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SENEGAL

Birding the Sahel

Birdquest’s Senegal tour explores one of the safest and most easy-going countries in West Africa in search of a host of Sahelian and more widespread West African specialities, many of which can be seen on no other Birdquest tour. Our Senegal birdwatching tour goes in search of such sought-after and/or rarely observed species as White-crested Tiger Heron, White-backed Night Heron, Scissor-tailed Kite, Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, Fox Kestrel, Savile’s and Arabian Bustards, African Finfoot, Black Crowned Crane, Quail-Plover (sometimes treated as a monotypic family), Egyptian Plover (a monotypic family), Four-banded Sandgrouse, Adamawa Turtle Dove, African Collared Dove, Golden Nightjar, Little Grey Woodpecker, Sun Lark, Black Scrub Robin, Dorst's Cisticola, River Prinia, Cricket Warbler, Sennar Penduline Tit, Neumann’s, Long-tailed Glossy and Chestnut-bellied Starlings, Pygmy Sunbird, Sudan Golden Sparrow, Mali (or Kulikoro) and Black-faced Firefinches, Lavender Waxbill, Sahel Paradise Whydah, White-rumped Seedeater and Gosling's Bunting.

Sunday 4th February — Saturday 17th February 2018
(14 days)


Saloum Delta Extension: Saturday 17th February — Tuesday 20th February (4 days)

Leaders: Chris Kehoe and a local bird guide

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Easy walking and comfortable accommodations

The Blue-bellied Roller is a West Africa specialty that is particularly easy to see during this tour (Nik Borrow)

The Blue-bellied Roller is a West Africa specialty that is particularly easy to see during this tour (Nik Borrow)

In the peaceful, democratic nation of Senegal, situated at the very western edge of the African continent and surely the antidote to the stereotypical view of African states as both authoritarian and dysfunctional, you can enjoy Sahel birding, seeing numerous specialities that are restricted to this arid zone immediately south of the Sahara, while travelling through a safe, friendly country where French baguettes feature on the breakfast menu.

Only a few hours flying time to the south of Europe there is a very different world – a tropical yet generally arid African world at the southern edge of the great desert. To the north lie the vast and empty wastes of the Sahara, the formidable barrier which all Europe’s summer migrants have to cross before coming to the safe haven of West Africa, where a rich landscape awaits those birds that survive the desert crossing, while to the south lie the rainforests and other humid tropical habits that characterize the ‘armpit’ of Africa.

In between is the Sahel, a vast arid zone of partly semi-desert country that extends right across the continent between about 10° and 18° degrees North latitude. The northern part of this huge dry zone, that receives only a comparatively short rainy season between about June and September, is known as the Sudan Savanna and is characterized by dry grasslands and rather open acacia woodland. Further south this very dry habitat gives way to a mix of moister, richer forest and savanna, known as the Guinea Savanna.

Even if you are well travelled south of the Sahara, this very accessible corner of the continent offers a very enjoyable birding tour that includes many exciting Sahelian specialities that cannot be seen, for example, in Ghana or Cameroon. Indeed, the Birdquest Senegal itinerary is unrivalled in the number of Sahelian specialities that it produces. Senegal offers easy, enjoyable birding, good photographic opportunities and an easy-going atmosphere. At this season the local avifauna is further enriched by the presence of numerous winter visitors from Europe and North Africa.

Throughout francophone Senegal the former French colonial influence is strongly to be felt, with the locals carrying home baguettes from the bakery, excellent French food and French architecture evident in the dusty towns. Northernmost Senegal, where we will be spending part of our time, lies close to the Sahara than the and the arid landscapes of the Sahel contrast greatly with the much more verdant scenery of the far southeast and the Saloum Delta. While Dakar is a cosmopolitan city with many inhabitants who would be quite at home in Paris, it lies in stark contrast, however, to the simple village life that typifies much of the country. Age-old tasks such as fetching and carrying water, washing and cooking continue in traditional fashion in mud hut villages that look almost unchanged for centuries, while ancient Peugeots are pressed into service as ‘bush-taxis’ for a day out at the local market.

We start our journey at Dakar, strategically positioned on Cap Vert, the westernmost projection of the African continent and once a stronghold of the transatlantic slave trade.

From Dakar we head for northernmost Senegal, where we will explore the Sahelian habitats around Podor on the border with Mauritania, picking up our first Sahel specialities like Long-tailed Glossy and Chestnut-bellied Starlings along the way. Once we are deep in the Sahel, we will explore the arid landscapes in search of a suite of mega-specialities, including African Collared Dove, Golden Nightjar, Little Grey Woodpecker, Kordofan Lark, Black Scrub Robin, the attractive little Cricket Warbler, the tiny Sennar Penduline Tit and Pygmy Sunbird. Western African endemics include Vieillot’s Barbet, Senegal Eremomela and Senegal Batis.

Part of our time in the north will be devoted to the Senegal River region to the north of the historic town of St Louis. Here we shall explore the dry country inland for two more Sahel specialities, Savile’s Bustard and White-rumped Seedeater, and the extensive Djoudj National Park which is home to the endangered Arabian Bustard (which occurs in both the Sahel and southern Arabia) and the little-known River Prinia (a Sahel endemic). Western African endemics and near-endemics include Double-spurred Francolin and Western Plantain-eater. As well as seeing these specialities, we shall also enjoy some great wetland birding, for the wetlands of this region hold a remarkable variety of waterbirds, both Afrotropical species and wintering Palearctic migrants. Indeed the Djoudj is one of the most important wetland reserves in the entire African continent. Wetlands in the region offer what is perhaps the best chance in Africa for the uncommon and nomadic Allen’s Gallinule.

From the far north we head south to the Kaolack region, to the southeast of Dakar. Our major targets here are yet more Sahelian endemics and near-endemics; the dainty Scissor-tailed Kite, the strange Quail-Plover (sometimes treated as a monotypic family, sometimes placed in buttonquails) and Sahel Paradise Whydah.

During the last part of the main tour we will experience a complete contrast as we explore the much better watered habitats of the Niokolo Koba National Park region in far southeastern Senegal. Large areas of Guinea Savanna woodland are interspersed by extensive areas of grassland and the rivers that bisect the area are often bordered by strips of gallery forest. Rocky hills add to the ecological diversity.

The mega-speciality here is Mali (or Kulikoro) Firefinch, which is restricted to southeast Senegal and Mali, while other very important specialities include Fox Kestrel, Stone Partridge, Adamawa Turtle Dove, Violet Turaco, the awesome Red-throated Bee-eater, Bearded Barbet, Sun Lark, Dorst’s Cisticola, Neumann’s, Lesser Blue-eared and Bronze-tailed Starlings, Black-faced Firefinch, Lavender Waxbill and Gosling’s Bunting.

Western African endemics and near-endemics include Senegal Parrot, Blue-bellied Roller, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Pied-winged Swallow, West African Swallow, Blackcap Babbler, Oriole Warbler (or Moho) and Yellow-crowned Gonolek.

One of the most popular specialities with birding visitors is the beautiful Egyptian Plover, the sole member of its family, which is positively easy to find here and very approachable. We should also encounter African Finfoot, Grasshopper Buzzard and Northern Carmine Bee-eater.

During the optional extension there will be a splendid opportunity to explore the Saloum Delta in the Kaolack region. Three stand-out species that we will be concentrating on here are the much sought-after White-crested Tiger Heron, the lovely White-backed Night Heron and Four-banded Sandgrouse. Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle is another good bird of the area. In addition, an extraordinary feature of the delta, and one of the greatest avian spectacles of West Africa (in all but years of extreme drought), is an evening roost gathering of literally thousands of Scissor-tailed Kites and Lesser Kestrels!

Join us for some of the most enjoyable, speciality-rich birding in West Africa!

Birdquest has operated tours to Senegal since 1985.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels and guesthouses are of good or medium standard throughout. Road transport is by minibus/passenger van and roads are generally good (but some minor roads are pot-holed and bumpy).

Walking: The walking effort is easy throughout.

Climate: Generally hot and dry. It is sometimes humid. Rain is unlikely at this season.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are good.

Tour Price: £3050, €3480, $4000 Dakar/Dakar. Single Room Supplement: £286, €326, $375. Deposit: £400, €480, $520.

Saloum Delta Extension: £780, €890, $1020. Single Room Supplement: £69, €79, $91. Deposit: £100, €120, $130.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Base prices for this tour are in Euros. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = €1.140 and €1 = $1.150.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Sunrise over the Sahel – a forbidding habitat that surprisingly harbours large numbers of birds (Nik Borrow)

Sunrise over the Sahel – a forbidding habitat that surprisingly harbours large numbers of birds (Nik Borrow)

Pearl-spotted Owlets often attract hordes of angry small birds, making finding some species so much easier! (Nik Borrow)

Pearl-spotted Owlets often attract hordes of angry small birds, making finding some species so much easier! (Nik Borrow)

The sublime Egyptian Plover is always a highlight of the tour (Nik Borrow)

The sublime Egyptian Plover is always a highlight of the tour (Nik Borrow)

The stately Arabian Bustard can usually be seen in the Djoudj National Park (Nik Borrow)

The stately Arabian Bustard can usually be seen in the Djoudj National Park (Nik Borrow)

The localised White-fronted Black Chat is very sparsely distributed and is often a tricky bird to find (Nik Borrow)

The localised White-fronted Black Chat is very sparsely distributed and is often a tricky bird to find (Nik Borrow)

Rüppell’s Vultures are still fairly common in Senegal where they can often be found feasting on roadside casualties (Nik Borrow)

Rüppell’s Vultures are still fairly common in Senegal where they can often be found feasting on roadside casualties (Nik Borrow)

The Chestnut-bellied Starling is restricted to the Sahel but is common and easy to see (Nik Borrow)

The Chestnut-bellied Starling is restricted to the Sahel but is common and easy to see (Nik Borrow)

The striking Violet Turaco is usually very obliging and easy to see (Nik Borrow)

The striking Violet Turaco is usually very obliging and easy to see (Nik Borrow)

Large numbers of Senegal Thick-knees can be seen during this tour (Nik Borrow)

Large numbers of Senegal Thick-knees can be seen during this tour (Nik Borrow)

We will be on the lookout for the delightful Green Bee-eater (Nik Borrow)

We will be on the lookout for the delightful Green Bee-eater (Nik Borrow)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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