Following the success of last year's trip toThailand with birdingpaltours (birdingpaltours.com) we decided to give them another go again this year. We had looked into Ghana a couple of years ago, but the prices quoted on return emails seemed a little high. But the prices on the tours run by Kalu Afasi (firstname.lastname@example.org) were much more reasonable. Our trips are usually arounda week long, and one centring on the South offered a good mix. The reason for Ghana is that we had both visited other countries on the Continent before, but wanted some forest and open country specialities. This had to be balanced by a safe country with a good deal of stability. Ghana fits the bill. Compared to other African experiences, it felt a lot safer, and the people were ultra friendly without being intrusive.
Kalu is a guide to be thoroughly recommended.Originally a promising footballer from Nigeria, he came to Ghana in 2001, started birding in 2005 and is now at the stage where he has seen all the list of regular Ghanaian birds, and his acute sight and knowledge of the calls and jizz of passing or even hidden birds belies the less than 10 years of experience. As witnessed by his section of the birdingpal website, he can tailor tours to suit species, habitat, and length of stay for a variety of party sizes. His cost quoted also was fully inclusive - we didn't need to have any Ghanaian currency at all. This includes lunches, drinks, etc, and the evening meals and breakfasts come with meals, where you can choose from the menu (we tried not to empty his pockets too much by choosing reasonably priced items!). All driving is done through a third party, so we had Boateng ferry us around in a Nissan 4x4 truck - not so comfortable in the back after some time between stops - and he was surprisingly careful. Some of the journeys were up to 3 hours long, which can seem longer due to the variation in quality of the driving surface.
The timing of the trip can make a difference to the enjoyment of the holiday. The rainy season starts around the end of April and lasts for a few months, which must make the roads impassable in places. Almost all the birds were in breeding plumage when we were there in early March, meaning March/early April is a good time to go. Despite the fact that we were there in the dry season, there was often a threat of rain, and we did go through a deluge one evening. Mosquitoes in the South at this time seemed to be non existent, although antimalarials are still a must (as is the compulsory yellow fever certificate needed to obtain the visa before travel from the Ghana website). Temperatures at this time ranged from around 24 degrees C at night to the lower 30'sC through the day.
The airline we travelled with was TAP Portugal, which had a connecting flight in Lisbon. Full marks go to them on our transfers. The time between landing and take off at Lisbon outbound was only 45 minutes (a recognised transit apparently), which was reduced to 25 minutes due to a late first flight. Not only were we met off the plane by a taxi and taken straight to the second, which was held back for us, but the luggage even followed us to the other end. We stayed in all hotels for only one night, apart from the Hans Cottage Botel for 3, and the Crowne Plaza in Accra one night each end of the trip. The hotels are usually clean, reasonably basic, yet always good enough for a birding trip! All but one had air conditioning (a fan in the other), but other luxuries such as towels and toilet rolls sometimes needed to be requested. And of course don't rely on hot water - cold is so much more refreshing after a day in the field anyway. Full marks go the Crowne Plaza (NOT the well known luxury chain by far) who not only gave us the best room on the last night, but also allowed late afternoon check out so that we could freshen up and pack equipment at the last minute. The Hans Cottage is the only accommodation where a reasonable amount of birding can be done on site, due to its small lake and weaver colony. Kalu uses it regularly for Kakum, and the usual few hours break in the middle of the day for either travel, lunch or rest from the sun, mean there is opportunity to explore this. All electicity sockets encountered were the UK 3 square pin type.
For reference I used the Birds of Western Africa by Borrow and Demey (Helm field guides), but the specific field guide to the Birds of Ghana is a much better recommendation, since it is lighter and the distribution maps much more accurate.