A classic Guyana destination where creature comforts and a fascinating environment combine to create unforgettable experiences
Sip on passionfruit-infused rum, swing in a hammock, watch Victoria Amazonica lillies bloom at sunset, and learn about wildlife conservation at one of Guyana’s best-known lodges
Deep in the heart of Guyana – on the banks of the meandering Rupununi River – lies a storied plot of land known as Karanambu. Since 1927 this has been a working cattle ranch and home of the McTurk family. Karanambu – first as a Ranch and now as a Lodge – has welcomed a distinguished list of guests including the likes of David Attenborough and Gerald Durrell.
Karanambu is situated where the north savannah grassland, swamp and flood forest meet on the Rupununi River. From Karanambu, vast horse flats stretch south and east towards the Pakaraima Mountains and into Brazil.
The lodge is famously secluded, with no nearby facilities, services, or neighbors. Daily TGA flights from Georgetown to Lethem will land at the Karanambu airstrip if summoned in advance. A 20 minute drive from the airstrip brings you to the lodge… an exciting journey if the savannahs happen to be flooded. If you’re already on the ground and coming from the north (Iwokrama, Surama, Canopy Walkway, Rock View Lodge), you’ll come to Ginep Landing, 30 minutes south of Annai/Rock View, and meet our boats for the 2 hour river journey to Karanambu.
From the south you can travel by river from Yupukari Village/Caiman House in about 1 hour. Or, drive up from Lethem along the main trans-national road and cross the savannahs toward the river. This can take 2-5 hours depending on conditions.
Activites are not formally scheduled, but tailored to guests’ interests or preferences and vary according to season – wet or dry. For those who prefer regular hours, including a tropical siesta, basic provision is made for two guided excursions each day. The emphasis on water transport for daily excursions increases as the land floods during the wet season – usually between mid-May and mid-Sept. In those months, pack rain gear, long pants, long-sleeved shirts, insect repellent and antihistamines.
Karanambu offers visitors a remarkable opportunity to experience the abundant and pristine nature of the Rupununi wetlands. Spend a few days here and you’re likely to spot some of Amazonia’s most endangered species, such as giant river otter, black caiman and the majestically bushy giant anteater. Nearby Simoni Pond is one of Guyana’s richest wildlife and fishing areas. Ornithologists, herpetologists, entomologists, and general nature lovers will find no shortage of fascinations at Karanambu.
Diane McTurk, once known for her work rehabilitating orphaned giant river otters, continues to expand her tireless efforts to save this curious and gregarious species from extinction. While she no longer keeps orphaned otters in residence at the Lodge, Diane and her team created and manage a private protected area that will ensure the otter’s long-term survival. Diane’s work has attracted filmmakers from around the world such as BBC, Yorkshire Television and Wild Things.
Karanambu is dedicated to conservation of the Rupununi savannah and wetlands ecosystem, and is concerned with preserving Makushi heritage. Your visit supports Karanambu’s vital conservation work and also provides a sustainable livelihood for local Amerindian villagers.
Guest accommodation includes five Amerindian style claybrick thatched huts with verandah, twin beds, and an attached washroom featuring a cool shower and flushing toilet. Two of the guest rooms are connected by shared washroom. Solar panels provide limited electricity, and wireless internet is available across the central part of the grounds for most of the day.
According to Macusi Indian legend the unusual formation of ironstone rocks at Karanambu landing stage are potent warning of what can happen if you ignore the prophecies of the local peiman (witchdoctor). The men of Karanambu attended a celebratory dancing and drinking session in another village in defiance of his warning and on their return they became these distinctive stones and the village where the celebration was held sank into the forest and became a pond.
Tiny McTurk and his wife, Connie, chose this spot on a wide bend in the Rupununi River to build a house and a depot for his balata business in 1927 because of its proximity to the river; the bend in the river and its adjacent sandbank provided a natural deep water bay allowing access for boats even in the dry season but most important of all the flat topped laterite outcrop at Karanambu remains well above flood level in the wet season when the river can rise up to 40 feet.
Survival in the early days at Karanambu required a high level of hunting skills. McTurk hunted and fished in the traditional Indian way using poisoned arrows and true to his Indian teacher would never shoot unless certain of a kill. He was extremely knowledgeable about wildlife and in the 1950’s was instrumental in helping young David Attenborough, Gerald Durrell and others make some of the earliest wildlife programs and collections of animals for London and other zoos.
Their daughter, Diane, took over the ranch and established a tourism business now Karanambu Lodge Inc. In 1997 The Karanambu Trust was established with the objective of conserving and protecting the unique and diverse habitat of the Karanambu Rupununi Wetlands and in particular some of the rare and biologically important species that inhabit this part of Guyana. Much of the Trust’s current work involves gathering data on the local populations of species and educating local communities, including children about the benefits of conserving wildlife habitats.
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!