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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Birding Ghana 18th -30th October 2003,
Map of Ghana Showing main sites (Click)
After a trip to The Gambia in 2002 this was our second visit to West Africa. Ghana has a tremendous potential for eco-tourism but it is not very developed in this field. We visited parks in the southern part of the country (as far north as Kumasi) which, with the exception of the coastal savannah zone, mainly consists of evergreen forests. In comparison to The Gambia this gave us the opportunity to see a lot of new forest species. We booked a tailor-made tour including hotels and car with driver at Akwaaba Tours in Maastricht. For info you can visit their website at www.akwaabatours.com. Initially we planned a 15-day trip but Ghana Airways cancelled their flight from Duesseldorf, which forced us to book an alternative (expensive) flight with KLM from Amsterdam. This also meant that we had to shorten our trip from 15 to 13 days and therefore had to skip a planned visit to one of the coastal wetlands near Accra and to Lake Bosumtwi near Kumasi.
Information on the web on bird watching in Ghana is very limited. The only trip report we found was produced by Mike Bowman in November/December 1996. We also bought a more detailed trip report at www.ecotouristservices.nl produced by Mindy & Sherif Baha El Din (again not very recent from February 1996), which is quite good with lots of general tips on bird watching in Ghana. The report also contains an annex with birding hints from an American birder named Tom Coles who visited the country several times. Hopefully this report can start to fill the gap. Additional information about conservation areas in Ghana is available at www.wildlife-ghana.org and www.ghanawildlifesociety.org. We contacted both organisations via email - unfortunately we never got a reply. Travel guides we used were 'The Travel Guide for Ghana' (by Bradt) and 'Reisefuehrer Ghana' (by Peter Meyer Verlag), which is also available in English. Field guides we used were 'Birds of Western Africa' (by Helm Identification Guide), which is very good but quite heavy to use as a field guide and the 'Collins Checklist of Birds of Western and Central Africa' (by van Perlo).
Most nationalities are required to obtain a visa at the Ghanaian Embassy in their home country before arrival, which took in our case about 1 to 2 weeks. Take medical precautions before arriving in the country. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required (but was not checked) and hepatitis and malaria precautions are recommended. The unit of currency in Ghana is the Cedi. The exchange rate at the moment of our trip was Cedi 8400 for one US Dollar and Cedi 9600 for one Euro. The preferred foreign currency was US Dollar although sometimes Euros were also accepted. Some hotels also accepted Visa card or Traveller Cheques. Take a big(!) purse or money-belt with you. We changed Euro 300 at the airport and received such a pile of banknotes that it looked like we had robbed a bank. Ghana is a relatively safe country and the people are very friendly. Except for the occasional child asking for pens or money, we were not hassled or bothered while bird watching around the country.
Getting there was not as easy as we had expected/hoped. Our flight to Accra from Duesseldorf with Ghana Airways was part of a tailor made tour that we had arranged in advance. Unfortunately the flight was cancelled three days in a row (Tuesday-Thursday), which was very annoying to say the least. The employees from Ghana Airways told us every day that the flight would depart the next day, but somehow this information sounded unreliable. Even the airport was not informed about when they were going to depart. After 3 days of listening to their stories (lies) we finally decided to contact our tour-operator to look for an alternative. Because the Friday flight was already fully booked we finally left four days later with KLM from Amsterdam. Although flying with Ghana Airways is much cheaper we would recommend the following: DON'T DO IT!!!
We arranged a car with driver in advance through Akwaaba Tours. It is possible to rent a car without driver but this is not recommended. Although the roads are fairly good for West African standards the signposting is very poor. You will probably get lost all the time. The traffic in and around cities like Accra and Kumasi is really disastrous.
When we arrived in Ghana the wet season (from April to October) had just come to an end. It was still quite humid at temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius (C). With the exception of a few afternoon rains we had fairly dry weather. Mornings were mostly sunny with clouds coming in after about 1.00PM.
ACCOMMODATIONS & FOOD
Although we had arranged hotels in advance it should be no problem to find appropriate hotels on your own. Accra is surrounded by several beach resorts of middle to high standard, which are a perfect base to make daytrips from. Kumasi has no high standard resorts but there are enough places to stay in the middle range. In the southwestern part of the country there are two beach resorts near Axim and several near Takoradi. The area around Cape Coast has the best selection of accommodations. There is a choice of middle and high standard resorts. For visiting Kakum NP the best place to stay is Han's Cottage Botel, about 12km north of Cape Coast on the way to Kakum. Hotel prices for a double room range between Euro 12-25 (middle range) and Euro 25-50 (high range). We had dinner most times in the respective hotels to avoid stomach problems. Although the food in Ghana is generally fairly basic we had several delicious meals. Especially fish (spicy snapper) and chicken dishes with fried plantains are quite good. The choice of soft drinks was mostly limited to Coke, Sprite and Fanta. The local beer was pretty good. There are a number of brands like Club, Star, Gulder and Guinness. Food and drink prices are pretty cheap compared to western standards. We paid about 70,000 Cedi (Euro 7) per person for a good meal with drinks in the hotel restaurants. A very large bottle of beer cost around 8,000 Cedi (Euro 0.8) and soft drinks 4,000 Cedi (Euro 0.40).
Ghana is located in the heart of West Africa and has a wide range of different habitats. The coastline has a series of lagoons, saltpans and mangroves. The coastal strip (about 30km wide) consists of dense scrub with little grass and some scattered taller trees. The forest zone occupies most of the southern part of the country. Although much of the forest has been degraded due to logging and cultivation it still consists of patches of dense rainforest and evergreen understory vegetation. Savannah woodlands occupy the whole northern part of the country. This is an area of grasslands covered by scrub and scattered trees.
As a result of the wide range of habitats the country has a rich and diverse bird life. Ghana can be highly recommended as a bird watching holiday destination. It is surprising that the country does not receive more birding tourism. During our trip we did not see any birdwatcher - neither foreign nor local. Some 745 species of birds have been recorded in the country. During our 11-day stay we saw 186 species, which is quite good for such a short visit. Despite the fact that this was our second visit to West Africa we were able to find quite a lot of lifers (Jos 104 and Roland 97). An extension of our trip with another 3 or 4 days (visiting one or two of the coastal wetlands and the northern savannah woodlands e.g. Mole National Park) would have easily expanded our trip list to some 250 species. Driving up to Mole NP takes about 2 days from the coast, 1 day from Kumasi. We also read a French report on a combined trip to Ghana and Ivory Coast which sounded quite good.
PARKS & CONSERVATION AREAS
There are 15 parks scattered throughout the country representing a range of ecosystems. In addition there are a few resource reserves and RAMSAR sites. Only two national parks have some visitor facilities (Mole in the north & Kakum). There are often no accommodations available in or close to the areas. They use a Ghanaian and non-Ghanaian (which is a tripled price) fee system. You have to pay an entrance fee per person (between Cedi 15 to 20,000) and a fee for the car (Cedi 10,000). You are not allowed to visit the parks without a "guide" which costs an extra fee of Cedi 10,000 per person per hour which makes a full day visit to a park quite expensive. In Kakum there is an additional fee of Cedi 90,000 per person for the canopy walk. The canopy walk opens at 8.00AM. An earlier start can be arranged in advance for an additional fee of Cedi 10,000 per person/per hour. The guides we used didn't have any knowledge about birds with the exception of the guide in Owabi (who had some basic knowledge). He was also the only guide to possess binoculars. On asking for a birding guide in several parks we always received the same answer: "We have one but he is not in today". So despite the fact that a guide accompanies you the whole day, you are totally on your own on finding your favourite birds.
Shai Hills Resource Reserve
Shai Hills is situated approximately 50km northeast of Accra. The reserve can be approached from the main Tema to Akosombo road. The hills with rocky outcrops of the reserve are covered by short grass savannah with scrubs and evergreen trees. It harbours typical savannah species of birds and other animals. The reserve has a northern and southern (main) entrance gate where a small visitor centre is located. There is a circular dirt road through the park only accessible by 4WD. (Map)
Aburi Botanical Gardens
These gardens are situated in the hills overlooking the Accra plains at an altitude of about 400m. To reach the gardens follow the northern Accra to Koforidua road for about 35km. Aburi is a pleasant place to visit in combination with Shai Hills as a daytrip from Accra as we did. Although the site is reported as a not too exciting place for bird-watching we were pleasantly surprised by the presence of an array of beautiful starlings, barbets and sunbirds.
Owabi Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary is situated about 30km northwest of Kumasi and is rather hard to find. Be careful, if asking for directions, that you are looking for the wildlife sanctuary and not for the Owabi Dam (which leads you to the wrong main road, going north-east out of Kumasi). Coming from Kumasi take the main road to Sunyani and follow it for about 20 to 25km until you reach a sign Akropong. At the same spot there is another sign "Owabi Water Works". Take this road to the right and follow it for about 400m until you reach a small roundabout in the village. Go to the right here. After a few hundred metres the tarmac ends. Follow the dirt road for about 3km until you reach the gate. The sanctuary surrounds an artificial lake which was formed after the construction of a dam in 1928. The area consists of disturbed secondary forests and small patches of riverine forest surrounded by plantations, scrubs and grasslands. There are several trails in the area (including one around the entire lake). Although we visited the site in the afternoon it was very rewarding and a very nice place to walk around.
Bobiri Forest & Butterfly Reserve
Bobiri is situated about 30 km east of Kumasi. To get there from Kumasi take the main road to Accra. About 30km outside Accra (at the village of Kubease) there is a sign to the left with the words Akwaaba (meaning welcome). Follow the dirt road for about 1.5km through a cultivated area (also good for birding) until you reach the Bobiri sign to the right. Follow this small dirt road for about 2.5km until you reach the entrance. Bobiri consists of secondary rainforest and has several clearly laid out trails through the forest. The best for birding is to follow the dirt road further into the park. You will reach several open spots with a high visibility on the canopy.
Amansuri Wetlands Reserve
This reserve is located about 35km west of Axim in the southwestern part of the country near the village of Beyin. It consists of a freshwater lagoon (including the village of Nzulezo which is built on stilts) and the flood plains of the Amansuri River. Amansuri Wetland is the largest stand of intact swamp forest in Ghana. From the visitor centre at the beach (managed by Ghana Wildlife Society and funded by the Dutch government) boat-trips can be arranged through the floodplains to the village of Nzulezo.
Ankasa Conservation Area
Ankasa is located in the extreme southwestern corner of Ghana, about 75km west from Axim and only 15km from the border with Ivory Coast. Large signs designate the turning point at Mpataba to the right. It is about 6km from here to the entrance gate of the park crossing the Ankasa River. The vegetation is classified as wet evergreen forest. The area has the richest biodiversity in Ghana. There is only one road in the area, which provides access to Nkwanta Camp. We birded a part of the dirt road from the entrance to Nkwanta, and some dirt roads surrounding the camp. The best spots for birds appeared to be a open spot in the forest behind the Nkwanta Conservation Education Centre and at the restaurant near the entrance overlooking the rapids of the Ankasa river. The dirt road from the restaurant towards Nkwanta camp was also pretty rewarding. (map)
Kakum National Park
Kakum is located in the central region approximately 35km north of Cape Coast. It is best approached from Cape Coast on the Pedu Junction north towards the village of Abrafo. A few km after Abrafo you'll see a large sign to the right that leads you to the headquarters. Kakum is the most recently gazetted wildlife protected area in Ghana and gets the highest number of visitors. A series of trails start from the visitor centre into the forest. The major attraction of Kakum is Africa's only canopy walkway. The vegetation is classified as moist evergreen rainforest with patches of swamp and riverine forest. There are 269 bird species whose presence has been confirmed, and an additional 56 species on the hypothetical list. The best spots for birding are the open area's surrounding the visitor centre and top of the bill is the canopy walkway on an early morning visit. Other birding sites of interest are the approach to and the area at Antwikaa Camp that passes through secondary forest, cultivation and thickets. According to earlier reports this place has to be THE SPOT for the sought after Black Bee-eater. We visited the site but unfortunately had to skip it because of heavy afternoon rains. The place certainly looked very rewarding. Another spot that is reported as very good is Kruwa Camp. We did not visit it because of our limited time. Looking back to our visit to Kakum you will need at least 4 days to get a good impression of the bird life in this area.(Map)
Han's Cottage Botel
Not really a site visited as meant above but a hotel where we stayed for 3 nights which is also a very rewarding birding site. The hotel (or Botel) is located about 12km north of Cape Coast, and only 20km from Kakum, which makes it the place to be for birding Kakum. The restaurant is built on a small pond with roosting Cattle Egrets, Long-tailed Cormorants and hundreds of nesting weavers. Besides that the pond is visited by several species of kingfishers, herons and crake. I must say I have never had dinner before accompanied by dozens of cattle egrets roosting in a tree just 4 metres in front of me. The area surrounding the hotel (especially at the back of the hotel rooms) where very productive - we saw 53 species in 3 days. Tom Coles, who apparently stayed there several times, saw over 100 species, including several owls.
Saturday 18 October
After a 30-minute delay we took off from Schiphol at 3.00 PM. The direct flight to Accra took about 6 ½ hours and we landed at Kotoka Airport at around 7.30 PM local time (2-hour time difference during summer time, on the way back it was down to 1 hour). After changing money at the airport we were picked up by Michael (our driver for the next 11 days) for our transfer to the Coco Beach Resort. We thought that the drive to the resort was part of a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Michael was driving like crazy and we were wondering if his surname was Schumacher. After 20 minutes we arrived at the resort, which is located some 8km east of Accra in a nice area at the beach. After checking in we dropped our luggage in our rooms and went for a drink at the bar near the beach. Here we met the manager of Akwaaba Tours Accra to discuss the itinerary since this was changed due to our flight delay of four days. Since we planned to leave early the next morning we asked for a take-away breakfast, which the waiters did not really understand. A complete breakfast served on plates with cups and coffee in thermos flasks was brought to our room the same evening. Since their intentions for delivering this extra service were meant well, we did not mind at all.
|Sunday 19 October|
Our plan for today was a visit to Shai Hills and Aburi Botanical Gardens. After a very early breakfast in our room we were waiting outside for Michael (who was 15 minutes late) at 5.30 AM. While waiting we scanned the hotel area for our first birds: Pied Crow, Common Bulbul and Grey-headed Sparrow. After the driver arrived we left at 5.45AM. On the way to Shai Hills we passed a small lagoon were we had several Pied Kingfisher and a little bit further ahead a short stop along the road overlooking the coastal scrub produced Senegal Coucal and Black-winged Bishop. It took us about an hour to reach Shai Hills, which is located about 50km northeast of Accra. This was only possible because of our very early start - later on it would have taken us at least twice that time! We entered the reserve at the southern main gate (with a small visitor centre) and stopped after about 100mtrs. at the ranger house where our driver went to look for a guide. While waiting here we had Black-crowned Tchagra and in the open to the right of the dirt road we had Double-spurred Francolin and Levaillant's Cuckoo. Accompanied by the guide we walked the dirt road into the reserve for about 2km. The area consisted of small patches of trees to the left and typical savannah woodlands with scrubs and scattered trees to the right and the hills with rocky outcrops in the backdrop. Following the trail we had amongst others African Grey Hornbill, Shikra, Dark-chanting Goshawk, Western Grey Plantain-eater, Splendid Sunbird and several Senegal Parrots and Yellow-fronted Tinkerbirds. We asked the guide (who did not say much) if it was a circular trail, which he confirmed, but he told us it was about 8km long. We decided to walk back the same trail that split up to another trail to the left following a more open area. While walking back we had amongst others Spotted Flycatcher, White-winged Black-Tit, Yellow-billed Shrike, Yellow-fronted Canary, Senegal Eremomela, Tawny-flanked Prinia and two species of Cisticolas. As a bonus we saw a group of baboons crossing the trail in front of us. Back at the entrance we had a drink under the trees opposite the visitor centre where Roland spotted a Northern Puffback. From here we went to the northern gate following the main road along the reserve for about 8km. After entering the gate we followed the dirt road for about 3km by car. The habitat in this area was slightly different to the southern part of the reserve consisting of green grassy plains instead of scrubs. Here we had Red-faced Cisticola, African Pied Hornbill and Superb Sunbird. We also saw two Cob Antelopes (female and young). A walk towards a hill with rocky outcrops produced Bateleur and several White Helmetshrikes. From here our driver dropped us at the Shai Hills Resort for lunch. This place was also mentioned in our travel guide as a place to stay close to the reserve but it was not recommended because of its dirty accommodations. After lunch in the back garden (where we saw Bronze Mannikins) we headed for Aburi Botanical Gardens, which was about a 30km drive. After driving through a cultivated area we ascended the hills surrounding the Accra plain. We stopped for a short while in the hills enjoying the views and setting of this beautiful area and to look at a cacao plantation. In a bare tree we saw several Black-and-White Mannakins. We arrived at Aburi at about 2.30 PM. Bird-wise we did not expect too much of this site. Considering this we were pleasantly surprised by an array of beautiful birds. The central area with tall palmtrees (full of fruits!) produced Splendid Glossy Starling, Chestnut-winged Starling, African Pied Wagtail, Speckled & Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and the colourful Hairy-breasted Barbet, which was one of our top-ten birds. A flowering tree at the restaurant in the back of the gardens produced amazingly close views of Collared, Green-headed, Tiny and the sparkling Buff-throated Sunbird. At the nursery we also had Green-backed Camaroptera. We left Aburi at about 5.00 PM and due to the heavy traffic in Accra it was already dark when we arrived back at the hotel. In the evening we had our best meal of the whole trip at the beach-restaurant of our hotel. The spicy Red Snapper tasted excellent.
|Monday 20 October|
Today a drive to Kumasi in the Ashanti Region was on the program. Our driver advised us to leave early to avoid the heavy traffic in and around Accra, which we agreed to. It still took us about 2 hours before we had breakfast just outside Accra before heading further towards Kumasi which was about another 4 hours drive. A short stop in a village halfway to Kumasi produced Ethiopian Swallows, and 20 km before Kumasi we stopped at a rice field to the right. It was a pity that at this time of the day (1.00 PM) the area was almost birdless but the site really looked rewarding for an early morning or late afternoon visit. The only birds we saw were Intermediate Egret, Village Weaver and Pin-tailed Wydah (beautiful male with long start, singing and displaying). We headed further for a visit to Owabi Wildlife Sanctuary, which was very hard to find. After taking the wrong road and asking several times for directions we finally arrived at 3.00 PM. We took a 2-hour guided walk visiting the lake (having African Jacana and Long-tailed Cormorant) and further ahead after crossing a stream we took the forest trail along the lake. This area produced amongst others Common Sandpiper, Yellowbill, Woodland Kingfisher, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird and Velvet-mantled Drongo. In the more open areas with tall grass near the underground water tank we had amongst others Red-headed Quelea and Magpie Mannikin. At 5.30 PM we left the park for our drive back to Kumasi. Our hotel (Pine Executive Lodge) was located in a quiet area surrounded by a park in the middle of the city. According to our travel guide the place had a nice atmosphere but that was a little bit exaggerated. It had huge cheerless rooms and the service was very poor. Since the hotel had no restaurant facilities our driver took us to a nearby hotel with a restaurant where we had dinner next to the pool.
|Tuesday 21 October|
Again we left our hotel early for a visit to Bobiri Forest & Butterfly Reserve, which is located about 30km east of Kumasi. We arrived in the park at about 6.45 AM. The open cultivated area before entering the park looked very rewarding bird wise but we decided to start birding in the forest. We had Blue-spotted Wood-dove here. At the visitor centre we had three Swamp Palm Bulbul. From there we walked the dirt road further into the park for about 2km. There were also several small trails into the forest but from the dirt road the view on the canopy was much better. On this stretch of the park we scored amongst others Yellowbill, Red-fronted Parrot, African Green Pigeon, Yellow-spotted Nicator, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Fraser's Forest-Flycatcher, Little Greenbul, Western Black-headed Oriole and Yellow-mantled Weaver. The highlights of this morning were definitely Crested and Red-headed Malimbe. Neither of us had ever seen a Malimbe before and we liked them a lot - both their look as well as their behaviour. As we walked back we saw quite a lot of butterflies for which the park is also famed of. After a drink we walked through the butterfly garden next to the visitor centre but apart from some nice flowering trees we did not see any butterflies. In the forest opposite the garden we had two Naked-faced Barbets. From around 12.00AM bird activity was slowing down so we decided to leave the park. We stopped at the cultivated area just outside the park but at this time of the day the area was almost birdless. Apart from several Barn Swallows we saw nothing over here. From here we visited an ancient Ashanti Shrine near Ejisu-Besease on the road back to Kumasi before having lunch in a nice hotel just outside Kumasi. The rest of the afternoon we filled in with a little bit of culture. First we visited the village of Bonwire, which is famous for its "Kente" weaving art. After a soccer game with the local kids we headed further. After a short stop at a small pond (were we had Vieillot's Black Weaver) we reached the village of Ahwiaa, which is famous for its excellent woodcarving. After an hour of shopping we headed back for the hotel at around 5.00 PM. Although the drive from the village to Kumasi was only a few km we arrived at the hotel at around 5.45 PM because of the heavy traffic. After taking a shower our driver took us to the nearby Chopsticks Restaurant for dinner, which had a cosy atmosphere. The food was not too overwhelming but OK. We were picked up again by our driver at around 9.30 PM.
Wednesday 22 October
Since we got up very early the last few days we decided to have a long sleep and relaxed breakfast before departure. Before breakfast Jos birded the hotel grounds for about half an hour and had amongst others Woodland Kingfisher and Buff-throated Sunbird. After a very poor breakfast we left the hotel at 9.30AM for a six hours drive to the Ankobra Beach Resort near Axim. We stopped a few times to look for birds along the road but did not see any special things. After about 2½ hours of driving we stopped for a drink at a small restaurant surrounded by an open cultivated area. While waiting for the driver who went for fuel at a nearby gas station we birded this area. Here we had Common Fiscal, Magpie Mannikin and Red-billed Firefinch. Road conditions on the last part of the journey to Axim via Cape Coast were pretty good, which meant we arrived earlier than expected at around 3.00 PM. The Ankobra Beach Resort is located about 5km past the village of Axim. It consists of very comfortable & spacey round cabins near the beach surrounded by a palm grove. After checking in and dropping our luggage in our rooms we had a drink at the open bar/restaurant. After a drink we decided to take a walk along the beach towards the Ankobra river mouth. Along the beach we had several Common Sandpiper, Water Thick-Knee & Eurasian Curlew. The small rocky island in front of the river mouth was full of nesting Orange Weavers. Unfortunately it was not possible to reach the river mouth from this side of the beach. We walked up a hill through the palm grove but did not manage to find a way through. We took the trail back through the palm grove which appeared to end at the dirt road at the back of the resort. This road appeared to be our best birding spot around the resort for the next three days. We birded this area until dusk and had Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch (our first ever Negrofinch), Olive-bellied & Collared Sunbird (both very common) and an abundance of African Pied Hornbills. When light conditions where going down we walked back to our rooms. We had dinner in the resort's restaurant.
Thursday 23 October
The plan for today is a canoe trip on the Ankobra River. Because it was low tide it was not possible to leave very early so we decided to have breakfast first. We where on our way to the river at about 8.30PM, which was only a five minutes drive from the resort. During waiting for about 20 minutes for the boatmen preparing the canoe we had White-throated Blue-Swallow. The bridge crossing the river had hundreds of nesting Little Swifts. Since the river was surrounded by mangroves we had birdwise high expectations of the boat trip. Unfortunately the number of birds was very poor. The mangroves were mainly a very thin band on both sides of the river - only at the end did we enter a very nice mangrove (see below). During the journey upstream we had Western-reef Heron, Little Egret, Cassin's Flycatcher, Pied & African Pygmy-Kingfisher and several Eurasian Curlew. After 2 ½ hours we entered the mangroves on the left hand side of the river where we had African Finfoot. After a while we left the canoe for a short stop at a "village" (as our boatmen called the house) in the back of the mangroves. After the boatmen had a meal there we left again and headed back towards the river. On the way back the birding was very poor again. It began to rain quite heavily and we were soaking wet when we arrived back at the bridge near the river mouth. We were picked up here by our driver and drove back to the resort. After a drink and a snack at the restaurant we again birded the last two hours before dusk along the dirt road at the back of the resort. Here we had, amongst others, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Swamp Greenbul and Green Hylia. In the evening we again had dinner at the resort's restaurant.
Friday 24 October
Around 6.30AM I was out of bed and again birded the same dirt road. This morning I was quite lucky having several nice species. I had Speckled Tinkerbird, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Green Sunbird, Gray's Malimbe and of course several of the more common species. At 8.00AM we had breakfast at the restaurant. Around 8.30AM we left for Amansuri Wetlands and the village of Nzulezu which was located about 30km west of Axim. The drive took about one hour because we stopped several times looking for birds. Woodland Kingfishers were very common in this area. At one spot along the main road we had a flock of Little Bee-eaters. While waiting at the visitor centre we had Orange-cheeked Waxbill. Accompanied by two guides we walked to the wetlands. The first part we had to walk through water and after a few hundred metres we stepped in the boat and headed towards the village of Nzulezo, which was built on stilts along the lake shore. The area was really beautiful but since it was already quite late we did not see much birds. Despite of the heat we managed to score African Jacana and African Pygmy-Goose. After 2 hours of peddling through the floodplains we ended up at the lake were Nzulezo, the village on stilts was located. After a drink we visited the village. The Chief of the village told us the history of the village. We donated some Cedis to support the local school and went back to the landing stage and afterwards peddled back across the lake. Heading back through the floodplains it was extremely hot on the boat and we did not see any birds. Instead we got a nice sunburn. We were happy to arrive back at the visitor centre to cool off a little bit. After a drink we drove back to Ankobra Beach Resort. After refreshing ourselves at our room we went for a drink at the restaurant. From 5.30PM we again birded the track behind the resort where we had amongst others African Goshawk, Red-eyed Dove, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Fraser's Sunbird and Red-vented Malimbe. Around 6.00PM we walked back to our rooms, took a shower, and went for dinner to the restaurant.
|Saturday 25 October|
We left the resort early at 5.30AM for a 75 km drive to Ankasa Conservation Area. Because there was not much traffic at this time of the day and the quite good road conditions we arrived at Ankasa at 6.30AM. The entrance gate was just before a bridge crossing the Ankasa River where we waited for a guide to come. After the guide arrived we drove a few hundreds metres into the park. At the restaurant Anne-Marie walked an interesting botanical trail where she got good information from the guide. Meanwhile, we birded the dirt road leading to Nkwanta Camp. Compared to the last two days at the Ankobra River and Amansuri Wetlands the birding was excellent today. Walking the dirt road we had amongst others White-crested Hornbill, African Green Pigeon, Icterine Greenbul, Western-bearded Greenbul and Green Hylia. We where picked up by our car and drove further towards Nkwanta Camp, which is a fairly open area with excellent canopy views. We birded the area and the surrounding trails having Little Greenbul, Slender-billed Greenbul, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Piping Hornbill, Shining Drongo and a flock of Tit-Hylia's. We then walked to the education centre, which provided some superb species in the open area in front of the chalets. Here we had excellent sightings of Yellow-billed Turaco, Red-billed and Black Dwarf Hornbill. While birding the area we where very much surprised by a female Maxwell's Duiker (a small antelope species) coming out of the forest. Expecting it to run away after the slightest sound or move from us it came towards us and eventually it even ate cookies out of our hands. A few moments later a male duiker also accompanied us. It was a rather strange experience birding the area while two duikers (which are normally very shy) sniffing around us and begging for more cookies. This area has accommodation for students - apparently the duikers got used to humans and they realized that humans like to feed them. From here our guide led us to a spot called Bamboo Castle. It was a beautiful area consisting of huge bamboos scattered in a small valley. In the back of the valley was a small stream with crystal clear water where we sat down for a while near a small bamboo bridge enjoying this serene place. We walked back to a small ranger house and decided to drive back to the restaurant near the entrance for a drink. While sitting here enjoying our drink and the view over the Ankasa River it started to rain heavily. After the rain stopped we birded the area surrounding the river having Red-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Dusky Tit and Pale-fronted Negrofinch. Around 2.30PM we left Ankasa and arrived at the resort at around 3.30PM. We again went for a drink at the restaurant and for the last two hours before dusk we birded the dirt road near the resort. Here we had Black Coucal, Gray's Malimbe, Orange Weaver and excellent views of a Yellowbill feeding their young. We walked back to our rooms at around 6.00PM and had dinner at the restaurant.
|Sunday 26 October||
Today we will leave the Ankobra Beach Resort for our next destination at Han's Cottage Botel near Cape Coast. We packed our luggage and went for breakfast at the restaurant. At around 9.30AM we left the resort for a 2 ½ hours drive towards Cape Coast. We stopped to have a look at the rubber plantations about 45km east of Axim. At a second stop further towards Cape Coast we had Blue-headed Coucal. Around 12.00AM we reached the town of Elmina some 20km before Cape Coast where we visited Elmina Castle, which is one of the most famous slave forts along the Ghanaian coast. After visiting the museum we took a guided tour through the fort which was a very impressive experience. Walking through the small rooms where hundreds of slaves were captured gives you a imagination of the horrible things that happened here during the slavery period in the 18th and 19th century. Around 2.00PM we left the fort and after a short visit at a shrine in Elmina town we headed further towards Cape Coast. In Cape Coast we took the turnoff to the left towards Han's Cottage Botel, which was about 12km north and only 20km south of the famous Kakum National Park. We arrived at the hotel at around 3.00PM and after refreshing ourselves at our rooms Roland, Anne-Marie and Wilma went for a swim at the hotel's pool while I birded the hotel surroundings. Here I had Shikra, Bronze & Magpie Mannikin, Vieillot's Black & Orange Weaver and Green-headed Sunbird. A walk towards the pond surrounding the hotel's restaurant produced Pied & Malachite Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, African Jacana and Lesser-striped Swallow. The two trees in the middle of the pond in front of the restaurant where full of nesting Village Weavers and roosting Long-tailed Cormorant and Cattle Egrets. After the others joined me for a drink we also had a immature Squacco Heron. The last 1 ½ hours before dusk Roland and me birded the hotel surroundings along the main road in front of the hotel. Here we had Grey Kestrel, Woodland Kingfisher, Blue-spotted Wood-dove and excellent sights of a Copper Sunbird sitting in the evening sun. In the evening we had dinner at the restaurant while dozens of Cattle Egrets roosted in a tree just five metres in front of us.
|Monday 27 October|
Today a visit to Kakum National Park is on the program. While waiting outside for our driver we had a female Giant Kingfisher sitting on a wire in front of the hotel rooms. We left the hotel at 6.00AM. There was nearly no traffic around this time of the day so we arrived at Kakum around 6.30AM. There were no people from the park at the visitor centre so we birded the open area surrounding the park's visitor centre until 8.30AM. Here we had amongst others Splendid Glossy Starling, Bates's Sunbird, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Vieillot's Black Weaver, Pale-fronted Negro-finch, Maxwell's Black Weaver, Superb Sunbird and Grey Longbill. Roland also had Preuss's Golden-backed Weaver. At 8.30AM we had a coffee at the restaurant and meanwhile Roland and I arranged a guide to visit the canopy walk, which opened at 9.00AM. Accompanied by a guide we headed for the canopy walk. Despite the fact that it was getting late already the birding on the canopy was excellent with magnificent views over the forest. We had excellent views of, amongst others, Yellowbill, Speckled Tinkerbird, Fire-bellied Woodpecker, Little, Slender-billed and Simple Greenbull, Black-winged Oriole, Red-fronted Antpecker, Red-headed Malimbe and Sharpe's Apalis. Flying overhead we had Barn, Ethiopean and Mosque Swallows, and a African Harrier-Hawk was sitting in the top of a large tree. Around 11.00AM the bird activity slowed down and we walked the trail back to the visitor centre were we had a flock of beautiful Violet-backed Starlings in a big tree in front of the restaurant. We paid the guide, arranged a tour on the canopy for the next morning at 6.00AM and had a drink and lunch at the restaurant. At 1.30PM we left for a visit to Antwikwa Camp, which was about 20km north along the main road along the park. The area, which is famous for the presence of Black Bee-eater, was rather hard to find and the roads were very rough - it took at least an hour if not more to get there. The area consists of open cultivated land with scattered large trees bordered by the forest edge of Kakum. When we finally found the area we walked the dirt road for about 300 metres when it started to rain quite heavily. We took shelter under a big tree. When the rain finally stopped it was getting quite late already and Wilma and Anne-Marie were tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. It's a pity that the weather didn't work out so well for us this afternoon. The area looked very rewarding bird wise. We walked a few hundreds metres further were we had Red-fronted Parrot and then returned back to the car at the ranger house. Following the muddy dirt road we reached the main road and drove back to the hotel. After a drink at the restaurant we birded the track in the back of the hotel rooms. Here we had Green-backed Camaroptera, Superb Sunbird, Bar-breasted and Red-billed Firefinch and Black-necked Weaver. In the evening we again had dinner at the restaurant accompanied by roosting Cattle Egrets. After dinner we played cards and went to bed at around 10.00PM.
|Tuesday 28 October|
We again left the hotel very early at 5.30AM since we wanted to be on the canopy as early as possible. It was still dark when we left the hotel and when we arrived at the park our guide was already waiting for us. We immediately walked up the trail towards the canopy. The weather was excellent and the view on the canopy with the early morning sun shining through the trees was marvellous. This morning we experienced one of the best forest birding ever. The place was very serene and quiet hearing only the sounds of the forest.
We birded the area from the various platforms from 6.00 until 10.30AM. On the first two platforms we had amongst others White-headed Woodhoopoe, Violet-backed Hyliota, Blue Cuckoo-shrike, Honeyguide Greenbul, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Tropical Boubou, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Red-headed and Red-vented Malimbe and several Velvet-mantled Drongo hawking around for insects. Roland also had Long-tailed Hawk here, which was one of our favourite raptors with its long graceful tail. Unfortunately I missed it. We walked further to the third and fourth platform where we had better views into the open. In the back of the valley two beautiful Pied Colobus Monkeys sat in top of a big tree warming themselves up in the early morning sun. Beneath the fourth platform we also saw several Mona Monkeys. We heard several Yellow-billed Turaco calling but unfortunately we did not see any. From this part of the canopy we had excellent views over the canopy, which produced four species of hornbills: African Pied, Brown-cheeked, Black-casqued and White-crested Hornbill. Overhead we had Sabine's Spinetail, Common Swift, Preuss' Swallow, Common House-Martin and last but not least a Crowned Hawk-eagle. Time flies when there are that many beautiful birds around. When we headed further from the fourth platform it was already 9.00AM. From the fifth and sixth platform the bird activity seemed to slow down a bit, but when we arrived at the last two platforms before the end of the canopy walk there was an explosion of beautiful bird sightings. Until about 10.30AM we birded from the second last platform where we had excellent views of Tambourine Dove, Yellow-throated and a sparkling Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Naked-faced Barbet, Golden Greenbul, Grey Longbill, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Bioko Batis, Little Green Sunbird, Western Black-headed Oriole and Grey-headed & Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch. At around 10.45AM the bird activity slowed down and we decided to walk back to the visitor centre. This was a perfect morning being one of our best birding experiences ever. In two mornings on the canopy we managed to see 58 species of which 28 where new on our Ghana list and about 20 were lifers. In general we didn't see many visitors in the park and luckily we could stay on the canopy walk as long as we wanted. This was a huge difference to other canopy walks that we have been on where time was limited and we had to rush through. Here we could really enjoy it with hardly anybody disturbing us. Some people we met just rushed through it hardly looking up. Our dream would be to sit on one of the platforms with a chair and just watch. Very often we wished to have more than two eyes! Roland is not very fond of heights but obviously couldn't miss out on that one. When we arrived at the visitor centre we paid the "guide" and had an early lunch at the restaurant. According to the information we had there was a botanical trail called Kuantan, which we wanted to visit in the afternoon. We informed us at the visitor centre but the employee did not know (or wanted to know) about an existing trail. So we decided to find the trail on our own. It was located about 1.5 km north along the main road on the right, just after the ranger houses. We walked the trail for about 1½ hour. On two occasions we heard Hornbills but because of the dense vegetation we were not able to see them. At around 2.30PM we arrived back at the car waiting at the park's ranger houses. Roland and Anne-Marie wanted to visit a rock shrine about 40km north of Kakum (unfortunately this attempt failed due to the bad road conditions and lack of time). We decided to drive back to the hotel where they dropped us off before driving back to the shrine. After refreshing ourselves at the room we went to the restaurant to relax for a couple of hours. At 4.30PM I walked the track behind the hotel rooms ending up at a open cultivated area with scattered trees. This area appeared to be an excellent birding spot. On this last evening of birding in Ghana I was surprised by several new species on our triplist having Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Green Crombec (being one of our Top Ten birds) and African Yellow White-eye. Other birds seen here were Western Grey Plantain-eater, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Black-crowned Tchagra and Black-necked Weaver. I told Roland about my sightings at the area, and we decided to check out the area together the next morning. In the evening we had dinner at the restaurant and drank a few large bottles of beer celebrating the excellent day of birding. After dinner we played cards again (Uno) before going to bed at around 10.30PM.
Wednesday 29 October
This was our last day in Ghana. We left our room at 7.00AM to check again the area at the back of the hotel rooms. When we arrived at the open area we spotted exactly the same species that I saw the evening before including the Green Crombec that Roland had hoped for. We scanned the area for about an hour but did not see any new birds. Just before we wanted to walk back to our room we had Speckled Pigeon and as an extra bonus we managed to score the marvellous Double-toothed Barbet. We walked back to our room meeting each other again at the restaurant. Because we had a lot of time this morning (we planned to leave the hotel at 12.00PM) we decided to have a relaxing breakfast. Around 11.00AM we went back to our rooms to take a shower and pack our luggage. We left the hotel at 12.00PM for the 185km drive towards Accra. Just outside Cape Coast we visited two shrines. Halfway the route between Cape Coast and Accra we planned to have a short visit to the Muni-Pomadze Lagoon near Winneba, which is an official Ramsar Wetland Site. Because of the lack of decent information of the site we were not able to find our way close to the wetland. We finally found an approach towards a lagoon near the beach just past the village of Winneba but it was too far to identify the birds properly (also because of the low tide). Despite that we managed to identify some of the bigger birds like Grey Heron, Western-reef Heron, Great Egret and Black-winged Stilt. In the short grasses surrounding the area we had Winding Cisticola a new species on our list. After searching for our driver we drove further towards Accra. When we approached the outskirts of the city the traffic became very busy again. Since the airport was situated on the other (eastern) side of the city we needed about an hour to reach the airport at 5.00PM. Our flight was planned at 11.30PM so we had plenty of time before departure. From 6.00PM it was possible to check-in, which we did. This enabled us to have a relaxed evening dinner at an open-air restaurant opposite the airport. We had excellent fish (again snapper) here and a couple of beers which certainly helped getting a few hours of sleep during the flight. We walked back to the airport after dinner and bought some drinks from our last Cedis. After a short game of Uno we were able to board and finally took off at 11.45PM.
Thursday 30 October
After a relaxing flight we landed at Schiphol at around 7.00AM. We picked up our car and headed towards Oosterhout where Roland and Anne-Marie stayed at her parents. Luckily we had no traffic jams and arrived in Oosterhout at around 8.15AM. After a cup of coffee we said goodbye to our friends and headed home to Reuver, which is another 1 ½ hours drive.