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Guyana Wildlife: South America's wild frontier

14 days from £3,913pp

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Guyana Wildlife: South America's wild frontier:
Trip Dossier

On this breathtaking holiday we introduce you to this emerging wildlife destination, English-speaking Guyana, formerly British Guiana. The Caribbean coast is a tangle of mangroves and sugar cane plantations. Inland is a landscape of savannah and rainforest; of ancient tablelands and waterfalls. In the back-country lodges here the few visitors are warmly welcomed. In the south, the wildlife, so rarely disturbed, seems oblivious to observers. 

Wilderness waterfalls, vast tropical rainforests and horizon-bending grasslands: a nation the size of Great Britain, Guyana is unrivalled for its spectacular natural attractions and diversity of wildlife. Expect to spot all varieties of animals and birdlife from the cock-of-the-rock to the Black caiman, the tiny golden frog to the rare giant river otter- and maybe even a watchful jaguar. 

After arriving in the idiosyncratic capital, Georgetown, you will head inland to the spectacular Kaieteur falls followed by the verdant nature reserve of Iwokrama Forest and onwards through Amerindian communities to the famous Karanambu Lodge. Guyana is rapidly becoming one of the most important ecotourism havens in Latin America- and it’s not difficult to see why.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Georgetown and transfer to your hotel.

Day 2

Day trip to Kaieteur and Orinduik Falls.

Day 3

Fly to Annai, transfer to Iwokrama River Lodge.

Day 4

Hike to the Turtle mountain.

Day 5

Wildlife spotting at Iwokrama. Stay at the Atta Rainforest Lodge.

Day 6

Explore the rainforest around Atta.

Day 7

By road to Surama Eco Lodge.

Day 8

Climb Surama mountain.

Day 9

Transfer to Annai.

Day 10

Wildlife spotting in the area; transfer to Karanambu Ranch.

Day 11

Explore the Rupununi region.

Day 12

Discover the wildlife of the savannah; transfer to Caiman House Field Station.

Day 13

Fly to Georgetown; guided city tour.

Day 14

Transfer to the airport for your international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Georgetown and transfer to your hotel.
 
Transfer to your hotel in Georgetown. Cara Lodge, built in the 1840s, is one of the oldest wooden buildings in the country and was the home of the first Lord Mayor of Georgetown.
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Cara Lodge Georgetown

Day 2

Day trip to Kaieteur and Orinduik Falls.
 
Leap into Guyana’s incredible wilderness landscape at the deep end with a guided expedition to two of the country’s most impressive waterfalls. Take a light-aircraft flight over unbroken tropical rainforest to land at Kaieteur Falls, which flows over a tableland plateau into a deep gorge. The falls, which were first identified by a European in 1870, are situated in the heart of Guyana on the Potaro river, a tributary of the Essequibo.  You’ll be amazed by the torrent of water as it thunders from the sandstone conglomerate tableland down the drop of 228m (5 times the height of Niagara Falls). Kaieteur supports a unique and fascinating micro environment with diverse wildlife including the tiny golden frogs.

Fly on to Orinduik Falls, which has a backdrop of the rolling grass covered hills of the Pakaraima Mountains, and is one of the most beautiful locations in Guyana's hinterland. Orinduik is ideally suited for swimming in natural Jacuzzis beneath the falls that tumble down steps of jasper, a semi-precious stone. Return to Georgetown.

(Flights to the falls are operated on chartered aircraft which have a minimum passenger restriction - 5. In most cases this minimum will be reached. On the rare occasions that this is not the case you will be offered the option of rescheduling the trip to another day during your stay or an alternative trip).

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kaieteur Falls

Day 3

Fly to Annai, transfer to Iwokrama River Lodge.
 
An early start, transfer to the airport and fly to Annai.  Luggage is restricted to 9kg. You can leave surplus luggage in storage in Georgetown until the end of your holiday in Guyana.

After breakfast at Rock View Lodge travel to Iwokrama River Lodge, about 2hrs away. On the banks of the Essequibo River, Iwokrama was established to promote the conservation and sustainable use of dense primary and secondary tropical rainforest, half of which is retained as a wilderness reserve.

The afternoon is free to explore the trails around the river lodge with an Iwokrama ranger. Iwokrama is home to many bird species including the striking orange Guayanan cock-of-the-rock. Finally, after dark, you’ll set out on the river in the hope of observing one or another of the 4 species of indigenous caiman, and listen out for the calls of nocturnal birds. You will also spot snakes, tree frogs and if you are lucky maybe a few mammals, such as a puma or a capybara.

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Iwokrama

Day 4

Hike to the Turtle mountain.
 
Today you will climb Turtle mountain. Set off by boat along the Essequibo river to the base of the mountain. The trail is intermittently steep but there are some handrails and there are some opportunities for bird watching along the way. It takes 1-2hrs to walk up to the summit at 300m, but the effort is more than worth it for the expansive views over the emerald carpet of the forest canopy, cut through by the winding river and enlivened by macaws, spider, howler and capuchin monkeys.

Return to the river lodge for lunch. As the afternoon cools, set out on a boat trip to the Kurupukari Falls to see Amerindian petroglyphs. Then visit nearby Fair View, the only traditional Amerindian village (pop.200) situated within the reserve, before returning to the Field Station.

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Day 5

Wildlife spotting at Iwokrama. Stay at the Atta Rainforest Lodge.
 
At dawn take a wildlife walk with an Iwokrama ranger close to the Field Station. After breakfast, walk along the trail which is one of the most likely places to spot an elusive jaguar. The Iwokrama forest is rapidly gaining an international reputation for sightings of its resident jaguars, which seem not to be troubled by the appearance of the few curious human beings who venture here. The trail leads you to a special area of habitat known as Mori scrub, characterised by a low, sandy forest which supports an unusual assemblage of birds.

At the end of the trail you reach the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway: a series of suspension bridges and observation decks of up to 30m in height and 154m in length. The extensive network provides excellent access to the otherwise impenetrable upper levels of the virgin rainforest canopy.  It’s especially magical at dusk. Overnight at Atta Rainforest Lodge.

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Iwokrama walkway

Day 6

Explore the rainforest around Atta.
 

Experience the waking jungle at dawn from atop the Canopy Walkway - a truly memorable experience. After enjoying breakfast back at the lodge, the rest of the day will be spent exploring the surrounding rainforest with your guide. As well as the extensive trails network, the clearing around the lodge itself is an excellent place to spot interesting and even quite rare flora and fauna.

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Iwokrama walkway

Day 7

By road to Surama Eco Lodge.
 
You are penetrating the heart of this jungle-clad country, driving to the village of Surama situated in a stretch of savannah surrounded by the forest-clad Pakaraima mountains. An Amerindian community thrives here: inhabitants still observe many of the traditional practices of their forebears. You’ll receive a welcome from a village representative on arrival. Visit the local school, medical centre and church along with some of the village’s houses.

There is plenty of time in the afternoon to explore the village and observe the forest and bird life. As the temperature falls a local guide will escort you for a short walk on trails to observe the forest and bird life.  Learn about the medicinal plants and their uses in Amerindian culture.  In the evening there’s an educational walk to observe wildlife and experience the forest after dark. Overnight at Surama Ecolodge which has a lovely hilltop setting.

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Surama

Day 8

Climb Surama mountain.
 
Rise before dawn for a walk across the savannah (1hr) followed by a climb up Surama mountain in the cool morning air. The trail ascends gradually at first, but becomes rocky and steeper, fringed by primary and secondary forest populated by many bird species, mammals and reptiles. Breakfast will be served at a superb lookout point (228m) which affords panoramic views across the village and savannah to the Pakaraima mountains.  It’s a tranquil spot, the silence only interrupted by the cries of macaws and Howler monkeys.

Return to village for lunch, after which you have a 5km walk across the savannah and through the rainforest to the Burro Burro river. Your guides will then take you paddling on the water for opportunities to observe giant river otters, tapirs, tyras, and Spider monkeys.

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Surama

Day 9

Transfer to Annai.
 
After breakfast depart Surama for Rock View Lodge at Annai. The road travels  across grasslands and through the foothills of the mountains with excellent opportunities for savannah bird watching.  Lofty jabiru storks are often seen along this stretch of road.  Eventually you reach the Rupununi  District and Annai, its northernmost community.

The Rupununi savannah is an extensive area of grassland dotted with termite mounds and scattered woodland.  Much of it is devoted to cattle-raising, though the business on the large ranches is not very intensive.  Indeed, one can travel for hours without seeing a domesticated animal of any sort. Needless to say, the birdlife here is markedly different from that of the rainforest. Rock View Lodge is located where the savannah meets the forest-covered foothills of the Pakaraima mountains.

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Day 10

Wildlife spotting in the area; transfer to Karanambu Ranch.
 

Rock View Lodge is managed by the owner, an Englishman who has been closely associated with Guyana since he came here as an agricultural volunteer in 1969. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with hundreds of palms, fruit and flower trees that enhance the natural beauty of the rolling hills and savannahs, the Rupununi river and wooded mountains nearby.

Set off on a dawn guided hike along the Panorama Trail in the foothills of the mountains. The views across the savannah and villages as the sun rises are spectacular. Afterwards you’ll visit nearby Amerindian villages and watch a demonstration of traditional cashew nut roasting. You might take an excursion out to watch the vaqueros (cowboys) on horseback as they take cattle out to graze on the prairie, or simply just relax at the lodge and enjoy its art collection, library and musical archive. Finish the day with drinks around the pool at the lodge.

From Ginep Landing you take a boat trip on the Rupununi river to Karanambu Ranch.  Depending on the river level, this trip offers an excellent opportunity to spot giant otters as there are several family groups which live along this stretch. Late in the afternoon you will travel by boat to look for wild river otters: as dusk falls continue to ponds to see the giant Victoria Regia water lilies which bloom at dusk.  On the return trip you will use a spotlight to search for black caiman and nocturnal birds, reptiles and mammals.

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Amerindian village

Day 11

Explore the Rupununi region.
 

Karanambu Lodge and the surrounding savannah is a working cattle ranch but is most famous for Diane McTurk’s work caring for orphaned giant river otters and rehabilitating them into the wild. Karanambu is her home and it has a long history of receiving naturalists: Diana’s father, Tiny McTurk, welcomed David Attenborough and Gerald Durrell.

In the morning you can go bird watching in the environs of the lodge.  When water levels are appropriate a wooded swamp near the ranch is the site of a surprisingly large colony of boat-billed herons, as well as several species of egret.

The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight at the lodge.

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karanambu

Day 12

Discover the wildlife of the savannah; transfer to Caiman House Field Station.
 
Explore the Rupununi river in search of giant river otters and Black caiman, whilst travelling by boat to the Amerindian settlement of Yupukari, a traditional village where the lifestyle has changed little over recent decades.  Houses are constructed from clay brick, cooking is done over an open fire and transport is by bullock-carts.

Arrive at Caiman House Field Station which was established to carry out research on the black caimans in the Rupununi river, but is now the hub of several development projects, including the introduction of classroom libraries in village schools, a public library and internet access powered by an array of photo-voltaic panels. Visitors may also meet local craftspeople.

In the evening you launch out on the Rupununi river from Caiman House.  Skilled guides will escort you on this expedition to interpret the sights and sounds of Guyana after dark when many nocturnal creatures emerge. You may spot black caiman, spectacled caiman, iguanas, frogs, and various fish species. Sleeping birds, nightjars, bats and insects can be closely approached in way not possible during daylight hours.  Less likely inclusions for night viewing include opossums and sleeping monkeys. Few nights pass without some unusual sighting.   Overnight at Caiman House.

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black caiman

Day 13

Fly to Georgetown; guided city tour.
 
Following a morning visit to a local village you will fly back to Georgetown.

There will be a guided city tour including highlights such as the State House, a typical Demerara-shuttered  colonial home with large gardens).

Walk along the avenues with an experienced guide who will narrate the history and anecdotes about Georgetown and its people. Other places of interest on the tour include St. George's Cathedral, one of the world's tallest free-standing wooden buildings; the public library housed in the Carnegie Building; the gothic town hall; Victoria Law Courts and the National Museum. Visit Stabroek Market where stalls sell everything from household goods and gold jewellery to fresh meat and vegetables. The trip usually ends with a visit to the Botanical Gardens and zoo.

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Georgetown

Day 14

Transfer to the airport for your international flight home.
 

UK clients arrive home the following day. 

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Essential information

Transport

2 flights; 3 road and 2 river journeys.Transfers on shared-departures are all taken with other members of the group.

Accommodation

Rural wildlife lodges, often with an eco-tourism slant or scientific role. They offer a reasonable level of comfort with sometimes basic facilities: there’s often no air-con but rooms have private bathrooms. A few have additional features (Rock View has a pool). There is air-conditioning at Rock View and Cara Lodge

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch days 2,12; full board 3-11

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Day trip to Kaieteur and Orinduik Falls, on a shared basis.
• Guided shared excursions from Iwokrama River Lodge.
• Guided shared explorations from Surama Eco Lodge,
• Guided shared excursions from Karanambu Ranch.
• Guided shared excursions from Caiman House Field Station.
• Guided shared city tour of Georgetown.

Summary of nights

13 days, 12 nights: Georgetown 2; Iwokrama 2; Atta Rainforest Lodge 1; Surama Ecolodge 2; Rock View Lodge 1; Karanambu Lodge 2; Caiman House Field Station 1; Georgetown 1.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified including any entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Guyana is the Guyanese dollar.

Daily spend

Most of your expenses are covered on this holiday, but you will need some Guyanese dollars for any alcoholic drinks at the lodges, souvenirs and craft work, snacks and tips. Your meals in Georgetown restaurants are also best paid for in cash.

How to take it

Take your currency needs in the form of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. 

There are one or two ATMs (Scotia Bank) in Georgetown which accept international cards. At most of the lodges you can pay your Extras bill in US or Guyanese dollars but not by credit or debit card (this situation may change of course). Some shops and restaurants in Georgetown accept credit cards.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for guides, hotel and lodge staff, taxi drivers and waiters in Georgetown. It is common practice to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

An international departure tax is payable at Georgetown airport on departure (around $US12).

Journey Grade

This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors. 

There are some jungle walks lasting 2-3 hours which can be challenging if it is raining. Some mountain climbs involve steep stretches and some scrambling.

Climate

Equatorial Guyana's temperatures range from 25-30°C throughout the year. Along the coastal strip, there are two distinct rainy seasons: May to mid-July, and mid-November to mid-January. In the south (Rupununi), there’s a single rainy season: May to July. Humidity can be as much as 90% at these times.  August - October are the hottest months.

Clothing and special equipment

The hot and humid climate dictates that you should bring lightweight, loose-fitting clothing including tee-shirts, and  long sleeved shirts combined with quick-drying trousers to avoid being bitten by insects. You should have a rain jacket, fleece or light jacket for cooler evenings, hat, good walking boots (preferably waterproof), and trainers or sandals. Don’t forget your binoculars and camera, and a light daypack to carry on excursions. Mosquito repellant and sun protection lotion are essential. Bear in mind that internal flights have strict weight restrictions, which can be as low as 9kg.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: yellow fever; typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements such as malaria prophylactics.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.
This costs $14 per person, and  must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be digital e-passports with an embedded chip. Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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