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, and 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. At the spectacular Kaieteur Falls – the 750ft sheer drop puts it among the world’s most imposing scenic wonders - we will search for gatherings of male Guianan cocks-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.
Fly to Georgetown, Guyana
Arriving in the late afternoom, we transfer to a comfortable lodge close to the Botanic Gardens.
Cara Lodge, 2-nights
Full day birdwatching, botanic gardens, mangroves and mudflats around Georgetown
We’ll have the option of an early morning walk through the nearby beautiful botanic gardens to look for the amazing blood-coloured woodpecker, found only in the narrow coastal plains of the area. The gardens are also home to snail and pearl kites and numerous species of parrots and macaws.
Later in the morning we travel eastward from Georgetown to look for some of many range-restricted species we will be hoping to find on this tour. We will also look for the poorly-known white-bellied piculet which can be found in this area. A mangrove swamp less than 50 kilometres from Georgetown is a good place to find rufous crab-hawk, a species which has been badly affected by the reduction in this habitat type. On our return journey to Georgetown, we will visit mudflats where we are likely to find a range of waders as well as scarlet ibis, black skimmer, brown pelican and magnificent frigatebird. We may also visit a heronry where black-crowned and yellow-crowned night-herons, little blue herons, cattle and snowy egrets breed.
Fly to Iwokrama River Lodge
Leaving any heavy, cold-weather European clothing in luggage at the hotel, we drive to nearby Ogle Airport for a chartered flight over hundreds of miles of unbroken tropical rainforest to Iwokrama River Lodge and Research Station. We make a stop at the amazing Kaieteur Falls, the world’s highest free-falling waterfall.
Our flight continues over the Iwokrama rainforest and lands at the village of Fairview. It is then a short drive to the Iwokrama River 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 with luck we may encounter an impressive black spider monkey or a banded tamandua. Iwokrama is home to many bird species including capuchinbird, black nunbird, chestnut-rumped woodcreeper, Amazonian antshrike and strong-billed woodcreeper.
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.
Iwokrama River Lodge, 2-nights
Boat trip down the Essequibo River, visit to Turtle Mountain and Kurupukari Falls
Making an early start we will embark on a boat down the Essequibo River and circumnavigate Indian House Island giving us a chance for dawn song on the river. We will listen for tinamous, look for band-rumped wift, 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. It starts with a peaceful and scenic half hour boat ride to the base of the mountain. Along the way we 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, edge-capped capuchins and black spiders. An exhilarating climb to the 290m Turtle Mountain summit and takes about two hours but the breath-taking views are more than worth the effort.
Returning to the River Lodge for lunch in the heat of day after our morning’s exertion, may lead one straight to hammocks on our breezy, river-facing cabin porches to relax in the early afternoon. As the afternoon cools we set out for a visit 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. Eventually we make our way back to the River Lodge for a hearty dinner.
Dawn transfer to Atta Rainforest Lodge through the heart of the Iwokrama Forest
The Iwokrama forest is rapidly gaining an international reputation for its healthy jaguar population. They seem not to be troubled by the appearance of curious humans. No promises, but many have been lucky!
The road also offers excellent birding including a habitat known as mori scrub, characterized by an unusual low, sandy forest. This supports an interesting range of birds including rufous-crowned elaenia, black manakin and red-shouldered tanager. We will stop along the road and look for likely species. 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. We can sometimes see red howler monkeys and black spider monkeys from the tree tops.
Trails in the area will entertain us later in the morning. Deer and agouti are regular visitors to the lodge. As dark falls on the Canopy Walkway, we will hope to see the White-winged Potoo.
Atta Rainforest Lodge, 1-night
Atta Rainforest Lodge - cock-of-the-rock trail, onwards to Surama
Early morning birding on the walkway or jungle trails in the hope of seeing mealy, orange-winged and blue-cheeked parrot, flame-crested tanager; slate-coloured and yellow-green grosbeak or even the rare crimson fruitcrow among an extensive list.
We depart for the Cock-of-the-rock Trail, an easy 20 minute walk, after breakfast for another chance to see Guianan cock-of-the-rock. This trail is through interesting forest and the local guides will show us the uses of plants.
The trip continues 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 will receive a warm welcome from the local people on arrival and taken to our simple accommodation. A guide will take us on a tour of the village to visit the local school, medical centre and church along with some of the local houses.
We walk through the forest to the Burro Burro River after lunch for a quiet boat ride, paddled skilfully, as we listen to forest birds singing in near darkness, seeing many of them later when the light grows stronger. We will also search the banks for such mammals as giant river otter, Brazilian tapir, and black spider monkey, and a wealth of birds.
A delicious supper is cooked for us by local women who come to the lodge which is run as a village cooperative venture. This is a super opportunity to live with local people for a couple of nights.
Surama Eco-lodge, 1 night.
Birdwatching in Surama and transfer to Rupununi river
This morning we will attempt to locate another of the special birds which can be found around Surama, Rufous-winged ground-cuckoo. Neomorphus ground-cuckoos are undoubtedly among the toughest family of birds to locate anywhere in the neotropics, Surama offers one of the best chances for seeing rufous-winged ground-cuckoo. We use expert local guides to maximise our odds. There are plenty of other species to look for and during our stay we will hope to encounter many of them.
4x4 vehicle transfer followed by boat trip along the Rupununi river to Karanambu Lodge.
We will be sad to leave Surama but a 4x4 vehicle or 4x4 Bedford Truck will take us to Ginep Landing to board a boat. We will travel slowly on the Rupununi River keeping an eye out for jabirus nesting along the river, king vulture, crestless curassow and many other birds, eventually arriving at Karanambu Lodge.
Karanambu is 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’ll 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.
Karanambu Lodge, 3-nights
Full day birdwatching in Karanambu
Birdwatching from daybreak to nightfall or later, we will devote the entire day to exploring Karanambu and its varied habitats, traveling by boat to certain localities up and downstream, and by Land Rover to one or another forest patch. Grasslands host double striped thick-knees, bi-coloured wren, and bearded tachuri while forest patches host ferruginous pygmy owl, violaceous trogon, blue ground-dove and great antshrike. The river is home to wood stork, white faced and black-bellied whistling doves and stripe-backed bittern. As we move around we may see least grebe, South American snipe, rufous-throated sapphire, yellow tyrannulet, cliff flycatcher and ruddy-breasted seedeater.
Full day exploring the lagoons of Karanambu
We will explore the maze of lagoons along the Rupununi River with our hosts, in search of giant River ptters, scanning the treetops for family parties of red howler monkeys and the exposed riverbanks for capybara and black caiman. These quiet backwaters are also home to the legendary arapaima, the largest of all scaled freshwater fish. 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.
A highlight will be sipping rum-punch sundowners surrounded by giant water lilies with bulldog fishing bats skimming the surface while with luck band-tailed nightjars, rufescescent tiger herons and black-crowned night herons fly over our heads.
Birding around Karanambu, fly back to Georgetown and boat to Arrowpoint Nature Resort
Early morning birding the savanna 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 to Diane transfer to the airstrip for schedule flight back to Ogle Airport, Georgetown. Returning to the hotel to collect any luggage left behind, we transfer to a boat for a trip along the Demerara River to the Amerindian reserve of Santa. The river system is the only means of travel here, and you may see families transporting their farm produce to market or canoeing to the village church. The area is also rich in bird and wild life, and the lucky visitor may catch a glimpse of monkeys in the trees or a toucan gliding overhead.
We stop at the Amerindian village of Santa Mission, of the Arawak and Carib tribes. Local people welcome visitors and often will stop to talk or even invite you into their homes. You will experience village life and can and purchase local handicraft made from materials of the rainforest. This is an important component of the eco-tourism experience which Tim Earl helped to set up when Guyana first opened its doors to visiting wildlife enthusiasts.
It is a 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. Activities here are varied: on one tour we took two-seater kayaks and paddled ourselves on a fascinating (and sometime hilarious) river trip.
Arrowpoint Nature Resort. 2-nights
Full day exploring Arrowpoint Nature Resort
This morning we will 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. Landing where we fancy we can watch birds along jungle trails. 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 occasionally roost in the area.
Our final dinner will be under the stars reminiscing about the wonders we will have seen and experienced on this amazing trip.
Canoe & road transfer to Georgetown and depart
Motorised canoe transfer and then by vehicle to the airport for our return flight to the UK.
You should note: The 2017 departure will be 14 days' duration and will operate an amended itinerary - please contact us for full details.