This tour is the perfect introduction to bird and wildlife watching on the South American continent – in Guyana you can expect to find wonderful waterfalls, together with freshwater marshes teeming with birds and mammals,
On this trip we visit the coastal plain, rare sand-belt forest, rainforests of the interior and Rupununi savannah close to the Brazilian border, including travel on small watercourses and two great rivers, the Demerara and the Essequibo. Later in the trip we will watch jungle birds in the tree-tops from a canopy walkway, and also search the forest for gatherings of colourful male Guianan cock-of-the-rock. Add giant river otter, jaguar and a multitude of exotic birds and mammals and you have a fantastic all round neo-tropical naturalist experience.
Read travel consultant Chris Smith's blog about his trip to Guyana.
Day1: Fly to Georgetown
Arriving in the late afternoom, we transfer to a comfortable lodge in Georgetown, close to the Botanic Gardens.
Accommodation: Georgetown, 1-night
Day2: Fly to Iwokrama Rainforest
This morning we transfer to Ogle Airport for a scheduled light aircraft flight over hundreds of kilometres of unbroken tropical rainforest to Iwokrama River Lodge and Research Station. We land at the village of Fairview in the Iwokrama Rainforest, and it is then a short drive to our lodge.
Late afternoon is ours to explore the extensive trail systems which allow good access into the forest. Rainforest mammals, though never conspicuous, are well represented at Iwokrama, and the area is also home to many bird species.
Tonight at dinner we will learn a bit about the important conservation and research-driven mission that sustains the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development. After dark, we’ll set out on the river to see some of the river’s nocturnal species.
Making an early start we will embark on a boat down the Essequibo River, giving us a chance for dawn song on the river. We will listen for tinamous, look for band-rumped swift, white-banded and black-collared swallows before returning to the lodge for breakfast.
After breakfast we leave the River Lodge for a journey to Turtle Mountain. Starting with a peaceful and scenic half hour boat ride to the base of the mountain, we will look out for all manner of wildlife, hoping for a host of birds, sloth, capybara, caiman and arapaima, the largest freshwater fish. We may also be rewarded with sightings of monkeys such as red howlers, wedge-capped capuchins and black spiders. An exhilarating climb to the 290 metre Turtle Mountain summit takes about two hours but the breathtaking views are more than worth the effort.
We return to our lodge for lunch before setting out on a visit to Kurupukari Falls to see Amerindian petroglyphs. After nightfall we will meander along the river by boat looking for tree boas, tree frogs and if lucky maybe some mammals.
Days4-5: Atta Rainforest
We transfer before dawn along a road through the heart of the Iwokrama Forest where there is a good chance of seeing an elusive jaguar. The area also supports an interesting range of birds including rufous-crowned elaenia, black manakin and red-shouldered tanager.
Our journey continues onto the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway where we can watch birds from platforms 30 metres up in the canopy. A host of crown specialists may come within our view depending on which trees are in fruit at the time, and we can sometimes see red howler monkeys and black spider monkeys from the tree tops.
Our base here is situated 500 metres from the canopy walkway itself. In the surrounding area of the lodge is one of the best places to see another of Guyana’s sought-after species – the crimson fruitcrow – which feeds in the nearby trees. The clearing is also a reliable place to see black curassow.
We enjoy a final morning of birdwatching on the canopy walkway, or from the nearby jungle trails, before transferring in a four-wheel drive vehicle through the rainforest in Iwokrama.
We then continue onwards to the Amerindian village of Surama which is situated in a small savannah deep in the rainforest and surrounded by forest clad hills. Surama’s inhabitants are mainly from the Macushi tribe and still observe many of the traditional practices of their forebears.
We take a short walk along a trail to look for the Guianan cock-of-the-rock, before continuing to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, where we explore the four suspension bridges connected to three platforms.
We walk through the forest to Surama Mountain after lunch for incredible views overlooking the village and the savannah up to the foothills of the Pakaraima Mountains. A delicious supper is cooked for us by local women.
Before dawn, we return to the canopy where we can enjoy an early morning’s birding in the charming forest surroundings. We may see rufous-throated sapphire, green aracari, pygmy antwren and Guianan streaked-antwren. With luck, we may also see Guianan toucanet, Pompadour cotinga and buff-cheeked greenlet. From this treetop vantage, you can also see red howler monkeys, black spider monkeys as well as a broad range of insects and amphibians. Deer and agouti are also regular visitors, and we will keep an eye out for the rare rufous-winged ground cuckoo. Night-time excursions are possible, and we hope to see white-winged potoo, or even a jaguar on the transnational road near the lodge.
Day7: Journey by road & boat to Karanambu
This morning, we take a five kilometre walk across the savannah and through the rainforest until we reach Burro Burro River. We travel along the Burro Burro River, with opportunities to observe giant river otter, tapir, tayra, spider monkey and many more.
Leaving Surama by four-wheel drive vehicle, we travel to Ginep where we board our small motorized boat and navigate slowly on the Rupununi River keeping an eye out for jabirus nesting along the river, king vulture, crestless curassow and many other birds, before eventually arriving at our next lodge, previously the home of Diane McTurk, widely known for her work rehabilitating orphaned giant river otters.
Our birdwatching here will be largely in woodland patches or gallery forest along the river where we hope to find such species as spotted puffbird, striped woodcreeper and capuchinbird. A wooded swamp near the ranch is the site of a surprisingly large colony of boat-billed herons when water levels are appropriate. While out in boats we may see capped and little blue herons, great and snowy egrets, purple gallinule and pied lapwing. The river and airstrip provide habitat for no fewer than eight species of nightjars.
Birdwatching from daybreak to nightfall (or later), we will devote the entire day to exploring Karanambu and its varied habitats, travelling by boat to certain localities up and downstream, and by four-wheel drive vehicle to forest patches.
Day9: Explore Rupununi River
We will explore the maze of lagoons along the Rupununi River with our hosts, in search of giant river otters, scanning the treetops for family parties of red howler monkeys and the exposed riverbanks for capybara and black caiman. We shall visit lakes and ponds crammed with jabirus, egrets, herons and other water birds, and blanketed by the enormous pads of the Victoria amazonica water lily, Guyana’s national flower.
Day10: Fly to Georgetown & transfer to Arrowpoint
Early morning birding the savannah will be a high priority here with white-tailed hawks, fork-tailed flycatchers, grassland sparrows and yellowish pipits a good possibility and the chance of sharp-tailed ibises, eastern meadowlarks and double-striped thick-knee. The major contender will be seeing giant anteater if we are lucky and early enough.
After breakfast we say our goodbyes and transfer by road to the Lethem airstrip for a scheduled flight back to Ogle Airport, Georgetown. After lunch in Georgetown, we transfer to a boat for a trip along the Demerara River to the Amerindian reserve of Santa, stopping at the Amerindian village of Santa Mission, of the Arawak and Carib tribes.
It is a then 15 minute boat ride to Arrowpoint Nature Resort, the surroundings of which offer a variety of habitats. We will enjoy an orientation walk on arrival with further exploration after lunch and a siesta.
Accommodation: Arrowpoint Nature Resort, 2-nights
Day11: Birdwatching along the rivers & creeks
This morning we take large motorised canoes out onto the creek to look for the amazing crimson topaz, a hummingbird which may be hawking insects above our boats – a fabulous way to start the day. Other birds we hope to encounter include point-tailed palmcreeper, sungrebe, sunbittern and more hummingbirds, including black-throated mango and green-tailed goldenthroat.
We continue birdwatching in the late afternoon, watching for flocks of red-bellied macaws crossing the sky en route to their roosts, and perhaps seeing an evening gathering of euphonias and other tanagers in low trees of the clearing. Sapphire-rumped parrotlets also occasionally roost in the area.
Day12: Depart Georgetown
Tansfer from Arrowpoint to Georgetown for the overnight flight home.
Day13: Arrive UK
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 13 daysfrom £5,095 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 12 daysfrom £4,295 pp
Named after the 1,000-metre-high Iwokrama Mountains that lie at its heart, this area of dense rainforest covers some 3,710 square kilometres of central Guyana, and is one of the world’s four remaining pristine tropical forests – along with those in the Congo, New Guinea, and Amazonia.
Where: Central Guyana
Ideal for viewing: red howler monkey, red-and-green macaw, Guianan cock-of-the-rock, black caiman, black spider monkey
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Vehicle safaris, River safaris, Jaguar watching
This spectacular waterfall, along with the surrounding national park, is Guyana’s most famous visitor attraction, as well as one of the world’s great natural wonders. The dramatic view down the deep gorge in the opposite direction is almost as good as that of the waterfall itself.
Where: Central Essequibo district
Ideal for viewing: Guianan cock-of-the-rock, red-and-green macaw, white-chinned swift, golden frog, band-rumped swift
Excellent for: Flying safaris
The Amerindian community of Surama lies at the very heart of Guyana, where eight square kilometres of savannah are surrounded by the Pakaraima Mountains, at the edge of the Rupununi savannah. This isolated and idyllic location provides a fascinating insight into Guyana's rainforests.
Where: Rupununi Savannah
Ideal for viewing: giant river otter, spider monkey, Guianan cock-of-the-rock, anaconda, tapir
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Vehicle safaris, River safaris
This diverse area of mixed savannah, moist tropical forest and mountain takes its name from the floodplain of the Rupununi River in the southwest of Guyana, along the border with Brazil – one of the country’s most complex ecosystems, and among the earth’s last great wildernesses.
Where: Southwest Guyana
Ideal for viewing: giant anteater, giant river otter, armadillo, anaconda, black caiman
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Vehicle safaris, River safaris
The chief port, capital and largest city of Guyana occupies the right bank at the mouth of the Demerara Estuary, where a fort was constructed to guard the early Dutch settlements. The Botanical Gardens house one of the most extensive collections of tropical flora in the Caribbean.
Where: Demerara-Mahaica region
Excellent for: City stopover
Surrounded by rainforest, this rustic lodge is just 500 metres from Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, one of Guyana’s best birding spots. Experience traditional Amerindian hospitality, before falling asleep to the sounds of the forest and waking to the call of howler monkeys in the morning.
This magnificent hotel, one of Georgetown’s best preserved wooden buildings, exudes charm and the nostalgia of a bygone era, with first-rate service in a congenial atmosphere. Its 34 rooms reflect the traditional building-style of Guyana during the colonial era, with Demerara shutters and polished wooden floors.
Iwokrama River Lodge offers accommodation in the heart of the Iwokrama Rainforest, on the banks of the mighty Essequibo River. There are eight large timber and thatch cabins, with private facilities and solar powered electricity, plus hammocks on the verandahs for guests to enjoy the excellent birdwatching.
This eco-resort lies in a tranquil spot, where savannah, swamp and forest meet at the Rupununi River and the plain stretches towards the Pakaraima Mountains. Renowned for its hospitality and abundant wildlife, the five clay-brick and palm-thatched cabanas give it the flavour of an Amerindian village.
Situated on the western edge of the village, Surama Lodge occupies a clearing in the savannah with picturesque views towards the rainforest and surrounding mountains. Built as a sustainable ecotourism project by and for the isolated Amerindian community, interpretative guides are on hand to accompany guests.