Guyana is a stunningly raw country characterised by dense rainforest, pulsing calypso music and a distinct colonial feel thanks to its Anglo-Caribbean cultural connections. Guyana’s capital city of Georgetown is graced with historic colonial-era architecture, the most famous being the tall, timber St. George’s Anglican Cathedral. Meanwhile, a distinctly rocking lifestyle, nightlife, eateries and edgy markets make it undeniably Caribbean.
Away from the capital, Guyana is one of the few places on earth that offer opportunities for raw outdoor exploration making it one of South America’s best-kept eco-tourism secrets.
The country’s interior is Amazonian with its Amerindian communities and prolific natural beauty, for now completely untouched by tourism. You will find sea turtles nesting in the north, ranches complete with vaqueros (cowboys) in the south, along with rough roads, mud, bumps and hazy heat.
Jungle trekking, wildlife spotting and freshwater fishing are the big attractions for adventure-loving visitors, and while few manage to spot the country’s famously elusive jaguars, many get the opportunity to spy giant otters, anteaters and arapaima, the world’s biggest freshwater fish.
Here’s our top three eco adventures in Guyana:
Rupununi Savannah – the last great wilderness
The Rupununi Savannah lies in the heart of Guyana, the huge Africa-like plains are scattered with small jungles and an incredible diversity of wildlife. The Savannah is among the last great wilderness areas on Earth, home to more than 9,000 species of animals, many of which are highly endangered globally. Rivers are full of huge caimans, giant otters and the world’s largest water lilies while jaguars and pumas stalk plains of golden grasses.
Travel is an incredible challenge as the area is almost completely without modern development, it’s an untouched natural wonder. Converted cattle ranches and eco-lodges run by the local communities are the base for all exploration in the area and getting there requires a small aircraft or helicopter flight from Guyana’s capital, Georgetown. In the dry season the region is accessible by a 48-hour drive along an unpaved “all weather” road using trucks or 4×4 vehicles.
Kaieteur Falls – deafening and incredible!
Guyana’s natural wonders abound but perhaps the most awesome of all are the Kaieteur Falls, which alone make Guyana well worth the journey.
Head for Essequibo’s Kaieteur National Park, deep in the Amazon forest and you can’t fail to be amazed: Kaieteur Falls are five times the height of Niagara Falls and boast a sheer drop of 228 metres making them the world’s highest single-drop waterfalls. The sight is jaw-dropping: something like 30,000 gallons of water shooting the cliff in the middle of a beautiful, ancient jungle is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Join an organised tour of the Park, many of which can be picked up from Georgetown. There are also frequent flights from Georgetown’s Ogle Airport and Cheddi Jagan International Airport to the Kaieteur Airstrip, which is just 15 minutes’ walk from the top of the falls.
If you choose to go it alone, the trail approaching the falls can be a little difficult, largely because the location is untouched by tourism – a blessing and a hindrance all in one. In fact, tourists are reputed to be rarer than the native wild cats that roam the forest! All-inclusive multi-day tours give you the time to take everything in but you will need to be fit enough to manage the hiking. Along the way, you might spy the native scarlet Guiana cock-of-the-rock fowl and tiny golden frogs, best seen in the morning or during the rainy season.
The Iwokrama lodge lies within one of Guyana’s largest and most dense rainforests. A raised forest walkway enables you to walk above and amongst the densely packed trees, wildlife and fauna for a unique perspective of the forest and its birds and mammals.
If you’re an early riser, head to the walkway at sunrise to be treated to a spectacular dawn chorus, while sun-downers the steady stream of colourful creatures settling down at sunset – have your camera ready! For over a decade, Iwokrama has been a centre of learning for Guyana’s top naturalists who curate this remarkable collection of nature’s wonders.