Trip reference number: ITN-SLE005

Trip Operator: Rainbow Tours

Sierra Leone Natural History Explorer

From: £2525.00

Experience some of Sierra Leone's natural history locations with us. This sample itinerary is designed to introduce keen nature enthusiasts to the fascinating and still poorly-explored Upper Guinea forest ecoystem. At time of writing (2019) these forests have been far less visited by tourists than other evergreen forests in Africa, so present nature enthusiasts with an exciting opportunity to experience something fresh, with forest-dependent wildlife being the focus of the trip.

Given the nature of the Upper Guinea forest wildlife, this is certainly a trip for travel gourmets, rather than gourmands.

This sample itinerary - which can be tailored as you wish, incorporates Tiwai Island; Tacugama Chimpanzee Centre, Gola Rainforest National Park and Banana Islands. You will be seeking various forest-dependent primates, including monkeys such as the striking Diana monkey; the endangered Upper Guinea colobus (Western red colobus), Sooty mangabey, Campbell's mona monkey, Lesser spot-nosed monkey and also, Western pied and Olive colobus. At night, Thomas' and Demidoff's galagos; West African potto may be seen. Lucky visitors may encounter some Duikers (forest-dwelling antelopes, of which the Zebra, Brook's, Maxwell's, Yellow-backed and extremely scarce Jentink's duiker occur, mostly in Gola) and the tiny Water chevrotain and equally dimimutive Royal antelope, which is the smallest of all the world's antelopes.

A variety of interesting rodents and bats occur in Sierra Leone. Keep a lookout for Gambian; Green, Striped ground and Red-legged sun squirrels. You may also see the very interesting (and quite spectacular) Lord Derby's anomalure (scaly-tailed squirrell), a gliding squirrell. Bats present include Straw-coloured and the utterly bizarre (and conspicuously noisy) Hammerhead Fruit bats; Noack's roundleaf bat and Horseshoe bat. While at Tiwai island, you might see Congo clawless otters and signs of the ultra elusive Pygmy hippo.(While visitors have and do see the Pygmy hippos, this is extremely rare). More likely to be seen are Red river hog, Congo clawless otter and the Common (long-nosed) cusimanse, a curious and social, diurnal mongoose.

(We must emphasise though, that equatorial evergreen forest wildlife is often-times skittish and population densities are low for the most part).

Keen birders coming to Sierra Leone are in for a treat: the country isn't very different in size to Scotland, yet more than 640 bird species have been recorded there. The most sought-after megatick is of course the White-necked picathartes (rockfowl), for which several nesting caves are known in Gola. 14 of the 15 range-restricted Upper Guinea forest specials can be sought in Sierra Leone, along with other rarities like Turati's boubou, Emerald starling and striking Red-headed and Gola malimbes. Keep a lookout also for the likes of the bizarre White-breasted guineafowl; Stone partridge; Egyptiam plover; Pel's and Rufous fishing owls, Long-tailed and Standard-winged nightjars; Yellow-casqued and Brown-cheeked hornbills, Blue-headed and Black bee-eaters, Shining blue and Blue-breasted kingfishers Yellow-crowned gonolek; Sabine's puffback; iridicsent Splendid, Johanna's and Buff-throated sunbirds and many, many more feathered gems.

While work on the reptile, amphibian and fish inventories is ongoing, some 67 reptiles, 35 amphibians and 99 fish species have been recorded in the country. Among the reptiles, interesting species include Dwarf crocodiles (mangrove habitat) and Slender-snouted crocs along forest streams. Turtle and Sherbro Islands are known nesting sites for Green and Leatherback turtles.

Itinerary

Day 1 Depart from London on the daytime Brussels Airlines flight (06h50) via Brussels to Freetown. On arrival into Lungi Airport late this afternoon (16h50), you will be welcomed by our local representatives and transferred on the Sea Coach Express boat (30 minutes) across the mouth of Freetown Estuary, where you stay at The Home Suites for the night, with breakfast included.

Day 2 After breakfast you will head for Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary where you will spend the night. Learn about the inspirational work being done by Bala and his team who now take care of more than 100 Chimps which have been confiscated from trappers or which were often-times cruelly kept as pets. Your guide can also take you for a forest walk in the trails here, especially rewarding for keen birders. (More than 100 species are known to occur in the forest around here). Overnight in the comfortably Augusta Lodge with breakfast.

Day 3 A visit to this 12km2 tropical rain-forest-clad island in the Moa River near the Liberian border, is one of Sierra Leone’s wildlife highlights. Depart after breakfast, with a lunch stop in the town of Bo. Arrive at Tiwai Island in the mid afternoon, with time to rest at camp which is reached by means of a boat transfer from Kambama. Enjoy a late afternoon/early evening boat trip up the Moa River in a motorised boat. From here, enjoy spectacular views of Tiwai Island and the neighbouring mainland, keeping a lookout for the various species of forest-dwelling monkeys jumping between the trees and some of the 135 species of birds. You may see the occasional crocodile - more than one species inhabits the area. Dinner will be provided by the camp statt. Nocturnal excursions can be arranged. During these, you can seek the likes of African dwarf crocodile, Rufous fishing owl and Thomas's galago. (Other nocturnal species that have been recorded, include Western tree hyrax and even White-bellied pangolin, which is exceedingly endangered these days as all pangolins are.

Day 4 In the morning, when diurnal evergreen forest wildlife is at its most active, enjoy a guided walk in the forest of Tiwai Island. During this walk you can seek some of the resident primates (11 species occur here, notably several monkeys referred to in the tour introduction - most commonly encountered are Western red, Olive and Western pied colobus, Diana monkey and Lesser spot-nosed monkeys. Campbell's monkeys and Sooty mangabeys are also regularly seen, the latter by the camp). You can seek some of the 135 species of birds on the species list and enjoy watching colourful butterflies, of which more than 600 species occur. Departing after an early lunch, take the boat back to the 'mainland' to learn something of the fascinating culture and heritage of the rural villages of Kambama and nearby Nianiahun (20 min drive). You will be shown including sites of traditional sacrifice, meeting points for the rituals of the village elders, birth ceremonial sites and the ‘blood stream’ hiding place for the knives and weapons of ancient warriors. In the evening, make a guided stroll into the forest to watch for nocturnal primates and birds. Enjoy a simple but tasty dinner cooked by camp staff and overnight in the camp. (You can make a second night walk this evening).

Day 5 Take another early morning forest walk to seek more of Tiwai's wildlife and birdlife. After your walk, head to Gola Rainforest via Bo. Arriving in Kenema, stop for lunch in the grounds of the Pastoral Center while your guide collects the National Park permits. Drive from Kenema to Lalehun, arriving Lalehun mid afternoon. Enjoy the tranquility and atmosphere of the beautiful surrounding forest. You can take a late afternoon stroll into the rainforest with your guide. In the evening, you will be welcomed at Lalehun with a performance of the traditiona l 'Devil Dance' practised by the Gola people, with dinner.

Day 6 There are two options for today: Option 1 is especially suitable for keen birdwatchers: - An early start into the rainforest to seek and observe some of the many birds of Gola during the dawn chorus. Rest at the lodge for the remainder of the morning. After lu...

This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website

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