Welcome to Birdquest
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
Leaders: Nik Borrow and a local bird guide
Group Size Limit: 8
Tour Category: Easy to moderate walking, accommodations range from comfortable to basic
Sierra Leone with its beautiful white sandy beaches washed by the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean is a small country in West Africa that lies sandwiched between Guinea and Liberia.
For the ornithologist, 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 and fragmented by large-scale logging activities throughout the region, stretch eastwards to Nigeria. Those birders wishing to see the specialties and endemics of the area have sometimes been thwarted by political upheavals when they wanted to visit the finest of these mysterious forests with their many mouth-watering specialities, but with peace and stability now restored to Sierra Leone we have a marvellous opportunity to explore this interesting but relatively small country.
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 still pretty basic so travel 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 basic shared bathroom facilities. In Gola Forest we will spend two nights in a basic tented camp set up by our local outfitters. Road transport is by small coach or minibus. Roads are variable in quality but mostly very poor.
Walking: The walking effort is easy or moderate (with fallen trees to cross and perhaps some short but steep climbs in places). The walk to the campsite at Gola north is 9 kilometres, 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 Harmattan wind usually blows south from the Sahara, keeping temperatures slightly down.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.
These are provisional prices
Tour Price: £3490, €4360, $4890 Freetown/Freetown.
Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room/Tent Supplement: £298, €373, $417.
Some of the places we will be staying have limited accommodation and there may not always be enough single accommodation for everyone. Anyone having to share unexpectedly at any location will receive an appropriate refund.
Deposit: £450, €540, $590.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
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