dusk enjoy a beer at the terrace along the Benoue River and you have a good chance to see Bat Hawk and Standard‑winged Nightjar, as we did.
It is obvious that this part of Cameroon is poorly documented by ornithologists in the past. We stayed much longer than most birders and recorded Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Blue‑bellied Roller, Emin's Shrike and Rufous‑rumped Lark, species not seen by the other birders of the reports I had.
Birds seen during our trip:
Hadada Ibis, African Fish‑Eagle, White‑headed Vulture, Brown Snake‑Eagle, Banded Snake‑Eagle, Bateleur, Lizard Buzzard, Shikra, Grasshopper & Red‑necked Buzzard, Wahlberg's & Booted Eagle, Eurasian & Grey Kestrel, Red‑footed, Lanner & Peregrine Falcon, Helmeted Guineafowl, Double‑spurred & White-throated Francolin, Stone Partridge, Green & Wood Sandpiper, Three‑banded Plover, White‑headed Lapwing, Four‑banded Sandgrouse, Adamawa Turtle‑Dove, Laughing, African Mourning, Vinaceous & Red‑eyed Dove, Blue‑spotted Wood‑Dove, Bruce's & African Green‑Pigeon, Senegal Parrot, Speckled Mousebird, White‑crested & Violet Turaco, Western Grey Plantain‑eater, Red‑chested Cuckoo, Senegal Coucal, Pearl‑spotted Owlet, Standard‑winged Nightjar, African Palm‑Swift, Grey‑headed, African Giant & Pied Kingfisher, Red‑throated, Swallow‑tailed, White‑throated & Northern Carmine Bee‑eater, Abyssinian, Rufous‑crowned & Blue‑bellied Roller, African Hoopoe, Green Woodhoopoe, African Grey Hornbill, Abyssinian Ground‑Hornbill, Vieillot's & Bearded Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Fine‑spotted & Grey Woodpecker, African Blue‑Flycatcher, Fork‑tailed Drongo, Piapiac, Pied Crow, African Golden‑Oriole, White‑breasted Cuckoo‑Shrike, Emin's Shrike, Yellow‑billed Shrike, Brubru, Northern Puffback, Black‑crowned Tchagra, Tropical Boubou, Sulphur‑breasted Bushshrike, White Helmetshrike, Senegal Batis, African Thrush, Purple, Bronze‑tailed & Lesser Blue‑eared Glossy‑Starling, Swamp Flycatcher, European Pied Flycatcher, Northern Black‑Flycatcher, Cassin's Flycatcher, Whinchat, Heuglin's Wheatear, Familiar Chat, Sooty Chat, White‑fronted Black‑Chat, Spotted Creeper, Grey‑rumped, Barn & Wire‑tailed Swallow, Common Bulbul, Croaking, Siffling & Rufous Cisticola, Tawny‑flanked Prinia, Grey‑backed Camaroptera, Olivaceous Warbler, Senegal & Yellow‑bellied Eremomela, Northern Crombec, Bonelli's & Willow Warbler, Yellow‑bellied Hyliota, Brown Babbler, White‑shouldered Black‑Tit, Rufous‑rumped Lark, Chestnut‑backed Sparrow‑Lark, Bush Petronia, Red‑winged Pytilia, Black‑bellied & Red‑billed Firefinch, Red‑cheeked Cordonblue, Bronze Mannikin, African Pied & Yellow Wagtail, Long‑billed Pipit, Little & Village Weaver, Western Violet‑backed, Pygmy, Scarlet‑chested, Variable, Olive‑bellied & Splendid Sunbird, Yellow‑fronted Canary, West African Seedeater, Cinnamon‑breasted Bunting.
Birds we did not see:
White‑backed Night‑Heron, Stanley Bustard, Senegal Thick‑knee, Bronze‑winged Courser, Speckle‑breasted
Woodpecker, Black‑headed Gonolek, Cabanis' Bunting.
WAZA NATIONAL PARK
Accommodation: Campement de Waza, air‑conditioned chalets with private facilities.
This large national park (1,700km2) in far north Cameroon is situated on the edge of the Sahel, just south of Lake Chad.
The reserve supports acacia savannah, vast areas of seasonal marshes and grassland. The landscape is mostly flat although around Waza itself some impressive dominate the countryside for kilometres around.
The area holds the richest birdlife in the entire Sahelian band, where the recorded list seems endless. The many small waterholes teem with waterbirds and also attract many dry‑country species desperate for water in this harsh environment.
However, the best birds at Waza are not waterbirds, and include Arabian Bustard, Quail‑plover, Scissor‑tailed Kite, Sudan Golden‑Sparrow, River Prinia and Sennar Penduline‑Tit.
The park is open from mid November to mid June only and it is only possible to enter with a vehicle and the company of a guide. In the dry season nearly all the roads are navigable in a 2WD, although birding by 4WD is much easier.
There are three main areas to bird around Waza: Waza National Park, the pools along the main road south of Waza and the area around Waza village.
Waza NP is one of the best parks in West Africa for observing mammals and we saw a good variety of species.
Birds seen during our trip:
Ostrich, White‑faced Whistling‑Duck, Comb Duck, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Grey, Black‑headed & Squacco Heron, Hamerkop, Hadada & Sacred Ibis, Yellow‑billed, Abdim's, Woolly‑necked, White, Saddle‑billed & Marabou Stork, African Openbill, Bat Hawk, Black‑shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Egyptian, Hooded, White‑backed, Lappet‑faced & White‑headed Vulture, Rueppell's Griffon, Short‑toed Eagle, Bateleur, Pallid & Montagu's Harrier, Dark Chanting‑Goshawk, Grasshopper & Red‑necked Buzzard, Tawny & Wahlberg's Eagle, Eurasian Kestrel, Helmeted Guineafowl, Clapperton's Francolin, Black Crowned‑Crane, African Jacana, Green, Wood & Common Sandpiper, Black‑winged Stilt, Spur-winged Plover, Black‑headed Lapwing, Chestnut‑bellied Sandgrouse, European Turtle‑Dove, Laughing, African Mourning, Vinaceous & Red‑eyed Dove, African Collared‑Dove, Namaqua Dove, Speckled Mousebird, Western Grey Plantain‑eater, Senegal Coucal, Barn Owl, Spotted Eagle‑Owl, African Palm‑Swift, Grey‑headed Kingfisher, Green Bee‑eater, Abyssinian Roller, African Hoopoe, Green Woodhoopoe, Black Scimitar‑Bill, Red‑billed & African Grey Hornbill, Abyssinian Ground‑Hornbill, Vieillot's Barbet, Grey Woodpecker, Pied Crow, Woodchat & Masked Shrike, Lesser Blue‑eared & Long‑tailed Glossy‑Starling, Chestnut‑bellied Starling, Yellow‑billed Oxpecker, Black Scrub‑Robin, Whinchat, Northern & Heuglin's Wheatear, Northern Anteater‑Chat, Sand & Plain Martin, Barn, Red‑chested & Ethiopian Swallow, Red‑pate & Winding Cisticola, Tawny‑flanked & River Prinia, Grey‑backed Camaroptera, Melodious Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chestnut‑backed Sparrow‑Lark, Grey‑headed Sparrow, Sudan Golden‑Sparrow, Bush Petronia, Red‑billed Firefinch, Red‑cheeked Cordonblue, Black‑rumped Waxbill, African Silverbill, Bronze Mannikin, Cut‑throat, Variable Indigobird, Northern Paradise‑Whydah, Yellow Wagtail, White‑billed Buffalo‑Weaver, Chestnut‑crowned Sparrow‑Weaver, Little Weaver, Red‑billed Quelea, Pygmy Sunbird, White‑rumped Seedeater, Cinnamon‑breasted Bunting.
Birds we did not see:
White‑backed Duck, Secretary‑Bird, Painted
Snipe, Spotted Thick‑knee, Lesser Moorhen, Arabian Bustard, Niam‑Niam
Parrot, Little Grey Parrot, Sennar Penduline‑Tit.
PART IV: DAILY LOG
Sunday, November 30
We began our trip with an Air France flight from Brussels via Paris to Douala. The flight touched down at Douala at 5.00 p.m. local time (no time difference with The Netherlands). The humidity hit us like a sauna as we got off the plane, but the next three weeks we were able to get accustomed to the temperature. Following the punctual arrival of Air France at Douala, a taxi transferred us to the Baptists mission near the harbour, where we got an air‑conditioned room.
Monday, December 1
The following morning we hired a minibus and travelled to Kumba and from there we travelled with a bush taxi to Mundemba. Especially in the Ekondo Titi area the police checkpoints were a real pain in the ass. This first day in the field involved a slow and leisurely drive to Korup National Park. Especially the last part of the dirt road to Mundemba was diabolical, if indeed it could be called a road, at times it seemed closer to a shallow river.
We had three flat tyres and at one point our drive was held up for an hour or more by a truck.
While driving through secondary growth and some remnant primary forest we saw Black‑and‑white‑casqued & Yellow‑casqued Hornbill, Long‑legged Pipit and flocks of noisy Grey Parrots.
Having spent most of the afternoon up to our axles in the mud, we arrived at the little town of Mundemba and after settling into the rooms of the Iyaz Hotel we set off into the bushy area near the hotel. Amongst the birds we noted during the stroll were Levaillant's Cuckoo, Chattering Cisticola, White‑breasted Negrofinch, Long‑tailed Paradise-Whydah and Olive‑bellied Sunbird.
Hereafter we booked in at the Korup National Park office and arranged that guide Ephe Kennedy and a porter would accompany us. That evening we had to cut our belongings down to one small bag to take on our camping expedition into Korup.
Tuesday, December 2
We started early on our second birding day and walked to the WWF-office at Mundemba. During this walk we had good views of Black‑bellied Seedcracker and this proved to be just a taste of the fantastic birding that was to come.
We had a late start at Korup, because the WWF-minibus was too late. At the Mana River we located a pair of Rock Pratincoles and hereafter we started with our slow walk to Rengo Camp. Inside the forest we spent much time slowly working the good network of trails in search of the shyer inhabitants.
Eleven different species of greenbul, bristlebill and bulbul made up the bulk of bird parties in the forest but they were accompanied by an array of other birds. The trails produced many lifers, especially when we watched an ant swarm for more than one hour. Walking up the trails we noted amongst others Forest Francolin, White‑crested & Piping Hornbill, Buff‑spotted Woodpecker, Blue‑headed Crested‑Flycatcher, White‑spotted Wattle‑eye, Red‑tailed Ant-Thrush, Black‑eared Ground‑Thrush, Blackcap & Brown Illadopsis, Gray's Malimbe. When we were almost at Rengo Camp Vital found out that he had lost his glasses!
The one bird uppermost in our minds at Korup was the almost mythical Grey‑necked Rockfowl and getting to the site for this species required some effort. At 15.00 hours we arrived at Rengo Camp and after setting up the camp we headed to Picathartes Knoll. The mud cup nests of the Picathartes were about 3 m above the ground and we soon succeeded in seeing the no. 1 target bird of the trip. Eric even succeeded in getting the Grey‑necked Rockfowl on video - maybe a first!
We returned at the camp at 18.00 hours for a meagre supper. We tried to sleep on the tables under the shelters, but I did not succeed very well. The others complained that I was snoring all the time, but I did not believe them.
Wednesday, December 3
After an extremely uncomfortable night trying to sleep on the table we got up at first light and crawled out of our sleeping-bags, sandy‑eyed and bad‑tempered. We spent all day on the trails of Korup and returned via Ibene Irene Camp to the suspension bridge.
Among the birds we encountered were: Cameroon Pigeon, Black‑casqued Hornbill, Rufous Flycatcher‑Thrush, White‑browed Forest‑Flycatcher, Sjostedt's & Xavier's Greenbul, Yellow Longbill and Little Green Sunbird.
In the late afternoon we made a stroll in the more open area at Ibene Irene Camp. There was no shortage of good birds, amongst them a Rufous‑sided Broadbill which responded well to the tape and perched just above our heads, Blue Cuckoo‑Shrike, Green Hylia and Red‑vented Malimbe. We then left the park: another day would certainly have produced more birds for the triplist.
At 17.00 hours we arrived at Hotel Iyaz and the food
and especially the beer were very welcome.
Thursday, December 4
Today it was largely a non‑birding day, although we made a few stops en route to Ekondo Titi. Amongst the highlights we saw were a magnificent Congo Serpent‑Eagle and Black‑throated Coucal.
Reluctantly we left this area and the remainder of the day was taken up deadheading for Bamenda, a very long trip.
At 19.00 hours we arrived at Bamenda and checked into the Mondial Hotel.
Friday, December 5
We set out the following day very early to drive up the Bafut-Nguemba Forest Reserve in the Bamenda Highlands.
We did not find the metal barrier mentioned in Richard's Webb report, but only found two metal poles.
We parked our car at the remnants of the metal barrier and headed into the reserve. The "Forest Reserve" was almost completely destroyed and only a few small forest patches were still present.
However we were able to find all the specialities of the area in a few hours including the extremely localised and endangered endemic Bannerman's Turaco, Banded Wattle‑eye, Bangwa Forest Warbler and Bannerman's Weaver.
Other interesting birds we encountered were Cassin's Hawk‑Eagle, Purple‑throated Cuckoo‑Shrike, Yellow‑Breasted Boubou, Mountain Robin‑Chat, Petit's Sawwing, Cameroon Mountain Greenbul, Ruwenzori Hill‑Babbler, Preuss' Weaver and Johanna's Sunbird.
By midday we were at Lake Awing and had our picnic lunch there. Hereafter we headed south to Mount Kupé.
The last part of our drive to the village of Nyasoso was horrible and at 17.30 hours we arrived at the remarkably friendly village of Nyasoso at the foot of Mount Kupé. In the village we met Chris Wild and he informed us that the WWF already had made reservations for us at the local guest house. We were welcomed by Susan, our hostess and cook for the next four days. In the kitchen of the guesthouse we had our first real taste of Cameroonian cuisine - including fish and rice.
Saturday, December 6
In contrast to Korup, the temperature here was pleasantly cool at night and the early mornings were fresh with the scent of the forest. The first hours we spent in the company of our local guide Samuel in the farmbush on the first part of Max's Trail. Mount Kupé was great and the forest was alive with birds and Naked‑faced Barbet, Black‑and‑white Shrike‑Flycatcher, Yellow‑footed Flycatcher, Black‑capped & Buff-throated Apalis, Rufous‑crowned Eremomela, Violet‑backed Hyliota and Woodhouse's Antpecker amongst others were added to the list in short order.
Yellow‑billed Turacos were decidedly common and gave superb views.
Hereafter we entered the 'real' Mount Kupé. Some steady climbing was rewarded with views of Bar‑tailed Trogon, Black Bee‑eater, a very responsive displaying Grey‑headed Broadbill, Zenker's Honeyguide, Black‑necked Wattle‑eye and Bates' Sunbird and many other species. We climbed till 1,450m and then we made our way back to Nyasoso and had a close encounter with a Black Cobra, certainly not my favourite kind of snake and had good views of an African Piculet.
Sunday, December 7
Breakfast at 5.45 and then we set off in the bright sunshine to scan the 'new' Farmbush Trail. Barbets and tinkerbirds were in abundance here and amongst the species we ticked off were Bristle‑nosed Barbet, Western Green‑Tinkerbird, Red‑rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow‑throated Tinkerbird, Yellow‑spotted Barbet, Hairy‑breasted Barbet and Double‑toothed Barbet.
Other specialities we found along this 'new' trail' were Blue‑headed Wood‑Dove, Fiery‑breasted Bushshrike, Swamp Greenbul, and Green Longtail and many small, very nasty flies
In the late afternoon we climbed up the first two kilometres of the Max's Trail and amongst the additions of our triplist were Dwarf Kingfisher and a very vocal Grey‑green Bushshrike. Best of all was a good, but brief view of the beautiful Many‑coloured Bushshrike.
Monday, December 8
Next morning found us on the very steep Shrike Trail. Especially the first part of the climb was very steep. It was the hardest climb of the trip! When we reached 1,250m, the trail was hardly visible and it was a good thing that Samual accompanied us.
It seems inevitable that one must put in some effort for rare species, but our efforts were not duly rewarded.
We dipped the rare Mount Kupé Bushshrike, but had good views of Tullberg's Woodpecker, Chestnut‑capped Flycatcher, Bocage's Akalat, White‑bellied Robin‑Chat, White‑throated Mountain‑Babbler and the elusive Olive Long‑tailed Cuckoo.
Then storm clouds gathered overhead and consistent heavy
rain sabotaged further birding. We began our descent too late and when we were
back in Nyasoso after a very risky descent, we all were soaking wet.
Tuesday, December 9
The next day was our last day at Mount Kupé and this morning found us again at Max's Trail. The Grey‑headed Broadbill responded well to a tape although this method was less successful with the Green‑breasted Bushshrike, though equally excited, remained resolutely in the thickest vegetation.
Today we climbed till 1,650m and the time spent at the primitive campsite at 1,600m was very productive.
Amongst the many good birds we saw en route were Red‑thighed Sparrowhawk (lifer for Gerald), White‑bellied Crested‑Flycatcher, Dusky‑blue Flycatcher, Red‑faced Crimsonwing and the beautiful Fernando Po Oliveback.
In the late afternoon we returned to Nyasoso, just before the weather deteriorated until it was raining heavily and we experienced a premature dusk.
Wednesday, December 10
Leaving Susan, her fish and Mount Kupé behind we drove with the local ambulance to Loum. In Loum we hired a bush taxi and then returned to Douala for just one night. We checked into Hotel Ibis and then set off for our afternoon trip to the Sanaga River.
We hired a boat at a small village and a short river trip on the Sanaga River had us watching small groups of Grey Pratincoles on exposed sandbars at very close range and best of all a very obliging Egyptian Plover.
Amongst the other birds we saw here were White‑throated Blue Swallow and West‑African Swallow.
On our way back a stop at the bridge over the Sanaga River near Edea produced many Preuss' Swallows and a pair of Orange Weavers.
Hereafter we returned to Douala, where we said goodbye to Gerald and wished him good luck on his 'twentieth' trip to Antarctica.
Thursday, December 11
Leaving Douala behind we flew north to Garoua. From the airport we drove straight to the Avis office, picked up a car and then set off southward for the Ngaoundaba Ranch. We made some birding stops en route to Ngaoundéré to explore the dry bush country. Our first stop gave good views of Fox Kestrel and Vieillot's Barbet. Other birds we encountered en route were Lanner, Abyssinian Roller and flocks of Red‑throated Bee‑eaters buzzing overhead and festooning the trees at the Adamawa Plateau.
In the late afternoon we reached the delightful Ngaoundaba Ranch and booked a chalet overlooking the beautiful crater lake. Birding in the last hour before dark the ranch grounds we noted our only Red‑chested Goshawk of the trip.
In the evening the air was filled with the sound of rushing wings as thousands of starlings flew in to roost in the trees and reedbeds.
After sleeping in the guesthouse at Nyasoso and the plush hotel in Douala it made a pleasant change to stay in a former hunting lodge along an ancient crater lake.
Friday, December 12
From our comfortable lake edge accommodation we explored the ranch on foot. Our early morning walk near the ranch was a birder's delight. The more open woodland held small groups of White‑collared Starlings, White‑breasted Cuckoo‑Shrike, Marsh Tchagra, Gambaga Flycatcher, White‑shouldered Black‑Tit, Yellow Penduline‑Tit, Sun Lark and Bar‑breasted Firefinch to name but a few.
The presence of quite a few birds at the ranch provided the perfect excuse for a bit of passive birdwatching by the lake when it was really too hot to do anything else! I enjoy veranda birding and while sipping from a beer we had marvellous views of a breeding pair of Brown Twinspots.
In the late afternoon we visited another part of the ranch and this stroll produced amongst others Grasshopper Buzzard, Grey‑headed Batis, Red‑winged Grey Warbler and Yellow‑shouldered Widowbird.
Then we returned to the ranch for dinner and the sounds of the seventies.
Saturday, December 13
In the early morning we visited a strip of gallery forest near the entrance of the ranch. Small bird parties produced among others Black‑headed Batis, Grey‑winged Robin‑Chat, Grey‑headed Oliveback and Violet‑tailed Sunbird.
One of the star finds was a pair of very responsive Thrush Babblers and we also did see here White‑crested & Ross' Turaco.
In the afternoon we made a stroll in an area not far
from the lake and amongst the highlights we saw were Red‑headed Lovebird,
the very localised Bamenda Apalis and Compact Weaver.
Sunday, December 14
Except a visit to a few ponds outside the ranch grounds we spent all day at the ranch. At the ponds we added Lesser Moorhen to our triplist and amongst the birds we saw at the ranch were Bruce's Green‑Pigeon, Blue‑breasted Kingfisher, Brown‑backed Woodpecker, Yellow‑billed Shrike and Black‑bellied Firefinch.
In the late afternoon we visited the forest along the lake. On this walk African Golden‑Oriole, Wood Warbler and Bamenda Apalis were seen, but much more effort was needed to find the White‑spotted Flufftail although we all eventually managed to get excellent views of this mega-skulker.
We finished the day with a night drive and had close views of Black‑shouldered and Long‑tailed Nightjar.
Monday, December 15
Next morning found us again at the overgrown stream, where the White‑spotted Flufftail showed itself well as we patiently waited in a bush. I was surprised to see how aggressively the bird responded to what it obviously thought was an invader calling in its territory.
All too soon it was time to head off to Benoue NP, but not before we made a last attempt to see Dybowski's Twinspot and ... we did find the bird, sometimes you are lucky.
We made a stop at the Dang Lake near Ngaoundéré. We spent two hours at this freshwater lake where we noted African Pygmy‑Goose, Yellow‑billed Duck, Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Jacana, Crested Lark and much more besides.
On then to Benoue NP for two‑days of good food and exciting new birds. From the lake we descended the Adamawa Plateau through to the Benoue Plain. Here we encountered a very different looking landscape with rolling hills covered with orchard‑like open forest. Entering the park we were disappointed to find that large areas of the plain were burning.
The drive through the burning areas was interspersed with many raptor sightings including lots of Grasshopper Buzzards, a Red‑footed Falcon, many Black Kites and Bateleur.
We made various stops along the way to explore the dry bush country. Highlights were Stone Partridge, Swallow‑tailed Bee‑eater, Blue‑bellied Roller, Green‑backed Woodpecker and Familiar Chat.
In the late afternoon we arrived at Campement du Bufflé Noir, with its air‑conditioned bungalows set in natural woodland.
The campement was a delightful place with a very relaxing atmosphere and the best food we enjoyed in Cameroon.
Tuesday, December 16
Next morning we walked along the Benoue River, encountering a rich variety of birds along the way, including Grey Kestrel, White‑crested & Violet Turaco, Giant Kingfisher, Bearded Barbet, Pearl‑spotted Owlet, White‑breasted Cuckoo‑Shrike, Sulphur‑breasted Bushshrike, Little Weaver and Cinnamon‑breasted Bunting.
There was plenty of water in the Benoue River and we found several Egyptian Plovers, one of the ultimate waders as well as Three‑banded & White‑headed Plover.
The rest of the day we spent on the plains of Benoue. Part of the excitement of Benoue came from the grass fires that were raging. Several times our car had to speed by the flames as the fire spread its way over the landscape.
A by‑product of the fire was its attraction for birds. Many raptors were lined up for a hot meal. Black Kites, Grey Kestrels and Grasshopper Buzzards wheeled overhead or stood sentinel nearby providing us with marvellous photographic opportunities, however best of all was a beautiful male White‑fronted Black‑Chat, a bird I dipped in Gambia and the sight of three Rufous‑rumped Larks on the smoking fields.
The 'game' element of birding at Benoue was not altogether absent and included Red‑flanked Duiker, Kob, Giraffe and Kongoni. The birding at Benoue itself was not affected to a significant degree and in no time at all we saw some 75 or so species. Heuglin's Wheatears were everywhere and the discovery of a pair of Emin's Shrikes was the latest highlight of the day.
Sitting outside the bar at dusk enjoying a much needed cold drink, we watched a male Standard‑winged Nightjar with its spectacular long trailing standards make a low pass over our heads as well as a hunting Bat Hawk.
Wednesday, December 17
After a comfortable night at the lodge we had a pre‑breakfast stroll around the campement and this provided us with African Fish‑Eagle, Senegal Batis, Brown Creeper and West‑African Seedeater. We returned rather quickly to the lodge, as we heard a lion roar at a distance too close to feel comfortable.
We spent all day on the main 'roads' of Benoue and Adamawa Turtle‑Dove, Abyssinian Ground‑Hornbill, Rufous‑crowned Roller, Rufous Cisticola, Red‑winged Pytilia and Chestnut‑winged Sparrow‑Weaver were amongst the additions to our triplist.
A night‑time excursion in search of Bronze‑winged
Courser was frustratingly fruitless. I am trying to see this bird now for more
than 10 years, but I still have to see my first one. However we did see an African
Thursday, December 18
The first few hours of the day we still spent at Benoue. An Abyssinian Roller, seemingly indifferent to the presence of our vehicle, posed for the photographers and we added a Banded Snake‑Eagle to our triplist.
We then travelled northward to Waza NP. The journey was straightforward, on tarmac all the way and the drive proved less of an ordeal than we thought it would be, despite the many potholes. En route from Maroua to Mora we had good views of African Collared‑Dove, Chestnut‑bellied Starling, Red‑pate Cisticola and White‑rumped Seedeater, whilst the ever diligent police checked the all‑important paperwork for the fiftieth time.
It was almost dark when we arrived at Campement de Waza, a lodge on the edge of the Sahel, nestling among the strange boulder mounds that overlooked the reserve and flood plains.
At the Campement, actually air‑conditioned rondavels we had great views of repeated fly pasts by two hunting Bat Hawks. We had good views of a Bat Hawk capturing a small bat.
Friday, December 19
We hired a guide at the entrance of Waza and spent all day in the reserve, exploring the arid savannah and bushland.
The roads were very bad and we hardly made it with our saloon car. Coveys of Clapperton's Francolins scurried for cover as we drove along and flocks of Chestnut‑bellied Sandgrouse and Long‑tailed Starlings were both noisy and colourful. Amongst the lifers we encountered were Black Scrub-Robin, a probable River Prinia, Sudan Golden‑Sparrow and Black‑rumped Waxbill.
Waza is Cameroon's premier game reserve and during the drive over the open grassland we encountered groups of Kobs, Roan Antelopes, Giraffes, Red‑fronted Gazelles and Topis. The waterholes were alive with waterbirds such as White‑faced Whistling‑Ducks, Garganeys, Black‑headed Herons, Yellow‑billed Storks and African Openbills.
Some of the more common species that we ticked were Marabou Stork, Rüppel's Griffon, Pallid Harrier, Black‑crowned Crane, Black‑headed Lapwing, African Collared‑Dove, Northern & Heuglin's Wheatear, Northern Paradise‑Whydah and Speckle‑fronted Weaver. We did our best to find the Quail‑plover, but did not succeed.
We returned to the campement rather late, completing the last part of our drive in near darkness.
Saturday, December 20
Another day at Waza and we did not see many 'new' species. Our main priority at Waza was to try to locate the Arabian Bustard and we failed miserably! We spent much of the day searching unsuccessfully for this bird. For two days we had done everything we could to find the bird, but we dipped. I have seldom, if ever, felt so chastened, but the gods were clearly not on our side. As I have often said, "There are no guarantees in birdwatching". By midday we were back at the campement for lunch. We returned to Waza NP with a guide who claimed he had seen a group of no less than four Arabian Bustards this morning, but alas we did not find the birds.
Some of the more notable birds we did see were Abdim's Stork, Fox Kestrel, Green Bee‑eater, Black Scimitar‑bill and Masked Shrike.
In the late afternoon we visited several waterholes. The time spent at the artificial waterholes was not too exciting, however we could make excellent pictures of drinking mammals. I certainly did my best for the Fuji film sales.
On a night drive that evening, we were fortunate to see a Sand Fox, and we also picked up Spotted Eagle Owl near the campement.
Sunday, December 21
We bid the campement farewell and headed southward to Garoua. A few kilometres from Mora we had fantastic views of the supremely graceful Scissor‑tailed Kite, a lifer for Eric and me, but not for Vital who had seen the bird many years ago in Kenya.
We passed through the spectacular Mandara Mountains and here we added White‑crowned Cliff‑Chat to our list and we did eventually find the Rock‑loving Cisticola, a pair in fact, with one bird sitting well for the telescope.
The long drive back to Garoua and the many hours of waiting at the airport was an unavoidable anticlimax, but at 23.00 hours we arrived at Douala in the humid coastal lowlands. We checked into the Hotel Ibis again.
Monday/Tuesday, December 22 & 23
We began our last full day in the field by driving to Limbe. We spent most of the day at the Botanical Gardens.
Here we found Western Reef‑Egret, Blue‑headed Wood‑Dove, Cassinn's Flycatcher, Slender‑billed Weaver, Reichenbach's Sunbird and the last new species of the trip Carmelite Sunbird.
And then all too soon, the trip was over.
Douala airport provided some interesting last memories of Cameroon, when an agitated man employee of the Cameroon customs wanted to arrest Eric and me, because Eric had no valid yellow fever inoculation certificate and I for trying to smuggle him out of the country.
We had to wait for almost half an hour and then we had
to bribe the officials and could go to our airplane!
This was my tenth trip to Africa and most certainly the most successful to date. The timing and duration of the trip were just right. I finished the trip with 212 lifers. The final total for the three weeks trip was 539 species of birds. In addition to all these birds 29 species of mammal were seen on the trip.
My greatest disappointment was that we did not see Mount Kupé Bushshrike, Quail‑Plover and especially Arabian Bustard. Now I have tried to see the Arabian Bustard in Morocco and Cameroon, but it seems that I have to wait for my trip to Ethiopia.
My ten best birds of the trip? Scissor‑tailed Kite, Congo Serpent‑Eagle, Lesser Jacana, Egyptian Plover, Ross' Turaco, Zenker's Honeyguide, Grey‑headed Broadbill, Emin's Shrike, Thrush Babbler and Grey‑necked Rockfowl, lifers all of course.
Chaam, 2 March 1998,
If you need any help or further information, contact me at the following address and I'll try and help if I can!
4861 AH Chaam
Telephone: (031) - 161 - 491327
The birds - The mammals