Venture into the wild, pristine and little known interior of Guyana for a birdwatchers dream
With over 800 species the country is full of spectactular birding opportunities
Guyana is full of birding opportunities, but this expedition is targeting two of the country’s best-known specialties, the Harpy Eagle and Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock. The Harpy Eagle or “flying wolf” is the largest eagle in the world. Now on the endangered list, the eagle still has a refuge in Guyana. You will also trek into the rainforest to visit a Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock lek. The brilliant orange of the males is a sight to see, especially if you are lucky enough to experience their mating rituals.
PRE-TOUR EXTENSION TO KAIETEUR FALLS
We will pick you up at the airport, and then transfer you to your hotel.Kanuku Suites offers budget style accommodation in a quiet, residential community on the outskirts of central Georgetown. The ensuite rooms are air-conditioned and have high speed internet access. The hotel is a stone’s throw from the street that never sleeps: Sherriff Street, and within walking distance of restaurants, supermarkets, gift shops and the some of the most popular entertainment hot spots in the city. The city centre and commercial district are 5 minutes away by taxi.
Kaieteur Falls was first seen by a European on April 29, 1870 and 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.
This trip may include an extension to Orinduik Falls or Baganara Island Resort, at no additional cost. Orinduik Falls is where the Ireng River thunders over steps and terraces of solid jasper, a semi-precious stone. With a backdrop of the rolling grass covered hills of the Pakaraima Mountains, this is truly one of the most beautiful locations in Guyana’s hinterland. Its name is derived from the Amerindian (Patamona) word, Orin, which is the name of an aquatic plant found in these falls. The Ireng River forms the border between Brazil and Guyana. In contrast to Kaieteur, Orinduik is ideally suited for swimming and you will find natural Jacuzzi’s as the falls tumble down the steps of Jasper.
If you are travelling on a day that includes a stop at Baganara Island, you will be invited to spend the afternoon just relaxing or choosing from a variety of activities such as canoeing, fishing, table tennis or volleyball to name a few; after you have enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch.
Guests who skip the pre-tour extension will arrive today while the Kaieteur excursion is underway. We will pick you up at the airport, and then transfer you to your hotel. Kanuku Suites offers budget style accommodation in a quiet, residential community on the outskirts of central Georgetown. The ensuite rooms are air-conditioned and have high speed internet access. The hotel is a stone’s throw from the street that never sleeps: Sherriff Street, and within walking distance of restaurants, supermarkets, gift shops and the some of the most popular entertainment hot spots in the city. The city centre and commercial district are 5 minutes away by taxi.
Pickup and transfer to Eugene F. Correia International Airport. Board scheduled flight for journey over the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers and hundreds of miles of tropical rainforest to land in the Rupununi. Pick up and transfer to Surama Eco Lodge.
The Amerindian community of Surama is located in the heart of Guyana. The village is set in five square miles of savannah which is ringed by the forest covered Pakaraima Mountains. Surama’s inhabitants are mainly from the Macushi tribe and still observe many of the traditional practises of their forebears. This isolated and idyllic location offers an escape from the concrete jungle to a serene and peaceful existence with nature. The guides have lived their entire lives in the rainforest, and have an incredible understanding of nature and how to utilise its resources.
On arrival in Surama you will receive a warm welcome from local staff and settle into your accommodation at the Surama Eco-lodge. A local guide will escort you for a short walk on trails to observe the forest and bird life.
This afternoon we will be looking for birds around Surama, there are also plenty of other species to look for and during our stay we will hope to encounter Red-legged Tinamou, Painted Parakeet, Dusky Parrot, Lilac-tailed Parrotlet, Pale-throated Barbthroat, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Guianan Puffbird, Northern Slaty-antshrike, Rufous-bellied Antwren, White-browed, White-bellied & Ferruginous-backed Antbirds, Lemon-chested & Ashy-headed Greenlets and Finsch’s Euphonia. Tonight enjoy an educational walk to observe wildlife and experience the mystique of the forest after dark.
Today we will hike to the Harpy Eagle site, assuming this is active. The nest itself is located in a huge emergent tree only a couple of miles from the village and if we are extremely fortunate. Spend the day observing the nest for views of the adults and chicks as well as other birds and wildlife. Return to lodge. Birding around Surama, we also plan to do some night birding and will hope to locate the recently split Northern Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, as well as Tropical Screech-Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, White-tailed Nightjar and both Great and Common Potoos.
This morning we will return to the Harpy Eagle site, in the event we did not see one the previous day or we will bird around Surama to locate the special birds which can be found around Surama such as the Rufous-winged Ground-cuckoo. Whilst Neomorphus ground-cuckoos are undoubtedly amongst the toughest family of birds to locate anywhere in the Neotropics, Surama offers one of the best-known chances for seeing Rufous-winged Ground-cuckoo and to maximise the odds of us finding one, we will use expert local guides to assist us. We will, however, still count ourselves as extremely fortunate if we succeed in getting good looks at this extremely elusive species.
Although the Harpy Eagle and Rufous-winged Ground-cuckoo may be the two star attractions at Surama, there are plenty of other species to look for and during our stay we will hope to encounter Red-legged Tinamou, Painted Parakeet, Dusky Parrot, Lilac-tailed Parrotlet, Pale-throated Barbthroat, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Great and Paradise Jacamars, Guianan Puffbird, Black-spotted Barbet, Golden-spangled Piculet, Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, Northern Slaty-Antshrike, Rufous-bellied, Spot-tailed and Todd’s Antwrens, Dusky, White-browed, White-bellied, Ferruginous-backed, Rufous-throated and Guianan Warbling Antbirds, Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Lemon-chested and Ashy-headed Greenlets and Finsch’s Euphonia. We also plan to do some night birding and will hope to locate the recently split Northern Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, as well as Tropical Screech-Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, White-tailed Nightjar and both Great and Common Potoos.
After a final morning birding around Surama, we will head north towards Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, enroute we will stop at Corkwood in the Iwokrama Forest. Here there is a comparatively short trail to a trail to hopefully see the amazingly brilliant Guianian Cock-of-the-rock. This trail is through interesting forest and the guides can show the use of the plants. Then continue the journey to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway.
The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway is situated at Mauisparu, near the southern boundary of the Iwokrama Reserve in central Guyana. The walkway has four suspension bridges leading to three platforms, the highest of which is over 30 metres above the ground, and these will allow great looks at a range of canopy species, many of which you would struggle to see well from the forest floor. Amongst the likely highlights are Painted, Brown-throated and Golden-winged Parakeets, Caica Parrot, Guianan Puffbird, Waved and Golden-collared Woodpeckers and Spot-tailed, Todd’s 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, you stand a good chance of seeing this bird, as well as the more widespread Purple-breasted Cotinga.
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. The clearing is also a reliable site for Black Curassow as there is a family party which has become habituated to people and regularly passes through the clearing. With reasonable luck, you should be able to add this bird to the impressive list of species you will see around the lodge and walkway.
Atta Rainforest Lodge is 500 metres from the base of the Canopy Walkway, offering comfortable private-room accommodation with ensuite bathrooms, delicious home-cooked meals, and traditional Amerindian hospitality. The lodge is completely surrounded by tropical rainforest which offers a complete immersion in the rainforest experience. The main building is open sided with views across the gardens to the towering forest on all sides and houses the bar, dining area and kitchen.
Before dawn return to the canopy where you will welcome the dawn chorus. From this tree top vantage you can sometimes see Red Howler Monkeys and Black Spider Monkeys. Apart from the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway itself you can enjoy wildlife and bird watching walks on the trails around the area. For those interested in botany many of the trails have the key trees species marked. Many bird species, stunning insects, noisy amphibians, and playful primates make the surrounding forest their home and you can be fairly certain to spot some extraordinary wildlife without even trying too hard. Deer and agouti are also regular visitors to the lodge.
Return to the lodge for breakfast before departure. Transfer to the airstrip for our scheduled flight to Eugene F. Correia International Airport. Pickup at Eugene F. Correia International Airport and transfer to Georgetown. (guests participating in the post-tour extension will not return to Georgetown today; instead, they will travel from the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway towards the Rupununi Savannah and Karanambu Lodge)
Pickup in Georgetown and transfer to Cheddi Jagan International Airport for departing flight.
POST-TOUR EXTENSION – SAVANNAH BIRDING AT KARANAMBU
Guests who opt-out of the post-tour extension return to Georgetown today while those on the extension will head southward towards the Rupununi Savannah by 4×4 or Bedford vehicle from the Iwokrama canopy Walkway through the Iwokrama rainforest to Ginep Landing. From Ginep Landing we take a boat trip on the Rupununi River to Karanambu Lodge. 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.
Karanambu, a 110-square mile former cattle ranch, was 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 flavor 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 your 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.
Our bird watching here will be largely in 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 and Capuchinbird. In the afternoon we will begin to explore the nearby grasslands, gallery forest and wetlands to look for many species including the oddest-looking members of the cotinga family, the Capuchinbird, Boat-billed Heron, Pinnated Bittern, Sunbittern, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Green-tailed Jacamar, Spotted Puffbird, Black Nunbird, White-fringed Antwren, Black-chinned and White-bellied Antbirds, Finsch’s Euphonia and Rose-breasted Chat. This evening, we also plan to head out onto the savannahs after dark to look for night birds and on a good evening it is possible to see at least six species of nightjar and nighthawk including Nacunda, Least and Lesser Nighthawks, White-tailed Nightjar, as well as Double-striped Thick-knee.
We will devote today to exploring Karanambu and its varied habitats, traveling by boat to certain localities up and downstream, and by Land Rover to one or another forest patch. Grasslands host Bi-coloured Wren while forest patches host Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Violaceous Trogon, Blue Ground-Dove, Plain-crowned Spinetail and Great Antshrike.
One of our targets whilst staying at Karanambu will be the near-threatened Bearded Tachuri, a member of the flycatcher family which has declined markedly in recent years as it requires fairly undisturbed savannah grasslands. We also can make a boat trip either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon on the nearby Rupununi River to look for Crestless (or Lesser Razor-billed) Curassow. Although this species has not been hunted on the ranch for many years, it remains rare and difficult to find, although our best chance of encountering it will be if we hear a bird giving its low booming call around dawn or dusk.
The river is home to Wood Stork, White faced and Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Stripe-backed Bittern and Pied Lapwing. As we move around we may see Least Grebe, South American Snipe, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Yellow Tyrannulet, Cliff Flycatcher and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater. Whilst out in the boat you may see Capped and Little Blue Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets and Purple Gallinule.
This morning explore the Rupununi River in search of Spotted Puffbird, Striped Woodcreeper and Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin and you may also see wild Giant River Otters, Black Caiman and Arapaima. Or in the event you did not see a giant anteater yesterday you can travel out to search the savannah. Return to the lodge for breakfast before departure. Transfer to Lethem airstrip for our scheduled flight to Eugene F. Correia International Airport. Pickup at Eugene F. Correia International Airport and transfer to Georgetown.
Pickup in Georgetown and transfer to Cheddi Jagan International Airport for departing flight.
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!