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SIERRA LEONE

Birdquest's Sierra Leone tour explores a country that has only recently started to register on the birdwatching map. Rich in West African specialities, including many Guinea Forest endemics, amongst which is the splendid Yellow-headed Picathartes or White-necked Rockfowl, our Sierra Leone tour offers some marvellous frontier African birding.

Sunday 14th January — Sunday 28th January 2018
(15 days)


Leaders: Nik Borrow and a local bird guide

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy to moderate walking, accommodations range from comfortable to basic

Nightjars are commonly seen on the roads at night. This female Standard-winged Nightjar was particularly obliging (Nik Borrow)

Nightjars are commonly seen on the roads at night. This female Standard-winged Nightjar was particularly obliging (Nik Borrow)

Sierra Leone with its beautiful white sandy beaches washed by the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean is a small country (a former British colony) in West Africa that lies sandwiched between Guinea and Liberia.

For the birdwatcher, its prime interest is its situation at the western end of the Upper Guinea Forests Endemic Bird Area. These forests, sadly now a shadow of their former glory as they have been fragmented by large-scale logging activities throughout the region, stretch eastwards to Nigeria. Those birders wishing to see most of the specialties and endemics of West Africa have to visit several of the finest of the surviving forests and in Sierra Leone we have a marvellous opportunity to explore this interesting but relatively small country while seeing numerous Upper Guinea specialities, including a number that are hard or impossible to see on bird tours elsewhere in West Africa.

Nearly 630 species have been recorded in Sierra Leone and 14 species occur here that are strictly endemic to the Upper Guinea Forests EBA, while up to 20 more can only be found in forested countries from here to the Nigerian/Cameroonian border areas. Sierra Leone is a particularly exciting destination for those interested in Upper Guinea Forest endemic birds. The country offers more of these specialities and better chances for many of these birds than does, for example, Ghana, but the road and accommodation infrastructure here is less developed, so travel here is more of an adventure. The rewards of birding in Sierra Leone include some rarely seen species and the chance to make real ornithological discoveries.

During our journey through Sierra Leone we will travel through a variety of habitats including coastal mangrove, lowland farm bush, secondary and gallery forest, granitic inselbergs, scattered hills and mountains and ultimately the closed-canopy evergreen forests of the southeast and the Gola Forest.

We begin our adventure near the capital of Freetown in the Western Peninsula Forest Reserve where we will be introduced to our first forest species and perhaps most importantly have an excellent opportunity to see that most peculiar of all the Western African endemics, the Yellow-headed Picathartes or White-necked Rockfowl. These unique birds lead unmolested lives here as the local people revere them and this site is a relatively accessible and easy place to see them. We shall also likely find Melancholy Woodpecker, Pied-winged Swallow, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Finsch’s Flycatcher-Thrush, Forest Scrub Robin, Sharpe’s Apalis, Rufous-winged Illadopsis, Turati’s Boubou and Crimson Seedcracker.

Next we continue to the Sula Mountains where we will have a good chance of finding the exquisite Emerald Starling before continuing on to the Tingi Mountains where we shall be looking for Sierra Leone Prinia, a species that despite its name is not actually endemic to the country but whose range does not extend within reach of any of our other tours.

We shall also explore the nearby Gori Hills Forests in search of Black-headed Rufous Warbler and Baumann’s Greenbul before we penetrate deep into the Gola Forest. Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has actively been helping in the protection and conservation of this beautiful forest that still harbours a healthy population of Yellow-headed Picathartes, and we will visit a very accessible colony where the birds are usually readily seen even during the non-breeding season. The rare Green-tailed Bristlebill occurs here and other specialties we will be looking for include Little Green and Fire-bellied Woodpeckers, Western Bearded and Yellow-bearded Greenbuls, Kemp’s Longbill, Ussher’s Flycatcher, the strange Capuchin Babbler, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Red-billed Helmet-shrike, Copper-tailed Glossy Starling and Buff-throated Sunbird. The, ultimate prize here is the striking Gola Malimbe, a relatively unknown species. It was only recently reliably rediscovered in 2007 in a remote and relatively inaccessible part of Gola Forest where we have an excellent chance of seeing it for ourselves. Even the secretive White-breasted Guineafowl inhabits the forest.

Our last location will be Tiwai Island, situated in the Moa River. Here, in the protected forest, hornbills proliferate and we shall be looking out for Brown-cheeked Hornbill in particular. The wonderful Egyptian Plover is usually present at this time of year and amongst the many forest species White-tailed Alethe will be high on our want list.

Birdquest has operated tours to Sierra Leone since 2008.

Accommodation and Road Transport: The hotel in Freetown is of good standard. In most locations we will stay in simple or basic guesthouses, although with private bathrooms. On Tiwai Island we will stay in a permanent tented camp with shared bathroom facilities. In Gola Forest we will spend two nights in a simple tented camp set up by our local outfitters. Road transport is by small coach or minibus. Roads are variable in quality.

Walking: The walking effort is easy or moderate. The walk to the campsite at Gola north is 9 kilometres (5.6 miles), but on an easy trail.

Climate: It will be hot and humid. At this season there is mainly dry weather, although there is always the possibility of rain. At this time of year the Harmatan wind usually blows south from the Sahara, reducing temperatures.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Tour Price: £3490, €3970, $4570 Freetown/Freetown. Single Room/Tent Supplement: £308, €350, $403. Deposit: £450, €540, $590.

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

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 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.

Beautiful sandy beaches fringe the Sierra Leone coastline along the peninsula and forests holding populations of Yellow-headed Picathartes can be seen clothing the mountains in the background (Nik Borrow)

Beautiful sandy beaches fringe the Sierra Leone coastline along the peninsula and forests holding populations of Yellow-headed Picathartes can be seen clothing the mountains in the background (Nik Borrow)

Tiwai Island is situated on the Moa River and exposed sandbanks are home to visiting Egyptian Plovers surely the most sublime of all waders (Nik Borrow)

Tiwai Island is situated on the Moa River and exposed sandbanks are home to visiting Egyptian Plovers surely the most sublime of all waders (Nik Borrow)

Tiwai Island holds some classic West African forest species and a number of Upper Guinea Forest endemics and we are birding here in a beautiful setting (Nik Borrow)

Tiwai Island holds some classic West African forest species and a number of Upper Guinea Forest endemics and we are birding here in a beautiful setting (Nik Borrow)

25 photos View Gallery Photos From SIERRA LEONE
The Yellow-headed Picathartes is the jewel in the crown of all the Upper Guinea Forest endemics and can be reliably found in the forested hills of the Freetown Peninsula (Nik Borrow)

The Yellow-headed Picathartes is the jewel in the crown of all the Upper Guinea Forest endemics and can be reliably found in the forested hills of the Freetown Peninsula (Nik Borrow)

A sighting of the rare Gola Malimbe is the main prize in the remote forests of Gola North (Nik Borrow)

A sighting of the rare Gola Malimbe is the main prize in the remote forests of Gola North (Nik Borrow)

We only see Turati's Boubou on the Sierra Leone tour and it is an Upper Guinea Forest endemic that can be found even in Freetown itself (Nik Borrow)

We only see Turati's Boubou on the Sierra Leone tour and it is an Upper Guinea Forest endemic that can be found even in Freetown itself (Nik Borrow)

Sharpe's Apalis is a common but somewhat unassuming Upper Guinea Forest endemic that is usually easy to see (Nik Borrow)

Sharpe's Apalis is a common but somewhat unassuming Upper Guinea Forest endemic that is usually easy to see (Nik Borrow)

Beautiful Blue-moustached Bee-eaters are reclusive forest dwellers and can be remarkably elusive at times (Nik Borrow)

Beautiful Blue-moustached Bee-eaters are reclusive forest dwellers and can be remarkably elusive at times (Nik Borrow)

The striking castaneofuscus West African form of Vieillot's Black Weaver was historically considered to be a separate species known as Chestnut-and-black Weaver (Nik Borrow)

The striking castaneofuscus West African form of Vieillot's Black Weaver was historically considered to be a separate species known as Chestnut-and-black Weaver (Nik Borrow)

Secretive Red-chested Goshawks of the small West African form macroscelides are to be found in the forested areas (Nik Borrow)

Secretive Red-chested Goshawks of the small West African form macroscelides are to be found in the forested areas (Nik Borrow)

West African Wattle-eyes can often be seen in pairs or small groups. The species is named after the female's plumage (Nik Borrow)

West African Wattle-eyes can often be seen in pairs or small groups. The species is named after the female's plumage (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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