Untouched Caribbean rainforests, sprawling savannahs and tropical reefs offer a wide variety of wildlife encounters and nature experiences.
The Caribbean is synonymous with turquoise sea and sandy beaches, but delve deeper and you will find there is much more to this part of the world than first appears. Start by visiting Trinidad for its excellent birding, before venturing to the seemingly forgotten land of Guyana. With its incredible diversity and natural splendour, Guyana is ideal for any wildlife enthusiast. Round off your adventure by taking a few days to relax and enjoy the splendid marine life of idyllic Tobago.
Read travel consultant Chris Smith's blog about his trip to Guyana.
Day1: Fly to Trinidad; transfer to Asa Wright Nature Centre
Fly to Port of Spain on the island of Trinidad where you will be met on arrival and driven just under an hour to Asa Wright Nature Centre, in the hills of the Northern Range. On arrival you can enjoy watching birdlife from the pleasant verandah as you sip your welcome drink.
Over the next couple of days, you can try a series of excursions for some of the best birding that Trinidad has to offer. These include a visit to Dunston Caves, which are home to a breeding colony of oilbirds, and a morning sortie to Aripo Savannah and Arena Forest for a chance to spot plumbeous kite, orange-winged parrot and lineated woodpecker.
Day4: Drive to Talparo and visit Tamana Bat Caves
A final morning at Asa Wright Nature Centre is followed by a short drive south to Talparo. After lunch, visit the nearby Tamana Caves which are home to tens – if not hundreds - of thousands of bats. You can venture inside and explore this subterranean environment while bats fly above and around you. Back outside, wait by the cave mouth as sun sets to see the spectacle of bats flooding out into the forest to feed overnight.
Day5: Birding at Nariva Swamp & turtles at Matura Beach
Following breakfast, head over towards the east coast of Trinidad and Nariva Swamp, the island’s largest freshwater wetland, to go birding and keep an eye out for red howler monkeys and white-fronted capuchin monkeys. After spending much of the day at Nariva Swamp, make an evening stop at the beach at Matura, which is an important nesting site for leatherback turtles. The females come ashore between mid-March and May, and hatchlings can be seen up until August.
Day6: Fly to Guyana, overnight in Georgetown
Transfer back to Port of Spain airport in time to check in for a short international flight to Guyana, on the South American mainland. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel in Georgetown.
Day7: Light aircraft to Annai & drive to Iwokrama River Lodge
Catch a scheduled flight by light aircraft into the interior of Guyana, fly over the Essequibo and Demerara Rivers and miles of unbroken rainforest. Land at Amerindian community of Annai and continue your journey to Iwokrama Rainforest by four-wheel-drive vehicle. During this drive you may spot three-toed sloth, grey-winged trumpeter and pompadour cotinga. Arrive at Iwokrama River Lodge in the afternoon.
Take a boat along the Essequibo River to the trailhead for Turtle Mountain. The hike to the summit takes around an hour and half, and the views across the rainforest are stunning. On the way up you may see green aracari, black spider monkeys and orange-breasted hawk. In the evening, take a boat trip to see some of the nocturnal species that frequent the river, such as spectacled caiman and Amazon tree boa.
Day9: Drive to Iwokrama Canopy Walkway & Atta Rainforest Lodge
While driving through Iwokrama Rainforest to Atta Rainforest Lodge you may spot a jaguar crossing the track in front of you, or in one of the clearings you pass en route. In the late afternoon, stroll over to Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, a series of platforms suspended some 30 metres above the ground. From this vantage point you can see many canopy-dwelling bird species – notable highlights are white-throated toucans and red-and-green macaws. If you’re fortunate enough to be there at the right time, you may see South America’s largest bird of prey, the harpy eagle.
Visit Iwokrama Canopy Walkway at dawn for some more birding, before setting off to drive to the Northern Rupununi, and the small Amerindian community of Surama, which is situated in a clearing on the savannah surrounded by rainforest. Settle into your accommodation before a guided walk in the jungle later in the afternoon.
Day11: Walk up Surama Mountain; dugout canoe on the Burro-Burro River
Wake at dawn for a walk across the savannah and hike up Surama Mountain, from where there are incredible views over the village and towards the Pakaraima Mountains. After lunch and a siesta back at the lodge, take an afternoon excursion to the Burro-Burro River, where your native guides will paddle you by dugout canoe to search for giant river otter, red-and-green macaws and black curassow.
Day12: Boat transfer to Karanambu; evening birding
From Surama you are driven to the Rupununi River for the boat trip to Karanambu. The river journey is a wildlife-viewing excursion as you can see ospreys, jabiru storks, and possibly giant river otters on the way. Arrive at Karanambu in time for lunch, before heading out on another boat trip to see Victoria Amazonica water lily blooming at dusk.
Day13: Birding & watching wildlife on the Rupununi Savannah
Rise at sunrise to explore the savannah in search of giant anteater. These unique animals are a sight to behold and well worth waking early for. After breakfast back at the lodge, the rest of the morning is free to spend as you wish. Later in the day explore the surrounding forest for some more birdwatching - striped woodpecker, pale-bellied tyrant-manakin and capuchinbird can all be seen here.
Day14: Final morning activity at Karanambu; fly to Georgetown
After one final morning outing at Karanambu, transfer to the airstrip for the scheduled flight by light aircraft back to Georgetown. On arrival, you are met and transferred to Cara Lodge as before. Depending on your time of arrival, there may be time to see some more of Georgetown.
Accommodation: Cara Lodge, 1-night
Day15: Fly to Tobago & transfer to Coco Reef Resort
Today, transfer to Cheddi Jaggan International Airport and board a short international your flight to Tobago (via Port of Spain). On arrival you are met and driven to Coco Reef Resort to spend the night. With its own private sheltered beach and good dining, this resort is the perfect place to relax. You may want to visit the world-famous Pigeon Point Heritage Park which is a short distance further along the coast.
Morning drive across Tobago to the village of Speyside. Tobago is one of the best eco-tourism destinations in the Caribbean, with excellent birding in the protected rainforest of Main Ridge Forest Reserve and excellent snorkelling along the northeast coast and around Little Tobago. Spend two days exploring.
Located at approximately 400 metres altitude in the mountains of the Northern Range, north of the town of Arima, the Asa Wright Nature Centre was established in 1967. It is a world-class birding destination as well as a being a centre for conservation and research into tropical ecology.
The southwestern tip of Tobago – known as Crown Point – is a well-known holiday hotspot due to its picture-postcard, palm-lined, sandy beaches, which are lapped by calm, crystal-clear seas of an almost unnatural turquoise colour. It is also the site of Tobago’s international airport.
Ideal for viewing: hawksbill turtle, blue emperor butterfly, nurse shark, Caribbean spiny lobster, southern stingray
Established in 1776, Tobago’s Main Ridge Forest Reserve is considered to be the oldest area of protected forest in the western hemisphere. As a result, this swathe of lush rainforest has remained untouched by development for over 200 years, allowing its native flora and fauna to flourish.
Ideal for viewing: collared trogon, blue-backed manakin, white-tailed sabrewing, blue-crowned motmot, blackback land crab
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Birdwatching
This stretch of beach, which is famed as one of the largest turtle nesting sites in the Caribbean, lies less than a kilometre from the village of Matura, on Trinidad’s quiet east coast, It is estimated that more than 5,000 female leatherback turtles come to this beach to lay their eggs.
Ideal for viewing: leatherback turtle, brown pelican, magnificent frigatebird, black vulture, red howler monkey
This small fishing village stands on the leeward coast of northern Tobago, overlooking the islands of Little Tobago and Goat Island. It is home to some of the best coral reefs on the island, suitable for divers and snorkellers, and also offers some excellent birdwatching in the surrounding rainforest.
Where: Northern Tobago
Excellent for: Beach stay
This cave system is situated on the northern slope of Mount Tamana in the foothills of eastern Trinidad’s Central Range. The caves are home to an extremely large population of various types of bats – estimates of the exact number range from 500,000 individuals to as many as three million.
Ideal for viewing: greater spear-nosed bat, lesser spear-nosed bat, Trinidadian funnel-eared bat, Gonatodes gecko, long-nosed bat
Lying on the east coast of Trinidad close to Manzanilla Bay, the largest freshwater wetland on the island, Nariva Swamp covers more than 6,000 hectares can only be accessed by boat. It is the principal habitat of the rare West Indian manatee, and one of the most diverse ecosystems in the entire Caribbean.
Where: East coast of Trinidad
Ideal for viewing: prehensile-tailed porcupine, red howler monkey, white-fronted capuchin monkey, blue and yellow macaw, orange-winged parrot
Excellent for: River safaris, Birdwatching
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
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
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
for further recommendations.
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.
Tucked away in a secluded bay on the northeast coast of Tobago, this friendly hotel is set in lush tropical grounds with views of Little Tobago. The hotel has a fully-equipped dive centre; accommodation ranges from standard rooms to private bungalows, all with en suite bathrooms, air conditioning and sea views.
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.
Located in the south of Tobago overlooking Coconut Beach, this classically designed resort offers spectacular views in a relaxed Caribbean environment. Facilities include an on-site dive centre, spa, swimming pool, tennis and golf. Tours can be arranged to see the turtles, bird life and cultural festivals around the island.
This small lodge is situated in the tranquil foothills of Trinidad’s Central Range, within easy driving distance of the Tamana Bat Caves. It has four fully-furnished wooden cottages set in 22 acres of private grounds, where you can enjoy birdwatching, kayaking on the lake, or simply relax around the swimming pool.
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.
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.