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Discovering Guyana: Lost Tribes and Newfound Species

Guyana, South America

from $6,740* per person 10 Days Year-round
Boutique accommodations Exertion level: 4
Operator: Geographic Expeditions 18 people max
  • Georgetown airport, guyana
  • Active & Adventure trips
Guyana isn’t the kind of place likely to pop up in one of the glossier travel mags. Which, along with its booming beauty and warm culture, is a fine reason to go there, if you don’t mind people asking “Now, where exactly is that?” when you get home.

Larger than Idaho, but with fewer people than San Francisco, Guyana has long been a favorite for a certain kind of venturesome traveler (Anthony Trollope, for instance, said long ago that “When I settle out of England, Guyana shall be the land of my adoption”). It’s a country with a fascinating culture (the only nation in South America where English is the national language), a vast rainforest it’s doing its best to keep pristine (Google Guyana ecology, or Guyana conservation for heart-warming details), and Guyana has one of the Western Hemisphere’s (or the world’s, for that matter) richest collections of doing-quite-nicely wildlife (jaguars, giant river otters, capybaras, tapirs, giant anteaters, harpy eagles, 400-pound arapaimas [one of the largest fresh-water fish extant], and many rather large anacondas, to name just a few species). In short: nature in its least-trodden, most healthy and exuberant abundance.

We begin in Georgetown, Guyana’s neatly-sized capital, and the next day fly into the interior for a visit to the mammoth--it’s five times higher than Niagara--Kaieteur waterfall. The lack of touristic infrastructure at the falls reminds us that we’re spectacularly off the glossy path. The falls themselves are a stunning marvel (they are a major character in Werner Herzog’s wonderful documentary The White Diamond, which is quite likely to inspire you to make this trip). Then we’re off to Orinduik Falls, which flow over terraces of solid jasper, and, in the late afternoon, we pull up to the first of two nights at the Karanambu Ranch, where Diane McTurk has famously been caring for orphaned giant river otters for many years. After a nice stint of otter-visiting and four-wheel driving around the bountiful ranch, we head to the savannah in search of giant anteaters, a float down the Rupununi River (a birdwatcher’s bonanza), and an eye-opening meeting with the Amerindian folks of Aranaputa village. The next few days are filled with more villages, floats, game and birding drives, a nice bit of easy hiking in the Pakariama Mountains, and a nice, airy jaunt on a marvelous jungle canopy walkway in the dense Iwokrama Forest.

For such a short trip Discovering Guyana packs in quite a bounteous bit. For a more detailed description may we advise you to call us (or use the Request button, above right) and ask for our detailed and revelatory itinerary. You will definitely be enchanted to learn about this lovely and gorgeous country.

Locations visited/nearby

Guyana, South America

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Special information

  • This is a custom departure, meaning this trip is offered on dates that you arrange privately with the provider. Additionally, you need to form your own private group for this trip. The itinerary and price here is just a sample. Contact the provider for detailed pricing, minimum group size, and scheduling information. For most providers, the larger the group you are traveling with, the lower the per-person cost will be.

Itinerary

Day 1

USA TO GUYANA Formerly British Guiana, Guyana is the western-most of the three Guianas and
South America’s only English-speaking nation. You’ll arrive and quickly transit the small and efficient
Cheddi Jagan International Airport, and will be met for the 45-minute drive into the capital, Georgetown.

Day 2

KAIETEUR AND ORINDUIK FALLS TO KARANAMBU After breakfast you fly via small aircraft
into the heart of Guyana’s remote wilderness to visit Kaieteur Falls. The aerial views of Kaieteur as the
pilot makes his final approach are, simply put, awesome. The utter lack of infrastructure surrounding the
falls are proof that you have
stumbled across an unspoiled natural
wonder. The water of Kaieteur flows
over a sandstone tableland, dropping
840 feet into a deep, misty gorge.
Hiking from the parked plane, you
will discover Kaieteur’s unique
micro-environment: tank bromeliads,
the largest in the world, in which the
tiny Golden Frog (smaller than a
fingernail) spends its entire life; the
bright orange Guianan cock-of-therock
who coyly poses near the falls;
the famous Kaieteur swifts who
dramatically dive behind the falls to
nest. Depending on water levels, you
can actually stand at the river’s edge
or peer over the cliff, a rumbling and visceral experience. Special arrangements have been made to extend
your visit to allow for a comfortable pace for exploring the falls and surrounding area while leaving time
for a picture-perfect lunch overlooking the gorge. (The truth is, few people are ready to leave Kaieteur,
even after three hours.)
The trip then continues onto Orinduik Falls where the Ireng River thunders over steps and terraces of
solid jasper. Set against the rolling, grass-covered hills of the Pakaraima Mountains, this is one of the
most beautiful locations in Guyana’s hinterland and offers adventurous visitors a chance to revel in the
cool and refreshing natural Jacuzzis
below the falls.
Late in the afternoon our plane literally
pulls up to the front doorstep of the
fabled Karanambu Ranch in the North
Rupununi savannah. This is the home of
Diane McTurk, widely known for her
work in rehabilitating orphaned giant
river otters. Diane is a bit of a celebrity
out here, having appeared in National
Geographic and on the Jeff Corwin
Experience, Really Wild Show (BBC),
Calgary’s Zoo World, and in other articles and features. Dinner with Diane often lasts late into the
evening with stories of adventure and intrigue of the Guyanese interior.

Day 3

AROUND KARANAMBU Guyana is home to an extremely diverse population of birds, and today we
will make a special effort to locate one of the oddest-looking members of the cotinga family, the
Capuchinbird. We will visit at least one of the two leks relatively close to the ranch, where we should get
a great view of males seeking to attract females
with their weird, almost cowlike, song. Other birds
likely to show up are the near-threatened bearded
tachuri, a member of the flycatcher family; the
boat-billed heron; pinnated bittern; sunbittern;
sharp-tailed ibis; green-tailed jacamar; spotted
puffbird; black nunbird; white-fringed antwren;
black-chinned and white-bellied antbirds; Finsch’s
euphonia; and rose-breasted chat.
Also today you’ll have an opportunity to meet,
observe, and interact with the orphaned otters in
residence at Karanambu while Diane explains their
habits and habitat and her work with them over the
decades. If you want, you can give her a hand as she tends to them. This evening we will visit local
backwater ponds for birdwatching and to view a rare blossom, the Victoria amazonica, the world’s largest
water lily and Guyana’s national flower. Along the way we may catch a glimpse of wild giant river otters,
black caiman, arapaima, anhinga, and various types of
ibis, heron, and egret.

Day 4

KARANAMBU TO ANNAI This morning we
travel out onto the savannah in search of giant
anteaters settling into their ground nests after a long
night of … eating ants. We’ll then return to the ranch
for a hearty home-made breakfast before floating
along the Rupununi River to spot bird species such as
black-bellied whistling duck, jabiru, wood stork,
green ibis, crested caracara, black-collared hawk,
zone-tailed hawk, brown-throated parakeet, and swallow-wing. Depending on water levels, we may spot
large and small iguanas, black and spectacled caiman, and monkeys: red howler, white-faced saki, and
squirrel. Several family groups of giant otters also live along this stretch of the Rupununi.
From Ginep Landing we travel by four-wheel-drive across
the savannah to the Amerindain village of Aranaputa for a
tour of the Rupununi peanut butter factory. This locally
funded microindustry is one of several initiatives to generate
local economic opportunities in sustainable ways that reduce
reliance on traditional slash-and-burn agriculture or animal
trapping. Lunch and a cultural presentation at the school
gives us some face time with local residents who are
tremendously (and rightfully) proud of their wonderful
homeland. We then continue onto Rock View Lodge, perched
at the border of the savanna and the forest-covered foothills
of the Pakaraima Mountains. With its tropical gardens,
flowering trees, and even a small swimming pool, the lodge
resembles an oasis in the savannah.
We have the opportunity to meet local villagers who will demonstrate
traditional cashew-roasting techniques, cotton spinning, leather working, and
wood or barata carving. During some free time late today, resident tapir
Tommy would be happy to receive a chin scratch or tummy rub. Or you can
simply enjoy the lovely and tranquil grounds from a hammock swaying in
the afternoon breeze. As the day winds down, lodge owner Colin Edwards
will join you poolside for drinks and to share his animated, rich stories of
Guyana history, intrigue, and development and of various eco-tourism
ventures in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo District.

Day 5

ANNAI After breakfast we load up into 4 x 4 vehicles for the drive to the
Amerindian village of Surama. Surama’s Eco Lodge - plus tours in and
around Surama - are managed and operated by the indigenous Makushi
people who have focused their energy on creating a sustainable micro-industry around their tourism
programs. In so doing, their efforts have become the model for many other indigenous communities
around Guyana, providing a means of establishing sustainable livelihoods for village residents while
preserving Guyana's indigenous cultural traditions and rich rainforest ecosystems. Meaningful
opportunities for employment at home have
significantly reduced incentives for men to leave
home to mine or cut timber in other parts of
Guyana.
A local guide will escort you for a short walk to
visit the local school, medical center, church,
some village houses, and the cassava project.
Lunch will be served by local village residents.
Then we travel by vehicle and by foot to the
Burro Burro River for an afternoon float. If there
is an active harpy eagle nest in the vicinity, we
may modify the itinerary to allow a visit. If we are extremely fortunate, we may see one of the adult birds
bringing a sloth or monkey to the nest to feed their chick. Another special bird often found around
Surama is the rufous-winged ground-cuckoo. While neomorphus ground-cuckoos are amongst the
toughest family of birds to find, Surama offers excellent chances for seeing them.

Day 6

ANNAI AREA Before dawn we will travel a short distance to
the foot of the Pakariama Mountains. Here the well-maintained
Panorama Trail winds its way up the slope to a number of lookout
points for great views across the savanna, including several
Amerindian villages and Rock View Lodge. We will enjoy coffee
and snacks as we watch the sun rise and the villages come to life.
We then return to Rock View Lodge for a full breakfast. A variety
of activities can be chosen for the remainder of the day, including
horseback riding with a vaquero, travel to the Makushi
Amerindian community of Wowetta, or a trek with Makushi
guides into virgin rainforest to observe a lek frequented by the
Guianan cock-of-the–rock. You may have the opportunity to see
them nesting in caves, performing their mating dance on the lek,
bathing in pools, or perched in trees for perfect viewing. Late
today we will travel to the Bina Hill Institute, which operates a number of important community-based
programs including the local secondary school and radio station. We will visit with 97.1 FM resident DJ
and educator Virgil to learn how his station operates and may be invited for an on-air interview. On a
typical evening, nearly every family in
the region is tuned in to these broadcasts,
which feature news, music, reflections on
current events, and community
announcements.

Day 7

CANOPY WALKWAY AND
IWOKRAMA Before dawn we depart
in four-wheel-drive vehicles to the
Iwokrama Canopy Walkway. Our route
takes us through the heart of the
Iwokrama Forest where jaguar sightings
are relatively common. The Iwokrama
Forest has a reputation for a healthy
jaguar population unfazed by the
appearance of curious humans. No promises, but with some luck we may get a sighting. The Canopy
Walkway is ideally situated 100 feet above the forest floor to permit sightings of birds and monkeys
typically invisible from the ground: channel-billed toucan, crimson fruitcrow, purple-breasted cotinga,
dusky purpletuft, black curassow, painted, caica parrot, Guianan puffbird, waved and golden-collared
woodpeckers, and spot-tailed, Todd’s and ash-winged antwrens.
After a memorable sunrise we will descend from the walkway and enjoy breakfast at Atta Rainforest
Lodge, then proceed to the Iwokrama Field Station. We reach the Field Station in time for a late lunch,
then have the afternoon free to explore the surrounding trails and river with staff naturalists and guides.
Late in the day, we will take a short boat trip to Michelle’s
Island overlooking Kurupakari Falls for a drink at
Michelle’s bar. After dark we will head out on the river in
hopes of finding nocturnal wildlife like caiman and
listening for nightbirds such as spectacled owl, long-tailed
potoo, zigzag heron, and blackish nightjar. This trip often
reveals snakes in the trees overhanging the river.

Day 8

IWOKRAMA Making another early start, we will
embark on the Essequibo River and circumnavigate Indian
House Island, giving us a chance to hear dawn song from
species including tinamou, marbled wood quail, and
Guianan streaked antwren. We will then return to the
Field Station for breakfast. Afterward, we will set out by
boat for the foot of Turtle Mountain. Here we explore the
trails for a few hours, first visiting Turtle Ponds where
anis, herons, and green and rufous kingfisher hunt, then
climbing to an elevation of 900 feet for a view of the
forest canopy below. Occasionally jaguars are seen on this
trail, but more often, black spider and red howler monkeys
show their curious faces (and occasionally throw sticks at
us). We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch in the forest before heading back to Iwokrama via Kurupukari Falls to see
the Amerindian petroglyphs (dependent upon water level). If time permits, we will visit the small
Amerindian village of Fair View and its butterfly farm, before returning to the Field Station. This evening
staff will give a short presentation on Iwokrama’s substantial role in developing the country’s framework
for rainforest preservation, serving as an international model
for investment in ecosystem services and carbon
sequestration.

Day 9

IWOKRAMA TO GEORGETOWN This morning you
will enjoy a boat trip on the Essequibo River to Stanley Lake,
where we may have another chance to observe a harpy eagle
nest or arapaima, the largest freshwater fish in the world,
along with rich birdlife, rainforest flora, reptiles, insects, and
mammals. After lunch we journey a short distance by boat
and vehicle to the Fair View airstrip for the flight back to
Georgetown. This afternoon we will enjoy an afternoon
Georgetown city tour, highlighting unique wooden
architecture and local markets. Late this afternoon we will
visit the home of steel pan legend Roy Geddes for an evening
of music and a farewell dinner of homemade food and
genuine Guyanese hospitality.

Day 10

DEPART GUYANA Transfer to the airport for your departing flight back to the United States or
onward to Suriname.
EXTENSIONS AND CUSTOMIZED ITINERARIES IN GUYANA
Additional activities can be arranged in and around Georgetown, including touring the local sugar mills
and rum distilleries, attending a cricket match, visiting coastal turtle nesting areas, or attending cultural
events in town. (Republic Day/Mashramani in February, Independence Day in May, Caricom day in July,
and Diwali in November are certainly spectacles worth seeing.) We can also customize your itinerary to
include participatory visits to Dadanawa Ranch (one of South America’s oldest and largest cattle ranches)
in southern Guyana, Caiman Lodge (hub for a major black caiman research project) in central Guyana, or
field research projects based out of the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and
Development.

EXTENSIONS INTO BRAZIL
Your itinerary can be customized to traverse Guyana north to south, crossing into Brazil via the new
Takutu Bridge at Lethem. This will deposit you just a few hours outside of Boa Vista and Manaus, perfect
jumping-off points for a rich exploration of Brazil’s Region Norté. GeoEx’s trip planners know Brazil top
to bottom and are ready to help you design the perfect transcontinental journey.
SPECIAL GEOEX EXTENSION TO SURINAME
While Suriname’s geography differs only slightly from that of Guyana, even a short visit to this former
Dutch colony is an eminently worthwhile experience. As with Guyana, it is the rarest American who sets
foot on these shores. Suriname’s capital, Paramaribo, is a UNESCO World Heritage City – decidedly
more developed than any town in Guyana – that delivers thoroughly unexpected architectural, cultural,
historical, and culinary surprises (one of our well-traveled staff insists some of the world’s best
Indonesian food is to be had here). A safari into Suriname’s interior brings you into contact with isolated
villages populated by the descendents of escaped West African slaves – the
Maroon, Saramacca, Paramaka, Ndyuka, Kwinti, Boni and Matawai –
whose traditional bush lifestyles bear absolutely no resemblance to their
Arawak, Carib, Amerindian, and Dutch neighbors. GeoEx has made
special arrangements to visit these reclusive villages on a highly
personalized basis, permitting a degree of interaction otherwise unavailable
to group or individual travelers.
While Suriname’s accommodations in the bush are slightly more
developed than those in Guyana, they remain rustic and basic. Our
experience suggests certain lodges and guides offer substantially superior
opportunities for interacting with local communities, so our offerings are
narrowly tailored to capitalize on the best-available options.
GEORGETOWN TO PARAMARIBO This
morning you will be driven to the airport for the
90-minute flight to Paramaribo. The afternoon
includes a combined driving and walking tour of
the capital’s tree-lined streets, bounded by
noteworthy examples of Dutch-Caribbean wooden
and brick architecture. We’ll pay a visit to Fort
Zeelandia, the Palm Gardens, the Waterfront, the
Central Market, and the beautiful grounds of the
recently renovated Presidential Palace. You’ll even
glimpse a uniquely situated mosque and Jewish
temple as side-by-side neighbors (in the shadow of
a voluptuous Hindu temple, no less).

Day 11

PARAMARIBO TO KAYANA Today you depart from Zorg en Hoop Airstrip in a Cessna 206 or
DeHaviland Twin Otter aircraft for the 80-minute flight to Kayana. Your arrival at the grassy airstrip
carved from the thick, fog-laced jungle will be heartily welcomed by a local delegation of Maroons. They
will take you via dugout canoe along the Gran Rio River
beyond the farthest village to Awarradam Jungle Lodge.
Located on a small island at the foot of the Awarradam
Rapids, the lodge provides a tranquil outpost from which
you can explore the surrounding jungle and villages.
Accommodations are basic, clean, and comfortable, built
in the same A-frame style commonly found in area
villages. After a quick, informal check-in and
introductions with lodge personnel using the Saramaccan
salutation, “Adoo!” you will enjoy a home-cooked lunch
with other guests and staff, followed by a relaxed
schedule for the remainder of the day. A popular option is
to canoe upriver to a series of rapids ideally suited for
swimming. You can also enjoy the river breeze and
observe jungle life from the edges of the island or from
the hammocks on the back porch of your cabin.
Awarradam Jungle Lodge

Day 12

AWARRADAM After breakfast, you venture out
on an informative and adventurous jungle walk.
While you are enjoying the environment in the
pristine tropical rainforest, your guide will provide
information about the various trees and plants and
teach you how to recognize animals by their sounds
and tracks. After several hours, we return to the
jungle lodge for lunch, after which there is some time
to relax before heading back out onto the river for
further exploration. We head by dugout canoe to
Stonhuku for a private walking tour of the village and
its environs, following the jungle paths all the way to
Kayana. During this trip you have the opportunity to
get to know the local people, their culture, and
lifestyle. Upon arrival in Kayana, you’ll be met by the village elder and invited to enjoy dinner and a
performance of cultural singing, vigorous clapping, and enthusiastic dancing. The guide will explain the
songs, and you’ll be invited to try their dance style yourself, an effort that everyone will greatly
appreciate! Afterward, your expert boatmen will transport you under the starry sky back to Awarradam.

Day 13

AWARRADAM TO PARAMARIBO A full day on the river awaits you. After breakfast, all necessary
goods for the trip will be loaded in the dugout canoe, and you will depart for Gran Dam, a large rapid
north of Kayana. You’ll have the opportunity to relax in Jacuzzi-like rapids, take beautiful walks in the
area, and possibly visit a few local homes. Toward the end of the day, you’ll float back to Kayana for the
return flight to Paramaribo, where you’ll be met and dr iven back to the hotel. This evening you can enjoy
dinner at any of the lively restaurants near the hotel, or our guide can point you to Suriname’s best
Indonesian or Indian restaurants a bit further afield.

Day 14

PARAMARIBO TO USA You have a very early morning departure from Zanderij International Airport
back to the United States.

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