Doing business in our corner of the world means you live and work like family
Our suppliers and our partners are people we’ve known for years, people we trust and count on to make sure visitors have the very best possible experience
Every tour company on the planet has a nicely polished statement about their sustainability policy and deep roots in the community. For us, however, these aren’t boilerplate topics. For 20 years, Wilderness Explorers has been a vital and central player in developing Guyana’s nacent tourism sector. Today, the company handles the lion’s share of Guyana’s inbound leisure tourist traffic. Yet, the country still sees fewer such tourists per year than many other tropical destinations receive on a busy weekend.
So, this is a personal endeavor for us: we remain actively and personally engaged with the Amerindian communities featured in our itineraries, helping them develop their product, address operational challenges, train their staffs, manage customer service issues, and explore opportunities to reach wider audiences. We consider every tour as an economic development opportunity through sustainable community tourism. Many of the communities we work with have no other regular source of cash flow other than revenues generated through tourism: most Amerindian and Maroon villagers are otherwise engaged in classic sustenance agriculture. Creating viable and sustainable opportunities in ecotourism reduces the attractiveness of other options for cash income such as logging, mining, and megafarms owned by multinational corporations.
Tourism in Guyana is a relatively new phenomenon after decades of economic and political isolation. When we got started in this business, few resources were available and there were barely any destinations worth visiting without embarking upon a mad month long deep wilderness oddyssey. We continue to work hand-in-hand with the country’s leadership, lodge owners, tourism entrepreneurs, and grass roots organizations to create a viable tourism product that appeals to a maintream international audience. It’s been a long road and much remains to be done, but we’re proud of the work we’ve accomplished with our friends and partners.
Here are just a few examples of our current active partnerships:
The tourism sector in Guyana is still quite young, and we’re playing an active role in cultivating a new generation of leaders. Wilderness Explorers partners with the Guyana Tourism Authority to provide professional development courses for young people pursuing a career in tourism and hospitality. We also have hands-on relationships with the management teams at the Community Tourism projects at Maipaima, Rewa, and Surama where our staff provides hands-on marketing, management, operational, and administrative training support. We regularly hire apprentice guides to shadow our senior guides to give them a chance to learn the trade from local masters. And we work with ecotourism organizations in neighboring countries to organize guide exchange programs.
The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway is operated by Community and Tourism Services, Inc. (CATS). CATS is a unique partnership formed between the Makushi community at Surama, Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development. The CATS partnership is a model of ecotourism that proves the tourism sector, a conservation NGO, and an indigenous community can find joint economic success while providing local opportunity and an excellent experience for visitors from around the world.
The North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) at Bina Hill is a center for education, research, leadership, and entrepreneurship across Guyana’s interior. Wilderness Explorers works closely with the NRDDB to coordinate tour programs with tourism products created or sponsored by the NRDDB.
Wilderness Explorers has also operated several regional leadership programs at the NRDDB to promote greater cooperation and synergy in the nascent tourism sector. In the spring of 2011, we led a three-day seminar for more than 70 managers and workers from across the country interested in boosting the quality and awareness of their lodges and offerings.
Fourteen communities in the North Rupununi sponsor Wildlife Clubs for local youth. These clubs serve an important role to provide environmental education that isn’t part of the village education system. The curriculum focuses on species identification and appreciation for the complex ecosystems in which those species live. The clubs have proven wildly popular, doubling in size nearly every year since they were originally founded by the World Wildlife Fund and the North Rupununi District Development Board. In fact, quite a few of Guyana’s best guides and trackers got their start in their village Wildlife Clubs.
Wilderness Explorers frequently escorts groups to communities that run a Wildlife Club and we make an effort to arrange for a presentatioin by the club. In most cases a fee is paid to the village to continue supporting the club. We are frequently asked to facilitiate contributions of money and equipment to these clubs, testimony to the generosity of our guests and the remarkable enthusiasm demonstrated by Wildlife Club members.