The Guiana Shield is a 1.7 billion year old Precambrian geological formation in northeast South America and is one of the world’s most biodiverse regions
The Shield is home to 1400 vertebrate species and 1680 bird species and is covered by the planet’s largest expanse of undisturbed tropical rain forest. It is also home to a remarkable array of Amerindian, Afro-Caribbean, East Indian, Indonesian, and Saramaccan populations. Come, experience it all!
Join us as we explore the Guianas: Guyana, Suriname and an optional extension to French Guiana. Marvel at Kaieteur Falls, the highest single drop waterfall in the world and discover one of the greatest untouched rainforests left. This region is home to endangered species such as jaguar, giant anteater, giant river otter, tapir and so much more. Spend time learning about the cultures of the region with visits to Amerindian and Maroon communities. This really is an untouched and totally unique part of South America.
This is a scheduled departure which can be customized to suit your group’s schedule and specific needs. Please enquire with our trip planners if you require different dates or alternative arrangements.
Arrive at Cheddi Jagan International Airport. Formalities at this small, friendly airport rarely take very long, baggage facilities are efficient, and there aren’t any touts to worry about. Our guests are met in the arrival hall and transferred to the hotel in Georgetown. Those participating in the Caiman research pre-tour extension will arrive a day earlier.
Breakfast at the hotel before transferring to the Eugene F. Correia International Airport for a scheduled flight over the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers and hundreds of miles of unbroken tropical rainforest to land at Kaieteur Falls, the world’s highest free-falling waterfall. At 228 meters, Kaieteur is nearly five times the height of Niagara Falls.
Kaieteur Falls which was first seen by a European on April 29, 1870 is situated in the heart of Guyana on the Potaro River, a tributary of the Essequibo. The water of Kaieteur, one of the world’s natural wonders, flows over a sandstone conglomerate tableland into a deep gorge – a drop of 741 feet or 5 times the height of Niagara Falls.
There are no other falls in the world with the magnitude of the sheer drop existing at Kaieteur. Amerindian legend of the Patamona tribe has it that Kai, one of the tribe’s chiefs (after whom the falls is named), committed self-sacrifice by canoeing himself over the falls. It was believed this would encourage the Great Spirit Makonaima to save the tribe from being destroyed by the savage Caribishi.
Kaieteur supports a unique micro environment with Tank Bromeliads, the largest in the world, in which the tiny Golden frog spends its entire life and the rarely seen Guiana Cock- of-the-rock nesting close by. The lucky visitor may also see the famous flights of the Kaieteur Swifts or Makonaima Birds which nest under the vast shelf of rock carved by the centuries of water, hidden behind the eternal curtain of falling water.
An optional upgrade to this day provides a private guide at the falls with additional food and drinks (see below).
This morning transfer to Eugene F. Correia International Airport for a flight to the Rupununi and transfer to Karanambu Lodge. Karanambu, a 110-square mile former cattle ranch, is the home of Diane McTurk, conservationist and a world-renowned expert on giant otters. Karanambu is located in the North Rupununi, a region of south-western Guyana known for its expansive wetlands and savannah, as well as its biological and cultural diversity. Settled in 1927 by Tiny McTurk, Karanambu was once a working cattle ranch and Balata collection station. It is now an eco-tourist destination known as The Karanambu Lodge.
Karanambu encompasses savannah, marshy ponds, riparian forest, and a 30-mile stretch of the Rupununi River. The North Rupununi of southern Guyana is an extraordinary natural and pristine area. The landscape is an integration of four ecosystem types: wetlands, savannahs, rivers, and forests. The number of species found here is much higher than expected given its size. There are at least 600 species of fish, along with 600 species of bird, and over 200 species of mammals. Karanambu is located roughly in the middle of this beautiful and fascinating biological hotspot where endangered species like the Giant Otter, Black Caiman, Jaguar, Giant Anteater, and Arapaima can be found. The seasonally flooded savannahs and forests also draw substantial fish migrations. There may be as many as 700 species of fish at Karanambu — more than anywhere on Earth.
This region is rich in history, too. The North Rupununi is the homeland of the Makushi and earlier peoples dating back almost 7,000 years ago. Village neighbours include the Makushi villages of Kwaimatta, Massara, Yupukari, Toka, and Simoni. Several prominent explorers and naturalists have written about their experiences here, including Robert and Richard Schomburgk, Charles Waterton, Evelyn Waugh, Gerald Durrell, and David Attenborough. Lake Amuku, not far from Karanambu, was once considered by Sir Walter Raleigh, and later by Alexander von Humboldt, and others to be the location of Lake Parime on whose banks the golden city of “El Dorado” was said to be located.
The romance of the Rupununi pioneers lives on at Karanambu. The compound has the flavour of an Amerindian Village. Because of the remoteness of Karanambu, staff live on site and the children can be seen and heard on the weekends and holidays when they come “home” from schools in the nearby villages of Yupakari, Kwaimatta and Massara. This feeling of community is further enhanced by the accommodations, which are traditionally made clay brick cabins. Each private cabin can accommodate two people and includes private bathroom and Veranda with hammocks.
With both the river and the savannahs close at hand there is a wide variety of activities to be enjoyed at Karanambu. You are free to determine what you want to do based on our interests, the time of year and whether the guides have found anything especially unique and interesting to see. Two guided excursions are provided each day — one early in the morning and another late in the afternoon and into the evening. As well as being the coolest times to be out, these are usually the best times to see the different birds and animals. Trips may be on the river by boat, on the savannahs by Land Rover or along forest trails on foot to the different ponds in the area.
Late in the afternoon we will travel by boat to look for wild Giant River Otters and as dusk falls to the ponds to see the giant Amazonia Regis water lily, bloom at dusk. On the return trip we will spotlight for Black Caiman and birds and creatures of the night.
This morning we may make an early start to reach an area of rolling grasslands, which is home to a population of giant anteaters. With luck we shall locate one of these six-foot long animals excavating its breakfast from one of the red termite mounds that stud the savannah. The giant anteater, also known as the ant bear, is a large insectivorous mammal native to Central and South America. It is recognizable by its elongated snout, bushy tail, long fore claws and distinctively coloured pelage. It feeds primarily on ants and termites, using its fore claws to dig them up and its long, sticky tongue to collect them. Though giant anteaters live in overlapping home ranges they are mostly solitary except during mother-offspring relationships, aggressive interactions between males, and when mating. Mother anteaters carry their offspring on their backs until weaning them.
An evening visit to a nearby pond to see hundreds of Ibis, Anhinga, Heron and Egret roosting (only in rainy season) is a highlight. If you are interested in bird watching you can explore woodland patches or gallery forest along the river where we’ll hope to find such species as Spotted Puffbird, Striped Woodcreeper, Pale-bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Golden-spangled Piculet, Bearded Tachuri and Capuchinbird. A feature bird for the area is Agami Heron. An evening walk along the airstrip offers seven species of nightjar and among the grasslands the Double-striped Thick-knees.
In the event you did not see a giant anteater the previous morning, there is time to travel out to search the savannah again. Or explore the Rupununi River in search of wild Giant River Otters, Black Caiman and Arapaima, making a boat journey along quiet stretches of river.
Return to the lodge for breakfast before departure. We travel slowly on the Rupununi River by boat and this should give us another excellent opportunity to look for various river-edge, wetland and open country species and we stand a good chance of seeing Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and Swallow-wing. Depending on the river level, this trip offers an excellent opportunity to look for Giant Otters as there are several family groups which live along this stretch of the Rupununi River. Both Black and Spectacled Caimans also inhabit the river and several species of monkey including Red Howler, White-faced Saki and Squirrel Monkey can be found in the riverside trees.
Eventually we reach Ginep Landing, continue transfer by vehicle to the Amerindian village of Surama. The village of Surama is situated in a small savannah, deep in the rainforest and surrounded by forest clad hills. It was here that Charles Waterton passed through in 1812 in search of the secrets of the useful Wourali poison known as Curare. Waterton was so stunned by this spot that he wrote in his memoirs “The finest park that England boasts falls short of this delightful scene”.
Surama’s inhabitants are mainly from the Macushi tribe and still observe many of the traditional practices of their forebears. On our arrival, we will receive a warm welcome from the local people and will be shown to our basic accommodation. Your guide will take you on a tour of the village. Visit the local school, medical centre and church along with some of the village houses. As the afternoon cools a local guide will escort you for a short walk on trails to observe the forest and bird life. See the forest through the eyes of your indigenous guide and learn about the medicinal plants and their uses in the Amerindian culture. Tonight enjoy an educational walk to observe wildlife and experience the mystique of the forest after dark.
Rise before dawn for a walk across the savannah and then the exhilarating and challenging climb up Surama Mountain in the cool morning air. This is the best time to observe bird life along the trail. Breakfast will be served at a lookout point which affords incredible views across the village and savannah to the Pakaraima Mountains.
Return to village for lunch and then take a three mile walk across the savannah and through the rainforest to the Burro Burro River. Your guides will then paddle you on the Burro Burro River for opportunities to observe Giant River Otters, Tapir, Tira, Spider Monkeys and many more species. Return to village for sunset.
After breakfast depart Surama by 4×4 vehicle along the road, we will watch for the myriad of bird species that frequent the forest edge, continue transfer by vehicle to a trail in the Iwokrama Forest to hopefully see the amazingly brilliant Guianan Cock-of-the-rock. It is an easy 20 minute walk, to hopefully have a great view of the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock. Most trips see at least one male and often the female or even a juvenile on the nest. Then continue our journey to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway which allows you to view the forest from 35M up in the canopy.
The Iwokrama Rainforest is a vast wilderness of one million acres. This protected area was established in 1996 as the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development. The Iwokrama Forest is in the heart of one of four last untouched tropical forests of the world – The Guiana Shield of North-Eastern South America. Iwokrama was established as a living laboratory for tropical forest management because the unsustainable utilisation of these forests will result in the extinction of half the world’s plant and animal species and unknown changes to global climate. This is a protected area with a difference – the full involvement of people. Iwokrama is exceptional among conservation organizations because it joins with local people in every aspect of its work. From research to business, Iwokrama ensures local economic and social benefits from forest use and conservation. The Forest is in the homeland of the Makushi people, who have lived here and used the forest for thousands of years.
Although the forest around Atta Rainforest Lodge is excellent for birds, the major attraction here is a 154 metre long canopy walkway which is only 750m from the lodge. The walkway has three platforms, the highest of which is over 30 metres above the ground, and these will allow us to get great looks at a range of canopy species, many of which we would struggle to see well from the forest floor. Amongst the likely highlights are Painted, Brown-throated and Golden-winged Parakeets, and Ash-winged Antwrens.
The walkway is also an excellent place to look for various species of cotinga including the poorly known and range-restricted Dusky Purpletuft and if there are any suitable fruiting trees nearby, we stand a good chance of seeing this bird, as well as the more widespread Purple-breasted Cotinga. Experience the activity in the mid and upper canopy of the forest and see darkness settle over the forest. From this tree top vantage you can sometimes see Red Howler Monkeys and Black Spider Monkeys. As darkness falls on the Canopy Walkway, we will hope to see the White-winged Potoo.
Welcome the dawn chorus from the canopy walkway. Short-tailed Nighthawks settle in for the day, Swifts take to the sky, White throated and Channel-billed Toucans yodel, and Barred Forest Falcons call. The unusually timid Black Curassow can also be seen as at least one family party has become habituated and regularly feeds in the clearing of Atta Rainforest Lodge. Another area where we will want to spend some time is the clearing around the lodge, as this is one of the best places to see another of Guyana’s “must see” birds, the Crimson Fruitcrow. This species is seen here on a reasonably regular basis, as it often comes to feed in some of the nearby trees.
After breakfast we will transfer you by 4 x 4 along the trail that is one of the best places to see the elusive Jaguar. The Iwokrama forest is rapidly gaining an international reputation for its healthy jaguar populations that seem not to be troubled by the appearance of curious humans. No promises, but many have been lucky! Along the road, we will watch for the myriad of bird species that frequent the forest edge, including Crimson and Purple-necked Fruit-crow, and Orange-winged Parrot and Gray-winged Trumpeter. This road is the only north – south access in Guyana and links the country to Brazil. Even so traffic is only very occasional and wildlife is often seen along the road, such as Agouti, Tayra, Puma, Tapir and Black Curassow. The road travels through the savannah and the foothills of the Pakaraima Mountains with excellent opportunity for savannah birding. Jabiru Stork are often seen along this stretch of road.
Eventually we reach the Rupununi Savannah which is to Guyana what the Gran Sabana is to Venezuela, an extensive area of grassland with termite mounds and scattered or riparian woodland. It differs in that much of it is devoted to cattle raising, though the large ranches are not very productive. Indeed, one can travel for hours without seeing a domestic animal of any sort. Needless to say, the birdlife here is markedly different from that of the rainforest.
Depart via scheduled flight for journey over the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers and hundreds of miles of tropical rainforest to land at Eugene F. Correia International Airport. Georgetown the chief port, capital and largest city of Guyana is situated on the right Bank of the Demerara River Estuary. It was chosen as a site for a fort to guard the early Dutch settlements of the Demerara River. The city of Georgetown was designed largely by the Dutch and is laid out in a rectangular pattern with wide tree lined avenues and irrigation canals that criss cross the city. Most of the buildings in the city are wooden with unique architecture dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. For the most part the buildings have Demerara shutters and designed fretwork which trim eaves and windows. Main Street, Georgetown provides several excellent examples of old colonial homes, a prime example of which is the State House, built in 1852. The State House is set in large gardens and is painted green and white and has hosted many visiting dignitaries.
During your visit to Georgetown there are a number of interesting sights that should not be missed: the most famous being St. George’s Cathedral. The Cathedral is one of the world’s tallest free standing wooden buildings and was consecrated on 1892. The foundation stone was laid on November 23, 1890 and the building was designed by Sir Arthur Bloomfield. The story of the cathedral is told on the interior on tablets and memorials of a historical and sentimental nature: it is the tale of the history of Guyana in general and of the Diocese in particular.
At the beginning of the Avenue of the Republic stands the Public Library housed in the Carnegie Building. Other historic buildings along this promenade are the Town Hall, a splendid example of Gothic architecture, and further along are the Victoria Law Courts and St. Andrews Kirk. St. Andrew’s is the oldest surviving structure of any church in Guyana.
The famous Stabroek Market, once described as a “bizarre bazaar”, contains every conceivable item from house hold goods and gold jewellery to fresh meat and vegetables brought to town on the river daily. The clock tower can be seen for miles around and is a famous landmark.
No trip to Georgetown would be complete without a visit to the Botanical Gardens and zoo. The Botanical Gardens houses one of the most extensive collections of tropical flora in the Caribbean and are laid out with ponds, canals, kissing bridges and bandstand. Over 100 species of Guyanese wildlife can be observed at the Zoo including a wide variety of tropical fishes and birds.
The National Museum which contains a broad selection of our animal life and heritage should not be missed, nor the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology, which explains Amerindian history and life style.
The tour will include walking along the Avenues with an experienced guide who will give you the history, rumour and facts on Georgetown and its citizens. The group will be accompanied at all times by a vehicle, which will be used for travel between areas of interest. During the tour there is always the opportunity to purchase that unusual gift or unique Guyanese handicrafts, or for the daring the chance to delve into the gold and diamond market.
This evening you can take an optional tour to the Roy Geddes Musical Museum for a cultural evening. Roy is Guyana’s most famous steel pan player and maker. He will demonstrate how steel pans are made and discuss their history and a rendition of pop, rock, soca, classical and jazz numbers of the pans.
Transfer to the Eugene F. Correia International Airport for flight to Zorg-en-Hoop Airport in Paramaribo and transfer to Eco Resort Inn. This morning we take you on a Paramaribo City tour, on foot you will visit one of the most attractive cities of South America, Paramaribo, the capital city of Suriname and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its magnificent architecture. During this tour you will visit the Palm Gardens, the Waterfront and the Central Market. Naturally, you will also see the many historical buildings like the recently renovated Presidential Palace. Also discover a remarkable triad of immediately-adjacent neighbors: the Keizerstraat Mosque, Neveh Shalom Synagogue, and the magnificent Arya Dewaker Hindu temple.
We continue our tour to the pier at Nieuw Amsterdam for the Sunset Dolphin tour. While having a drink we enjoy the cool breeze and river views. Meanwhile the captain searches the horizon for the dolphins. Normally we see them swim by in groups of up to 20 dolphins. After having enjoyed this playful company we part for wonderful restored plantation Frederiksdorp where we will enjoy freshly made local snacks like barra, baka bana or eggroll while experiencing the beautiful sunset. All this takes place in a relaxing atmosphere of the old plantation village. After the sun has set we will transfer you by car or bus to Paramaribo.
This morning we start our nature and cultural experience as we depart from Paramaribo. At Paranam the asphalt road changes into laterite and we drive past impressive giant trees and small villages. After approximately 190 km we arrive at a place named Atjoni. Continue by motorized dugout boat and it will take us 45 minutes to get to the comfort of Anaula Nature Resort, situated at the foot of the Ferulassi falls.
During this trip we get to see various Maroon villages, breath taking scenery, and the tempestuous Jaw Jaw rapid. After some relaxation time we will take a dugout boat and go to an island in the Ferullasi rapid which has a sandy beach where we can relax, swim and enjoy a natural Jacuzzi. After dinner there is an exciting adventure to search for Caiman. The night dugout boat trip gives you the chance to enjoy the wonderful starry sky and the complete silence of the rain forest.
After breakfast we head for New Aurora, by dugout boat. During the guided tour through the village you will meet the local people and learn about their unique way of living including their traditions and customs. We will take you to see the Mission Station where there is a church, a primary school and a medical post. From New Aurora we walk to the nearest village of Gunsi where our dugout boat awaits. After the lunch we will take a walk in the forest on the island. During this forest walk you will learn a lot about the local medicinal use of plants. After dinner it’s time to enjoy traditional and cultural dancing performances of the Seketi, Awasa and Bandamba dances. Our guide will tell you about the meaning of these dances.
What you do this morning is entirely up to you and you can choose to go on tour to see the various agricultural plots of the local people, swimming, go for a stroll in the forest, relax in the lounge area or in a hammock, or just enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. After the lunch we will go back to Atjoni by boat from where we will return to Paramaribo.
Today we head to the Commewijne district which is situated to the east of Paramaribo across the Suriname River. The tour takes us along the former colonial plantations, most of which them are now abandoned. We make a stop at plantation Peperpot where the old coffee and cocoa factory, deputy-director’s house and the old office are located. This former plantation is one of the oldest plantations in Surinamese history. Peperpot was established by the English and already existed before Suriname was conquered by the natives from Zeeland under command of Abraham Crijnssen in 1667. This is one of the last plantations still in its former original state. On the plantation you can still see coffee and cocoa plants as well as an ancient shed and factory, the manager’s residence and a kampong (workers’ living area). Peperpot is renowned for the many birds which can be spotted.
From Peperpot, we make a stop at the mini-museum of Marienburg, a former sugar plantation before enjoying a delicious lunch in a typical Javanese restaurant (warung) in Tamanredjo before continuing to the confluence of the Commewijne and Suriname Rivers at Nieuw Amsterdam. Here we will a visit the outdoor museum Fort Nieuw Amsterdam. The large fortress was built as a defence for the crop fields that were situated along the upper parts of both rivers.
Transfer by hotel shuttle bus to the Zanderij International airport for your departing flight. Farewell!
Important note regarding tours to Kaieteur Falls
Flights to Kaieteur and Orinduik Falls are operated on chartered aircraft and all flights have a minimum passenger restriction. Therefore, any booking to Kaieteur and Orinduik Falls is subject to a minimum of 12 passengers being available to travel. In most cases we are able to fill flights, especially if scheduled for a weekend. However, in the rare case that we cannot meet the required numbers we will reschedule the trip to another day during your stay, if this is possible. Wilderness Explorers retains the right to reschedule a flight as a first option. If we cannot reschedule the flight Wilderness Explorers will guarantee a flight, with a minimum of 2 passengers, to Kaieteur Falls only or a combination of Kaieteur Falls and Baganara Island Resort. This means you see the major falls of Kaieteur, but miss Orinduik Falls. If a flight is cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control, such as weather, we will endeavour to reschedule the flight during your itinerary. If this is not possible then a full refund on the flight will be made.
Why Travel with Wilderness Explorers?
For more than 20 years, we’ve been working at the crossroads of adventure travel and community tourism. Not from the sidelines or behind a desk, but on the ground. In the jungle. On the boats. Getting our feet dirty and seeing everything first-hand. Tourism isn’t our business – it’s our life. Our handcrafted itineraries prove it.
Our partners in the field aren’t just suppliers in the traditional sense: we are deeply involved with the development of the lodges, tours, training programs, and attractions that draw adventurous souls to this part of the world. Back in 1999 Wilderness Explorers was one of the first tour operators to embrace the now-fashionable idea of community tourism, partnering with the Amerindian Makushi village of Surama in Guyana to provide marketing and administrative support for that country’s first indigenously-operated ecolodge. These days we continue to work with lodges and regional consortiums with tourism development aspirations. Hand-in-hand we are building opportunities for economic growth that don’t rely on resource extraction or the mass-market.
We know that tour companies are increasingly looked upon as unnecessary middlemen in a world where the internet connects everyone with marvelous ease. And, no doubt, someone with ample time and patience could organize their journey independently. But we know that sometimes you want to spend less time researching and more time travelling. If that’s you, we can vastly simplify your trip planning, get you into the best (and often least-known) lodges, prioritize your activity list, and set you up for an unforgettable getaway. Having the time of your life once you get there? Well, that part is entirely up to you!
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Guyana, South America
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