Birdwatching in Gola Forest National Park

woman Birdwatching in Gola Forest National Park

Located in the heart of West Africa, the Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone is a hidden gem for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

This lush, verdant paradise is home to an astonishing array of wildlife, and hundreds of bird species, many of which are unique to the Upper Guinean Rainforest.

The diverse habitats, ranging from dense forests to open canopies, provide the perfect sanctuary for many avian species making it ideal for birdwatching in Gola Forest National Park.

Birdwatching in Gola Forest National Park

Timneh Parrot Birdwatching in Gola Forest National Park
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The Gola Rainforest National Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise, boasting an impressive array of habitats that support over 330 bird species.

The park’s varied elevations and dense forests create the perfect conditions for forest-dwelling and canopy-dwelling birds, ensuring a diverse and exciting birdwatching experience.

Some of the most notable bird species found in the park include the elusive Gola Malimbe, the vibrant Yellow-bearded Greenbul, the majestic Rufous-fishing owl, and the charismatic Timneh Parrot.

The pre-sunrise and sunset tours are popular, as they provide the opportunity to witness the birds during their most active periods, as they sing their morning choruses or settle in for the night.

Activities and Experiences

Gola Malimbe
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In addition to birdwatching, the Gola Rainforest National Park offers a wide range of activities and experiences that allow visitors to fully immerse themselves in the beauty and wonder of this incredible ecosystem.

One of the most popular activities is forest walks and hikes, which provide the opportunity to explore the park’s diverse habitats and spot its many wildlife species.

Guided early morning, dusk, and night walks offer the chance to see the forest come alive at different times of the day and night.

For cultural experiences, the park offers village stays and activities such as Mende games, cultural dancing, and the mesmerizing Gola masked devil dance.

Specialized tours are also available for those with specific interests, such as scoping trips to find rare bird species, multi-day hikes through the forest, and homestays with local communities.

For the more adventurous, the park offers overnight camping along the scenic Mahoi River and trekking through the Gola South to the Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary.

Gola Peace Transboundary Park

The Gola Rainforest National Park is part of the larger Gola Peace Transboundary Park, which spans the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Covering an impressive 350,000 hectares, the Gola Peace Transboundary Park is one of the largest remaining areas of the Upper Guinea Forest, a biodiversity hotspot that stretches from Guinea to Togo.

The park’s vast size and diverse habitats make it a crucial sanctuary for countless species of flora and fauna, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

Biodiversity in the Gola Rainforest

Gola rainforest National Park
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The Gola Rainforest National Park is a true wonder of biodiversity, boasting an astonishing array of plant and animal life.

The park’s biodiversity also includes a staggering variety of plant life, with around 1,000 plant species recorded within its boundaries.

The Gola Rainforest is also a haven for butterflies, with over 650 species recorded in the park. This represents an astonishing 80% of the butterfly species found in Sierra Leone, making the park a true paradise for lepidopterists.

Other wildlife in the park include small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and freshwater fish, each playing a vital role in the complex web of life that makes up this incredible ecosystem.

Other Important Birdwatching Spots in Sierra Leone

Tiwai Island and other Birdwatching spots in Sierra Leone
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While the Gola Rainforest National Park is undoubtedly the crown jewel of Sierra Leone’s birdwatching scene, several other locations are worth exploring for their avian diversity.

The Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, located in the heart of the Moa River, is a small but mighty conservation area home to over 135 bird species.

This sanctuary is particularly known for its populations of rare and endangered species, such as the White-breasted Guineafowl and the Rufous-winged Illadopsis.

Another notable birdwatching destination is the Loma Mountains National Park, which offers an impressive array of montane forest species.

This park is home to several endemic species, including the Emerald Starling and the Sierra Leone Prinia, making it a must-visit for birdwatchers.

For those looking for a more accessible birdwatching experience, the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, located just outside of Freetown, is a great option.

While the sanctuary primarily focuses on chimpanzee conservation, it also offers excellent birdwatching opportunities, with over 200 species recorded within its boundaries.

Planning Your Visit

The best time to visit for birdwatching is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. During this time, the park’s birds are more active and easier to spot, as they are not hidden by the dense foliage of the rainy season.

Accommodation options in the park include basic camping facilities and eco-lodges, which provide a comfortable and immersive experience in the heart of the rainforest.

Bring comfortable, lightweight clothing, sturdy hiking shoes, and plenty of insect repellent. Binoculars and a field guide to the birds of West Africa are also essential for any serious birdwatcher.


The Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone is an unparalleled destination for birdwatchers with many opportunities to observe and marvel at the incredible diversity of avian species within its borders.

From the elusive Gola Malimbe to the vibrant Yellow-bearded Greenbul, this park is a true haven for bird enthusiasts, providing a rare chance to see some of the world’s most unique and endangered species in their natural habitat.

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