The Guianas Experience 2016
The Guianas Experience 2016
The small South American country of Guyana rarely features on most people’s travel plans, but discerning travellers are coming to recognise it as one of the premier wildlife destinations on our planet. Brought into the spotlight by the BBC’s ‘Lost Land of the Jaguar’ series, Guyana offers unique opportunities to spot incredible wildlife such as Tapir, Giant River Otters, Caiman and of course the Jaguar itself. On this trip we head to Karanambu Ranch with its landscape ranging from savannah to wetlands to forest where we take trips on the river, look for birds, monkeys and Giant Anteaters, and experience the overwhelming hospitality that characterises this part of the country. We travel deep into the rainforest to Iwokrama – one of the best places for spotting these cats – and gain a unique perspective of the forest from its amazing canopy walkway, as well as visiting the Amerindian village of Surama to learn more about the lives of Guyana’s indigenous people. In neighbouring Suriname we explore the unique capital of Paramaribo with its superb colonial architecture, and look for freshwater dolphins on the river. We also visit old plantations for an insight into the country’s history, and visit Maroon villages more reminiscent of Africa than South America. Guyana and Suriname are unique within Latin America and an absolute delight to explore.
Fitness ●●●○○ | Adventure ●●●○○ | Culture ●●●○○ | History ●●○○○ | Wildlife ●●●●●
- The flight over Kaieteur Falls, the highest free falling waterfall in the world
- The Giant River Otters and Giant Anteaters at Karanambu
- The pristine rainforest of Iwokrama
- Meeting the local Maroon people in Suriname
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunch (L) and dinner (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: 8
Start Point: Georgetown
End Point: Paramaribo
Transport: 4WD, motorboats & domestic flights
Countries: Guyana & Suriname
Day 1 – Georgetown
Arrive in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital and transfer to your hotel. Overnight at Grand Coastal Hotel or similar.
Located on the coast, Georgetown is Guyana’s largest city and has a distinctly Caribbean feel to it, interspersed with its colonial British, French and Dutch heritage. The city was founded in the 18th century but did not become the capital until it was captured by the French in 1782, only to fall into British hands thirty years later. It owes its existence to the fertility of its soil – early settlers found this to be an ideal region for establishing plantations and reclaimed what had been floodplains through the building of dykes and canals. Georgetown’s streets are laid out in a grid pattern and contain many interesting historic buildings dating back to the 19tlh century, as well as some colourful markets.
Day 2 – Karanambu Lodge
Fly to Lethem and transfer by road to Karanambu Ranch (2.5 hours). In the late afternoon we take a boat out on the river to look for Giant River Otters and other species, and as dusk falls, we take the boat to the ponds to see the giant Amazonia Regis water lily which blooms at this time of day. On the boat ride back a spotlight will be used to see Black Caiman and other night animals. Overnight at Karanambu Lodge (BLD)
Karanambu Lodge is situated where the north savannah grassland, swamp and flood forest meet on the Rupununi River and the horse flats stretch towards the Pakaraima Mountains and into Brazil. The settlement has the flavour of an Amerindian village, with its clay brick and palm thatched cabanas set in a compound between the bush and the open range. Established by Diane McTurk, well known for her work in rehabilitating orphaned Giant River Otters to the wild, the lodge accommodates guests in five cabanas with verandas; twin bedded rooms and ensuite bathrooms. Meals are served around a large dining table in the open hammock-swagged living room of the main ranch house. Outstanding tropical freshwater fish and teeming bird life abound. Bird watchers intrepid enough to brave the floods and insects of the wet season (June - August) are rewarded with water birds breeding in the nearby nursery. The area is also a last refuge for the Giant River Otter and there are often orphans in residence. The river reveals Black Caiman and for the lucky the huge Arapaima, the world’s largest fresh water fish. Diane started the Karanambu Trust in an attempt to create a private protected area at Karanambu. The primary purpose of the protected area will be the protection of the habitat for the otters and ensuring their survival. This project has created such interest that filmmakers from around the world, such as BBC, Yorkshire Television and Wild Things, have travelled to Karanambu to film Diane's work.
Day 3 – Karanambu Lodge
Explore the area surrounding Karanambu Lodge including Simoni Pond, which offers some of the best fishing in Guyana, and the flooded forest and savannah to look for Guyana’s rich birdlife. Overnight at Karanambu Lodge. (BLD)
Day 4 – Karanambu Lodge – Surama
This morning travel out to an area of rolling grassland which is home to a population of Giant Anteaters. The chances of seeing one of these extraordinary looking animals is high. Explore the Rupununi River in search of wild Giant River Otters, Black Caiman and other species. After reaching Ginep Landing we transfer by vehicle to the Amerindian village of Surama. We take a tour through the village to learn about the local way of life, and accompanied by our local guides discover the surrounding forest. Overnight in the basic accommodation of Surama Eco-Lodge. (BLD)
Surama is a small Makushi village on the savannah with inhabitants still following time-honoured traditions and relying on the jungle for their livelihood. This isolated and idyllic location offers an escape from the concrete jungle to a serene and peaceful existence with nature. Dawn hikes, led by Surama guides across the savannah and up Surama Mountain, reveal a multitude of birds and fantastic vistas. The guides have lived their entire lives in the rainforest, and have an incredible understanding of nature and how to utilise its resources.
Day 5 - Surama
Rise before dawn and walk across the savannah in the cool morning air to climb Surama Mountain. This is not a technical climb but can be arduous, and for those who prefer, the local guides can arrange alternative activities. After lunch back at the village we set off this afternoon to walk the three miles to the Burro Burro River for a canoe trip, hoping to spot Giant River Otters, Tapir and Spider Monkeys amongst other wildlife. Overnight in the basic accommodation at Surama Eco Lodge. (BLD)
Day 6 – Iwokrama
Travel through Guyana’s rainforest to Iwokrama, an incredible region of rainforest with a breathtaking diversity of species. Iwokrama is one of the best places to see jaguar in the wild. En route we take a walk into the forest to look for one of Guyana’s most spectacular birds, the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock. We then head to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, 30 metres up into the canopy, for a different perspective of the forest. Overnight at Atta Rainforest Lodge. (BLD)
Iwokrama Forest covers nearly a million acres and is home to a bewildering array of different species. Its name means ‘place of refuge’ in the language of the Makushi Amerindians, who retreated here to avoid the predations of the slave trade. Iwokrama was established as a centre for the study of the rainforest and has been set aside to promote sustainable tourism within the region. Wildlife here includes Jaguar, Caiman, Howler and Spider Monkeys, rodents such as Pacas and Agoutis, and Peccaries among numerous other species. The birdlife here is equally spectacular, with Toucans, Macaws, Hummingbirds and the sought after Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock. The forest is in the homeland of the Makushi people, who have lived here and used the forest for thousands of years. Although the forest around Atta Rainforest Lodge is excellent for birds, the major attraction here is a 154 metre long canopy walkway which is only 750m from the lodge. The walkway has four platforms, the highest of which is over 30 metres above the ground, and these will allow us the opportunity to spot a range of canopy species, many of which we would struggle to see well from the forest floor.
Day 7 – Iwokrama – Rock View Lodge
Experience the dawn chorus from the canopy walkway, and visit an area renowned for sightings of one of Guyana’s most intriguing birds, the Cock of the Rock. We then continue by 4WD vehicle to Rock View Lodge, situated in a region where the savannah meets the forest covered foothills of the Pakaraima Mountains. With its tropical gardens and flowering trees, the lodge resembles an oasis in the savannah, and attracts many species of birds. Overnight at Rock View Lodge. (BLD)
Rock View Lodge
Rock View Lodge is located in the village of Ruperti in the North Rupununi Savannahs at the foothills of the Pakaraima Mountains and close to the border with the Iwokrama Forest. The Rupununi River, and the rainforest, as well as the Amerindian villages of Annai, Kwatamang and Woweta are to be found within a radius of only a few miles of Rock View Lodge and are easily accessible. Guests are accommodated in well-furnished and spacious self-contained suites and are entertained in the old ranch house. Well trained bilingual staff from the region will look after your every need and the cuisine is an exciting blend of Creole, Guyanese and Brazilian. The lodge is set in acres of gardens and orchards which attract hundreds of humming birds.
Day 8 – Rock View Lodge - Georgetown
At dawn take a hike in the foothills of the Pakaraima Mountains in the hope of seeing some of the birds that live there. We then return to Georgetown by air, and have an afternoon city tour of this unusual South American capital. In the evening you can take an optional tour to the Roy Geddes Musical Museum for a taste of local culture. Overnight at Kanuku Suites or similar. (B)
Day 9 – Georgetown
Today is free to explore Georgetown further or take an optional excursion to Kaieteur Falls, where the Potaro River thunders 741 feet into the gorge below, and/or Orinduik Falls, located on the border with Brazil, before returning to Georgetown for the evening. Overnight at Kanuku Suites or similar. (B)
Kaieteur Falls is a spectacular site, five times higher than Niagara Falls and one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world. First seen by Europeans in 1870, it was known to indigenous groups before this – the legend is that it was named after a great chief. Although there are taller and wider falls, Kaieteur’s distinction comes from its combination of both volume of water and height.
Day 10 - Paramaribo
Transfer to the airport and fly to Paramaribo, the capital of neighbouring Suriname. In the afternoon take a walking tour of the capital, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with beautiful architecture, interesting markets and historical buildings. Overnight at Eco-Resort Inn or similar. (B)
Suriname’s capital looks rather out of place in South America – an unusual collection of architecture that often has you wondering exactly where you are. Located on the banks of the Suriname River, Paramaribo (Parbo to the locals) changed hands a few times between the Dutch and the English in the early days of their involvement in the region, but was under Dutch control from 1815 until the end of colonial rule in 1975. Evidence of this heritage can be seen in the city’s historic district (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), where wooden houses with elaborate and elegant facades line the streets close to the old Fort Zeelandia. Elsewhere African markets vie for space with mosques and Hindu temples and buildings sport Chinese script, all of these reflecting the unique ethnic make-up of the capital and of Suriname itself. On street corners and open air bars look out for a man sitting with caged birds – a popular pastime in Suriname is entering birds in to singing competitions. The population of the city is just 250,000, giving it rather an intimate feel, and the historic inner city is a fascinating place to wander round, with stunning old wooden churches and whitewashed mansions lining the streets.
Day 11 – Commewijne Plantations
Drive into the district of Commewijne for an idea of how life must have been on the plantations during their boom period in colonial times. We explore the plantations of Marienburg and Peperpot to learn about the history of Suriname. Later we take a boat on the Suriname River to look for freshwater dolphins, which can often be spotted in groups of up to twenty. Overnight at Eco-Resort Inn or similar. (BL)
The tour takes us along the former colonial plantations, most of which are now abandoned. We make a stop at plantation Peperpot where the old coffee and cocoa factory, deputy-director’s house and the old office are located. This former plantation is one of the oldest in the history of Suriname. Peperpot was established by the English and already existed before Suriname was conquered by the natives from Zeeland under the command of Abraham Crijnssen in 1667. This is one of the last plantations still in its original condition. You can still see coffee and cocoa plants as well as an ancient shed and factory, the manager’s residence and a kampong (workers’ living area). Peperpot is renowned for the many birds which can be spotted. From here we make a stop at the mini-museum of Marienburg, a former sugar plantation, before enjoying a delicious lunch in a typical Javanese restaurant (warung) in Tamanredjo. We then continue to the confluence of the Commewijne and Suriname Rivers at Nieuw Amsterdam. Here we will a visit the outdoor museum of Fort Nieuw Amsterdam, and the large fortress, which was built as a defense for the crop fields that were situated along the upper parts of both rivers.
Day 12 – Anaula
We head south from Paramaribo by road to Atjoni, and then travel by boat to Anaula Nature Resort situated at the foot of the Ferulassi falls, passing various Maroon villages through breath-taking scenery, and the tempestuous Jaw Jaw rapids. On arrival we will take a dugout boat to an island in the Ferullasi rapids which has a sandy beach where we can relax, swim and enjoy a natural Jacuzzi. In the evening we head out on the river in search of Caiman. Overnight at Anaula Nature Resort. (BLD)
The Maroon people are the descendants of former runaway slaves who fled the colonial plantations from the end of the 17th century onwards, for a better life in the interior. Most settled alongside rivers, some crossing into French Guyana and customs that they had brought with them from Africa remain largely free from outside influences. A visit to Maroon villages presents an utterly different side of Latin America that is rarely encountered by travellers.
Day 13 – New Aurora
Travel by boat to the village of New Aurora to learn about the customs and culture of the local Maroon groups. We then head to Gunsi to take a forest walk and learn about the traditional medicinal uses of the plants here, and in the evening experience local culture in the form of Awasa and Bandamba dances. Overnight at Anaula Nature Resort. (BLD)
Day 14 – Paramaribo
This morning is free to relax or explore the surrounding area further. This afternoon we travel back to Paramaribo for our final night. Overnight at Eco-Resort Inn. (BL)
Day 15 – Paramaribo
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
Arrival and departure transfers
Services of English speaking guide
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Any airport taxes