Pygmy Hippo Pursuit
£4,000 pp sharing
All photographs on this page kindly provided by Dr Hans-Peter Schaub
At a Glance
Dates: March 24th - April 5th, 2023
Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £4,000 pp sharing (with no single supplement), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: Of all Africa's rare mammal species, perhaps none is as mysterious as the pygmy hippo. Vanishingly reclusive, these charismatic animals find a real stronghold, along with many other species, in West Africa's largest primary rainforest - Taï National Park.
In a region where wildlife typically persists in isolated parcels of forest, Côte d'Ivoire plays host to a sprawling area of primary jungle that is the last of its kind in West Africa. Taï National Park, whilst not untouched by the pressures of the outside world, is as pristine as West Africa comes - thick rainforest, complex river systems and, perhaps most excitingly, rare wildlife. The exceedingly rare and highly sought-after Pygmy Hippo is the primary goal of this trip, and there is probably no finer place to see this species than Taï. Unusually, previous visitors have occasionally encountered this animal in broad daylight, sometimes even with calves, traversing the main Hana River. Whilst nothing can be guaranteed, staking out the rivers and tributaries of this vast national park may afford ardent mammal-watchers with a glimpse of this charismatic mammal. Even if the Hippos are in hiding, this trip has the potential to reveal a number of other rarities including Western Chimpanzee, Bongo, Forest Elephant, Leopard, Zebra Duiker and much, much more.
On your arrival into Abidjan, you will be met by your Pictus Safaris representative and transferred to your comfortable local hotel. There will be a pre-tour briefing in the hotel this evening, but the remainder of the day is at leisure.
This morning we will transfer back to Abidjan Airport for our domestic flight to the city of San Pedro at 11.00. The flight will last about an hour, following the coastline westwards. On arrival, you will be transferred to our comfortable beachside accommodation, with the remainder of the day at leisure.
This morning we will commence the 5-6 hour drive northwards to Taï National Park, the country’s premier wilderness area. Taï is part of one of the largest forest ecosystems in West Africa, contiguous with Sapo National Park in Liberia. Unlike Sapo, Taï has remained relatively well-preserved despite pressure from poaching, and recent research and conservation efforts have revealed that megafauna persists in Taï in surprising numbers. As well as the remarkable Pygmy Hippos, sometimes so bold as even to be encountered during daylight hours, visitors may be lucky enough to locate Chimpanzee, Leopard, Bongo, Zebra Duiker and much more.
Upon reaching Taï, we will check in to our accommodation at Ecotel Touraco just outside the park. After a few hours of leisure time, the group will take our first walk into the national park along the banks of the Hana River. The Hana is the main river in the national park, and Pygmy Hippo are known to frequent this area – we will have been sure to gather intelligence before our arrival as to which areas and trails the Hippo are using most often. As daylight fades, we will walk these trails, hoping to bump into a Pygmy Hippo or, more likely any number of species of ungulate and primate that roam this area.Tonight, we will overnight at Ecotel Touraco, a relatively well-equipped lodge – be sure to take advantage of the creature comforts as we will be using more basic accommodation going forwards!
Today we will strike out into the national park at first light, walking through the dense forest to Chimpanzee Camp, a small and basic camp typically used by primate researchers. Once we are settled in to this, our base camp for the next few days, we will undertake an afternoon trek focussed on the elusive Western Chimpanzee, as well as other primate species found in this area.
As evening sets in, we will begin our first nocturnal stake-out. The area around camp is riddled with small tributaries, all offering plenty of overhanging banks knotted with tree-roots, which make for ideal habitat for Pygmy Hippo. Our plan for tonight will be for the group to split up into pairs, with each pair heading to a small blind strategically positioned either along a tributary or on a trail used by Pygmy Hippo. As these elusive creatures only leave the rivers to feed at night, these blinds represent our best chance of sighting these beautiful, if slightly rotund, animals. The blinds will be equipped with one thermal monocular each, as spotlights disturb the wildlife in the forest, and there will also be one walkie-talkie per blind. Short walks from the blind are permitted, but we recommend that longer walks are avoided due to the presence of Leopard and Forest Elephant in the park.
Days Five to Seven
The next three days will follow a pattern, with the Chimpanzee Camp used as a base for relaxation and sleep during the day, and blinds used during the night. Each morning and evening the group will take a longer walk into the forest together, focussed both on the tributaries most often used by Pygmy Hippo, as well as any other species that have escaped viewing from the hides. A number of species, including Bongo and Forest Elephant, are rarely seen in the flesh, so we may choose to dedicate specific time in search of these beautiful animals
Days Eight to Nine
On the morning of day 8 we will head deep into the national park to Mt Nienokoue, the highest point in the park, providing exceptional vistas. The rockier terrain associated with the mountain also draws in several species not commonly encountered elsewhere in Taï. Chief amongst these is the White-Necked Picathartes seasonally located in the streams here. The evening of Day 8 and morning of Day 9 will be spent traversing the area in search of these highly sought-after birds, as well as any other wildlife in the locale. The afternoon of Day 8 will be spent returning to Ecotel Touraco and the Hana River.
Days Ten to Twelve
Upon our return to the Ecotel Touraco, we will revert to the pattern established at Chimpanzee Camp, with nights spent in two-person blinds along the Hana River, and mornings and evenings spent traversing the forest. Unlike in other Pygmy Hippo hotspots (such as Gola in Sierra Leone), this main river is just as frequently used by Hippos as the smaller and quieter tributaries. If available, we may choose to employ kayaks as a means to patrol the river in the early morning and late evening - silently floating down the river is an excellent way to maximise our chances of an encounter. We will return to the Ecotel during the day, and our proximity to the hotel will allow us to take food with us to blinds – a small luxury that will be well-deserved!
San Pedro/Abidjan/Tour End
In the early morning, we will begin the long drive south to San Pedro, arriving in time for a late lunch before checking in for our 17.45 flight to Abidjan. Our arrival time in Abidjan should allow for connecting flights homewards with Air France or Brussels Airlines, but if you wish to spend an extra night in Abidjan we can arrange this for you at an extra cost.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may
occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in March and April 2023, aiming to take advantage of the dry season when Pygmy Hippos are forced deep into the forest as the river recedes. The tour will run from March 24th to April 5th.
The cost of this trip is £4,000 per person excl. international flights. This includes all accommodation, meals (excl. Abidjan), domestic flights and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinks are not included. There is no single supplement for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £1,000 plus any single supplement must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Abidjan at the beginning or end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Abidjan after 21.45 on your return, if leaving on the same day that we return to Abidjan to avoid disruption to your plans.
British nationals do require a visa to enter Côte d'Ivoire. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Côte d'Ivoire will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a Côte d'Ivoire entry visa for UK citizens is 73 Euro - these must be applied for in advance of travel and collected on arrival into Abidjan.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Côte d'Ivoire in April is warm and humid, with maximum temperatures of around 32 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 25 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing Euros and US Dollars.
Safety and Security
The security situation in Côte d'Ivoire is currently stable - Pictus Safaris is in regular contact with all of our partners to ensure we can keep you updated with any changes to the security situation in Côte d'Ivoire.