The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Africa

ULTIMATE CAMEROON

No tours found...

Birdquest’s Ultimate Cameroon birding tours are surely not just the best there is in this bird-rich country, but even the ‘Ultimate West African birding trip’. There is simply no other tour to the region that comes close. Our Ultimate Cameroon birding tour has a very comprehensive itinerary and produces more West African specialities than any other. A wonderful bonus in Cameroon is an excellent chance of seeing members of three or four monotypic or very small bird families, including the sought-after Grey-necked Rockfowl or Red-headed Picathartes, Quail-Plover (either treated as a monotypic family or placed in buttonquails), Egyptian Plover and Grey-chested Babbler (now placed in the Dapple-throat & Allies family).

The security situation in some parts of Cameroon is currently not conducive to running birding tours there, so our tours will resume when the situation improves.

Cameroon, lying a little north of the Equator, straddles the geographical dividing line between West and Central Africa. This marvellous country, immortalized for all wildlife enthusiasts by Gerald Durrell’s memorable account of his zoo collecting expedition ‘The Bafut Beagles’, offers the most exciting birding in West Africa. Nearly 900 species have been recorded from the country, far more than from any other comparable area in West Africa, and at least 25 endemic or near-endemic species (depending on the vagaries of modern taxonomy) grace this impressive total.

Cameroon’s avian treasure house stems directly from a wealth of habitats combined with the long isolation of its southwestern highlands from other upland areas in Africa. The northern panhandle of Cameroon extends deep into the Sahel, the semi-desert zone immediately south of the Sahara, reaching as far as the shores of Lake Chad, while in the south, where the country abuts the Gulf of Guinea and the Congo basin, the climate is equatorial and the natural vegetation is primary rainforest and humid montane forest.

Not only is Cameroon a land of natural diversity, but also a country with a rich cultural tradition dating back many centuries. From the heraldic carved designs of the palaces of the Fons in the Bamenda Highlands to the vivid colours of the dresses of the market traders, the vigorously executed handicrafts and the rhythm of the local music, Cameroon is a constant reminder of the vibrancy of West African culture.

With the richest avifauna of any West African country, Cameroon has become a classic destination and one that any birder who has visited other regions of Africa will be tempted to explore. Our comprehensive journey through this fantastic country has been specifically designed to sample all of its major habitats, and importantly have enough time in them to do really well, so as a direct result it produce more Cameroon and West African specialities than any other bird tour. By the end of our search for Cameroon’s numerous specialities we shall have seen a remarkable series of rarely seen birds and over 600 species in total!

Our Ultimate Cameroon birding tour starts at Douala, the commercial capital. After a brief exploration in the Douala region for Hartlaub’s Duck, we will continue southwards towards the Equatorial Guinea border and pay a visit to Campo Ma’an National Park. The rain forest here will give us a good introduction to widespread forest species but it is here that we will have our best chance of seeing one of the strangest birds that inhabits the entire continent the bizarre Red-headed (or Grey-necked) Picathartes. The site holds more breeding pairs than localities visited in previous years and the closest site to see the birds is an ‘easy’ ten minutes walk from the vehicles. (In contrast to Korup with its 8-kilometre or 5 mile hike to get into the area and camping under a bush shelter!)

We will return to the Sanaga River at Edéa with its exposed sandbanks that are home to good numbers of Grey Pratincole and African Skimmers. As we near the capital Yaoundé we hope to hunt out two Central African speciality greenbuls, Yellow-necked Greenbul and Yellow-throated Nicator.

Next we shall head for northernmost Cameroon, including Waza National Park, where Clapperton’s Francolins scurry away from the roadsides and herds of Topi, Roan Antelope, Kordofan Giraffe and occasionally African Elephant may be found along with the impressive Arabian Bustard. Other specialities in this superb area of arid savanna, bushland and marshes include the strange Quail-plover, the spectacular Black Crowned Crane, Cricket Warbler, River Prinia, Sennar Penduline Tit and if we are lucky Savile’s Bustard and Little Grey Woodpecker. Rocky inselbergs in this region are home to two restricted range firefinches, Rock and (further south) Chad Firefinch and we will be making an effort to find both of them.

From the far north we will gradually move southwards into greener, more wooded terrain. First we will visit Bénoué National Park, where the attractive riverine woodland provides sanctuary for species such as Adamawa Turtle Dove, Violet Turaco, Bearded Barbet, White-cheeked Oliveback and the marvellous Oriole Warbler (or Moho). The sandy riverbeds are home to the exquisite Egyptian Plover and the enormous Pel’s Fishing Owl is sometimes seen along its banks. The dry woodland is home to White-throated Francolin, Dorst’s Cisticola, West African (split from Streaky-headed) Seedeater and Brown-rumped Bunting.

Next we climb onto the verdant Adamawa Plateau with its mosaic of woodland, rivers and grassland. Here we will stay at a ranch overlooking a pretty crater-lake that is one of the few known localities for the rare Bamenda Apalis and where the evening roosting flights of thousands of egrets and starlings (including the localized White-collared Starling) are truly spectacular. Other specialities include Spotted Thrush Babbler and Dybowski’s Twinspot. There is also a chance of Brown-chested Lapwing and the rarely encountered Schlegel’s Francolin.

We will fly back south to Yaoundé and from here we will head northwest until we reach the intensively cultivated Bamenda Highlands in the formerly British sector of the country. Here some endemic birds, including the rare and beautiful Bannerman’s Turaco, Bangwa Forest Warbler, Banded Wattle-eye and Bannerman’s Weaver as well as Cameroon Olive Greenbul, Mountain Robin Chat, Green Longtail, Grey-chested Babbler (now placed with Spot-throat and Dapple-throat in its own family), Yellow-breasted Boubou, Green-breasted Bush-shrike, Cameroon Sunbird, and Shelley’s Oliveback cling to a precarious existence in the remaining patches of forest.

Next we will visit Mount Kupe, an isolated mountain that is home to some of the rarest birds in West Africa, most famously the Mount Kupe Bush-shrike, which in 1998 was also discovered in the nearby Bakossi Mountains. During our stay in the area, during which we will visit the Bakossi Mountains as well as explore Mount Kupe, we shall be on the lookout for this great rarity and we will also encounter many other montane forest specialities whilst doing so. In particular we will be hoping to add Fiery-breasted and Many-coloured to our bush-shrike list and also looking for endemic or near-endemic specialities such as Grey-headed Greenbul, Crossley’s Ground Thrush, White-tailed and Black-capped Woodland Warblers, White-throated Mountain Babbler and Ursula’s Sunbird.

Finally we will explore Mount Cameroon. Rising straight from the ocean to 4070m, this isolated peak (an active volcano) holds many montane specialities, in particular Cameroon Olive Pigeon, Mountain Saw-wing, Cameroon Scrub (split from Evergreen Forest) Warbler and the charming Mount Cameroon Speirops.

During the optional extension, after driving to Mundemba close to the Nigerian border, we will explore the magnificent Korup National Park where well over 300 species have already been recorded. We shall spend three days in the park exploring the forest along well-maintained trails and sleep overnight at a designated campsite. The forest at Korup has been estimated as being more than 60 million years old and we will be very aware of this as we walk beneath enormous trees that reach up to the heavens. The park has become famous for its colonies of Red-headed Picathartes (or Grey-necked Rockfowl) and we have another excellent chance of seeing this enigmatic bird during our visit. We should also be treated to a wide variety of other lowland rainforest species during our stay, including such specialities as the beautiful Bare-cheeked Trogon, the glorious Rachel’s Malimbe and Woodhouse’s (Red-headed) Antpecker. We also stand a good chance of encountering Vermiculated Fishing Owl and Sjöstedt’s Owlet, as well as shy forest kingfishers, leviathan-sized hornbills and an array of greenbuls, secretive illadopsis and alethes.

Join us for the very best tour of the very best country for birds in all of West Africa!

Birdquest has operated Cameroon birding tours since 1990.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are mostly of good or medium standard, but some are at the simpler end of the scale (and in need of maintenance) and water and electricity supplies can be erratic. At Nyasoso (Mount Kupe) the accommodation is rather simple, consisting of rooms in one of the village houses, with fairly basic shared bathroom facilities. At Korup we camp for two nights in tents, with washing facilities being the local forest stream. Road transport is by minibus or 4×4 vehicles and the roads range from reasonable to bad.

Walking: The walking effort during our Ultimate Cameroon birding tour is mostly easy to moderate. Occasionally at Mount Kupe and in the Bakossi Mountains the trails are steep and narrow in places and the walking is quite demanding, especially given the high humidity.

Climate: In the north it will be hot (or even very hot) dry and sunny. Overcast conditions can occur, but rain is unlikely. In the southern lowlands it will be hot and very humid with dry and sunny weather interspersed with overcast and rainy spells. In the Bamenda Highlands, on Mount Cameroon and at Mount Kupe it will be decidedly cooler.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Ultimate Cameroon birding tour are quite good in the north, worthwhile in the south.


PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include these flights: Douala-Maroua and Garoua-Yaoundé.

Deposit: Main Tour:  to be announced. Korup Extension: to be announced.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates and deposit amount)




The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

There are only a few rooms at Campo Ma’an and so the availability of singles will depend on group size. Anyone not obtaining single occupancy will receive an appropriate refund.

The extension single room supplement excludes the two camping nights at Korup.

This tour is priced in Euros. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

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.

ULTIMATE CAMEROON BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 1  The tour begins in the late afternoon at Douala, the commercial capital of Cameroon, where we will stay overnight.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 2  This morning we will visit a small pond where Hartlaub’s Duck is regularly seen and African Darter sometimes occurs and then continue southwards towards the border with Equatorial Guinea and Campo Ma’an National Park for a two nights stay. Western Cattle Egrets, Yellow-billed Kites, Red-eyed Dove, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, African Palm and Little Swifts, Barn Swallow, Common Bulbul, African Thrush, Pied Crows, Vieillot’s Black and Village Weavers, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow and Bronze Mannikin are the birds that we are most likely to see during the drive.

We should arrive in time to look for one of Africa’s most-wanted birds the incredible Red-headed (or Grey-necked) Picathartes a bizarre-looking creature that looks as if it might be a hybrid between a crow and a vulture but is probably most closely related to the babblers. The two species of picathartes (or rockfowl) are placed in their own family, making them doubly sought-after. This is an uncommon bird and hard to see, but we shall visit a known breeding site today and if we are quiet and patient we have a good chance of seeing this enigmatic creature at this locality as they seem to regularly frequent the nest sites in the late afternoon and evening. The nearest site lies only ten minutes easy walk away from the main road that cuts through the park and the birds seem fairly tolerant of people here! We have an extremely good chance of seeing the birds at this site but as this is the non-breeding season we may still be unlucky but with two afternoons budgeted our chances are greatly improved.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 3  Campo Ma’an National Park and its buffer zone cover 7000 square kilometres (2703 square miles) and is home to Western Gorilla, Chimpanzee and Forest Elephant, although we would have to be exceedingly lucky to see any of these animals in a country where poaching and the bush-meat trade is rife. At present the infrastructure for tourism is not well developed in the park and there are no decent trails for birdwatchers that allow easy access into the forest. Most of our birding will be along the main road and small forest paths.

Our day will be spent gaining a good introduction to a wealth of lowland forest bird species. The trees are awesomely tall and the jungle thick but the wide road allows us to look up into the canopy more easily. A feature of this forest are the large numbers of Grey Parrots and some of the first sounds that we here in the morning will be these noisy birds as they leave their roost sites. Large hornbills including African Pied, Piping, White-thighed and Black-casqued, are still numerous here and can be seen frequently. Pre-dawn we may hear the grunting cries of the ungainly Nkulengu Rail, a bird that is rarely seen but often heard. Typically each morning the booming calls of Gabon Coucals echo through the forest before the sun rises and a Chocolate-backed Kingfisher pipes up, urging Great Blue and Yellow-billed Turacos to also add their disgruntled cries to the chorus. We will often hear the various ‘poops’ and ‘trills’ of Speckled, Red-rumped, Yellow-throated and Red-rumped Tinkerbirds and Yellow-spotted, Streaky-throated (split from Hairy-breasted) and Yellow-billed Barbets.

For the greenbul enthusiast, Campo Ma’an is a ‘must’ and is an excellent place to learn and compare the many species. Those that we can expect to encounter include Little, Little Grey, Spotted, Ansorge’s, Cameroon Sombre, Slender-billed, Yellow-whiskered, Golden, Honeyguide, Sjöstedt’s Honeyguide, Spotted, Icterine, Xavier’s, Eastern Bearded, Red-tailed and White-bearded Greenbuls and Lesser and Red-tailed Bristlebills. The noisy yet secretive Yellow-throated Nicator occurs here alongside the larger and more widespread Western Nicator.

There is a small chance of seeing the beautiful African Pitta. Although the birds here, of the form pulih, resemble African Pitta in plumage, having a more olive green breast, the voice distinctly matches Green-breasted Pitta. Some taxonomists argue that these two are one and the same species. We should also be on the lookout for Red-headed or Woodhouse’s Antpecker (a strange aberrant finch) and of course there may always be the odd surprise or two!

Other species very possible during our stay include Palm-nut Vulture, African Harrier Hawk, African Green Pigeon, Blue-headed Wood and Tambourine Doves, Yellowbill (this form being renamed Blue Yellowbill or Blue Malkoha when the eastern form is treated as distinct), European Swift, Blue-breasted and Woodland Kingfishers, Blue-throated Roller, Brown-eared, Gabon and Yellow-crested Woodpeckers, the nominate lowland form of Elliot’s Woodpecker, Square-tailed Saw-wing, Blue Cuckoo-shrike, the delightful Gabon Forest Robin, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, Black-capped and Buff-throated Apalises, Olive-green and Yellow-browed Camaropteras, Yellow and Grey Longbills, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Green Crombec, Green Hylia, Fraser’s Forest and Sooty Flycatchers, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Blue-headed Crested Flycatcher, Chestnut and Yellow-bellied Wattle-eyes, Pale-breasted, Brown and Blackcap Illadopsises, Fraser’s, Blue-throated Brown, Western Olive, Collared and Olive-bellied Sunbirds, Western Black-headed Oriole, Shining and Velvet-mantled Drongos, Blue-billed and Crested Malimbes, Grey-crowned, Chestnut-breasted and White-breasted Negrofinches and Black-and-white Mannikin.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 4  After some final birding at Campo Ma’an we will drive to Edéa for an overnight stay. Our drive will take us parallel with the coast and we may well find Western Reef Egret and the warbler-like Brown Sunbird along the way as the latter favours mangroves and forested rivers near the sea.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 5  This morning we will explore the Sanaga River where, providing water levels are suitable, we shall find good numbers of the delightful Grey Pratincole with African Skimmers and a few White-fronted Plovers resting on the sandbanks. White-headed Lapwings with their pendulous yellow wattles occur and large numbers of Preuss’s Cliff Swallows nest under the bridge over the river and the glittering White-throated Blue Swallow occurs. Slender-billed and Orange Weavers may be found nesting along the banks, Simple Leaflove, Greater Swamp Warbler and Chattering Cisticolas sing from the rank vegetation and the surrounding ‘farm-bush’ will give us another chance for some forest edge species such as African Emerald Cuckoo and Green-throated and Superb Sunbirds. The gorgeous Black Bee-eater can often be found sitting on the wires in this area amongst the more numerous Little and White-throated Bee-eaters.

Other species to look for include Rufous-vented Paradise Flycatcher and the coastal specialist Reichenbach’s and Carmelite Sunbirds as well as Long-tailed Cormorant, Little Egret, Woolly-necked Stork, Lizard Buzzard, Little Stint, Common Greenshank, Blue-headed Coucal, Malachite, African Pygmy and Pied Kingfishers, Rufous-chested and Lesser Striped Swallows, Blue-headed and African Pied Wagtails, Long-legged Pipit, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Black-necked Weaver and Orange-cheeked Waxbill.

In the afternoon we will continue onwards to the capital Yaoundé for an overnight stay. The ever-growing capital city of Yaoundé is set amongst rolling hills within the forest zone. There is not much to recommend this sprawling city to the traveller, but for the birder some interesting species can be found within easy reach of the centre. We will also be looking for one species in particular, the Yellow-necked Greenbul that favours farmbush and cassava plantations. Sometimes Red-fronted Parrots can be seen in the area and there is also a chance of Klaas’s and Didric Cuckoos, Mottled, Sabine’s and Cassin’s Spinetails, Speckled Mousebird, Naked-faced and Grey-throated Barbets, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Cardinal Woodpecker, Petit’s Saw-wing (split from Black), Brown-backed Scrub Robin, Banded and White-chinned Prinias, Masked Apalis, Common Wattle-eye, Green-headed Sunbird, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Splendid Glossy Starling, Grosbeak Weaver, Black-crowned and Black-headed Waxbills and Yellow-fronted Canary.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 6  This morning we shall take a flight to Maroua in northern Cameroon for an overnight stay. As we leave the aircraft we shall be struck by a wave of dry heat, so very different from the humid air of Douala, for we are now well and truly in the Sahel. The town is home to Hooded Vulture, Shikra, Speckled Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Piapiac and rarely Grey-backed Fiscal, and there is often a pair of Red-necked Falcons in residence.

Near Maroua there are many rocky inselbergs that are home to Fox Kestrel, Lanner Falcon, Stone Partridge, Little Green Bee-eater, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Familiar Chat, White-crowned Cliff Chat (split from Cliff Chat), Rock-loving Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Senegal Batis, Pygmy Sunbird, Speckle-fronted, Vitelline Masked and Little Weavers, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Lavender Waxbill, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting and, if we are reasonbly lucky, Rock Firefinch (a species first discovered in Cameroon by Birdquest in 2005). As dusk falls Greyish Eagle Owl or Freckled Nightjar may be seen.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 7  Today we will drive northwards to Waza for a two nights stay. The countryside as we drive north through the Sahelian landscape to Waza National Park becomes progressively drier and the habitats are home to a range of desirable species. In particular today we will be looking for the elusive and secretive Quail-Plover, a nomadic ally of the buttonquails, which occurs in dry scrub and grassland. If we are fortunate we will flush one from under our feet, when its lark-like flight action and striking wing pattern will become immediately apparent. With some more diligent searching we should find the wonderful little Cricket Warbler in the same area (a species first discovered in Cameroon by Birdquest in 1995) and if we are extremely fortunate we will find a Golden Nightjar. In the skies overhead we should see the graceful African Swallow-tailed Kite as it searches for insectivorous prey. Normally there are also the heavier looking Black-shouldered Kites around for comparison.

During our meanderings we should flush White-bellied Bustard. This area is a good place to see the localized Red-pate Cisticola and Black Scrub Robin with their long, cocked tails. Chestnut-bellied Starlings and Green-winged Pytilias are numerous and other likely species include Black-headed Lapwing, Namaqua Dove, Blue-naped Mousebird, Crested Lark (and perhaps Singing Bush Lark), Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark, Ethiopian Swallow, African Scrub Robin (split from Rufous-tailed), Northern Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Northern Crombec, Southern Grey Shrike, Black-crowned Tchagra and Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver.

In another area we shall also try to find some of the more difficult specialties that creep into the region, but which can be more hit and miss to find. These include Savile’s Bustard, the tiny Sennar Penduline Tit and even the decidedly uncommon Little Grey Woodpecker.

During our search we should enjoy a number of other species including the glorious Abyssinian Roller and spectacular Yellow-crowned Gonolek as well as Senegal Coucal, Green Wooid Hoopoe, Black Scimitarbill, Central African and perhaps Eurasian Hoopoes, Vieillot’s Barbet, African Grey and Northern Red-billed Hornbills, Brown Babbler, Fork-tailed Drongo, Greater Blue-eared and Long-tailed Glossy Starlings, Beautiful Sunbird and African Golden-breasted Bunting.

The Campement de Waza is attractively situated on one of the rocky inselbergs and all the simple rondavels have air conditioning. They are also home to several pairs of Western Barn Owl, while Long-tailed Nightjars can also be seen.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 8  Waza National Park is situated in the northern panhandle of Cameroon, south of Lake Chad and within the ‘inundation zone’ of this vast but shallow lake although the extent of the seasonal flooding is no longer how it was in the past. During the rains much of the reserve floods, but at this time of year the water levels have dropped and access to most areas becomes practicable. Part of the reserve is acacia savanna, the remainder grassland and vast areas of dried out swamp. The numerous small waterholes teem with waterbirds and also attract many dry-country species desperate for water in this hot and harsh environment. The scenery is enlivened by the presence of the barren Waza Rocks, huge inselbergs that tower above the surrounding plains.

Birdlife is abundant and the richest of any area in the entire Sahel, the band of arid country extending right across Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia. This is still one of the best places for the stately Arabian Bustard, but even here they can remain surprisingly elusive. Coveys of Clapperton’s Francolins scurry for cover and huge flocks of Helmeted Guineafowl scuttle to and from the waterholes where, contrary to the situation in much of the tropics, the middle of the day can be a productive time.

Our attention will be focussed on the many waterholes where flocks of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and African Mourning, Vinaceous, African Collared, European Turtle and Black-billed Wood Doves and huge swirling flocks of Red-billed Queleas, Northern Red Bishops and Bush Petronias come down to drink. Many raptors are attracted to these small oases: historically flocks of vultures passed the heat of the day loafing by the pools but nowadays these numbers have dwindled to just a few individuals. However we should see Lappet-faced, Rüppell’s Griffon, African White-backed and Egyptian Vultures. The surrounding trees provide lookouts for Dark Chanting Goshawk, Grasshopper Buzzard, Long-crested, Wahlberg’s and Tawny Eagles (and sometimes Martial and occasionally Steppe or Booted Eagles). As water becomes scarcer so those birds that rely on it become more concentrated around the rapidly evaporating pools. Large numbers of Black Crowned Cranes are a feature of the wetlands and we should also find the unassuming, restricted-range River Prinia.

Depending on the amount of water still existent, other birds of the floodplain we could well see include Squacco, Grey and Black-headed Herons, Western Great and Intermediate Egrets, African Openbill, Saddle-billed and Marabou Storks (and sometimes Yellow-billed and White Storks), Sacred Ibis, White-faced Whistling Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Knob-billed Duck, Garganey, Black-winged Stilt, Spur-winged Lapwing, Common, Green, Wood and perhaps Marsh Sandpipers, and Sand Martin (or Bank Swallow). West African Swallow (split from Red-rumped) is also sometimes present.

In the more open areas, we should find superb Northern Carmine Bee-eaters and Northern Anteater Chats (which favour the termite mounds as lookout posts), and possibly Common Ostrich. Overhead we may see the Short-toed Eagle, Bateleur, Gabar Goshawk, Eurasian Marsh, Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers, and Common Kestrel. In the more vegetated stands of acacia bush we will look for Spotted Thick-knee, White-billed Buffalo Weaver, Yellow-crowned Bishop, African Silverbill, Cut-throat, Red-billed Firefinch, Black-rumped Waxbill, Sahel Paradise Whydah, and White-rumped Seedeater. With luck we will also find the attractive Sudan Golden Sparrow, although at this season they can look very worn.

Among the Palearctic migrant passerines wintering in this region are Tawny Pipit, Common Redstart, Western Olivaceous, Eastern Olivaceous, Subalpine Warbler, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Western Bonelli’s Warblers, and Masked and Woodchat Shrikes, but most are thin on the ground.

Waza has a fine collection of large mammals, indeed an outstanding one by West African standards but the park has suffered from falling water levels and poaching in recent years. However, we will be on the lookout for Common Warthog, Kordofan Giraffe (often with attendant Yellow-billed Oxpeckers), Topi, Roan Antelope, Kob, Red-fronted Gazelle, Common Jackal, Patas Monkey and, if we are lucky, African Elephant or even Lion.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 9  After some final birding in the Waza area we will drive south to Garoua, a town situated on the Bénoué River which flows westwards to join the mighty Niger, for an overnight stay.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 10  We will try and arrange a visit to the grounds of a mining operation this morning to look for the restricted-range Chad Firefinch, but as with all mining areas, access may or may not be granted. There are also possibilities to see White-headed Barbet and Flappet Lark in this area, and with great luck even the rare and localized Emin’s Shrike. We will then continue southwards to Bénoué National Park for a two nights stay at the idyllically situated Campement de Bufflé Noir. We should arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 11  Bénoué National Park lies within the Northern Guinea Savanna belt and the typical habitat consists of low, rocky hills covered in open broad-leaved woodland and dissected by small watercourses.

The highly localized Adamawa Turtle Dove is one of the prized birds here. Its movements are not well known and numbers fluctuate, but we will be making a special effort to find it. Along the riverbed below the lodge we should find the unique Egyptian Plover as it performs its strange backward ‘hop-jumps’ whilst searching for food.

Other birds favouring the watercourses include the most unusual Oriole Warbler (or Moho) and also Green-backed or (Striated) Heron, Hadada Ibis, Hamerkop, African Fish Eagle, Western Banded Snake Eagle, African Hobby, Senegal Thick-knee, Three-banded Plover, Grey-headed and Giant Kingfishers, Red-throated Bee-eater, Wire-tailed and Grey-rumped Swallows, and Swamp Flycatcher. In the tangled riverine vegetation we will be looking for Yellow-throated Leaflove, Snowy-crowned and White-crowned Robin Chats, Red-faced Cisticola, the delightful Red-winged Grey Warbler, Yellow-breasted Apalis, African Blue Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Blackcap Babbler, Tropical Boubou, the gorgeous Black-headed Gonolek, Black-headed Weaver, Bar-breasted and Black-bellied Firefinches and White-cheeked Oliveback.

Some of the best birding is in the lodge gardens where fruiting trees attract many species including Bruce’s Green Pigeon, colourful Violet and White-crested Turacos, Western Grey Plantain-eater and Bearded Barbet. White-headed Vulture and Red-necked Buzzards soar overhead.

Huge Abyssinian Ground Hornbills stalk the woodland or scrubby areas that also hold Brown and Beaudouin’s Snake Eagles, African Hawk Eagle, Grey Kestrel, Double-spurred Francolin, Senegal Parrot, Pearl-spotted Owlet, White-rumped Swift, Striped Kingfisher, Rufous-crowned and Blue-bellied Rollers, Fine-spotted, Golden-tailed, Brown-backed and Grey Woodpeckers, White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike, White-fronted Black Chat, Red-faced, Singing, Dorst’s, Croaking, Short-winged, and Rufous Cisticolas, Red-winged Warbler, Senegal Eremomela, Lead-coloured, Northern Black Flycatcher, White-shouldered Black Tit, the localized Spotted Creeper, Scarlet-chested, Variable and Western Violet-backed Sunbirds, Yellow White-eye, Yellow-billed Shrike, Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike, Brubru, Northern Puffback, White Helmet-shrike, Purple Glossy Starling, Red-headed Weaver, Black-winged Red Bishop and Cabanis’s Bunting. If we are fortunate we will find two or three of the more uncommon birds of the area, which include White-throated Francolin, the beautiful Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Yellow Penduline Tit, Heuglin’s Masked Weaver, Red-winged Pytilia, Black-faced Firefinch, West African Seedeater (split from Streaky-headed) and Brown-rumped Bunting.

As dusk falls we may see Four-banded Sandgrouse winging their way to drink or the extraordinary Bat Hawk hunting over the gardens, while at night we should be able to locate an African Scops Owl. There is even a slim chance of locating the huge Pel’s Fishing Owl.

Large mammals are less in evidence in the thick cover here than at Waza, but there are some differences in the fauna of the two reserves and here at Bénoué we may well find Hippopotamus, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Kongoni (or Hartebeest), Olive Baboon, Tantalus Monkey and Guereza Colobus.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 12  After some early morning birding at Bénoué we will continue southwards and ascend the dramatic escarpment that divides the Adamawa Plateau from the lowlands of the Bénoué Plain, continuing to Ngaoundaba near the town of Ngaoundéré for a three nights stay.

On the way we will visit a rich freshwater lake where, if water levels are right, we may find Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, African Pygmy Goose, Black Crake, African Jacana, Collared Pratincole and Yellow-throated Longclaw. Yellow-billed Duck occurs here at the westernmost edge of its range and we may even find birds such as African Swamphen, Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Jacana or Marsh Widowbird.

Ultimate Cameroon: Days 13-14  The rich grassy uplands of the Adamawa Plateau provide excellent birding. Our accommodation at Ngaoundaba overlooks a volcanic crater-lake frequented by Greater Painted-snipe, African Water Rail, Common Moorhen, Winding Cisticola, Yellow-mantled Widowbird and sometimes Compact Weaver and is surrounded by lush gallery forest. In the evenings there is a magical atmosphere as the air is filled with the sound of rushing wings as thousands of starlings and flight after flight of egrets come in to roost on an island covered in palms. At the same time small numbers of Black-crowned Night Herons are leaving to feed in the surrounding countryside.

Our main priorities here are to find the very localized endemic Bamenda Apalis, (which we first discovered at this locality in 1990), the restricted range White-collared Starling and the beautiful Dybowski’s and Brown Twinspots. There is also a good chance of finding the secretive Spotted Thrush Babbler and if we are lucky, the pretty Schlegel’s Francolin or Brown-chested Lapwing.

Starlings are much in evidence and we can expect to see Violet-backed, Bronze-tailed Glossy, Lesser Blue-eared and. We even recorded the first sightings of Wattled Starlings for West Africa here in 1990. In the strips of gallery forest we will look for Scaly Francolin, the shy White-spotted Flufftail (easier heard than seen), Red-headed Lovebird, the spectacular Ross’s Turaco, African Cuckoo, Double-toothed Barbet, Greater, Lesser and Willcocks’s Honeyguides, Green-backed Woodpecker, African Leaflove, Dark-capped Bulbul, Grey-winged Robin Chat, European Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Northern Double-collared, Copper and Splendid Sunbirds, Square-tailed Drongo and Spectacled Weaver.

Nearby areas of open grassland and forest-savanna mosaic hold a variety of different species including Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Hobby, African Wattled Lapwing, Temminck’s Courser, Horus Swift, Broad-billed Roller, Sun Lark, Mosque Swallow, Plain-backed and Tree Pipits, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Whinchat, Heuglin’s Wheatear, Sooty Chat, African Moustached and Willow Warblers, Whistling Cisticola, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Pale and African Dusky Flycatchers, Western Black-headed Batis, Common Fiscal, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Marsh Tchagra, African Golden and Eurasian Golden Orioles, Baglafecht Weaver, Blue-billed Firefinch, Red-headed Quelea, and, if we are lucky, Yellow-winged Pytilia.

At this season we may see the first Abdim’s Storks migrating northwards. At night we may find Northern White-faced Owl or Black-shouldered Nightjar, while there is even a chance of encountering the spectacular Standard-winged and Pennant-winged Nightjars.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 15  We will set off early today and drive back to Garoua in order to take a flight to Yaoundé for an overnight stay. We should arrive in time for some birding in the Yaoundé area.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 16  This morning we will have some time to catch up on some of the forest birds around Yaoundé before commencing our drive onwards to Bamenda. This morning we should be on the lookout for Bristle-nosed Barbet, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Violet-backed Hyliota, Little Grey Flycatcher, West African Batis, Green Sunbird, Black-shouldered and Pink-footed Puffbacks, Black-winged Oriole, Narrow-tailed and Forest Chestnut-winged Starlings and Preuss’s Golden-backed Weaver.

We will drive along the border of the forest zone to the Bamenda Highlands, where the climate is pleasantly cooler, and the Anglophone town of Bamenda for a two nights stay. Along the way we cross the Sanaga River where we should see Rock Pratincole. We should arrive in time to look for Neumann’s (split from Red-winged) Starling near our hotel.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 17  During our stay in the Bamenda region we will visit remnants of the montane forest which once covered these highlands in search of the endemic specialities of the area: the extremely localized and endangered Bannerman’s Turaco, the striking Banded Wattle-eye and Bannerman’s Weaver. We also have a fair chance of finding Green-breasted Bush-shrike. A bird with an interesting story here is the endemic Bangwa Forest Warbler that was historically misidentified as Cinnamon Bracken Warbler before being re-identified as Evergreen Forest Warbler and then finally split as the present species! These are some of Cameroon’s most endangered birds as a direct result of the intense pressure being put on the forest by the growing human population. Much of the land has been cultivated and woodland has been reduced to small areas.

Other bird species restricted to the Cameroon highlands and the Obudu and Mambilla Plateaus in neighbouring Nigeria which we should find here include Cameroon Olive Pigeon, Cameroon Montane, Western Mountain and Cameroon Olive Greenbuls, Mountain Robin Chat, Brown-backed Cisticola (split from Chubb’s), Green Longtail, Cameroon Sunbird, the glorious Yellow-breasted Boubou and Shelley’s Oliveback.

At a small crater-lake we may find African Black Duck and in the surrounding countryside we can also expect a variety of other montane forest birds and species of wider distribution. Species to look out for include Little Grebe, Black Sparrowhawk, Green Turaco, African Black and Mottled Swifts, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Western Green Tinkerbird, Tullberg’s and Elliot’s Woodpeckers (of the montane johnstoni race), Thick-billed Honeyguide, African Broadbill, Red-rumped Swallow, Rock Martin, Mountain Wagtail, Cameroon Pipit (split from Grassland), Bannerman’s Pipit (split from Long-billed), Grey Cuckoo-shrike, African Stonechat, African Yellow and Garden Warblers, Stout and Pectoral-patch Cisticolas, Black-collared Apalis, Black-throated Apalis, Grey Apalis, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Grey-chested Illadopsis (more often heard than seen!), Ruwenzori Hill Babbler (split from African Hill Babbler), White-bellied Tit, Orange-tufted Sunbird, Forest White-eye, Mackinnon’s Shrike, Waller’s Starling, Black-billed and Brown-capped Weavers, Yellow Bishop, Red-collared Widowbird, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Pin-tailed Whydah, Thick-billed Seedeater and Oriole Finch.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 18  After some final birding in the Bamenda region we will drive to the remote village of Nyasoso at the foot of Mount Kupe for a four nights stay. Once the headquarters of a BirdLife initiated and subsequently WWF-financed conservation project for Mount Kupe, Nyasoso is a remarkably friendly place where the local villagers show a warm hospitality to visiting birdwatchers (just about the only foreigners they ever encounter). We will be staying in a small guesthouse run by a local family and the pleasures of staying in an African village, seeing local life close to and meeting ‘real’ people more than compensate for the simple standard of accommodation here. We should arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Ultimate Cameroon: Days 19-21  Mount Kupe is an isolated mountain for the most part covered in pristine forest. Over 300 species have been recorded from the mountain, including some of the rarest and most localized birds in West Africa. It is perhaps most famous for the bush-shrike that bears its name, Mount Kupe Bush-shrike and we will of course be making a great effort to see this elusive bird during our stay, although it has now become a little more reliably seen in the nearby Bakossi Mountains which we will also visit.

Several trails, some rather steep, ascend Mount Kupe and take us into marvellous undisturbed forest, dripping with moss and harbouring a wealth of birdlife, but we do not necessarily need to make the effort very often as we should also be able to visit the nearby Bakossi Mountains where we can gain altitude more quickly by using four-wheel-drive vehicles than on foot!

A short walk from a remote village will take us through bracken and grassland into the trees where, along narrow hunter’s trails, we can explore beautiful mountainous forest, wreathed in low cloud, that is far away from tarmac roads and bustling cities. In particular we shall be hoping to find the highly localized White-throated Mountain Babbler (whose generic name Kupeornis reflects its principal home) that form busy noisy flocks often with the very attractive Grey-headed Greenbul. Grey-headed Broadbills perform their ‘clockwork’ display flight from the murky depths of the forest. Alexander’s Akalat (split from Bocage’s), White-bellied Robin Chat and Crossley’s Ground Thrush are all secretive inhabitants of these dense forests and we should also be on the lookout for Black-capped Woodland Warbler, Black-necked Wattle-eye and Ursula’s Sunbird.

During our stay we will also explore the ‘farm-bush’ between the village and the true forest, where the relatively open habitat provides good opportunities to see a variety of forest edge species. From Nyasoso itself we may see Bates’s Swift or perhaps an Ayres’s or Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle soaring over the mountain. In the tall elephant grass in the farm-bush and secondary growth we may find Little Rush Warbler. Buff-spotted Flufftails are often heard but seeing one is quite a different matter! Fraser’s Eagle Owls are quite common around the village and we shall hope to locate one at night. The delightful and diminutive African Piculet is relatively easy to see amongst the isolated forest trees that shade the coffee, yam and banana plantations.

Other birds to look for in this habitat include Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Cassin’s Honeybird, Petit’s and Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrikes, Brown-chested Alethe, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Southern Hyliotas of the race slatini, Ashy, Yellow-footed and Dusky-blue Flycatchers and the distinctive Black-and-white Flycatcher, Forest Penduline Tit, the diminutive Tit-Hylia, Little Green, Tiny and Bates’s Sunbirds, Fiery-breasted, Many-coloured, Bocage’s and Lühder’s Bush-shrikes, Purple-headed Glossy Starling, Red-headed Malimbe and Pale-fronted Negrofinch.

Amongst the tall forest trees and tangled vegetation in these mountains we will also search for Olive and Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoos, Red-chested Owlet, Bar-tailed and Narina’s Trogon and Mountain Sooty Boubou. The rarely seen Zenker’s Honeyguide has even been recorded from these slopes.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 22  After some final birding on Mount Kupe we will head for Buea on the slopes of Mount Cameroon for a two nights stay. A short stop in the pleasant botanical gardens at Limbe should produce Cassin’s Flycatcher and perhaps one or two other new birds.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 23  Today we will explore Mount Cameroon. Rising straight from the ocean to 4070m, this isolated massif, which is by far the highest mountain in West Africa, holds a wealth of montane specialities. Long isolated from other highland areas in Africa, Mount Cameroon and its associated highlands have developed a remarkable endemic avifauna without parallel in the region. The montane forest extends to about 2000m, after which it gives way to at least ornithologically, rather uninteresting grasslands. Frequently clouds are draped across the flanks of the mountain, lending a rather mysterious air to the dimmer recesses of the forest, but when they clear one can enjoy magnificent views of the great peak high above, green ridges on all sides and, far below, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

We will already have seen the majority of the possible species, which means that we will be concentrating on a few restricted-range specialities such as Mountain Saw-wing, the local form of the Evergreen Forest Warbler (sometimes split as Cameroon Scrub Warbler), White-tailed Warbler and the enigmatic Mount Cameroon Speirops.

We will walk up the famous ‘Guinness Track’, named after the famous annual race up the mountain and back that used to be sponsored by the Guinness beer company, in order to reach the open grassy areas above the tree-line where the rather weird-looking speirops is most likely to be found. The walk will initially take us over open cultivation and regenerating bush where we should hear Red-chested Flufftails calling and we may see furtive Western Bluebills. Then we continue through stunted and very degraded woodland and once inside the forest we will look for species such as Wood Warbler, African Hill Babbler, Forest Chestnut-winged Starling and Dark-backed Weaver. Birds like Cameroon Olive Pigeon and Shelley’s Oliveback are sometimes easier to see on Mount Cameroon than elsewhere. At the tree-line there is often a pair of Peregrine Falcons to be seen.

Ultimate Cameroon: Day 24  You will be transferred to Douala, where the tour ends this evening. (Those taking the extension will continue to Korup.)

KORUP NATIONAL PARK EXTENSION

Ultimate Cameroon (Korup): Day 1  Today we shall drive to Korup National Park, situated near the Nigerian border, for a four nights stay. The journey takes us around the base of Mount Cameroon, through intensively cultivated lands with rubber and oil palm plantations. As always, we shall stop for anything interesting en route. We will spend the first and last nights at a hotel in Mundemba, near the southern boundary of the park, and the other two nights in a basic camp inside the park itself.

Ultimate Cameroon (Korup): Days 2-4  Korup National Park was created in 1986 and covers an area of 1,259 square kilometres (486 square miles). This pocket of rainforest is believed to have survived the last ice age and has been aged at over 60 million years old! Within the park boundaries the majority of western African lowland forest bird species are well represented and we will certainly be kept busy trying to find them.

To enter the park we will cross an impressive suspension bridge spanning 120 metres (394ft) across the Mana River (where Rock Pratincoles can be seen on the rocks below). On the far side the wall of ancient forest rising from the riverbanks is awe-inspiring. The huge Yellow-casqued Hornbills are also best seen from this vantage point as the forest canopy is so dense that, from inside, one can usually only hear their loud wing-beats as they pass overhead. We will enter the forest on one of the main paths, which is still used as a trail into Nigeria, and then continue on well-maintained sandy trails for 8 kilometres (5 miles) to Rengo Camp, our base for the next two nights.

During our stay we will wander over rolling hills and swampy valleys, cross many shallow streams and climb rocky outcrops scattered with enormous gneiss boulders where the almost mythical picathartes build their unusual mud-cup nests. At times the forest can be very quiet and seem absolutely devoid of birdlife, but then the silence is broken as a Red-chested Cuckoo, or perhaps the distinctive forest form of the Black Cuckoo, betrays its presence by its distinctive call. A feature of Korup are the ant swarms that are usually regularly encountered. Whenever we come across one we should be prepared for a flurry of activity. Fire-crested Alethes and White-tailed Ant Thrushes are often attracted by the mayhem created amongst other small forest inhabitants by these ferocious ants. Mixed bird parties roving through the forest at all levels are regularly encountered.

Here in Korup we shall be looking for such specialities as the stunning Bare-cheeked Trogon, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill and the richly coloured Rachel’s Malimbe. If we are lucky we will find two or three of the more elusive specialities, which include Latham’s Forest Francolin, Black Guineafowl, Black Dwarf Hornbill and White-crested Hornbill (the latter perhaps following a troop of monkeys). By quietly watching the forest streams we could encounter African Finfoot, as well as Shining-blue and White-bellied Kingfishers, and in the damper areas a White-spotted Flufftail may be lured into view. If we are lucky we will find one of the less easily seen raptors, such as African Crowned Eagle or even Congo Serpent Eagle. At night we can try to find African Wood Owl, but the beautiful Sjöstedt’s Owlet is best looked for during daylight. A pair of Vermiculated Fish Owls sometimes frequents the camp area so we have a good chance of seeing this impressive speciality.

Another major speciality here is the shy, rare and endangered Red-headed Picathartes (or Grey-necked Rockfowl), It is an uncommon bird and notoriously difficult to see outside of the breeding period (in the height of the rainy season when the park is largely inaccessible), but should we have failed at Campo Ma’an or simply wish to see some more then we can make a concerted effort to find it by sitting quietly at one of the nest sites and hoping that they visit in the late afternoon, as they are habitually known to do. If we are quiet and patient we have an excellent chance of seeing this enigmatic creature while in Korup.

Other species we may well encounter at Korup include Red-chested Goshawk, Black-throated Coucal (easily heard but harder to see), Black Spinetail, African Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Grey-throated and Shrike Flycatchers, Dusky Crested Flycatcher, White-spotted Wattle-eye, Yellow-mantled Weaver and Red-vented Malimbe. More uncommon species include Spotted Honeyguide, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Olivaceous and Chestnut-capped Flycatchers, and Maxwell’s Black Weaver.

There is still a certain amount of legal hunting and illegal poaching inside the park, which means that mammals are wary and infrequently seen. We may, however, be lucky enough to come across any of the following primates: Preuss’s Red Colobus and Mona, Crowned, Putty-nosed and Red-eared Monkeys. If we are very fortunate we will also encounter the endangered Drill. We may also glimpse an Ogilby’s Duiker or a Blue Duiker as it crashes away through the undergrowth to safety. On our last day we shall walk the 8 kilometres from Rengo Camp back to the Mana suspension bridge for an overnight stay in a proper bed in Mundemba.

Ultimate Cameroon (Korup): Day 5  After some final birding around Mundemba we will return to Douala where the tour ends this evening.

CAMEROON TOUR REPORT 2012

by Nik Borrow

View Report

CAMEROON TOUR REPORT 2011

by Nik Borrow

View Report

Other Western Africa birding tours by Birdquest include: