Legally Blind Birding

Testing the Patience of Birding Guides Around the World

We recently took a custom birding tour in Ghana and had a fantastic experience. We worked with Ahanti African Tours and they delivered an outstanding trip.

Claire and I have birding together for 24 years, mostly in the US, but abroad starting in 2002. Up to now, South America has been our most productive destination, but we have a new champion. Our nine days in West Africa netted us 282 species and 212 lifers. Ghana is a spectacular birding destination, and an overnight flight from NYC to Accra gets you here fairly painlessly from North America.

Our trip included the Shai Hills in the southeast, Kakum National Park and surrounding areas in the south, the Picathartes sites, and finally Mole National Park in the north. This gives an excellent sampling of rainforest and savanna habitats. Every new location that we visited brought new species; there was no duplication of effort.

Our guides, William, Ebenezer, and Kojo, went out of their way to make this a great tour. William in particular was one of those guides that has an uncanny ability to determine exactly where a bird has moved to after it has moved out of immediate visual range. I’ll never understand how this is done. They know their calls and songs intimately, and I tested them by recording as many vocalizations as I could and later checking them against xeno-canto. They didn’t misidentify anything.

We were especially impressed with their commitment to helping the local communities, such as the village of Bonkro, in addition to guiding. This is critical outreach, not only for improving the lives of their neighbors, but also in educating them about the importance of conservation and the protection of the priceless wildlife resources around them.

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In Bonkro after seeing the Picathartes and making new friends. With driver/guide Kojo.

Our guides were able to accommodate for my vision issues, and because of their perseverance, I didn’t miss any birds. They also dealt with an unexpected challenge: on our final day, needing to get to the airport in Tamale for a flight to Accra, our vehicle broke down. This could have been a disaster but they managed to get us to the airport in time for our flight, and we made it back home as planned.

We are also happy to report that we didn’t have any digestive complaints during or after this tour. I wish I could say that about every tropical birding trip we have done. We were taken to good restaurants and hotels that always served very hot meals.

I cannot recommend this outfit highly enough, and I cannot think of a better introduction to West Africa birding. They offer trips in other locations as well, and we plan on using their services in Uganda at some point.

One final note; US citizens need a visa for Ghana, and it is highly recommended to pursue this through the Ghana consulate in Houston– it was fast and easy to get done. Reading about other traveler’s experiences indicated that other offices in the US were not always as efficient or consistent as they are in Houston.

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