Explore the rainforest, river and savannah of Guyana’s pristine interior by air, land, river and on foot to witness its remarkable wildlife in a small group, accompanied by an expert naturalist guide.
Guyana is roughly the same size as the UK but, with a population of around 750,000 concentrated mainly along the coast, its interior is a vast and unique wilderness. The forests and rivers boast a fascinating and prolific fauna that includes iconic mammals such as the elusive jaguar, giant anteater and giant river otter, plus rare reptiles such as black caiman. In addition, you there are some exquisite birds such as harpy eagle and Guianan cock-of-the-rock – just two of some 800 species recorded here.
As there are so many rivers and so much impenetrable forest, after flying into the interior, boat is often the best means of transport, as well as a good way of seeing wildlife. There is little choice of accommodation, and during your stay you will sleep in jungle lodges, traditional huts in Amerindian villages, at a former cattle ranch, and at a field research station – in rustic comfort, but always with a warm welcome, as few visitors penetrate this unspoiled corner of South America.
You’ll spend part of the time travelling by four-wheel-drive vehicle on rough jungle tracks, but there are plenty of opportunities to walk trails and experience the manifold delights of the rainforest. An expert naturalist guide accompanies you throughout, and at several locations, indigenous guides further enrich the experience through their intimate knowledge of the different habitats.
Read travel consultant Chris Smith's blog about his trip to Guyana.
Day1: Fly to Georgetown
Fly to Georgetown, Guyana and transfer to a hotel in the city.
Transfer to nearby Ogle Aerodrome for a scheduled flight over the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers and hundred of kilometres of unbroken tropical rainforest to land at the imposing Kaieteur Falls. Here the broad Potaro River plunges 226 metres in free fall over a sheer cliff, making it one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls.
Day3: Fly to Iwokrama River Lodge
Transfer back to Ogle Airport for a chartered flight over the rainforest to Fairview, a village deep in the interior, for the short drive to Iwokrama River Lodge. In the late afternoon you explore the extensive trail systems to seek out rainforest mammals such as black spider monkeys or a banded tamandua.
Iwokrama is also home to many bird species, including capuchinbird, black nunbird, chestnut-rumped woodcreeper, Amazonian antshrike and strong-billed woodcreeper. Over dinner you will hear about the important conservation and research work of the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development.
Day4: Boat trip on Essequibo River, visit to Turtle Mountain & Kurupukari Falls
An early boat trip on the Essequibo River offers an opportunity to hear the dawn chorus before breakfast. You then set off on a short boat ride to the base of Turtle Mountain, keeping an eye out for sloth, capybara, caiman and arapaima – the world’s largest freshwater fish – plus red howler, edge-capped capuchin and black spider monkeys. The exhilarating climb to the 290-metre-high summit takes around two hours, but is worth the effort for the breathtaking views.
On your return there is time to relax for a while, then as it starts to cool off, you set out to visit the Amerindian petroglyphs at Kurupukari Falls. After nightfall you meander along the river by boat looking for tree boas and tree frogs before making your way back to the lodge for dinner.
Day5: Dawn transfer to Atta Rainforest Lodge
Early transfer though Iwokrama Rainforest, which is fast gaining an international reputation for its jaguar population. Stop en route for birding in the mori scrub, an unusual low forest on sandy soil that supports birds such as rufous-crowned elaenia, black manakin and red-shouldered tanager.
Continue to Iwokrama Canopy Walkway to watch canopy-dwelling birds plus red howler and black spider monkeys. There are trails to walk, or you can explore the area around the lodge, where deer and agouti are regular visitors. Another major target is the white-winged potoo which can be seen from the canopy walkway after dark.
The forest around the lodge offers good birding, but the main attraction is the canopy walkway, from which you can see birds that would be difficult to see from the forest floor. Among the highlights are several species of parakeet, Caica parrot, Guianan puffbird, waved and golden-collared woodpeckers and three species of antwren. If the trees are in fruit, you may see rare dusky purple-tuft and purple-breasted cotinga.
The clearing around the lodge is one of the best places to spot the ‘must-see’ crimson fruitcrow, which often feeds in the nearby trees. A family group of black curassow regularly passes through and, with luck, you should be able to add this usually timid bird to your list.
Day7: Transfer to Surama
Welcome the dawn chorus from the canopy walkway and witness the activity as short-tailed nighthawks settle for the day, swifts take to the sky, white-throated and channel-billed toucans yodel, and barred-forest falcons call. After breakfast drive into the forest to seek out Guianian cock-of-the-rock and hear about the uses of jungle plants, then continue to the Amerindian village of Surama, set on a small patch savannah surrounded by rainforest-clad hills.
Surama’s inhabitants are mainly from the Macushi tribe and still observe many traditional practices. After settling in, you visit the school, medical centre, church and some village houses. A short trail walk will show you the forest through the eyes of your indigenous guides, and you’ll learn about medicinal plants and their uses. Later, a night walk reveals the mystery of the forest after dark.
Day8: Walk in savannah & boat trip in Burro Burro River
Rise before dawn to walk across the savannah and climb Surama Mountain in the cool morning air – the best time for birdlife. After breakfast at a lookout with fine views across to the Pakaraima Mountains, return to the village. A five-kilometre afternoon walk takes you across the savannah and through rainforest to the Burro Burro River, where your guides paddle you in canoes to see giant river otters, tapir, tira, and spider monkeys, before returning to the village for sunset.
Day9: Transfer & boat trip along the Rupununi River to Karanambu
This morning you drive from the rainforest to the savannah and through the foothills of the Pakaraima Mountains. Jabiru stork and toco toucan are often seen on this stretch of road, along with red howler and spider monkeys. From Ginep Landing you take a boat on the Rupununi, where – depending on the water level – may see giant otters, as several family groups live along this stretch of river.
Your destination, Karanambu Lodge, is the former home of Diane McTurk, who was known for her work rehabilitating orphaned giant river otters. In the afternoon you head out by boat to look for otters in the wild and see giant Victoria regis waterlilies bloom at dusk. On the way back your guide will use a spotlight to find black caiman and other nocturnal creatures.
The whole day is dedicated to birding, exploring the varied habitats around Karanambu by boat and Land Rover. Grassland species include double-striped thick-knees, bi-coloured wren and bearded tachuri, while patches of forest are home to ferruginous pygmy owl, violaceous trogon, blue ground-dove and great antshrike.
The river has wood stork, white faced and black-bellied whistling doves and stripe-backed bittern, and as you move around you may see least grebe, South American snipe, rufous-throated sapphire, yellow tyrannulet, cliff flycatcher and ruddy-breasted seedeater.
Days11-12: Visit Caiman House Field Station
Venture out onto the savannah in search of giant anteater, before transfering by boat to the Amerindian village of Yupukari, keeping an eye out for giant river otters, black caiman and arapaima, and birding as you go.
A night foray with expert guides on the Rupununi offers a unique opportunity to participate in a field study of black caiman, the endangered largest member of the alligator family. If the water is high and capturing caiman becomes too difficult, so instead you’ll seek out nocturnal species in the river and gallery forest.
The following morning you will enjoy an early morning boat trip to the Awariku Lake. At this time of day the lake is excellent for birdwatching and possible sightings could include rufescent tiger heron and agami heron. You will also be able to see the spectacular Victoria Amazonica giant water lily whose flowers will still be open this early in the morning.
You may wish to join an optional visit to Yupakari village before heading out on to the Rupununi River. Stay out on the river until the early evening, when you will be taken to large sand bank where dinner will be served underneath the stars.
After breakfast, transfer to the town of Lethem, from where you catch a scheduled flight back to Georgetown, taking you over hundreds of miles of broken rainforest as well as the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers. Once in Georgetown, you will have an afternoon tour of the city.
Accommodation: Cara Lodge, 1-night
Day15: Depart Georgetown
Transfer to the international airport for an overnight flight to the UK.
Day15: Arrive UK
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 15 daysfrom £5,175 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 14 daysfrom £4,275 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
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
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
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
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
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.
Caiman House is an ecological research station is in the village of Yupukari, upstream from Karanambu on the Rupununi River, where you have the unique opportunity to participate in an ongoing field study of the black caiman. Accommodation consists of four simple en suite rooms, with electricity and running water.
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.