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Nice Viellot's Barbets @inyathi and thanks for sharing the panoramic shot of Sakumono Lagoon.   


I am looking forward to reading about birds you saw and any mammals, etc.


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Go West to Ghana or My Quest for the Pica-bloody-fart-es   February 2019   PicathartesKeulemans John Gerrard Keulemans  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

I thought posting this next part might take quite a while as I wanted to put in a lot of photos, rather than pick out a handful first I decided to paste in the links to almost all my photos of the cas

Walking down to the forest it was very hot, because we were largely in the open amongst small cocoa trees and such like, along the way we found some of the ubiquitous beautiful butterflies that you fi

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Being slightly busy the last couple of days, I thought I didn’t have time to post the next section as there are a lot of photos to put in and that will take a fair bit of time, however I don’t want to lose momentum, so I thought I would squeeze in the first bit as it only has a few photos and then I hope I can add the longer second part in a day or two.


I didn’t sleep too well that night because the air con decided to play up, it seemed to have a lose connection or something, it would switch off, but then if it regained power it wouldn’t start up unless I used the remote control, when it was off this was most of the night it was unbearably hot. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with air con, sometimes I think it can be so cold it’s like sleeping in morgue, not that I’ve ever been in a morgue, I’d rather just have a fan, but in Ghana it’s so hot and humid that air con is extremely welcome. It also didn’t help that the bed was very hard, when birding in Shai Hills I’d sat down on a comfortable rock and joked that if I could find one flat enough, I’d take it back to the hotel as it would be more comfortable than my bed. A sleepless night was not a big help as we needed to be up at 05:00, so that we could leave early enough to miss the worst of the morning rush hour traffic in Tema.


Day 2


We left perhaps a little later than intended, we had to get through Tema and on through or past Accra, on the drive I never worked quite where Tema ended and Accra began.



Driving through Tema by inyathi, on Flickr


We then stopped for a reasonable time at a location known as the Winneba Plains for some birding, this is a dry area of grassland covered in patches of native scrub and eucalyptus. Most birding groups stop here, one bird they look for is black-bellied bustard, but there didn’t seem much point in devoting a lot of time looking for this bird, just too have seen it in Ghana, having seen it many times elsewhere. Needless to say, perhaps, we didn’t see any bustards as we weren’t seriously looking for them, but we did find our first Guinea turaco, and our first yellow-crowned gonolek, I didn't get any worthwhile bird photos here.



Camouflage, grasshopper Winneba Plains



Birding Winneba Plains in Ghana


Then it was back into our air conditioned minibus and on the road again heading further westwards, towards the Upper Guinea Rainforest or what's left of it.



Banana seller 



Forest remnant


Before we headed for Ghana's forests, we would stop for lunch and some history in Cape Coast, along the way we passed Fort Amsterdam 




See also photo shown earlier in post 10


and then soon after entering the city we passed the entrance to Cape Coast Castle and parked in the car park right next to it, since it receives plenty of visitors there were a few hawkers but they weren’t too bothersome.



Cape Coast Castle 


The restaurant we were headed for, the Castle Beach Restaurant, was right next to the castle and on the first floor of a building overlooking the beach, from where we sat we had a view of beach and rocks and the Atlantic Ocean straight in front, to the right a long expanse of beach with a few people swimming, to the left the whitewashed walls of the castle rising from the rocks, lying on the rocks were three large rusting canons.



Old canons below Cape Coast Castle



Fishing boat 



Local kids further along Castle Beach 


While we ate a man was standing in the edge of the sea digging a hole with his feet and then retrieving something from the sand which he would throw further up onto the beach, we couldn’t see what it was and he then started remonstrating with someone who wasn’t there, we thought he must have mental health issues. Then a couple of kids showed up, spotted that they had a captive audience of tourists above them and proceeded to put on a very amateurish performance of acrobatics, soon more showed up and joined in, I tried to eat my fish and chips without looking, to avoid encouraging them, as I feared they would be waiting for us when we departed. I’m not a great fan of TV shows like Britain’s Got Talent, but I have watched it occasionally, if there is Ghana’s Got Talent and these boys entered, they would not have got passed the auditions stage, fortunately we weren’t bothered by them when we left, as I had no intention of rewarding their antics.



Christ Church Cathedral 


After our lunch we headed for the entrance to the Castle.

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I thought posting this next part might take quite a while as I wanted to put in a lot of photos, rather than pick out a handful first I decided to paste in the links to almost all my photos of the castle, then preview the post and decide which ones I should actually delete, needless to say as I should have predicted I haven't deleted any of them.:rolleyes:


Cape Coast Castle


It may be possible for some who visit Ghana for the birds and wildlife, to entirely ignore the dark stain of slavery, but I could not, in part because of my interest in history, but mainly because, as soon as I saw the castle gate as we drove in to Cape Coast, I thought my people, English people built this castle and were responsible for the horrors that went on inside it. I had to go in and take the tour, this was part of Britain’s history as much as Ghana’s. Mention slavery in the UK and the reaction of quite a lot of people is essentially denial, this often comes in the form of various responses. The main one is that Britain abolished slavery and the Royal Navy ended the trade, why don’t we talk about and celebrate that? Followed by, other countries were far worse like Portugal. They will then say that the slaves were sold by fellow black Africans, why does no one talk about that? As if this is some dark secret that historians have tried to cover up, when its well-known and accepted. Then they will say that slavery has always existed, everyone has done it going back to the Romans and beyond and that is true also, for a good part of our history if you lived in a Cornish fishing village or indeed any English south coast fishing village, you lived in constant fear that you could be kidnapped by Barbary Pirates and taken to the slave markets of North Africa. Finally, of course just that it was a very long time ago. All of these may be more or less true, although the Danes actually abolished slavery several years before Britain did, but these points should not be used to cover up the fact, that British traders were buying and selling slaves and transporting them across the Atlantic, for around two hundred and fifty years. Of course, in the UK, we should celebrate the brave deeds of Royal Navy, in ending the Atlantic slave trade and discuss the part played by Wilberforce and the abolitionists, but we should also talk about the horrors that went on in places like Cape Coast Castle, in the preceding centuries, discuss the good and the bad and not pretend that the one cancels out the other.


This castle in front of me was clear evidence of England/Britain’s part in the slave trade, although the actual original fort was built by Swedes and called Carolusborg, but none of that fort remains, it was taken over by the British and completely rebuilt in 1665, I entered the castle knowing that some of what I was about to see would likely be seriously grim. 



Map of the castle by inyathi, on Flickr



Freedom and justice





Canon balls 







In memory of John Swanzy



The Obamas visit to Cape Coast Castle 



















Some of the first-floor rooms have been converted into a museum, which you can visit on your own before the tour, everything is well explained in the museum, so you don’t need a guide, as often with museums photos are not permitted. It covers the history of the slave trade in Ghana and beyond, plus a little bit of general Ghanaian history and is I thought a pretty good museum. The one object on display that perhaps really illustrated the horror of slavery was a branding iron, used to indicate the ownership of slaves, exactly like that farmers use to brand cattle, although in the UK hot branding is no longer permitted and cattle are freeze branded instead, but I believe that in the US they still carry out hot branding, as you might have seen being done in old cowboy films. It doesn't look very pleasant when it's done to an animal, it's hard to imagine it being routinely done to people as it presumably was.



This staircase leads up to the castle museum


After the museum, I took the tour this can last for around 45 minutes, it started with a visit to the male dungeons, when a consignment of slaves was brought into the castle, the men and woman were separated and taken to different dungeons. Walking through this large doorway down a couple of steps into this wide dark sloping passage, was like entering an underground cave, which is essentially what it is albeit a man-made one.



Entrance to the Male Slave Dungeons 


The passage has been lit with fairly dim eclectic lights for the benefit of tourists, so as to still give an impression of what it was like, whilst allowing people to see just enough to safely find their way. The passage goes around a corner, so not much light from the doorway penetrates, at the bottom were four small dark rooms, originally the only light and ventilation came from some very small square windows high up on the walls. Before you leave,  the guides turn the lights off very briefly so you can see what it really would have been like.










The slaves would be herded down into the dungeons, with as many as 200 men to each of these rooms and then kept here until the next ship arrived to collect them, which could be weeks away. Conditions in these almost completely dark rooms were horrendous, to feed them, some slop essentially, was just dropped into their hands twice a day. A single bucket was placed in each corner of the rooms, hopelessly inadequate to the point of being useless for the purpose for which they were intended, the floor that you are walking on looks just like earth, but of course it’s not, the guide pointed out the obvious, which even I hadn’t got around to thinking about, some archaeologists had taken a small sample of the floor, analysed it and confirmed that it was comprised entirely of compacted decayed human waste. After the dungeons had been dug out and constructed, an underground tunnel was dug from the end dungeon, to the Door of no Return, so that when a ship arrived the slaves would be taken out via this tunnel. The entrance to the tunnel was blocked up some years ago by the local community who built a shrine over it.



Local shrine 


The whole of the adjacent end wall was covered in wreaths laid by visitors from the African diaspora who come from around the world in search of their ancestors.







The thought of spending anytime in this vile stinking hellhole, that you would be lucky to survive, would drive anyone to try and rebel and attack their captors in an effort to escape. The slave traders knew this, so if anyone did attempt to rebel, they would they would be thrown into the punishment cell, this was a tiny pitch-dark cave like room behind three thick wooden doors. Once inside they would be given no food or water and were just left to die, all of the other slaves would then be herded up into the yard, so that the body could be dragged out and deposited in front of them, to make sure they got the message.




punishment cell 




The bodies taken from the punishment cell and those of any who did not survive the unsanitary conditions, would be taken out over the rocks and simply tossed into the sea. Many thousands of slaves would have passed through these dungeons and out through the Door of no Return, to be shipped to the Caribbean and the USA.






Underground slave tunnel 



The Door of No Return 



Female Slave Dungeons 



The Door of No Return 


Looking at the picture postcard views outside the castle today, it's quite hard to imagine what it would have been a like over 200 years ago in the days of the Atlantic slave trade, when slave ships were coming into the harbour to collect their human cargo.




Fishing boats 




After the official tour was over, I walked around the battlements and explored some of the first-floor rooms of the castle that would have been occupied by the British merchants. Apart from those used for the museum, these rooms are pretty much all empty. It was pretty hot in the afternoon sun, so I was quite happy to leave after taking sufficient photos.






Dalzel Tower 



The red roof immediately beyond the castle walls is the Castle Beach Restaurant where we had had lunch



Gun slit 



Old canon balls 



The Dalzel Tower



The Northeast and Southwest Batteries 





Maclean Hall





Door of No Return




For us today it is very hard to comprehend the horror of what went on here in the days of slavery, it all seems so strange to us, that they could treat other human beings in such an appalling way, the strangeness of those days is perhaps illustrated by the fact that the Castle's church/chapel was immediately above the Male Slave Dungeons, the dark arched doorway in the photo is the entrance to the dungeons and the three windows above are those of the church. The slave traders/merchants and the men who garrisoned the fort were all good Christians.


A good few years ago I happened to visit the city of Krakow in Poland, while there I knew however unpleasant it might be, that I had to visit the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz, because it’s only a few miles away, at the time a local cinema was showing Schindler’s List, so I went to see it as it was quite a new film and I hadn’t seen it. My feelings on emerging from the slave dungeons at here at Cape Coast Castle, recalled just how I felt after I had toured Auschwitz, even if the horrors occurred far longer ago and outside of the dungeons this a more attractive setting. The difference is that at the time of the Holocaust one might have thought that we were civilised, whereas certainly when the Atlantic slave trade started we weren't really that civilised in Europe, when it came to how we treated our own people. Public executions were common place and people could be executed for what we would now regard as trivial offences and large crowds would turn out to watch. I was very glad to have taken the tour of the castle, but equally very glad to be moving on and going back to birding and wildlife viewing. 


Leaving the city, we stopped very briefly to bird Fosu lagoon just outside Cape Coast stopping very briefly on the side of the road, there were really just a few common African waterbirds here, like jacanas, western reef herons, a fair number of long-tailed cormorants perched in a tree and a lizard.


Female common agama

We then carried on to our accommodation the D & A Guesthouse in the town of Shama, arriving there mid-afternoon. Had we perhaps got to Cape Coast a little bit earlier and decided to leave straight after lunch, completely forgoing the castle tour, as I’m sure some birders do, then we would have arrived even earlier and could have gone on to visit our next birding site, Nsuta Forest Reserve, where we were headed in the morning. The forest is an hour’s drive north from Shama, so doing this you wouldn’t likely get a lot of birding time at the forest, but it would give you an extra evening there, and therefore two chances of seeing the spot-breasted ibis, these birds can sometimes be seen at dusk flying into roost, and perhaps also a brown nightjar after dark or an eagle owl. I didn’t see much merit in doing this and as I said, I couldn’t not visit the castle all the more so because we were parked right by the entrance during lunch, it was perhaps just a minutes walk from our bus to the castle entrance. Even if I’d just quickly gone in and taken some photos, we likely wouldn’t have got to Shama early enough in my view, for it to be really worth going to the forest, more obsessive birders might think differently. To me it would have just meant a lot more driving, making it a very long day and we would have ended going to bed later than ideal, it really made more sense to just relax at the guesthouse.



Edited by inyathi
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Another piece of excellent history lesson! Well written, with very descriptive photography. 

Edited by xelas
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I had visited Aushwitz too, and the horrors and the incredible sadness hung in the air. you could not but feel the pain and the unspeakable hopelessness in the entire place.

I felt the same too at Siem Reap when I visited a temple/memorial, where just outside of the temple, a large glass box was built and filled with bones and skulls of the thousands of people who died in the killing fields at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. 

I felt the same emotions reading your description of this castle/slave trading hub, and it just reinforces how evil humankind can choose to be. 


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@Xelas Oops that was a serious proofreading failure :rolleyes: I'm afraid I often make the same mistake, just typing does, when I meant to type doesn't, sometimes I notice that I have done it and sometimes as in this case I don't, but what I have noticed is I can still edit my posts, so thanks for pointing out my mistake, I have now corrected it.:) It is very annoying when you make such a silly mistake that completely changes the meaning of a sentence, so that it says totally the opposite of what you meant it to say. 


Day 3-4

Nsuta Forest Reserve


The following morning after 05:30 breakfast it was off to Nsuta Forest, it was still pretty dark when we left and even when it got slightly lighter, we couldn’t see anything because all the windows were steamed up, when we arrived the forest was still shrouded in mist.



Main road Nsuta Forest Reserve in Ghana by inyathi, on Flickr 


We drove off the road and parked at the start of a forest track and got out and walked in.



James setting off into the forest


Nsuta is only a Forest Reserve not a National Park, this seemed to simply mean that agriculture was illegal, logging was certainly permitted, this was clearly a well-used logging area, the difference between this forest and other pristine forests I’ve been to was very obvious, it had clearly been extensively logged. The big trees had been taken out, there was no canopy of trees above our heads as one might expect when walking along a single lane track/road through a rainforest. This must have had some impact on the birds but didn’t stop it being very good for forest birding, our guide James was extremely good at both spotting birds and hearing their calls which would prompt him to get out his phone to call them in, or his recorder to record them. Consequently, we saw a lot of birds, like pied hornbills the most common forest hornbill in Ghana, piping hornbills, bristle-nosed and naked-faced barbets, swamp palm bulbuls and various greenbuls etc. James carried a telescope and tripod and was extremely adept at getting every bird in his scope very quickly. We also saw many beautiful butterflies a characteristic of all Ghanaian forests and a variety of colourful grasshoppers and dragonflies, there were plenty of colourful flowers also.



Butterfly pea






Fruit collectors 


We encountered a few people while we were birding, we saw this group a few times going up and down the main track, apparently they were collecting some sort of fruit to sell on the roadside, I didn't learn what it was, I have to say it looked a bit more like compost or even dung, or something you might use in your garden rather than eat, but apparently it's much prized up north, so they presumably sell it to people heading that way. 



Blue diadem 






Variegated grasshopper or harlequin locust



Dark blue pansy 



Common commander 



Dusky blue flycatcher 



Little commodore 



Red-billed helmetshrike 



Western blue policeman


The one thing we did not see was any mammals or evidence of them not even a squirrel, I would not have expected to see more than perhaps spoor of a forest duiker, but in forests elsewhere I would’ve expected to at least see or catch glimpses of squirrels and hear if not see monkeys. Here not only did I not see any, but I heard no calls even distant ones, nor had any sight or sound of movement in the trees, that might indicate monkeys moving through the canopy. Seeing mammals in rainforests can be a real

challenge and you need luck, sometimes if you see nothing it can just be bad luck, but I knew in this case it wasn’t. In Uganda, go into any forest for long enough and you should find monkeys, on my trip there last year, walking along the Bundibugyo Road along the boundary of Semuliki National Park, there were what are now called Uganda mangabeys feeding in trees right by this big tarmac road, quite visible to local people walking by or people driving along the road and also red-tailed and blue monkeys. This is because for whatever reason, in Uganda people have never eaten primates, not so in Ghana where all species even chimps are on the menu. One of my major reasons for wanting to visit this region was to see West African monkeys, but I knew before I came. that I might struggle to find any, because they have been so badly hunted by bushmeat poachers, I was certain that was the case here. My fears were soon confirmed, towards the end of our morning walk, we reached a junction in the road, there was a bit of a clearing where another road went off to the right, (or the left, when I took the photo below looking back the way we'd come, which is on the right if that makes sense:blink:)we stopped and waited for a few minutes to see if we could spot any birds or call them in.




Before long a man appeared walking on the other road towards us, he was dressed in ordinary clothes and had what I took to be a single-barrelled shotgun slung on his shoulder, along with a large bag. We exchanged a very brief good morning, but it was clear from his expression that he was not pleased to see us, he clearly hadn’t expected to run into a group of tourists, during his morning poaching expedition, I dreaded to think what might be in his bag, although there might have been nothing, as we hadn’t heard any shots. Of course, if the bag was empty that might be because he’d simply seen nothing to shoot, I thought it best not to try and take his photo. We carried on our way for a bit and then headed back towards the main road along the way we could hear the sound of chainsaws, as we approached the road, we could see that our bus was not there, Nicholas had whilst we were birding driven back to Shama to pick up some packed lunches and hadn’t quite returned. While we waited on the track in the shade, I saw a familiar looking piece of red plastic on the side of the track, it was small and rectangular and had clearly been squashed flat, I've seen enough of this sort of plastic at home in English woods, to know for certain what it was. Normally it would have been a cylinder of plastic with a brass cap on the end, but this one had perhaps been run over and the metal cap had come off, I flipped it over and sure enough on the other side were the letters ‘BB’ and ‘GR 32’, it was exactly as I feared a shotgun cartridge.



Shotgun cartridge


I say it might have been run over, because it had been squashed flat, but looking at the photo it seems as if the cap might have been cut off for some reason, before it was squashed.



Fireball lily 


A few minutes later Nicholas returned getting back into the bus was like stepping into a fridge, a welcome relief from the heat and humidity, although I have to say by the end of the trip we'd decided it might have been better to have used the aircon in the bus rather less in the hope that we might have got more used to the climate. I was amused that Nicholas had a Man United puffer jacket, this was normally draped over his seat so that he was sat on it most of the time, I wondered why anyone in Ghana would need a puffer jacket, but occasionally he had it on and I think this was because in the drivers seat he found the aircon too cold, this was born out by the fact that often when returning from a walk, he would be relaxing in the front of the bus with the engine off and the windows open, and when he realised we were returning he would quickly close the windows and turn the engine and the aircon back on, ready for us to get in. Lunch was a polystyrene takeaway box containing fried rice and a whole grilled chicken leg, I referred to the rice as never-ending rice, because as happens with takeaways at home the rice was in my view enough for at least two and no matter how much I ate I never seemed to get to the bottom of the box. Knowing that we would spend all day here I’d brought my book, this proved a good decision as it started to rain very hard. So, much of the afternoon was spent in the bus, eventually when it stopped, we got out and walked along the main road birding while the bus slowly followed.



Main road through Nsuta Forest Reserve 



New logging road 


By a bend in the road, a huge very fresh-looking logging track had been bulldozed into the forest creating a horrible scar, just on the edge of the road at this point, while I was photographing the destruction, I found another this time intact shotgun cartridge.



Shotgun cartridge 


We carried on down the road birding and then waited until dusk to stake out the spot-breasted ibis, but no bird showed, we did hear a western tree hyrax calling and Demidoff’s galago proving that some nocturnal mammals survive. After dark we went back to the guesthouse for a later than usual dinner.



Birding on the road 





Rainforest tree 



Cuckoo hawk 


I've only seen African cuckoo hawk twice in the past, in Ghana they seem to be amazingly common particularly in Nsuta, by the end I'd seen this bird on five days, I don't normally like silhouettes, but I quite like this one and I think it's the only shot I got.



African pygmy kingfisher



Rainforest trees



White-headed wood-hoopoes 




Swamp palm bulbuls 








Deforestation, banana fields 







As agriculture is not permitted in forest reserves, I presume that these fields are actually outside the reserve, but I wasn't really sure whether they were or not.


The next morning Day 4, we headed back to Nsuta forest and walked the same track as the previous morning, if anything the second morning was even mistier than the first, this didn't make birding that easy to begin with, until it started to clear.











Costus aureus flowers 



Frog spawn in a puddle



Monodora tenuifolia




At the junction where the poacher had been, we took the track that he had emerged from, which we hadn't walked the previous morning, we hadn’t gone far when we found a third shotgun cartridge that someone had placed on the end of a stick, the reason we were seeing no mammals was very clear. I say no mammals but in fact we did I glimpse a green squirrel, I’d seen this species well in Gabon it is a very small tree squirrel and not that easy to spot being greenish in colour, I imagine that they breed pretty quickly and are so small as to be of limited interest to hunters.



Ghana's poisonous fruit, shotgun cartridge 


We didn’t encounter a poacher this time, but we were passed by a man carrying the parts of a chainsaw on his head, followed shortly afterwards by his companion carrying a huge plastic container of fuel. Much of the time that we were in the forest, we could hear chainsaws buzzing away in the background.



Red-banded millipede 









Another blue diadem  



Forest glade nymph



By the time we started to walk back to our minibus to return to Shama for lunch, I was feeling somewhat depressed about the situation with regard to mammals and wondered if other locations would be as bad, our next destination was Ankasa Conservation Area, I wondered how bad things might be there, I assumed it should be much better protected, but I wasn't sure how much. 


On our way back we heard the high-pitched whistling call of a chocolate-backed kingfisher, calling continuously from a very high tree, but try as he might James could not find it, I also scanned the tree from every angle but couldn't see it either, but then I assumed if James couldn't find it, then it must be well hidden, eventually the bird flew just after we’d given up looking and went passed us at about 500 miles an hour, I was very glad to have seen it reasonably well in Budongo Forest in Uganda. It is a bird that is almost entirely confined to rainforest and as one of my books says, is more often seen than heard, so it is one of the most difficult of the African kingfishers to see.


Having a certain fondness for alliterative titles, when thinking of what to call this report, one alternative I thought of was “Birds, Butterflies, Bugs and Bushmeat” this would fairly well sum up my visit to this forest.


Day 4 will continue in the next post.

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Day 4 continued


We left the forest and returned to the D & A Guesthouse for lunch, this had been a nice place, quite basic but not in a bad way, the bed was much more comfortable than at the Alexis Hotel and the room had a fan and aircon, the only real issue was that the water in my ensuite bathroom was a little unreliable. The food was pretty good, my recollection was that it was mostly chicken, with some kind of rice and at least once chips.


Some views of Shama



View from the D & A Guesthouse in Shama by inyathi, on Flickr



View from the guesthouse roof









When we were preparing to leave, we were a little surprised that James seemed not to know that there was a fort in Shama, when we asked him if we might see it when we left, I assume no one had asked him about it before and it is much smaller and not as well-known as Cape Coast Castle. From the guesthouse you wouldn’t know that you were still right on the coast, I went up onto the flat roof but couldn’t really see the sea, driving to and from Nsuta Forest it wasn’t obvious either. However, the fort had to be next to the harbour so if we could drive to the harbour then we would have no trouble finding it. So, I said if doesn’t take too long let’s go and look and sure enough when we reached the harbour, we found Fort Saint Sebastian. It is possible to go in and take a tour, but I was content just to take a couple of photos as we drove by, it only added a few minutes to our drive. Had the thought come to me I suppose we could have gone there when we first arrived in Shama, then there might have been time to do a tour, although I think perhaps two forts in a day might be too much, even if this one is a lot smaller.



Fort San Sebastian in Shama








We had quite a long drive to our next destinations Ankasa Conservation Area, which is in the southwest corner of Ghana right on the border with Côte d’Ivoire, we stopped twice along the way first by a small pond, where we found African pygmy geese, lesser and common moorhen and white-faced whistling ducks.



African pygmy geese









African jacana 







Fishing boats on the Ankobra River 


Then we stopped by a wetland on the Eby River, with lots of mangroves, there we good views of a group of Hartlaub’s ducks, some orange weavers. We also saw a visiting osprey and wondered if it was one of our birds from Scotland or even Rutland water in England. This was a great spot, although not when trying to look at malimbes from the bridge, every time a truck went over behind us it made the whole bridge shake disconcertingly.







Hartlaub's duck 



Hartlaub's ducks 













Reichenbach's sunbird 





Fish traps 




Ankasa Conservation Area


We arrived in reasonable time at Ankasa, driving through the gate you cross the bridge over the Ankasa River and then a few hundred yards later arrive at the reception building.



A is for Ankasa





At the end of this seemingly abandoned building is the ablutions block with showers and loos and beyond this some concrete steps up hill, to where the old ranger post was. The rangers have just recently been provided with some very nice new looking bungalows/cottages on the hillside just outside the park.



New rangers' houses


So, their old ranger post on a little hill above the reception building had been abandoned, until Ashanti Tours took it on to use as a campsite, this is where we were scheduled to stay, from the top of the concrete steps which weren’t in the best condition a path went on up through a small area of forest with lots of tree roots to step over and at one point a large concrete block to step over then after a few hundred yards you reach the camp. I’ve stayed in a lot of camps and done a lot of camping, but I hadn't seen one that looked quite like this. The tents which seemed reasonably big and spacious were effectively inside what could best be described as some open-sided sheds, in that they had sloping corrugated iron roofs over the top of them, well Ankasa is serious rainforest, so you wouldn’t want to be camping in a regular tent out in the open when it rains, so it made sense that they were under cover.













At this point we realised that had been a somewhat major misunderstanding, it had we thought been agreed with Ashanti, that we would only come here and use the camp, if the tents had en-suite bathrooms, but we could clearly see that they did not and that guests were expected to use the ablutions down below, at the end of the reception building, the path did have electric lights, but might perhaps have been tricky in the middle of the night. Obviously in the past when camping, the bathrooms have not been ensuite, the issue in this case was just how far away they were and the fact that they were at the bottom of the concrete steps. 



Path back to reception




Another concern was that the tents had a dividing wall across the middle with a door, so that the back part was the bedroom and the front half a sitting area, changing room and luggage area, it had two mesh windows on either side of the front half, so you could unzip the sides to let some air though, but there was no ventilation at all at the back. It seemed likely that during the day they would be unbearable hot, as they obviously had neither a fan nor air con. When we explained our concerns to James, slightly to our amazement, he managed to secure some rooms at a lodge just 10 minutes away. Had he not done so, we would have just had to make the best of staying in the camp for our three nights at Ankasa, to be honest we would probably have been fine, I think I would have just needed to find somewhere else to spend the middle of the day rather than the tent. 


This place was still being constructed, at least they appeared to be building a new dining area that would have stunning view looking down a valley, I say stunning but the view while quite well wooded, was mostly agricultural of sorts and not rainforest, yet not too many years ago it would have been, as was illustrated by a map at the reception that showed changes in land use between 1990 and 2014, showing that not too long the park was still completely surrounded by forest and now it's not. 




The yellow shown on the map is farmland






This landscape would likely have been entirely rainforest not too many years ago, but that forest has now been replaced with agricultural crops of cocoa, cassava, oil palms, rubber trees, etc. 


While there were a few minor problems with the bathrooms, this place was fine and the rooms had fans, the only complication was that all of our food and the cook were at the camp, but that proved not to be too a big a problem as we were only ten minutes from camp, so we would just go to camp for meals. Ashanti obviously realised that their camp while okay, isn’t that great, although most birders do happily stay there, so they are now building a lodge, just outside the park which will likely open next year. That will mean that there is comfortable accommodation right next to the park entrance.



Camp chef Francis did a pretty good job, providing some very good food



Dining Room

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@inyathi  Your description of the slaving centre reminds me of a visit to the Musée d'Histoire in the Portuguese Fort at Ouidah, whilst visiting Bénin. It includes ethnic materials on the Voodoo Religion but its main body shows a similar treatment of slaves by France and Portugal. There are also documents showing the sale of slaves to the Europeans by African slavers who collected up members of enemy tribes and criminals and delivered them to the coastal concentration centres for export.


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@JohnR I'm sure the Dahomey Kingdom sold a lot of people into slavery, so I might assume that the French may have taken many slaves from Benin, to their possessions in the Caribbean like Haiti, although they were of course obtaining slaves from Senegal, I would imagine it was obtaining slaves that first brought the French to the coast of Benin. 


On our way to our new lodgings, we spotted this red-chested goshawk just outside the park gate



Red-chested goshawk, Ankasa Conservation Area in Ghana by inyathi, on Flickr


Days 5-7


Ankasa Conservation Area which comprises the Ankasa Resource Reserve and Nini-Suhien National Park, is the most biodiverse protected area in the country, I hoped well enough protected, that we might see some of this biodiversity, during our short visit, but sadly I had my doubts. The main access road going in to the park, is a single lane forest track, which was wet muddy and deeply rutted, so driving in, in our minibus would have been impossible, for this reason Ashanti have two old Landrover Defenders, to take their clients in, unfortunately the door latches on ours were pretty knackered, so the driver had to keep fiddling with them and slam the doors to shut them properly. It took me some time to work out how to get out, as when you pulled the door handling it didn’t seem to do anything, the Landys are those in one of the photos above in Post 32.


Day 5


On our first foray into Ankasa we were surprised to find a dwarf bittern sitting in the road, it wouldn’t get out the way or would just fly and land again on the road, I decided to get out and take a photo before persuading it to move, but I struggled to open the door.










Our objective on this first morning was to walk to three little ponds alongside the road, they are really too far in, to walk all of the way from the camp, so you have to drive to a parking spot on side of the road and walk from there. When we started walking, almost immediately my spirits were lifted, when I saw some little fungi, that were growing out of some dark fibrous grassy material on the road, this was very clearly elephant dung and you can’t have piles of elephant dung in the rainforest, without at least one forest elephant to have produced them. 







The park ranger Ken who accompanied us, said that a regional elephant survey a few years ago, had suggested there could be as many as 200 in the park, this was very good to hear, as I'd assumed that most of Ankasa's elephants, had perhaps fallen victim to poachers, knowing how much demand there is for forest elephant ivory.


When the road was constructed, three little streams were dammed creating small man-made ponds, we approached the first one very slowly and quietly, because as James would discover for us, there was a white-crested tiger heron, hidden in the bushes, behind the pond. I could see it well enough through my binoculars, but it was too well hidden for a photo, I just couldn't focus on it through the tangle of vegetation, this heron is a real West African rainforest bird and one of the major targets for birders visiting Ankasa, there was also an African finfoot swimming around at the back.






African finfoot 



Female red-fronted antpecker



Western bearded greenbul



Forest glade nymph



Common African toad 


Africa has plenty of frog species, but not that many toads, so I'm fairly confident this is just the widespread common African toad. 


The largest river in Ghana is the Volta over in the east, its three tributaries the White, Red and Black Volta’s all have their sources in Burkina Faso once known as Haute Volta - Upper Volta, some years back a huge dam was built on the Volta to produce hydroelectric power, so much electricity was produced that they decided to build a power line right across southern Ghana and on into Côte d’Ivoire, so they could sell surplus power to the Ivorians. This power line cuts right through Ankasa, we were told that the power now only goes to villages on the border, apparently, so James said, a few years ago a Ghanaian football team went to Côte d’Ivoire to play a team there, the Ivorian fans attacked the Ghanaian fans, badly injuring possibly killing some, so when an Ivorian team came to Ghana, the fans wanted revenge so there was more violence, the government’s response was to turn off the power and stop supplying electricity to Côte d’Ivoire. This was as far as I can recall, the story that James told us, but I haven’t found any information online to confirm this story. 


The huge pylons run down the middle of what looks like a wide fire break, but there should be no danger of fire in this rainforest, the cut line is obviously to stop trees falling on to or growing into the lines and also to stop creepers growing up the pylons.



Electric power lines 










Walking along the road, where it goes through this cleared area, my spirits were lifted again, in the dried mud on the roadside was some very clear antelope spoor. These cloven hoof prints, were too large to have been made by bushbuck, they could only be the tracks of one antelope, its magnificent and much larger cousin the lowland bongo.



Lowland bongo spoor 


I knew we had no hope of seeing one, but just knowing that they are still to be found in the park was great, rainforests are generally dark and gloomy places under the canopy, with very little light reaching the forest floor, so not much can grow in these conditions, as a result food for large terrestrial herbivores is limited. However, work crews have to come in and constantly cut back the young trees and other vegetation to maintain this cut line and keep the pylons clear and this obviously allows plenty of light in, so these cut lines have plenty of food, with all sorts of plants growing in them and constant new growth, from the cut stems which must benefit the bongo, though they likely only come out at night to feed. I’ve never seen this most beautiful of African antelopes in the wild, only in captivity, mainly because the best place to see them is Dzangha Bai in the CAR and I haven’t been there yet. A good few years back, when visiting Malaysia I went to Taman Negara NP and spend the night in a hide overlooking a salt lick, in order to see a Malayan tapir, I’m sure they could do something similar in Ankasa, put up a hide somewhere and create an artificial salt lick, that would at least allow tourists to see bongo at night and maybe in time even in the daytime, but I don’t know to what extent bongo are hunted in Ghana, they are big animals, with a lot of meat to tempt poachers, so I’m sure they must be hunted.


We carried on to the next pond where we found a Hartlaub’s duck.



Hartlaub's duck 



Themis forester 


We returned to the first pond in time to see a white-breasted kingfisher and a young fire-footed rope squirrel.




Young fire-footed rope squirrel




On the drive back to have lunch we spotted a dwarf bittern again, just on the side of the road




After lunch, we returned to our lodgings for a brief siesta, this provided us with a chance to do some laundry, as we were not staying at the camp, we couldn't ask the camp staff to do it and the lodge hadn't provided a laundry bag or basket, it was simpler just to do it ourselves, this was no big deal as it was very sunny, so anything washed dried very quickly.


Mid afternoon we returned to the rainforest. 








Red-headed malimbe 



West African pied hornbill 


I mentioned in my introduction that the Upper Guinea Rainforest (where we were now), is separated from the Lower Guinea Rainforest to the east by the Dahomey Gap, just in the last few years I think, ornithologists/taxonomist have split many of the bird species that occur on both sides of the gap, into two species western and eastern, thus this West African or western pied hornbill is actually now a different species to the eastern pied found in Central Africa, that I've seen previously in Gabon and Uganda and no longer just a subspecies. The same is now true of a good few other birds. The most obvious difference between the two pied hornbills, is that the eastern species has a red tip to the bill, whereas the western has a black tip. I didn't get any better shots of this bird, so here's a link to some other photos of both types, so that you can see the difference. African pied hornbill


Kapok trees are common in the rainforest and their seeds could often be found on the ground underneath



Kapok seeds


Towards the end of the afternoon, went back to the clearing under the power lines to try and call in the yellow-casqued hornbill, but we had no luck, but I did hear distant monkey calls which was great.









Sunset, looking towards Cote d'Ivoire, the border is only around 10 miles away


In the evening we went to one of the other ponds and waited until dusk, eventually we saw a spot-breasted ibis fly over to roost, as well as loads of straw-coloured fruit bats, these I vainly attempted to photograph flying across the Moon, after any number of near misses I gave up, from the shots I did get, I cheated and used Photoshop to create the shot that I'd wanted to get, but didn't, so this next shot is really a fake.



Straw-coloured fruit bat flying across the Moon



After dark we found the brown nightjar and were somewhat surprised to also find as we did so, that we’d been joined by another group of birders, they had evidently only just arrived in Ankasa. 



Brown nightjar



Cercropia tree and the Moon


On our way-out, James asked if we wanted to see the Nkululengu rail, I certainly did, having seen a photo of them in a Ghanaian trip report, so he proceeded to play their call, the call of this bird sounds much more like some kind of weird monkey or other primate call, than a bird call, it is one of the strangest bird calls I’ve ever heard.


Here's a link to recording from Ankasa https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Himantornis-haematopus


The calls produced a response, this I suspect simply confirmed that they were there at their regular roost site and wasn’t intended to call them in. Their response simply told us that it was worth going in to find them, the ranger Ken and James took us a short way along the road and then a few hundred yards along a trail into the forest and there we saw these extraordinary birds settling in to roost on branch. I took plenty of photos, but only the following shot was any good. 



Nkulengu rails

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Peter Connan

Great "shot" of the bat against the moon!

Edited by Peter Connan
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Day 6


In the early morning just after the sunup it would be light, if one were out in the African bush, but it’s still pretty dark in the rainforest at this time, so we birded along the road, until it got much lighter, James attempted to call in the blue-headed wood dove, it came, but flew very fast from one side of the road to the other and back again, never affording us a proper view. The yellow-billed turaco was more cooperative and we were able to see it, once it was sufficiently light we walked a trail into the forest.



Rainforest track, Ankasa Conservation Area, Ghana by inyathi, on Flickr



Uapaca tree


Chasing bristlebills and greenbuls in the rainforest is never easy, the only way to see these birds other than by pure luck is to call them in, and for some of them you have to be inside the forest to do this you wouldn't see them from the road, taking photographs is very difficult, I didn't get any shots of birds we saw in the forest.




It was then back out onto the main track for a bit more birding there.  



Seeing this saloon car go past was a bit of a surprise, I guess they weren't intending to go much further and would just park on the roadside and walk otherwise they would soon get into trouble, the road was fine at this point, but further on it was very deeply rutted, wet and very muddy.


In between looking at birds I chased after some of the butterflies, I don’t think I have ever seen as many butterflies anywhere, as in the Ghanaian rainforest and certainly never before photographed as many. Chasing butterflies is a very frustrating past time, invariably whenever you spot some really beautiful specimen, it either won’t settle anywhere or if it does it closes its wings and then refuses to open them again. Even so, I still got a good few photos of some beautiful species.



Western emperor swallowtail



Common yellow glider male



Common striped swordtails




Then to my slight amazement and delight, three common cusimanses ran across the road, I wasn’t able to get a photo of these small forest mongooses, I saw the first two, but wasn’t quick enough with my camera to catch them and didn’t anticipate a third one.


Photographing invertebrates was somewhat easier



Red-banded millipede





Back at the reception building we took a path down to another bridge over the Ankasa River, the path went through a collection of information boards, these had seen better days due to the climate some of the pictures were a bit indistinct they seemed to have gone mouldy, seeing one that depicts various forest animals, I suggested this was the old restaurant menu. I also commented that monkeys were so rare, that the artist had never seen a Geoffroy’s or white-thighed black and white colobus, the species found in Ghana and had painted a guereza colobus instead, a species that occurs in Central and East Africa, mind you the Bradt guide has made the same mistake and has an illustration of a guereza. In absence of any monkeys or other mammals to photograph, I took plenty of shots of most of these information boards. 



Information board (or restaurant lunch menu?) 






Western tree hyrax


I'd heard the screaming calls of western tree hyrax after sunset in Nsuta forest and we also heard them here, I didn't expect to see one though, but I had been very lucky and seen this species on the Royal Mile, in the Budongo Forest in Uganda.



Lesser spot-nosed monkey 


I hoped that the painting above, wouldn't prove to be the only lesser spot-nosed I'd see in Ghana and that I might get lucky if not here in Ankasa, then at my next destination Kakum NP.





The black and white monkey on this board is clearly a guereza colobus as it has a white cape and large white tuft on it's tail, this colobus species doesn't occur in Ghana, the white-thighed which does, doesn't have the cape and has an all white-tail, the error is I suppose forgivable as they were once I think, considered to be subspecies of a single species. I didn't expect to see any colobus here, but I was confident that I would see the white-thighed colobus before I left Ghana. 






Lowland bongo



The importance of forest elephants








Footbridge over the Ankasa River


The bridge above doesn't actually go anywhere, in that the gate at the end is locked it just gives you an opportunity to look at the Ankasa River and spot birds.



Striated heron




In the afternoon we returned to the lodge for a bit of a siesta, a cooler one than we would have had, if we’d been staying in the camp.


We returned to the park later in the afternoon and followed a trail into the forest, that leads to a hide or as they call it observation post, but that wasn’t our objective, an old and somewhat poorly painted sign, that needed repainting, rather optimistically showed elephants and antelopes of some kind, by a river in front of the hide, we didn't go there so I never saw the hide, therefore I’ve no idea what condition it’s in, but I guess it might not be great and I’m doubtful as to what anyone would likely see from it.




Some way along the trail, James called in a rufous-chested owlet, it came in giving us a good view, it wasn’t too hard to see, because a mass of other birds were mobbing it.



Red-chested owlet


After leaving the owlet, we headed over to the camp for an early dinner, from there we had a good view of a yellow-billed turaco, it perched for some time while I tried to work out how to photograph it, without just ending up with silhouettes. 




Yellow-billed turaco




I didn't really succeed.


After dinner, we walked to the bridge over the Ankasa River, we waited there briefly while James called in an Akun eagle owl, the bird flew in giving us great views, his efforts to call in a Fraser’s eagle owl back at the lodge just a bit later, went unrewarded.



Akun eagle owl 


I suppose three owls in one day was asking too much.

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Day 7 Ankasa morning


On our last morning we walked over to the bridge over the Ankasa River, the bridge is just inside the entrance gate and was where we'd seen the eagle owl, from there we spotted a black bee-eater and a red-bellied paradise flycatcher, but the light was not good for photography.  



Bridge over the Ankasa River and park gate



Ankasa main gate




Crinum natans, African onion plant in the Ankasa River









Combretum grandiflorum 


It was then into the forest alongside the river.



Cassin's flycatcher, Ankasa River



The stilt roots of a uapaca tree






I asked Ken to stand under this kapok tree for a sense of scale



Kapok tree



Common African toad, Ankasa Conservation Area in Ghana



Rainforest stream



Uapaca tree


Most of our time in the forest, was spent attempting to call in various greenbuls and illadopsises, we saw a few, I have to say that they aren’t the most exciting birds to look at, I do wonder sometimes whether I really need to see all of them, when I’m waiting patiently next to a guide who’s trying to call them. The rainforests of Africa are stuffed with different species of greenbuls and as I already mentioned above using playback to call them in, is simply the only way you will ever see them properly if at all. While we were standing in the forest trying to call in some bristlebill, I could hear monkeys calling, returning to the main path I glimpsed some movement but that was all, ranger Ken who’d sat under a tree on the path waiting for us, said that he’d seen them and that they were Lowe’s monkeys.


It was great knowing that there were still at least some monkeys here, but frustrating not to be able to get views of them, I hoped that my chances would be better in Kakum National Park, where we were going next. Before departing from Ankasa and continuing day 7 on to Kakum, I will next add a post on Ankasa's monkeys. 



Edited by inyathi
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Monkeys in Ankasa


After Nsuta Forest the monkey situation was definitely somewhat better In Ankasa, monkeys are if not already extinct in Nsuta Forest Reserve then pretty close to extinction, but then it isn’t a National Park which Ankasa is, (or sort of is) so the situation should be better, but it certainly isn’t as much as it should be. At one time in the past, I would think that this forest, would have been home to almost all of Ghana’s forest primates, that would mean for diurnal species, common chimps, white-thighed (Geoffroy’s) black and white colobus, Miss Waldron’s red colobus, olive colobus, white-naped mangabey, lesser spot-nosed monkey, Lowe’s (mona) monkey and roloway monkey. How many of these survive isn’t completely clear, the Bradt Guide states that is not certain how many if any chimps there are left in Ankasa. Miss Waldron’s red colobus (either a subspecies of the western red Piliocolobus badius waldroni or a full species Piliocolobus waldroni) which occurred in Ankasa, is likely extinct, probably completely so, there have been no confirmed sightings of this monkey since 1978, it is just possible, that a few individuals cling on in the Ehy Forest or the Tanoe Forest in Côte d’Ivoire, but monkeys are still being hunted there, so it’s likely they have been hunted to extinction. An American researcher William Scot Mcgraw, has conducted a number of searches for this monkey in Côte d’Ivoire Update on the Search for Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus Monkey. Unfortunately, red colobus are large conspicuous, noisy monkeys that don’t tend to hide from predators, so if they are around they are not hard to find and are very easy to shoot. They clearly aren't exactly the smartest of monkeys, hunters when interviewed have reported that when they find a troop, if they shoot one, they only need to hide behind a tree for a little while, then they can step out and shoot another one and can quite easily shoot an entire troop this way. It’s no wonder that the Miss Waldron’s red colobus is now probably extinct and if it is, it’s the first primate extinction of recent times, for hundreds of years.  The roloway monkey was (still is by some) considered to be a subspecies of the Diana monkey (Cercopithecus diana roloway), but is now regarded as a separate species (Cercopithecus roloway) it is close to extinction in Ghana, besides bushmeat hunting, the major problem for the roloway is that it is primarily a high canopy species and has therefore been hit much harder by habitat destruction, since it can’t survive in heavily logged secondary forest. The most recent surveys did not see any of these monkeys in Ankasa, though some unconfirmed calls were heard, suggesting that while it’s possible that a very few might survive, it’s likely that they are already extinct in the reserve/park. The white-naped (Cercoebus lunulatus) is now very rare in Ghana, there still low numbers in Ankasa, the population of white-thighed colobus (Colobus vellerosus) has been much reduced. The only monkeys that could be described as still reasonably common are Lowe’s (Cercopithecus lowei) and lesser spot-nosed (Cercopithecus petaurista) the two most common forest monkeys in Ghana and olive colobus (Proccolobus verus). In contrast to its larger red cousins the olive colobus is very quiet and when disturbed will retreat into dense foliage and hide, with its cryptic colouration, this makes it very hard to see, it also has a strong smell, which hunters don’t like.


Securing the Future of Endangered Primates in the Ankasa Conservation Area


In 2001 Heidelberg Zoo in Germany along with various other European Zoos founded WAPCA - West African Primate Conservation Action, to collaborate over the captive breeding of Upper Guinea Rainforest primates, and at the same time work to try and preserve their remaining rainforest habitat in West Africa and ensure that they are better protected in the wild. In 2005 in Ghana they established the Endangered Primate Breeding Centre at Accra Zoo located in the Achimota Forest outside Accra, there they are breeding white-naped mangabeys, that have come from other zoos or are orphans confiscated in Ghana, and also roloway monkeys. Their ultimate aim is to establish a fenced enclosure in the centre of the Ankasa Conservation Area into which they can establish a population of mangabeys, to allow the animals to adapt to life in the wild and then they can be given the freedom of Ankasa Forest. This final stage will likely be some years away in the future, as the monkeys can only be fully released when the entire forest is safe, so at the same time a lot of effort will need to be put into educating local communities, to ensure that the monkeys are not simply hunted again. Mangabeys tend to live on or near ground and are thus vulnerable to hunters with dogs. If they succeed with the mangabeys then I hope that they will be able to do the same for the beautiful roloway monkey as well, Ankasa’s forest is pristine so it should be perfect habitat for roloways.     


The WAPCA website seems to be still under construction, although I have been able to find some pages on the breeding centre Endangered Primate Breeding Centre, they do have a Facebook page






Whilst at Ankasa we met two young research students, we were told that they were conducting a camera trap survey, I now know that this is part of a WAPCA project in Ankasa, having seen photos of the researchers on WAPCA's Facebook page. 



Researchers with their ranger


Possibly the most significant wild populations of the mangabey and the roloway, is in the Tanoe Forest, an unprotected forest just over the border in Côte d’Ivoire, although none have been seen there so far, there is also a slim chance that some Miss Waldron’s red colobus might still survive there, an Ivorian primate conservationist Inza Koné supported by WAPCA, is working hard to ensure that the forest is protected and that hunting can be stopped. But for his efforts, the forest would likely be lost to palm oil plantations and surviving primates would be hunted to extinction. 




The only confirmed population of roloways in Ghana is a recently discovered population in the Kwabre Rainforest in the far southwest on the border adjoining the Tanoe Forest, when found they were the first roloways seen in Ghana since 2003. Like the red colobus these monkeys are fairly large and quite noisy and this makes them an obvious target for bushmeat poachers, the combination of severe habitat destruction and bushmeat, has left the roloway on the verge of extinction it’s now listed amongst the world’s 25 most endangered primates. One article I’ve read from 2012 about the birth of a roloway monkey in a French zoo, put the wild population at just around 200, a more recent article puts the captive population at around 34. I believe that breeding Dianas and roloways in captivity has not proved that easy, it is therefore absolutely vital that the Tanoe/Kwabre population is very strictly protected, currently hunting of monkeys is still going on in Tanoe, stopping this is proving difficult, if it can’t be stopped and if the monkeys can’t be persuaded to breed better in captivity, then the beautiful roloway will follow Miss Waldron’s red colobus and become extinct.   


Primates in Peril, The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2016–2018




Over the last 50 years, roloway monkeys have been steadily extirpated in Ghana. In south-western Ghana – once a stronghold of C. roloway – an ornithological study showed a 600% increase in both legal and illegal logging between 1995 and 2008 (Arcilla et al. 2015). Illegal logging, which makes up 80% of timber harvested in Ghana, is particularly devastating; because it is wholly unregulated or monitored, there are no limits on number, size or species of trees taken. One-third of illegal logging is by companies that take more than their quota, expand into protected areas, and/or continue to log after their permit has expired. The remaining two-thirds are rogue illegal chainsaw operators (Arcilla et al. 2015). Additional factors causing the roloway monkey’s decline are clearing for agriculture, charcoal production and bushmeat hunting. Hunting has very likely been the major cause in the recent crash in roloway populations; bushmeat is a major food source for Ghanaians, with an estimated 80% of the rural population dependent on bushmeat as their main source of protein (Dempsey 2014; Trench 2000). Several recent surveys have failed to confirm the presence of roloway monkeys in any reserves in western Ghana, including the Ankasa Conservation Area, Bia National Park, Krokosua Hills Forest Reserve, Subri River Forest Reserve and Dadieso Forest Reserve (Oates 2006; Gatti 2010; Buzzard and Parker 2012; Wiafe 2013). Community owned forests along the Tano River (referred to as the “Kwabre Community Rain Forest”) in the far southwestern corner of the country are the only localities in Ghana where any roloways have been recorded by scientists or conservationists in the last decade. Kwabre consists of patches of swamp forest along the lower Tano River, adjacent to the Tanoé forest in Côte d’Ivoire. Surveys of these forests have been conducted under the auspices of the West African Primate Conservation Action organization since 2011, and several sightings of roloway groups have been made, along with mona monkeys, spotnosed monkeys, white-naped mangabeys and olive colobus (WAPCA 2014; Dempsey 2014; Osei et al. 2015). WAPCA has supported a community-based conservation project with villages around these forests, establishing a Kwabre Community Resource Management Area, which works to protect the forest through the sustainable management of natural resources. Meanwhile, further efforts should be made to ascertain whether any roloway monkeys still survive in Ankasa, because this site has significant conservation potential and roloways have been reported there in the relatively recent past, as well as the Amazuri Wetlands Area.


In neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire, the Roloway guenon’s status is perhaps even more dire…….



Status of Primate Populations in Protected Areas Targeted by Community Forest Biodiversity Project, Ghana.


Tano-Ankasa Community Forest Project


The only confirmed population in Cote d’Ivoire is in the Tanoe Forest, so the entire wild population is confined to the Kwabre Forest in Ghana and Tanoe Forest in Cote d’Ivoire as far as I can see, I fear that a population of 200 might be optimistic.


The Kingdon Field Guide says the following



Status Roloway Monkey groups are particularly easy to hunt and poach because the males are noisy and easily located. Once common and widespread within its range, most populations have been exterminated in relatively recent times. Arguably one of the most beautiful of African mammals and certainly one of Ghana’s crown jewels, Roloway Monkey will assuredly become extinct if the national governments apathy about conserving natural assets continues. This species survives under nominal protection in the krokusa Hills, in Ankasa Reserve and Nini Suhien and Kakum National Parks in Ghana and in Tanoe Forest in Cote d’Ivoire. Listed on Appendix I (CITES) and by IUCN as endangered.


Obviously, I didn’t see any roloway monkeys and because they are also very rare in captivity, I’ve never actually seen one, only photos and paintings, I don’t therefore have any photos of my own, but I thought it would be good to include a picture of this beautiful monkey, so I decided to create a picture of one. Previously in other threads, I’ve said that its very close relative the Diana monkey, is one of the animals that I most want to see in the wild, I’ve not yet done so. I would need to visit Sierra Leone, thankfully the Diana isn’t quite as endangered yet and seeing them there, on Tiwai Island is a real possibility, it may also be possible to see them next door in Gola Forest NP and perhaps in the Loma Mountains. While I’ve not seen Dianas in the wild, I have seen them and photographed them in captivity, I took one of these photos and then using Photoshop, I put the monkey back in the wild and then made a few alterations to transform it into a roloway. Just to give an idea of what will be lost if Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire don’t get their act together and protect these monkeys.




In Uganda as mentioned, monkeys aren’t bothered by people and don’t mind being seen, except for some of the shyer species, in Ghana if they see or hear people they either hide and stay quite or they flee deeper into the forest, so you are lucky to get even a glimpse, during our excursions into the forest in Ankasa on a few occasions, I saw and heard the evidence of a monkey jumping across into another tree, after having seen us and I heard calls, but I never saw enough to identify anything, most likely they were either Lowe’s or lesser-spot nosed, as these are now as mentioned the two most common forest species in Ghana.


During our time in Ankasa we heard the calls of great blue turacos, the largest turaco and one of Africa’s most charismatic rainforest birds, however, we never saw one, and never saw or heard one anywhere else. When I said near the end of the trip that it was a shame not to have seen one, James told me that they are very rare in Ghana, of course I should have realised this, hunters don’t just shoot mammals, they obviously also shoot birds. It used to be common for people to shoot and eat large birds, he suggested that this was becoming less common, that nowadays most people really prefer to eat chicken, since this is very easily available everywhere, that while there is a quite a bit of meat on a great blue turaco, it maybe didn’t taste that good, compared to chicken.  


The tragedy for Ankasa is having lost a lot of its monkeys and likely most of its chimps, this fantastic rainforest reserve is now of limited interest to anyone other than birders, expanding eco-tourism in the reserve to benefit local communities and encourage conservation of the wildlife isn’t really much of an option, or certainly not in the short term. In the long term perhaps if some of the monkeys are reintroduced, if enough can be bred in captivity and if the surviving chimp population can be allowed to grow, then it might be possible to attract more non-birders. I don’t know how many orphaned chimps there may be in captivity Ghana, but these animals could potentially be returned to the wild to try and boost the wild population, however, when orphaned chimps were released into the wild in Bia National Park north of Ankasa, it’s thought that all of them were eventually hunted.


Perhaps somewhat tellingly one of the much-promoted tourist sites at Ankasa, is the so-called Bamboo Cathedral, an apparently magnificent stand of giant bamboos, I didn’t go there and I don’t imagine that many birders go there, unless they're travelling independently and don’t know any better. Since returning I read a report on Ankasa, by the French couple Dowsett and Lemaire, who are leading authorities on African birds and have conducted bird surveys all over Africa, including all the major conservation areas in Ghana and have written a book on the birds of Ghana. In the report they say



The presence of large clumps of exotic Bamboo Bambusa vulgaris has been claimed as having a high appeal for tourism (by Dyer 1997, and Briggs 2004 among others). Thus Briggs (p. 203) writes “fantastic stand of bamboo forest often referred to as the bamboo Cathedral”, and Dyer (1997: 37): “magnificent stand...forming ...a cathedral-like, vaulted canopy. This feature alone marks Nkwanta as a site of special interest in the Reserve”. Yet these are exotic, invasive plants brought by man, and represent a complete ecological desert. If there is anything striking about this plantation at Nkwanta it is the sudden silence as soon as one enters this “cathedral”. No birds or insects can survive in this artificial habitat and it should be eliminated.


Ornithological surveys in Ankasa Resource Reserve and Nini-Suhien National Park, Ghana (December 2004, December 2009 and August 2010) Françoise Dowsett-Lemaire & Robert J. Dowsett


Despite the depressing situation regarding Ankasa'a primates, the forest in the Ankasa Conservation Area is beautiful and probably the most pristine rainforest in any of Ghana's protected areas, it is still a fantastic place for birding, it does as I discovered still have forest elephants and bongos, even if you have little chance of seeing them and I would hope some of the nocturnal mammals. I don't how much you are allowed to walk around at night, but I would guess that on a night walk with a spotlight, you might perhaps see some interesting nocturnal species, like common potto or some of the galagos. Besides the missing primates, one other thing which Ankassa lacks which would I think add to the forest from a tourism point of view, is that you can't as far as I know get up into the canopy, I think that a great idea would be to put up at least one canopy tower, looking at all those electric pylons running through the forest it's a shame they didn't get them to put up some canopy towers at the same time. Many of the lodges you might visit in the rainforests of South America have canopy towers and they can be very good for birding, and for seeing other wildlife, as well as offering fantastic views of the forest. While we weren't given the opportunity to get up into the canopy in Ankasa, we would get the chance to do so at our next destination Kakum National Park which has a walkway, perhaps this is why Ankasa doesn't, but this is why I would favour just having a tower or two, since Kakum already has a walkway.    

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Fascinating and very informative report, Rob. Thanks for sharing it with us. 

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Day 7 continued


At around mid-morning we left Ankasa for the drive to our next destination Kakum National Park or more specifically Rainforest Lodge in Akroform on the Kakum Road. On this drive I think, we saw a couple of kids on the side of the road one of whom was holding up an Emin’s giant pouched rat, hoping that some passing motorist would stop to purchase it for their dinner, while I’d seen the evidence of poaching, this was thankfully the only bushmeat, we actually saw anywhere.


Some photos from the drive.



Little church in Ghana by inyathi, on Flickr


Ghana has a lot of churches



A slightly bigger church



A common sight, doors for sale in Ghana



Rubber plantation 


Rubber is an expanding crop and may be driving deforestation in some areas.



Overloaded truck accident 


Just about everywhere in Ghana we encountered accidents like this, truck drivers it seems just can't help either overloading their vehicles or not properly securing their loads, perhaps they think Jesus will look after them I don't know, but clearly he isn't much help when your truck is severely overloaded.



Lost load, truck accident 



Fruit stall


We stopped around midday for lunch, at the perhaps somewhat unfortunately named Gerrm Lodge, when I sat down, I noticed that the menu had fallen open on a page that had lobster Thermidor at the top, I was a bit surprised to see this and remarked on it, not realising the waiter was standing nearby, he promptly said "we don’t have that". It wasn’t fortunately what I’d had in mind, instead I ordered grilled tilapia with jollof rice, I’d never had the latter before, but was intrigued to try it, as I knew that jollof rice is a staple dish that is eaten right across West Africa. Essentially, it’s rice cooked with tomatoes in vegetable stock with various herbs and spices at least that’s my understanding, but it’s one of those dishes that has no fixed recipe, so each time you have it somewhere new, it will be slightly different, sometimes it had bits of onion and pieces of vegetables in it, sometimes it didn’t and everyone thinks that their version is the best.



De Gerrm Lodge in Ghana


It was a very good lunch; the restaurant was decorated with ribbons and party balloons hung from the ceiling fans, because evidently someone was having a birthday party later.




A few hours later we stopped in an area of savanna known as the Brennu Grasslands to look for the brightly coloured oriole warbler, after a short walk around we found the bird, so carried on our way.




Sanga cattle, Brenu Grasslands 





African harrier hawk or gymnogene



oriole warbler


A lousy shot of the oriole warbler a West African bird that I'd wanted to see, if only because it looks quite spectacular in the book, it wasn't very cooperative when I tried to photograph it, but I wasn't sure if I would see more of them.


We arrived at Rainforest Lodge at around 18:00 after check-in the receptionist took me to my room, and turned on the light switch to no effect, she then tried another switch and then the ceiling fan and the air con, there was no power, the room had two ceiling lights evidently one off the bulbs had blown and the trip switch had gone down. She then had to wait a little while, for someone with a key to unlock the broom cupboard where the trip switches are, problem solved, except for the blown bulb, but I didn’t really mind only having only one light. I was just glad that as I had correctly surmised, it was just the trip switch, as I didn’t fancy having no fan or air con.


When choosing dinner, I thought that they had ridiculous amount of choices on the menu and soon discovered that it makes life much simpler, if you just ask them first what they actually have, otherwise you’re sure to pick something that they don’t have, in this case it was beef. Mostly my diet throughout was either chicken or fish, mainly the former just because it seemed to be the most available, and there was a greater selection of different chicken dishes. This would always be served with your choice of carbohydrates, I usually alternated between rice and chips, the portions of either were usually larger than I really wanted. Menus always had a page of local dishes, generally when we asked about these our guide would say you wouldn’t want that, although he generally ate local food, there were a lot of things that he wouldn’t chose to eat, one of the other regional staples Is fufu, this is made from cassava that has been pounded, it’s then formed into little balls, it essentially fulfils the same function as what in East Africa they call ugali, it’s just made from cassava rather than maize flour, and made into balls which ugali isn’t, James didn’t recommend it, so I gave it miss. As mentioned before, everywhere we went at the end of each meal you would order the next, so in theory it would arrive soon after you sat down. When on the road we would stop at the same restaurants that Ashanti must always use, so James would usually phone ahead and order lunch in advance, this saved a lot of time. Rainforest Lodge may have had its faults but I thought the food was good, besides chicken or fish I did once have pizza, most places seemed to have pizza on the menu, it would be my first choice of food in the Ghanaian climate, it just made a change. Everywhere perhaps as you would expect offered chips/fries, so I was interested to learn these are apparently made entirely from imported potatoes, they don't seem to grow what are often referred to in Africa as Irish potatoes, I didn't discover where they import them from. They were always very good, but I felt I really couldn't have them for every meal, and I was usually quite happy with rice as an alternative.     

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Kakum National Park 

Days 8-11


Day 8 morning


Besides wanting to see the pica-fart-es, the chance to visit Kakum National Park, was one often reasons I’d really wanted to go to Ghana for a long time, the park is famous for its canopy walkway, the first and for a long time only one in Africa. I'd been up into the rainforest canopy a good few times in South America and South East Asia but never in Africa before, largely because until now I'd never had the opportunity.


The plan was to go there first thing in the morning leaving after an early breakfast. Ghana, could perhaps, it seemed to me be called the land of the half-finished, because as doubtless happens in some other countries, a politician would promise to improve a road or build a school, hospital or whatever, then after they were elected it would take so long to get the work started, that by the time of the next election it would only be part done, a new man or woman would be voted in and they would decide that the project was a waste of money and pull the plug, leaving it half finished. The person who’d started the project and been thrown out, would then try to get re-elected on the promise that they would finish the job. This unfortunately was the case with the Kakum road, the local MP, who evidently came originally from one of the communities along the road, decided to upgrade what had presumably just been a single lane dirt road, turning it into something about as wide as a motorway, having bulldozed through this huge dirt road and graded it, they proceeded to apply tarmac, they covered one whole section and then one side of another section, but then the MP was voted out, someone new was voted in and they pulled the plug on the road scheme. So, although it is only 20 minutes from the lodge to Kakum, one of the country’s main tourist attractions the last part of the road is terrible, there might be some sense in all of this, if the road didn't really go anywhere. 



Morning mist, rainforest Kakum National Park, Ghana by inyathi, on Flickr



Start of the canopy walkway trail


From the HQ reception area, it’s quite short walk up hill, although this involves a lot of steps, but there are places to rest on the way up should you struggle, not that it’s really that hard. We walked up not long after it had started to get light, once you’ve cleared the steps, the path goes along the side of the hill, a relatively short distance to the start of the walkway. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with canopy walkways, towers etc, I’ve climbed many such structures around the world, because I love being in the canopy, but I seriously hate heights, fortunately not quite badly enough to stop me going up, but it doesn’t help me to enjoy the experience. The first walkway I ever went up was in Taman Negara in Malaysia, I would hope it might have changed, but my understanding at the time of my visit, was that on most weekdays the walkway first opened at 09:00 and on Fridays at 10:00, since it got light there at around 07:00, going up into the canopy at 09:00 was really far too late. I went up anyway for the experience, the walkway there is the same design as the one in Kakum, wooden platforms built around the trunks of tall trees, connected by bridges made of nets hung from ropes, these in turn are suspended from steel cables, in the bottom of the nets are ladders with wooden planks fixed on top of them. I went around that first one extremely slowly and discovered that if someone steps on behind you at the wrong time, it causes the bridge to sway unpleasantly up and down. People really need to be told when to follow someone, onto one of the bridges so as to avoid this. I’ve no doubt that my issue with heights, is all connected with balance, because I also suffer from bad motion sickness and I’m sure there’s a link, certainly being on one of these bridges, when it starts swaying is really not pleasant. Needless to say, that first canopy experience wasn’t improved by the fact, that as I suspected would be the case, I didn’t see anything. I might have hoped having been on many more walkways and towers since, that my issue with heights might not be so bad, but that’s not the case. As with that first walkway, because you are starting on the side of a hill, you only have to climb a short flight of stairs, to get up onto the walkway. Once I got on, I decided that my strategy, would be to not look down from the bridges and just focus on the tree at the other end in front of me, use the ropes as hand rails and just walk very slowly, when no one else was on the bridge that way it wouldn’t sway much at all. The only difficulty, was that to get off each platform onto the next bridge, you had to make a short step down onto the plank and doing that without looking down was a bit of a challenge.









From the platforms, you look across at other tall trees, which seemed remarkably well spaced apart, underneath these trees, was a much lower canopy of dense green foliage, forming a sort of blanket, that completely obscured the forest floor. First thing in the morning it was pretty misty and the light was rather difficult, so it wasn’t easy to get good views of birds, the morning proved to be pretty quiet and disappointing compared to what we had expected. One problem was there evidently weren’t any trees in fruit close to the walkway, so James’s attempts to call in yellow-casqued and black-casqued hornbills proved unsuccessful, because there were clearly none sufficiently close. Overall, we didn’t see nearly as many birds as we had hoped, or as some birders do, I did although get to see a red-legged sun squirrel carrying nesting material up to its tree hole.




Red-legged sun squirrel














Collared sunbird



Female superb sunbird





Tourists on the canopy walkway


We encountered a few other tourists on the walkway later on in the morning, but it didn't get too busy and there were none first thing when we got on, most sensible tourists prefer to have a lie in and a leisurely breakfast, rather than be up before first light with us mad birders.




Click on this (and other panoramas) and then click it again to view a bigger version on Flickr, it should open in a new window.



Park ranger/guide, canopy walkway


For some reason I don't remember the name of our ranger, I'm not sure why as almost everyone we met in Ghana seemed to have a familiar common English name, unlike in some other parts of Africa, where names may not always be so familiar.









Kapok tree


I’d really hoped that here, I might actually get to see some monkeys, one did briefly appear, but I only glimpsed it and didn’t see enough for an ID, as it very quickly disappeared under the lower canopy again, making it impossible to see anything except occasional movement. Besides having to contend with human hunters, monkeys still have to be on the lookout for their natural predators, like the crowned eagle, any monkey that sat out on top of the canopy for any time, wouldn’t last too long, so when they move they stay under the canopy, out of sight from above, still at least I’d seen one. Eventually we decided it was too quiet and getting hot, so we should pack it in and go back to the lodge for lunch and then return to the walkway in the afternoon. Sweat bees seem to be a bit of feature of canopy walkways, I have encountered plenty of them in South America, while in the canopy and now while here in Africa, these tiny black bees are quite harmless, just extremely annoying. As the day warms up more and more of them arrive, attracted by your sweat, until there are small swarms of them, at moments my hands and arms were completely covered with them, this I could live with, they’re just a mild irritation as they only tickle a bit. The problem is the ones that fly around your face, if there are swarms of them, they fly into your eyes, into your ears, crawl up your nose or in to your mouth, and there’s really nothing you can do. You can try wearing a head net, but that’s not practical for birding/wildlife viewing or photography and isn’t 100% effective as they are so small some always manage to still get In, you can apply insect repellent to your arms and perhaps your ears, but not the rest of your face, you're sweating profusely, so any you put on your forehead, would quickly run in to your eyes, that you really don’t want at all. Generally, when they get too bad it is usually time to leave, they don’t seem to follow you down, however, as I have found before and would discover later on, on this trip, they can be as bad or worse on the ground.  





Common yellow glider 






Light brown forester



Mandinga forester female



Large fairy hairstreak



Exiting the Canopy Walkway Trail


This sign and the numerous T-shirts for sale in the souvenir shops at the entrance, that say “I survived the Walkway” rather sums up, what the canopy walkway is all about for most visitors, certainly after I went around the Taman Negara walkway, I felt that it was a lot like a fairground ride. For most tourists that’s what the walkway offers, a thrill, a chance to test your nerve, they don’t come to try and see the wildlife, and perhaps fortunately for us wildlife enthusiasts, they tend to go around when the wildlife isn’t active. Of course, some of them may go home, wondering why they didn’t see any animals because they don’t know that they went around at the wrong time of day. In Malaysia I’d had no option but to go around the canopy at what I knew was the wrong time, so I wasn’t that surprised that I saw nothing there, here we been around the walkway at the right time, we just hadn't been as lucky as some visitors to Kakum.  




Common agama




After a fun, but somewhat disappointing morning, I wondered what the afternoon might bring.

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Matias Cox



I could not fail to register the satisfaction in reading your report. Your comments, photos and various links are much appreciated. The blend of historical, cultural, culinary elements ... make up a very comprehensive picture and your visit to the forested areas of Ghana in search of birds is a much larger colloquy. Connecting what is seen today in this country with its long-suffering past provides the reader with an understanding of how much tourism visitation is important for the maintenance and valuation of what remains of nature.


The continuous forests of Ghana seem to have disappeared. I have been quickly researching the size of these parks you visited, and I was aware, coupled with your good information, of the likely ecological conditions that elephants and bongos face, and envisioning a good future for larger forest species seems to require more than these fragmented forests can offer the genetic health of this resilient small population.


A little late, you are in Kakum, I came across some interesting studies on Ankasa, are three publications: the first of the year 2000, on pages 102 to 109 presents all the animal life, hitherto existing, in Ankasa - search the Google term "Ankasa Conservation Area Management Plan" - it was not possible to provide a direct link; the second: Ornithological surveys in Ankasa Resource Reserve and Nini-Suhien National Park, Ghana (December 2004, December 2009 and August 2010); Third: The Ankasa Forest Conservation Area of Ghana: Ecosystem service values and on-site REDD + opportunity cost


The beauty of Roloway`s Diana Monkey is indescribable, a masterpiece of nature. I'm sure the Pica-bloody-fartes will appear at the right time :)

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Fascinating report, I love all the background stories you provide!

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@Matias Cox Thanks, I think I had skimmed through the management plan already and the ornithological surveys, but I'm not sure about the third one, I have had another look at the management plan, it does say that they intend to put some towers up and also mentions providing hides and salt licks. I should really have read the whole thing properly, at some point I will do that, I was interested to read that some of the monkeys won't cross the cut line where the power line is, because they won't come down to the ground and that this has divided populations and thus further impacted Ankasa's monkeys, I hadn't considered this, but it should have been obvious given how wide the cut area is. I've no idea how they resolve this issue, or even if it really is a big issue given how few monkeys there are, I'm not sure about lesser spot-nosed, but certainly Lowe's monkeys I would think could cross the ground. Obviously, the instinct of many forest monkeys, would be to avoid the ground because of leopards and other predators. I was also interested to read that tourists could be taken on night walks accompanied by an experienced night hunter, he should certainly know how to find animals, I would just hope that if he's being paid to show tourists nocturnal wildlife, he won't be out shooting it in his spare time. I'll try and read through all of it and more before I get to the end, so I can write a bit more about conservation in Ankasa and Ghana if need be then, rather than add more now.


Since I've been a member here and written trip reports, I try and remember to take at least a few photos of the accommodation I'm staying in, in case I want to produce a report, although I often only remember about taking photos, just after I've already messed up the room:rolleyes:, on this tip, I think in the end I only ended up photographing the one room, here at Rainforest Lodge, so I thought I'd post something about this lodge, before returning to the rainforest.


The accommodation in Ghana wasn’t always that great, I suppose I would say it was mostly pretty average, but then I knew that would be the case and to be fair this is often the case on birding trips, generally for the places we were visiting, I wouldn’t have expected the best accommodation. However, as Kakum National Park is one of the country’s major tourist attractions, I might have expected Rainforest Lodge in the town of Akroform some 20 minutes from the park, to be rather better than it is, since it is I would think entirely catering for visitors to Kakum, whereas some of the other places we stayed, were just general hotels catering for anyone, rather than specifically tourists. 


To get from the reception to your room or from your room to the dining room, you had to go outside and walk around the garden, not unusual in a lodge, but obviously here next door to a rainforest, it rains a fair bit. To allow guests to get around without getting wet in the event of rain, they had, covered the garden paths with a thatched roof, but this had obviously fallen so badly into disrepair, that they had removed the entire thing, and were rebuilding it from scratch. I'd mistakenly assumed this was some entirely new idea, but since returning home, I've seen photos of the lodge showing the old roof over the paths. They had only got as far as putting up some wooden 'A' frames to support the roof, with just some planks laid on one section, as far as I could see there was no actual work going on while we were there, so progress, on what one might have thought was quite a simple job, was slow. This meant in the event of rain you would have to rely on your own waterproofs to stay dry, as they didn’t provide umbrellas in the rooms, as many places I’ve stayed do, presumably they saw no need on account the paths being under a roof. They were also relaying the garden paths or rather perhaps not relaying the paths, as no work was being done.


46718586464_88d30970e3_o.jpgRainforest Lodge, Akroform near Kakum National Park, Ghana by inyathi, on Flickr


My room just had a large bed, an armchair and a table and chair, there was no wardrobe, just a short metal rail projecting from the wall, designed to hold half a dozen coat hangers. Other than the table there was no other place to put you bag except on the floor, the bathroom had a shower in the corner with a little bit of circular wall at the base, but there was no actual cubicle or even shower curtain, to stop water going onto the bathroom floor. Back in the bedroom, just next to the door a little TV was bolted to the wall, when I got into bed the first night, I saw it had a roughly one-centimetre square red light on the front as it was on standby, and I thought I really should have turned that off, before I got into bed. I turned the lights back on went over to the TV and discovered, that  it was one of those stupid modern sets, that you can’t switch off, because when I pressed the button on the side, that just turned it on or put it back on standby. I then thought OK I’ll just have to switch it off at the wall, only to discover it wasn’t plugged into a socket, the electric cable at the back went directly into the wall, there was therefore no way to switch it off, I didn’t really think it would keep me awake, but it annoyed me so I draped one of my shirts over it.


What I really found more curious, is that the only information provided in the room, was a laminated sheet of paper advertising the services of a health spa, telling you, that you could have someone come to your room to administer various massages, or you could actually visit the spa itself, this turned out to be back in Cape Coast, there you could have other health treatments like colonic irrigation. There was no information on any other services, that the hotel might actually provide such as well, laundry service for example, as seemed to be the case with everywhere we stayed, there was no laundry bag/basket or laundry list in the rooms, if you wanted them to do some, you evidently had to take it to the reception and ask them. This didn’t bother me much, as I’m used to doing some of my own laundry when travelling, so I was happy to wash my own shirts, underwear etc. So before heading to lunch I did some washing, my room on the first floor had no balcony and I didn’t want to open the windows because of the air con, so there was nowhere to hang my laundry outside my room. I could have taken it out and hung it the garden somewhere, but I didn’t really want to do that, but this didn’t matter, because I knew from past experience, that with a ceiling fan and air-con, I’d have no difficulty drying it in the room, all I needed to do was hang it in the shower to drip for a little while first and then hang it in the room, from the curtain rail directly under the air-con using their coat hangers and by the time we were due to go out again it was entirely dry. I just put the bath mat underneath to catch any further drips, to avoid getting water on the floor.



Not much of a substitute for a wardrobe






I was also very pleased I hadn’t taken it outside, because during my siesta time, whilst reading my book, I glanced out the window and noticed it was raining, this unexpected rain quickly turned into a serious tropical downpour, I was very glad when it stopped. It was fortunate that this had not happened earlier, when we wanted to go to lunch or when we were due to go out again, it showed why they need the roof over the garden paths, with no umbrellas in the rooms, you’d either be trapped in your room or have to put on waterproofs. Given the various things wrong with Rainforest Lodge, I was slightly annoyed going through the reception one evening, to see that they had a projector on the ceiling that created a spinning circular logo in the middle of the floor, I thought they might have had better things to do with their money.


I hope if anyone here decides to go to Ghana and stays at this place, that they will find that they have sorted out the garden paths etc, despite what I've said about my room, this wasn't such a bad place to stay and it wouldn't really take much, to turn into really quite a nice place to stay. Thankfully, the afternoon's tropical rainstorm was short lived and so didn't effect our plans for the rest of the afternoon, I was quite worried that it might possibly rain again, just when we wanted to go back up into the rainforest canopy.  

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Day 8 Afternoon


We left around 15:00 to return to Kakum to revisit the walkway. If you visit various lodges in South America that have walkways or towers, the only other tourists there will be other lodge guests and if there are several birding groups staying, then they usually arrange it so that you go up on different days, that way when you do go up, you have the exclusive use of the walkway or tower. Obviously with a walkway like this one, in a National Park that's open to everyone, you have to contend with other more general tourists and possibly quite a lot of them. As we went back up the stone steps of the walkway trail, a I suspect Ghanaian-American family was going up at the same time, their accents seemed to vary between Ghanaian and American, so I wondered if perhaps the parents had emigrated from Ghana to the US. Whatever the case, there were three adults, a teenage son and daughter and then two much younger daughters, who frankly looked too young and small to go around the walkway. Perhaps not surprisingly, when they got onto the walkway, there was a lot of screaming and crying from the young children, who weren’t happy at first at all, then the teenage boy, I guess while taking a photo, dropped his mobile phone on the first bridge, it fell into the net and slid under the plank, so he and his parents had to get down on their knees to retrieve it. I was quite amused by this performance, but they had retrieved the phone, before I could take a get a photo, I was though slightly worried about the amount of noise they were making, but it was still quite early, fortunately the young girls calmed down and they managed to get them around safely and then quickly went away.



A bit too young for the canopy walkway? by inyathi, on Flickr


They were then followed by a number of African Americans, with very strong southern accents, they found the walkway a bit of a challenge, their strategy unlike mine was to try and cross the bridges as quickly as possible, as they went around they shouted encouragement to each other and congratulated each other loudly, when they crossed each bridge, they were clearly having an enjoyable time, despite being obviously rather scared. I might have wished they had been quieter, but I didn’t begrudge them their fun, Kakum is only a few hours drive from Cape Coast, so likely earlier that day or the day before, they had been touring the slave dungeons of Cape Coast Castle, seeing where their ancestors had most probably spend their last days in Africa. 








When you're not keen on heights, it's good to know that the platform that you are standing on, is attached to a good strong tree, after looking at the bark of this tree, I thought it would be interesting to take some close ups of the bark and stitch them together.



My friend the tree


Once the Americans had gone, things quietened down and with no more tourists, we started to see some birds, and then I was extremely pleased to actually see quite clearly, my first forest monkey, a lesser spot-nosed climb up into a tree.



Lesser spot-nosed monkey 


It then moved off, it was clearly part of a troop that were moving through the canopy, we only caught glimpses of them, while they were moving, but then eventually we saw some of them very well, feeding in a tall tree. I had known that I might well see some monkeys from the walkway, but after the morning, I wasn’t convinced that I actually would or that I would get good views.




Besides these monkeys, there are also Lowe’s monkeys and olive colobus but I didn’t see either, the colobus is much shyer than the others, and quite how you spot a shy and I presume mostly olive coloured monkey, in amongst the tree foliage I don’t know, although having said that, I’ve seen photos of these monkeys taken from the walkway. A mammal watching trip report I've read suggests that all three of these monkey species are common around the walkway, so maybe I was a little unlucky not to see olive colobus or Lowe's at all here. In the same report they say they heard but did not see Geoffroy's/white-thighed colobus near the HQ, but in one birding report I've read, they actually saw a troop of white-thighed colobus from the walkway, this surprised me as I'd assumed they were pretty rare in kakum, but perhaps they aren't quite as rare as I thought. The same mammal report also mentions that there are Diana monkeys, by which they mean roloways and says they are rare and/or hard to find, if you search online for information on Kakum, various websites claim there are Dianas in Kakum, the Bradt Guide also states that there are, and in my piece about Ankasa's monkeys, I quoted from the KIngdon Field Guide, where he says that roloway monkeys are nominally protected in Kakum. I thought, I should therefore just say that this is all out of date and that the roloway/Diana monkey is clearly extinct in Kakum, as the endangered primate report I quoted from, in that earlier post says 



Community owned forests along the Tano River (referred to as the “Kwabre Community Rain Forest”) in the far southwestern corner of the country are the only localities in Ghana where any roloways have been recorded by scientists or conservationists in the last decade.


That makes it pretty clear to me that there can't be any, anywhere in Kakum anymore, I just thought I should say this, as you will see it stated that these monkeys, still commonly called Dianas occur in Kakum, I should perhaps have put a link to the IUCN distribution map for the roloway in that earlier post, I'll add it here, Kakum is almost directly north of Cape Coast so you can clearly see that none of the surviving populations are anywhere near Kakum. If you set the background layer to Nat Geo, when you zoom in you will see that Kakum is marked on the map.


IUCN roloway map


I'm not sure if red colobus ever occurred in Kakum, but just for interest here's the IUCN map for the presumed extinct Miss Waldron's red colobus, this suggests it occurred a bit further west in Ghana than Kakum  


IUCN Miss Waldron's red colobus map


It was great to have finally seen some forest monkeys properly, it was now sunset, but we weren’t ready to leave just yet, for the real star of the show was still in bed, the remarkable Pel’s anomalure, I’d seen a photo of one taken here in a bird report, but didn’t know if I might actually get to see one. If there’s a candidate for Africa’s coolest mammal then it this could well be it, for those not familiar with these animals, anomalures are essentially African flying squirrels. A family of the Pel’s species, spend their day roosting in a hole, high up on the trunk of the first tree on the walkway, so you just have to stand on the next platform and wait until dark and hope that they are at home. This was the first time I’d ever been up in the rainforest canopy after dark and was a slightly strange experience, as the sun went down and it got darker and darker, I crossed my fingers and waited, and waited, as we seemed to be there for a a very long time, with nothing happening, I was really starting to think that nothing would happen. Then suddenly one emerged and jumped from the tree, I saw a distinctive dark rectangular shape as the anomalure spread its "wings" and glided off into the forest. Then suddenly more appeared and started running up the trunk of the tree, unfortunately due to a fair bit of incompetence on my part, I didn’t get any great photos, because I discovered that of course, my autofocus really doesn’t work at all in the dark, and trying to focus manually was tricky. What I probably should have done is autofocused on their hole, when there was enough light to see and for it to work and then switched the autofocus off, so that later when I pressed the shutter button I wouldn’t find that everything had gone out of focus and then wouldn’t refocus. The light from James’s torch beam clearly wasn’t strong enough, at that range for my autofocus or maybe he wasn’t shining directly on the animals enough, this was probably kinder for the anomalures, so I'm not complaining. We watched these amazing looking black/dark brown and white animals for some time, before we lost track of them and decided that in any case, we had disturbed them with our torches long enough. What was amazing was that all of the time we were watching them, we could here fairly loud music drifting up from I suppose the reception area down below, ordinarily I might have said that this rather spoilt things, but it didn't, just because I was so pleased to be watching a family of such extraordinary mammals, that I didn't mind the audio intrusion.



Pel's anomalure


We left the walkway and headed back downhill to return to the lodge for a late dinner, we were told that they have a guard who spends the night at the entrance to the walkway, I presume just to be sure that no poachers or anyone else can get onto the walkway during the night, although thinking about it, if poachers ventured onto the walkway with a shotgun and a spotlight, I'm not sure how they would find anything they shot. Kakum's walkway hadn’t perhaps delivered the birds I’d hoped, but it had delivered a very cool mammal, one I hadn’t expected I would ever see.:):):)


It just occurred to me, that I should have added a distribution map for Pel's anomalure, it is an Upper Guinea endemic, so besides Ghana it is only found in Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, I would guess that the walkway in Kakum has to be the best place to see one, IUCN map


The IUCN call it Pel's flying squirrel, but Kingdon calls it Pel's anomalure and I prefer this name.







Edited by inyathi
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Day 9


The following day was spend doing some forest edge birding on the boundary of Kakum, this gave us good views of some nice birds like the black-throated coucal which is rainforest species that’s not easy to see and the beautiful black bee-eater. As expected, there were no mammals to be seen except the occasional green squirrel, forest edge birding from a road, is a lot easier than from a forest trail deep inside the forest, but it's not going to offer much of a chance of seeing mammals, in a country like Ghana with so much hunting of wildlife.



Woman and child, Antikwa Road Kakum National Park in Ghana by inyathi, on Flickr


There are a lot of local people using these roads every day to get around, so any mammals would likely stay deeper in the forest away from any people. 






Misty morning, Antikwa Road, Kakum National Park







A welcome sight


Wildlife Division Rangers on patrol



African joker



African pygmy kingfisher



Black-throated coucal


I'm getting better at identifying African butterflies, although some of them aren't easy, but with moths I don't have a clue 






White-spotted flufftail


Flufftails are a family of birds that are I would think almost impossible to see by chance, they are just so shy and secretive, the only way you really have any chance of seeing one is to call it in, which James did with the white-spotted species, when I visited Uganda, our guide there Martin did the same at Bigodi Swamp near Kibale Forest, while I saw the bird there it was a challenge, I didn't get such a great view as this, as it really refused to come into the open. They tend to live in amongst thick tangles of vegetation, so even when called in they can still be hard to spot, to not only see one very well but get photos, was pretty amazing.     



Dark blue pansy






Black bee-eater



Plain tiger 



Landscape near Kakum National Park


The world's number one producer of cocoa is Côte d'Ivoire, followed by Ghana at number two.



Cocoa trees



Cocoa pods



Drying cocoa beans 


Cocoa production is another driver of deforestation, as people clear more land to create new plantations, but it need not be completely disastrous because, the young trees ideally need to be grown in shade, so it's actually better to leave some of the rainforest trees and grow the cocoa underneath. Just recently the RSPB have started selling bars of rainforest chocolate produced from shade grown cocoa, grown around the edge of Gola NP in Sierra Leone where they have been working to protect this important rainforest, their objective is to provide additional income from the forest for local people. I haven't purchased any of this chocolate as yet, as they are selling it for a fairly premium price but it is a good initiative.   


In the afternoon we birded in the Abrafo Forest Reserve near Kakum, it was very quiet. 






Cercropia tree 


When I saw an abundance of Cercropia trees in Gabon, I assumed it must be a native West African tree, but then I also know it is a common tree across the Atlantic in South America, where I have seen plenty of these trees, from what I've read I now think it's not native to Africa, but was introduced from South America, but I haven't completely confirmed this to my satisfaction, so I'm not certain, it seemed a fairly common tree in Ghana.  


After dark we managed to call in a Fraser’s eagle owl on the second attempt.



Fraser's eagle owl

Edited by inyathi
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Day 10



International Stingless Bee Center near Kakum National Park, Ghana by inyathi, on Flickr


Setting off early again, we headed off towards The International Stingless Bee Centre, this place was set up a few years ago to study these insects, passing through the village on the way there we saw quite a few people walking around going about their business. Including one man dressed in ordinary clothes and wellington boots who was carrying a shotgun, seeing someone carrying a gun near a national park, you might perhaps think they were a ranger, but the fact that he was not wearing any kind of uniform and also that he had a shotgun indicated that he was a hunter. Or rather I would call him a poacher, even if he confined his hunting to the area outside the park, it was still likely illegal, although there is legal hunting in Ghana, with a licence you can hunt certain species, but I would doubt there’s that much to hunt outside the park. In the UK to buy a shotgun, you have to first obtain a shotgun certificate, from your local police force, this is fairly straightforward, you just fill in an application form, and then get an unrelated law-abiding citizen, who's known your for two years, to act as a referee and vouch for your sanity, you then take your certificate to a gun-shop and buy your gun, you also need this certificate to buy cartridges. In Ghana, it seems that you can just go to a shop and buy a gun, but, having done so, you are supposed to take it to your local police station, to have it registered, whether people always do this I don’t know. It doesn't seem to me that hunting laws are very rigorously enforced, so I don't imagine that the police go around checking if people's guns are registered, or that hunters have a licence to hunt. I will say more about hunting laws in Ghana later on.


We didn't actually go to the Bee Centre, we just birded along the road nearby for a while, which James referred to as the Stingless Bee Centre road, in the afternoon, we went back and birded in the Abrafo Forest Reserve again and then went to look for a black-shouldered nightjar.



Old taxi 



Little boy 



Off to work



Chestnut and black weaver 



Cnestis ferruginea 



Red-cheeked wattle eye



Green mamba


The mamba was moving relatively fast, I just wasn't quick enough with my camera to get the snakes head in shot, but at least I caught some of it before it disappeared.






Oil palms 


As most readers will be aware, huge areas of tropical rainforest principally in South East Asia, but increasingly in South America and Africa have been cleared to grow oil palms. The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) originated in West Africa, so here it is a native plant and thus its impact, is perhaps not quite so severe as elsewhere, at least when grown in small plantations like this one. The area of oil palm production however, is expanding in West Africa, if this results in further large scale deforestation, then it will certainly start to have, as severe an impact on wildlife as it has everywhere else that it's grown. If you go to Google Earth and zoom in enough on southern Ghana, around Kakum you can see quite distinctly oil palm plantations, but most of them appear to be relatively small. 



Oil palm fruits 







Grasshopper Abrafo Forest Reserve






Black-shouldered nightjar, Abrafo Forest Road

Edited by inyathi
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@inyathi once again thanks for all the hard work and research you've put into your report. Such a delight to read. Although the Nsetu forest section made for really depressing reading. wiping out all the primates and life in whatever is left of the forest for bushmeat is sad but it's hard to condemn the local people who need to survive but have little to pay for meat that's available or who need an income but have no other viable options. 


So, it was a welcome relief to read about Ankasa and Kakum which still have some wildlife left. 

The canopy walkway inthe rainforest reminded me of the Danum Valley treetop walkway, and where we had watched the Bornean giant flying squirrel make their flights in the evenings. It was one of the top highlights for us!


Still waiting for you pica-bloody-fart-es......


Edited by Kitsafari
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Thanks @Kitsafari not much longer to wait, another mornings general birding to get out of the way and then it's off in search of pica-bloody-fart-es :)


Day 11 morning 


In the morning we birded along a road through the Abrafo Forest Reserve



How to transport a barrel, Abrafo Forest Road, Ghana by inyathi, on Flickr



Simple greenbul



Common fiscal 



Commelina erecta (I think)


Along the first part of the road we marvelled at this vast unfinished hotel that some local businessman had decided to build years ago, it looked like some huge palace, perhaps produced by the same architect Saddam Hussein used for his palaces. whether it will ever be finished seemed doubtful and quite who he thought would stay there I don’t know.



Grand folly, hotel under construction near Kakum National Park



Great spotted cuckoo






Burnt bamboo



Western long-tailed or white-crested hornbill



Black crowned tchagra



White-throated bee-eater


I said earlier that I don't know anything about moths, but this stripey one is so colourful and distinctive that I think I have identified it.



Moth Euchromia folletii


During the morning I heard two shotgun blasts from somewhere, not a welcome sound.


Around 09:30 after finally spotting Puvell’s illadopsis we departed from the Kakum area, to head on to our next destination Bonkro Forest.


I didn't get a photo of Puvell's illadopsis as it's a real skulker and not the most exciting bird to look at, but a good bird to find, as it is almost entirely West African in distribution, it does actually occur in East Africa, but only in a small section of the Budongo Forest in Uganda, to see it there you have to visit Kaniyo Pabidi, I've never been to this site, when I've visited Budongo, it didn't seem worth going there just for this one bird.


Before moving on, having seen a hunter/poacher and now heard shots, I should add in relation to bushmeat hunting that rural Ghanaians get 80% of their protein from bushmeat and that the hunting of a decreasing number of mammal species is entirely legal during the hunting season. Species like bushbuck, duikers, civets, warthogs and squirrels can all be hunted legally except during the closed season that runs from 1st August to the 1st of December. One species that is the most popular for bushmeat, the cane rat known as the grasscutter, has no closed season and can thus be hunted all year round, this is based on the view, that these large rodents breed so rapidly that hunting has no effect on their numbers. I'm inclined to think that the man we saw with the shotgun was a poacher and the shots we heard, were from someone poaching,  because although it is hunting season, almost no one bothers to get a licence. 


Reading the Ankasa Conservation Area management plan that @Matias Cox mentioned earlier it says some interesting things on the subject of bushmeat hunting, I would imagine the situation around Kakum would be fairly similar. When I said I doubt there’s much to hunt outside the park, what I should perhaps have said is I doubt there is much left to hunt outside the park, just because hunting pressure is very high. Plenty of animals would if not intensively hunted, thrive in forest edge habitats, in secondary forest and on agricultural land, but I would assume that duikers for example are fairly heavily targeted.   


Here are some quotes from the Ankasa Management Plan  



The list of animals hunted for bushmeat in the Ankasa Conservation Area comprises 82 named species (42 mammal, 35 bird and 5 reptile species). If smaller rodents and birds are included, the list certainly exceeds 100 species. Preferred species are rodents and antelopes, of which many are pests on farmland. Five species make up 60-70% of the volume, and are, in order of importance, Cane Rat, Giant Rat, Black Duiker, Maxwell‟s Duiker, Brush-tailed Porcupine and Bushbuck. These are all associated with farmland and secondary forest. 




Three basic means of hunting are common: shooting, trapping (mainly wire snares) and dogs. Hunting takes place at all times of the day and season of the year, and in all available habitats, off reserve as well as inside Ankasa. Off-reserve areas include, farmland, bush fallow, secondary forest and forest fragments. The estimated total number of hunters in the area around the reserves (within 7km from the perimeter) is 5-6,000.


Estimates of the total annual Bushmeat production around Ankasa ranges from 3,200 - 3,800 tonnes, representing a value of $4.4 - 5.3 million (May, 1998). The yearly catch per hunter is estimated to be about 650kg valued at $820 while the average daily Bushmeat consumption per capita is put at 0.19kg. 





According to hunters and bushmeat traders, both the Bushmeat trade in open markets and with outside retailers from urban centres in other regions of the country is collapsing. Trade with local chop bars is now more important. They attribute this collapse to the low bushmeat availability and, surprisingly given the constraints operating, to a too restrictive Wildlife Division control of hunting and Bushmeat trade activities. Chop bars report that they now rely on smoked bushmeat brought in by retailers from other regions of the country. This development has certainly affected bushmeat prices. The average kg-price for Ankasa is $1.80 for fresh meat and $2.34 for smoked meat. These prices are equal to or higher than domestic meat. The total annual Bushmeat trade in 20-25 chop bars around Ankasa is estimated to number 12,000 animals, weighing 45,000 kg, and valued at ¢214 million or $91,20034



Hunting Although bushmeat activities are of major importance for the households and economy of the communities, neither hunting nor the Bushmeat trade are organised or effectively regulated by any local by-laws or current national wildlife regulations. No associations exist for hunters or bushmeat traders, apart from a few voluntary chop bar unions. Very few, if any, hunters bother to obtain hunting licenses from the WD, let alone attain Bushmeat Trading licenses from the District Assembly. Hunting and Bushmeat Trade are the most liberal and uncontrolled occupations in the areas surrounding Ankasa, despite the fact that bushmeat licenses are comparatively cheap to obtain, especially when considering the very high prices of bushmeat products. The current fee rates of permitted species are antiquated, and presently are the only guideline for revenue collection. Hence, the revenue generated from hunting and Bushmeat Trading licenses for the past seven years does not even reach 0.1% of the estimated annual value of bushmeat traded in chop bars.


One of the reasons they say that hunters don’t obtain hunting licences, is that you can only obtain one from a Wildlife Division office, and outside of Accra the only WD offices are at park HQs (and zoos), for many people travelling to their local park HQ would cost them more than the cost of the licence.


None of the places we stayed or restaurants we visited offered bushmeat on the menu, but from the garden of Rainforest Lodge, I photographed a sign the other side of the road advertising a local ‘chop bar’ that serves bushmeat. One might hope that this establishment has the necessary licences and is only selling legal bushmeat, but I really wouldn’t know.




Whilst driving around the Kakum area we had passed at least once a large lorry loaded with sawn planks, or rather overloaded with sawn planks as we would discover driving out of Akroform when we passed the same truck turned over in the road, this was a big articulated lorry and the entire thing including the cab/tractor unit had gone over, this must have been pretty unpleasant for the driver. This would also be a major inconvenience for some time, as they would have to bring in a crane, to get the tractor back up again.









A lot of cars in Ghana had these curious nets over the bonnet like this taxi does, when we asked James why, all he could suggest is it is for decoration, very odd


We stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the way to our next destination, rather surprisingly the restaurant had an undecorated fake Christmas tree just inside the door, what was also curious besides the garish decor, was that the waitress went outside and brought our food in through the front door, rather than from somewhere inside the restaurant. There was no one else there, so when not serving us she went and lay down under one of the fans, wherever the food came from it was pretty good.








Our next destination would be Bonkro Village, from there we would set off into the Bonkro Forest, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the pica-bloody-fart-es, the object of my quest.    

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