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Exploring the Birding Hotspots of Ghana

Article by GVI


Posted: April 17, 2023

Ghana is a country with diverse ecosystems and varied wildlife, making it an ideal destination for birdwatching enthusiasts. This West African nation is home to over 750 bird species, featuring a mix of resident and migratory birds. In this article, we will delve into the abundant biodiversity of Ghana, explore its top birding hotspots, and offer guidance and tips for planning a successful birding trip.

The Rich Biodiversity of Ghana

Ghana boasts a wealth of natural habitats, including lush rainforests, expansive savannahs and coastal wetlands. These diverse ecosystems provide the perfect environment for a variety of bird species, as well as other wildlife such as elephants, monkeys and antelopes. The country’s location on a bird migration route in Africa makes it an important stopover point for many birds that travel long distances.

The Importance of Bird Conservation in Ghana

Birds play a crucial role in maintaining ecosystems, contributing to pollination, seed dispersal and pest control. As such, their conservation is vital to the overall health of the environment. Ghana has instituted numerous conservation efforts and established protected areas to preserve its unique birdlife and their habitats. These initiatives aim to maintain biodiversity, promote sustainable tourism, and contribute to local livelihoods.

The Variety of Bird Species Found in Ghana

This country has many different types of birds, including birds that live in forests, waterbirds, and birds that live in savannahs. Some of the birds that people really want to see are the Yellow-headed Picathartes, Egyptian Plover, blue-headed bee-eater, and the hard-to-find white-necked rockfowl. There are also some birds that can only be found in this country, like the purple glossy starling and Forbes’s plover, which makes birdwatchers from all over the world even more interested in visiting.

Top Birding Hotspots in Ghana

There is no shortage of exciting birdwatching locations in Ghana, with each destination offering unique and memorable experiences. Below, we introduce you to the top birding hotspots in the country.

Mole National Park

Situated in northwest Ghana, Mole National Park is the country’s largest protected wildlife reserve. Covering over 4,500 square kilometres, the park features an array of bird species, with over 330 recorded to date. Birders will delight in spotting martial eagles, violet turacos, Abyssinian ground hornbills, and more. In addition to its avian attractions, Mole National Park is home to elephants, buffalo and other mammals that roam the park’s expansive savannah.

Kakum National Park

Located in southern Ghana, Kakum National Park is revered for its pristine tropical rainforest and incredible canopy walkway. This extraordinary park houses approximately 270 bird species, including some rare finds like the white-breasted guineafowl and yellow-billed turaco. The elevated canopy walkway, suspended 30 metres above ground, offers unparalleled views of the forest and its feathered inhabitants, making it a must-visit destination for birders.

Atewa Range Forest Reserve

The Atewa Range Forest Reserve in southeastern Ghana is an upland evergreen forest, sheltering over 150 bird species. This includes some globally threatened species, such as the yellow-bearded greenbul and rufous-winged Illadopsis. In addition to birdwatching, visitors can explore the reserve’s many trails and enjoy the beautiful cascading waterfalls tucked within its lush landscapes.

Shai Hills Resource Reserve

Just an hour’s drive from Ghana’s capital, Accra, lies the Shai Hills Resource Reserve. This diverse ecosystem of savannah and woodland is home to over 170 bird species, including the Senegal parrot, double-spurred francolin, and red-headed lovebird. Its close proximity to the capital and vibrant birdlife make it an excellent option for a day trip, especially for those on a tight schedule.

Ankasa Conservation Area

Situated in southwestern Ghana, the Ankasa Conservation Area comprises of two pristine rainforests, Nini-Suhien National Park and Ankasa Resources Reserve. This undisturbed habitat supports over 250 bird species, including the rare Nimba flycatcher and the beautiful green-tailed bristlebill. As a bonus, birdwatchers may also catch a glimpse of endangered primates like the Diana monkey and the western chimpanzee.

Birding Tours and Guides in Ghana

Opting for birding tours and hiring experienced local guides can make a significant difference in the success of your birdwatching trip, providing expert knowledge and assistance in locating elusive bird species.

Choosing the Right Birding Tour

Several reputable tour operators specialize in Ghanaian birdwatching trips, offering a range of itineraries, accommodations, and levels of expertise. When selecting a tour, consider the target bird species, duration, geographical scope, group size and trip difficulty to ensure a comfortable and rewarding experience. It is also advisable to read reviews and obtain recommendations to select a trustworthy tour operator.

Recommended Local Birding Guides

Local birding guides are invaluable resources, boasting in-depth knowledge of bird species, habitats, and Ghana’s rich cultural heritage. Opting for guides affiliated with recognised Ghanaian tour operators or conservation organisations is highly recommended, as they possess a wealth of experience and adhere to best practices in wildlife management and ecological sustainability.

Tips for a Successful Birding Trip

When planning a birding trip to Ghana, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Pack essentials such as a quality pair of binoculars, a field guide, insect repellent, sunscreen and comfortable clothing suited to the climate and terrain.
  • Research local weather patterns and the annual distribution of bird species to optimise your trip timing.
  • Consult with your tour operator or guide to obtain required permits and travel documentation well in advance.
  • Respect local customs and traditions, and support local communities whenever possible.

Birdwatching Etiquette and Safety Tips

Birdwatching is a fulfilling and educational activity that requires a mindful approach to ensure the well-being of both the wildlife and surrounding communities.

Respecting Wildlife and Local Communities

Adopt a responsible and respectful approach when observing birds, minimising disturbance to their natural behaviours and habitats. Familiarise yourself with local customs and follow established rules, such as not feeding wildlife, staying on marked trails, and refraining from using playback calls to attract birds. Additionally, remember to respect the communities that welcome you by supporting their local products, services and heritage.

Essential Gear for Birdwatching in Ghana

Proper equipment is essential for a positive birdwatching experience:

  1. Binoculars: Opt for durable, waterproof binoculars with a comfortable grip and powerful magnification.
  2. Field guide: Choose a Ghana-specific or West African guide with detailed illustrations and comprehensive species information.
  3. Camera: Select a camera with a good zoom function, ample battery life, and appropriate image stabilisation for capturing captivating bird shots.
  4. Clothing: Wear comfortable, lightweight clothing in muted colors, and invest in a strong pair of hiking shoes or boots.
  5. Insect repellent: Guard against mosquitos and other insects with an insect repellent containing DEET, ensuring protection from disease-carrying insects like the Anopheles mosquito.

In conclusion, Ghana is a birdwatching paradise with its diverse ecosystems, abundant bird species and top birding hotspots. The country’s rich biodiversity, conservation efforts, and unique birdlife make it an ideal destination for birding enthusiasts. With top locations like Mole National Park, Kakum National Park, Atewa Range Forest Reserve, Shai Hills Resource Reserve and Ankasa Conservation Area, birders have plenty of options to explore. Hiring experienced local guides and packing essentials for the trip are key tips for a successful birding adventure in Ghana. Plan your birding trip to Ghana and get ready for an unforgettable experience.

While travelling in Ghana, why not consider joining a GVI volunteer program in Kokrobite? It’s a fantastic way to make a meaningful impact while immersing yourself in the culture and beauty of Ghana. From teaching English to working on community development projects, GVI offers a range of volunteer opportunities that allow you to make a positive difference. Plus, GVI provides support and guidance throughout your volunteer journey, ensuring a safe and rewarding experience.

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