It is with great sadness I pay tribute to the passing of Diane McTurk…Diane was an inspiration to not just me but to the entire tourism industry in Guyana and the thousands of visitors that were privileged to stay with her at Karanambu.
Her work in rehabilitating orphaned Giant River Otters to the wild was grass-roots conservation that helped bring understanding to local people and at the same time provide unrivalled wildlife experiences for visitors.
Diane’s old-style hospitality was legendary and she treated all guests as friends at her dining table. The endless stories were entertaining and often hilarious and told part of the rich history of the Rupununi.
On a personal note Diane was a much cherished friend who daily lived her dream at Karanambu. We shared some challenging, funny and rewarding business experiences over 25 years. Some of my most cherished moments in the Rupununi have been shared with Diane. May she rest in peace in her eternal home at Karanambu.
CONTRIBUTIONS FROM GUESTS AND VISITORS
I first met Auntie Diane back in 2008 when I found her on a shortwave radio in a grass-roof shack…
She was frantically arranging emergency air evacuation for a young vaquero that had been seriously injured out on the Rupununi savannah. In the remote wilds of Guyana, access to modern medical care is often the difference between life and death, and she wasn’t going to let this young man succumb to injuries that could be tended to in Georgetown…
Once that routine emergency was summarily resolved, she gracefully breezed in to the lodge patio to greet her guests, pour passionfruit rum cocktails, and introduce her current otters-in-residence. That evening she presided over one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever enjoyed in Guyana, replete with locally-caught roasted pirhanna and a captivating rendition of the vaunted Rupununi Rebellion… among so many other memories of trials and tribulations associated with life in the bush.
I recall she recounted how – just weeks earlier – she’d sat upside down for hours in a half-submerged jeep that had gone off a bridge and fallen into a river, waiting to be rescued. “Only a few broken bones, and I knew someone would come along sooner or later to rescue me” as she breezily waved her hand to dismiss the ordeal. All in a day’s work, I guess, in a place that would chew most of us up and spit us out in a matter of days if not hours.
Auntie Diane leaves behind a legacy that everyone who has visited Guyana will appreciate. She was an compassionate conservationist, a graceful hostess, and a steely survivor in a frequently-inhospitable environment.
She left a huge impression on me and will be sorely, deeply missed by so many in her home country of Guyana.
Michael McCrystal Hamilton