What’s the best time to visit Guyana?
It’s the top question we receive at Wilderness Explorers: When’s the best time to visit Guyana/Suriname/French Guiana/Dominica/St. Lucia/ Trinidad/etc?
We wish there were a straightforward answer, but we all know there is actually no such thing as the ‘perfect’ time to see – or avoid – a place. Anyone who tells you otherwise is vastly oversimplifying.
The Guiana Shield recorded tremendously abnormal weather conditions in recent years, with the rainy and dry seasons virtually flip-flopped, off-season flooding in Georgetown and the Rupununi savannahs, and severe drought-like conditions that devastated normally reliable crops across the country. 2005 and 2007 were similarly off-kilter, and El Niño and El Niña conditions can throw things for loop, too.
Climate conditions inevitably impact our tours by turning dirt roads into mudslides, introducting flight delays, and draining or flooding the rivers we rely upon to reach distant lodges. Last year, we endured weeks of painfully empty lodges during long stretches of truly impeccable weather during the “off” season. Everyone who planned their tours in recent years based on “the best time to visit” were left to make the best of what nature had to offer.
Hurricane season in the Caribbean is certainly a factor to be considered for island destinations such as Dominica, Trinidad, and St. Lucia, but hurricanes do not make land as far south as Guyana, Suriname, or French Guiana (in fact, many yachts moor in the Essequibo during hurricane season in recognition of the area’s comparatively temperate weather)
Of course, even in the most ‘normal’ of times, torrential rain or blisfully splendid weather is possible anywhere, any time. Our guides, lodge owners, staff, friends, and all the critters that call this place home are here 7 days per week, 12 months per year, ready to welcome you any time you choose to visit.
The only predictable thing about the Guyanese climate is its unpredictability
However, there are some discernable patterns. There are two rainy seasons: early May to mid July and late November to late January. The May/June rains are more “reliable” than the December/January rains. The February to April “dry” season isn’t usually as dry as the August to November “dry” season, and the two driest months are September and October. Georgetown gets an average of 2253 mm of rain per year.
Temperature & Rainfall
This is the only predictable feature of the weather: it is hot all year round – temperatures seldom rise above 33 degrees (Celsius) during the day, or fall below 25 degrees (Celsius) during the night. Bear in mind that those are shade temperatures, so the actual temperature that you feel will be much higher if you’re in the sun, although a steady north-easterly wind off the Atlantic takes the edge off the heat on the coast.
Water flow in the rivers
Most visitors to Guyana want to see Kaieteur and Orinduik falls. The best time to see these is when the Potaro river is in full flow, which is usually at the end of the longer wet season (i.e. July or early August) or, more generally after a few heavy days of rain. When the Potaro is particularly high, the falls thunder at their greatest strength… but when it is particularly low, visitors can walk and hop out to the middle of the falls for a remarkable view. So, every moment has its benefits. Few people leave Kaieteur with anything other than a sense of awe and wonder, regardless of season or day of week.
Rivers form the backbone of Guyana’s transportation system, and getting to some of our favorite lodges (Rewa, Caiman House) and camping sites (Rock Landing, Corona Falls, Mparri) requires on a few hours in a motorized canoe on the rivers. In dryer times, Guyana’s dirt roads are easier to traverse (less mud) but her rivers become more challenging to navigate. The converse turns out to be true, also. A high or low water level on the Rupununi River, for example, can make the journey from Kwatamang to Rewa a 2 or 5+ hour affair, for example.
Mashramani, often abbreviated to Mash, is an annual festival that celebrates Guyana becoming a Republic in 1970. The festival, usually held on February 23 – Guyanese Republic Day – includes a parade, music, games and cooking and is intended to commemorate the “Birth of the Republic”. Georgetown is definitely the place to be during this festive time, and hotels can book up early.
Holi / Phagwa (MARCH)
Holi or Phagwa, as the Guyanese call it, is celebrated by the singing of special songs called Chowtaals and by the spraying of coloured powder (abrack) and water (abeer). Children take special delight in the festival and submerge any passerby with their colourful water jets called pichkaris. The season of Holi starts a month before with the planting of the Holika, a castor oil plant. This plant is burnt one month later as Holika, commemorating Prahlad’s legendary devotion to Lord Shiva and also the triumph of good over evil.
Bartica Regatta (APRIL)
Every April, South America’s third largest river is scene to rocket-fueled power boats ripping at mind-
boggling speeds up and down the Essequibo River near Bartica. Reserve your room at Baganara early for the best viewing position.
Rupununi Rodeo (APRIL)
Complete with events like wild bull riding, horse racing, wild cow milking, wild horse riding, a female barrel race, steer roping, and (for locals only) cari drinking competitions… both official and unnoficial. The evening programme presents festivities in the form of a cultural fair with food, games, music and the lively “Fawhaw” dance, said, to have its origin in the popular Northeast Brazilian ”Forró” dance. The Rupununi rodeo has its origins in the middle of the last century, when vaqueros competed against each other in various skills; it later grew from being a centralised event in St. Ignatius before moving to Lethem in 1985.
Amerindian Heritage Month (SEPTEMBER)
Amerindian Heritage Month is in September with sporting and culture events across the interior culminating in closing ceremonies in or near Lethem.
A ceremonial event or two is typically held at the end of the month in Georgetown, often with the President and/or Prime Minister in attendance. Local events at Annai, adjacent to Rock View Lodge, are the most accessible to outside visitors. While Amerindian communities warmly welcome visitors to Heritage events, foreigners rarely know about them so few outsiders ever get to see this annual celebration of Guyana’s indigenous tradition.
Guyana hosts international cricket tournaments at its large and modern Providence Stadium west of Georgetown. The season now begins in May and concludes in December, the regional first-class season runs from January to March and the international season begins in March and extends through June
Official Guyana Calendar
The Guyana Tourism Authority publishes an annual, up-to-date calendar of all events in the country.