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Ranches of the Rupununi Savannah
Arrive in Guyana and transfer to Georgetown.
From the airport at nearby Ogle we’ll fly by chartered aircraft over the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers and hundreds of miles of unbroken tropical rain forest to land at Kaieteur, the world’s highest free-falling waterfall. Though Venezuela’s Angel Falls are greater in total height, their filamentous drop occurs by stages whereas Kaieteur is a single, massive, thundering cataract 100 meters wide created as the Potaro River makes a sheer drop of 228 meters, nearly five times the height of Niagara. The spectacle is the more impressive for its remoteness and it is altogether possible that we’ll be the only persons viewing it. Here we will hope to find White-chinned and White-tipped Swifts swirling over the gorge, and perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to see the astonishingly colorful Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock. Taking off again, we’ll continue to the Brazilian border and Orinduik Falls, 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. (B,L)
Mon : 0730hrs after breakfast transfer by 4×4 through the rain forest and heart of Guyana to the Essequibo River and the Iwokrama River Lodge. In late afternoon we’ll take a walk on the Screaming Piha Trail near the River Lodge. Some of the birds we will hope to find at Iwokrama are Blue-cheeked Parrot, Crimson Topaz and Guianan Toucanet. (B,L,D)
Making another early start, we’ll embark on the Essequibo River and circumnavigate nearby Indian House Island, return to the River Lodge for breakfast, then travel once more by boat for half an hour or less to the foot of Turtle Mountain. Here we’ll explore the trail, visiting Turtle Ponds and climbing to an elevation of about 900 feet for a spectacular view of the forest canopy below. After lunch we’ll visit Fair View, a nearby Amerindian village and finally, after dark, we’ll set out on the river once more, in hopes of finding one or another of its four species of caiman, and listening for the voices of nocturnal birds. (B,L,D)
Before and after breakfast this morning we’ll walk on Woodcreeper and Greenheart Trails, near the River Lodge. The first hour or more will be an experience almost wholly for the ears, listening to forest birds as they sing in near darkness, but ultimately, with stronger light, we should be able to see some of them. After lunch travel along the trail where there is a good chance 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! Eventually we reach the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway. Here we can bird watch from the vantage of 35 Metres up in the canopy. After dinner we return to the walkway to experience the canopy at night. (B,L,D)
This morning welcome the dawn chorus from the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway. Then we’ll travel to the Mori Scrub, spending the morning exploring a very particular and unusual habitat: a low, sandy forest with little or no grass cover. This scrubland supports a distinctive assemblage of bird species, among them Rufous-crowned Elaenia, Black Manakin and Red-shouldered Tanager. After lunch we’ll set out for the drive to the Rupununi and Rock View Lodge in Annai, its northernmost community. The Rupununi Savannah 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 rain forest . (B,L,D)
With its tropical gardens and flowering trees, our lodge resembles an oasis in the savannah, and attracts many species of birds, particularly nectar feeders and frugivores. Nearby patches of light forest are home to certain antbirds and flycatchers, and of course the grasslands support an avifauna of their own. We’ll explore the area on foot, and as the afternoon cools we’ll travel a short distance for birdwatching in the Pakaraima foothills. (B,L,D)
We’ll hope to see the morning’s first flurry of avian activity, then after breakfast we’ll travel by 4×4 to Ginep Landing and the Rupununi River, where we’ll embark for the boat trip upstream to Karanambu Ranch. This is the home of Diane McTurk, widely known for her work rehabilitating orphaned Giant River Otters. Our birdwatching here will be largely in woodland patches or gallery forest along the river, where we’ll hope to see such species as Spotted Puffbird, Striped Woodcreeper and Pale-bellied Tyrant-Manakin. When water levels are appropriate a wooded swamp near the ranch is the site of a surprisingly large colony of Boat-billed Herons, and at any season the river and airstrip provide habitat for no fewer than eight species of nightjars. (B,L,D)
Birdwatching from daybreak to nightfall or later, we’ll devote this entire day 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. Double-striped Thick-knees are among the sparse inhabitants of the grasslands, and at widely scattered ponds we may find concentrations of storks and other waterbirds. (B,L,D)
Leaving after breakfast we’ll journey overland southward to Manari Ranch, stopping at certain wet areas along the road, visiting Pirara Creek and having a picnic lunch at Pirara Ranch. This should be an exciting day of unhurried travel and open-country birdwatching, with many herons, storks and raptors. The evening may afford an enjoyable hour or so among tall palms and mango trees near our quarters, or out in the grasslands where after sunset we may see several species of nighthawks. (B,L,D)
After breakfast we’ll resume our southward travel as we set out for Lethem, the Rupununi’s principal town, situated just across the Takutu River from Brazil. Farther south we’ll break our journey to look at some marshy ponds near Makusi Village before continuing toward Dadanawa Ranch. This is the largest ranch in Guyana, covering 1700 square miles, and our first night will be at a private residence there, Mountain Point, the home of Shirley Humphrys, about ten miles from the main ranch buildings. Surrounded by gently rolling savannah with tawny grasses and the twisted, fire-blackened trunks of Curatella or “sandpaper” trees, and dominated to the north by the low peaks of the Kanuku Mountains and to the south by the steep spires of outlying Dukban and Shiriri, Mountain Point is set in the midst of a vast emptiness. The weathered building seems altogether improbable here yet gives the impression of having endured forever with its thatched roof and tiny orchard, and the birds frequenting this little oasis have grown almost fearless, even the normally timid ground-doves. After settling in we’ll take a walk to a shallow reedy pond and narrow strip of light forest nearby. (B,L,D)
We’ll spend this morning birdwatching around the pond and visiting the nearby Sawariwau River. After lunch we’ll make the short trip to Dadanawa Ranch, a cluster of raised wooden buildings surmounted by a towering Brazil nut tree and more or less surrounded by low gallery forest along the Rupununi River. After establishing ourselves here we’ll travel eastward and pass several shallow ponds before reaching Towa Towan, a high, rounded outcrop of blackened granite with a Jabiru nest near the summit and a small pond at the base with dense mucca mucca, a giant arum. We’ll look for certain flycatchers in surrounding Curatella glades and in late afternoon we’ll hope to see nighthawks on the wing and witness the roosting of Yellow-crowned Parrots. (B,L,D)
Leaving by 4X4 in early morning, we’ll make an all-day trip to some of the ranch’s outstations and several extraordinarily beautiful sites, with lightly forested mountainsides and high, black domes. We should see a variety of raptors and other open-country birds, but our particular object will be Red Siskin, recently found to occur here. Our route may also permit us to visit a “bush island”, or isolated patch of heavier forest, home to an interesting aggregation of bird species. (B,L,D)
We’ll have time this morning to explore riparian woodland and thickets near the ranch, as well as the muddy margins of a shallow pond and some paddocks that may contain standing water. After lunch we’ll retrace our steps to Lethem, birdwatching en route at several localities near the Takutu River. (B,L,D)
Morning birding on the savannah and along the river before flying to Georgetown. This afternoon we’ll take a tour of the city to see its extraordinary wooden architecture and to shop in its exciting markets and craft shops. We’ll conclude at the extensive and beautiful Botanic Garden, where, if we are lucky, the trip’s ornithological finale will be Blood-colored Woodpecker, an astonishingly colorful Veniliornis found only in the Guianas and even there almost wholly limited to the narrow coastal plain. (B,L)
Transfer to the airport for your departing flight. (B)