The Guianas Experience

The Guianas Experience

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers


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, caimans 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.

Day 1 – Georgetown
Arrive in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Kanuku Suites 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 19th century, as well as some colourful markets.

Day 2 – Karanambu Ranch
Fly to Lethem and transfer by road to Karanambu Ranch (2.5 hours), home to Diane McTurk who is widely known for her work in rehabilitating orphaned giant river otters. In the late afternoon we take a boat out on the river to look for wild giant otters and other species. Overnight Karanambu Ranch. (BLD)

Karanambu Ranch
Karanambu Ranch 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. Diane McTurk, well known for her work in rehabilitating orphaned Giant River Otters to the wild, accommodates guests in five cabanas with verandahs, 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 flood 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 Diane often has orphans in residence. The river reveals Black Caiman and for the lucky the huge Arapaima, the world’s largest fresh water fish. Diane has 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. As a visitor you can join in with Diane's efforts and help her in the daily feeding and care of the otters, and even swim with them in the Rupununi River.

Day 3 – Karanambu Ranch
Explore the area surrounding Karanambu Ranch. If there are any orphaned otters here you may be able to help Diane as she tends to them. You can also explore Simoni Pond, which offers some of the best fishing in Guyana, explore the flooded forest and savannah and look for Guyana’s rich birdlife. Overnight Karanambu Ranch. (BLD)

Day 4 – Karanambu Ranch – Surama
This morning travel out onto the savannah to search for a giant anteater. 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 explore the surrounding forest. Overnight 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
Walk across the savannah and climb Surama Mountain for incredible views across the village to the Pakaraima Mountains. This afternoon we walk to the Burro Burro River to take a canoe trip, hoping to spot giant otters, tapir and spider monkeys amongst other wildlife. Overnight 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 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 to get great looks at 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 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, Pakaraima Mountains 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 to search for birds. 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 Kanuku Suites or similar. (B)

Day 9 – Georgetown
Today is free to explore Georgetown further or take an optional excursion to Kaiteur Falls, where the Potaro River thunders 741 feet into the gorge below, and Orinduik Falls, located on the border with Brazil, before returning to Georgetown for the evening. Overnight Kanuku Suites or similar. (B)

Kaiteur Falls
Kaiteur Falls is a spectacular site, five times higher than Niagara Falls and one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world. First ‘discovered’ by Europeans in 1870, it was of course known to indigenous groups before this – the legend is that it was named after a great chief. Although there are taller and wider falls, Kaiteur’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 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 men sitting with caged birds – a popular pastime in Suriname is entering birds in 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 district Commewijne for an idea of how life must have been on the plantations during their booming period in the 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 Eco-Resort Inn or similar. (BL)

Commewijne Plantations
The tour takes us along the former colonial plantations, most of which them 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 plantations in Surinamese history. Peperpot was established by the English and already existed before Suriname was conquered by the natives from Zeeland under command of Abraham Crijnssen in 1667. This is one of the last plantations still in its former original state. On the plantation 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 Peperpot, 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. Before continuing to the confluence of the Commewijne and Suriname Rivers at Nieuw Amsterdam. Here we will a visit the outdoor museum Fort Nieuw Amsterdam. The large fortress was built as a defense for the crop fields that were situated along the upper parts of both rivers.

Day 12 – Anaula
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, breathtaking scenery, and the tempestuous Jaw Jaw rapids. After some relaxation time we will take a dugout boat and go 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 Anaula Nature Resort. (BLD)

The Maroons
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 along rivers, some crossing into French Guiana, and customs that they had brought with them from Africa remained largely intact and free from too many outside cultural 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 traditional medicinal uses of the plants here, and in the evening experience local culture in the form of Awasa and Bandamba dances. Overnight 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 Eco-Resort Inn. (BL)

Day 15 – Paramaribo
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)


Tour style: Traveller

Arrival and departure transfers
Domestic flights and flight from Georgetown to Paramaribo
All accommodation on twin share basis
Services of English speaking guide
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

International flights
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance

Please note that you should also read the Country Notes in association with this itinerary for practical information about your trip and the destination you will be visiting.

The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and Undiscovered Destinations.

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