Meet Canopy creatures at Eye level: Iwokrama
I stayed a couple of nights at Atta RainForest Lodge which is located in the Iwokrama Forest Reserve. The Lodge was very comfortable and the staff very helpful. I benefited hugely from the assistance I received from my guide called Gabriel. He had been born and brought up in the local area and his family lived in the nearby village of Annai from where I had started my journey around the Rupununi district.
Gabriel showed me the path from Atta Lodge and escorted me up onto the Canopy walkway which was an impressive structure of metal bridges and platforms erected high up in the rainforest canopy. Gabriel stayed with me the whole time and was able to spot birds more quickly than I could. He also knew most of the bird calls and songs which helped with the identification. I'm glad I took my FieldGuide book with me ( Restall, Rodner, Lentino (2006) Birds of Northern South America, Helm) as I was able to follow up the identification by looking at pictures - these have the advantage of staying still!. Gabriel was very patient with me and he explained the key features of the birds as well as giving me their names.
There were a number of steps up the forest trail from where we then set out on the walkway. It was all perfectly safe although I think if you suffer from vertigo then perhaps this is not for you. The platforms are indeed a long way up - I'd guess about 70m off the ground. There are no facilities up there either. If you need to answer a call of nature you'd need to go off the walkway. If it starts raining there was a small shelter where you could take cover if it was only a short shower.
Visits to the walkway are easily arranged at the Lodge and I met some visitors who had come over from the Iwokrama River Lodge for the day specifically to experience the walkway.
I really enjoyed the walkway. We saw some amazing birds at very close quarters without having to strain and crick our necks looking up. You'll see from my photos that we were close to the birds given that I do not have a long lens on my camera - nor am I photographer. I tend to set the camera on automatic and hope it doesn't focus on the vegetation in front of the bird.
One thing I found interesting was that we saw a completely different set of birds in the afternoon before dusk and in the early morning just after dawn. Gabriel couldn't explain that and nor could I. The Orange-winged Amazon Parrots were evident though both leaving and arriving at their roosting sites very noisily.
I have posted all my sightings as records on the eBird database system (visit: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ ) that has been established by Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology. It means my records feed into the bigger picture of bird life across Guyana and other visitors can see what has been recorded in a particular area at a certain time of year.Related to:
Take a trip to Kaieteur Falls
At weekends, when the airlines are more assured of filling all of their seats, it is possible to take a half day trip to Kaieteur Falls. Departing from Ogle Airport, which is just on the edge of Georgetown, you will fly into the small airstrip near the Falls and then walk the half mile or so to the first of several viewing points in order to get some fantastic photos. The aircraft will already have done at least one aerial circuit of the Falls in both directions so that both sides of the plane will have a chance to use their camera. You will also get to see the Potaro River both above and below the waterfall.
You will be shown the paths by National Park guides. The helpfulness of the guides seemed a little variable. I am sorry to say that the Guide of my group seemed particularly lacking in information. He did admit to being new in the role but I felt he still lacked a certain basic level of guiding skills - he took shelter from the rain leaving us to peer over the edge of the Falls. Fortunately the group ahead of me had a guide who could see that I was a birder ( the binoculars are a bit of a give away!) and so he explained the difference in the three species of Swifts that are to be seen around the Falls. At the end of the walk he also helpfully answered some of my bird related questions that my group guide could not answer.
One thing the group Guide found for us were some of the unique Golden Frogs that live only in the Bromeliad plants near to the Falls. These plants have leaves that form natural small pools in which the Golden Frogs are to be found. Only the plants found within reach of the spray and mist rising off the waterfall contained these 2cm long frogs.
The Falls are truly spectacular - as seen by the photos but I felt I was being hurried along a bit as I would have liked more time to linger and enjoy the moment. In the end we had about two hours in the Park which included a 15minute stop at the Park centre where we could buy a few souvenirs of our visit. Other members of my group seemed to enjoy their trip as did I even if I'd have happily stayed longer.
I understand it is possible to do 3 day hikes into the park and to stay finally at the Guesthouse which is located a short distance from the Falls. Maybe I should do that on a second visit?
Unfortunately I don't know the cost of my afternoon trip as it was covered by my single up-front price paid for my entire Guyana trip. By the way, if you want to see the Cock-of-the-Rock then you will have to go in the morning. Apparently the bird has its siesta in the afternoon. I was very disappointed at the time but fortunately I saw my 'target' bird later in the trip.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Birding in Guyana
Whether you're a novice birder or a member of the hardcore tribe of birders you will undoubtedly find plenty to entertain and challenge you in Guyana. There are nearly 800 bird species recorded for the country and these include some iconic avian forms that will amaze and delight you.
For me there was one bird in particular that I had wanted to see ever since I collected the Brooke Bond Tea set of cards out of the box of Tea Bags at the age of eight; namely the Cock-of-the-Rock. I hadn't realised there were two species in South America and the form we found in Guyana had yellow tasselly bits to the wing feathers. The Andean variety doesn't have these. An added bonus was finding the female on her mud nest stuck to a rock overhang. The male had his display site or Lek about 20metres away from the nest. This really was such an exciting moment for myself and I am so grateful to Gabriel, my guide from Atta Lodge who took me to the site.
There are many tour operators who run specialist birding tours of Guyana. These are probably more for the hardcore enthusiasts who are willing to go birding from dawn to dusk and beyond. You can Google for trip reports and you will find beguiling lists of birds with long, hyphenated names but many with the prefix 'Ant' eg Antwren, Antshrike - you get the idea. Thankfully the local guides can help you sort out the difference between the many similar species eg the Brown-bellied Antwren and the Rufous-bellied Antwren and often the guide will recognise the call or song to help you home in on the discrete smaller things.
I don't call myself a hardcore birder but I am enthusiastic and want to see as many species as possible. I was more than happy with my total of 174 species but feel somewhat deflated when I read in one trip report that they had a "modest total of 417". Never mind I was thrilled with the huge diversity and sheer brilliance of colours and exotic plumage not to mention the fascinating behaviour of many of the birds we encountered. I didn't see a Harpy Eagle or a Hoatzin but I did get to witness Scarlet Macaws coming in to roost, Capuchinbirds calling above me, Yellow-rumped Caciques displaying their bright yellow rumps and of course my target bird, that wonderful, bright orange, Cock-of -the-Rock strutting his stuff. That in itself made the whole trip worthwhile.
By the way - you can see I'm not a wildlife photographer.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Stay at Eco-Lodges to help the community
One of the best features of my recent trip to Guyana was knowing that my fees, paid direct to a Guyanese tour operator would also be divided up amongst the various Eco-lodges I stayed at during my 12 day tour around the Rupununi district. I sensed the value of doing this most acutely at Surama Eco-Lodge which I understand has been recognised as a model example of how community involvement can lead towards benefiting the wider community through employment and lodge revenue which is dispersed across projects in the village.
As with all of the Eco-Lodges I loved the friendly nature of the staff, the clean, functional rooms and how our meals were prepared with care and imagination by the cooks. At Surama my Guide, Milner, was a mine of information and an essential part of finding ( and identifying) the wildlife. He had a wonderful welcoming, but authoritative, manner that enabled me to instantly feel at ease and confident that he knew what he was talking about. The managers I spoke to were also very friendly, helpful and interested in my feedback.
Surama is only a small lodge. It has two types of accommodation; the four, round thatched Benabs and the four bedroomed lodge each room with en-suite facilities. I suspect the Benabs would be more expensive because they are roomier but I was perfectly comfortable in my smaller room. I don't know the rates because I only paid a single upfront fee to my tour operator but I suspect they would be quite reasonably priced.
Each of the other lodges operated on a similar basis in terms of their governance and management namely local and community based. This was the case at Atta Lodge, Iwokrama River Lodge and Rewa Lodge. They each had trained, qualified staff who looked after the different aspects of running the Lodge and looking after the clients.The staff were usually from the local district and knew all about the local issues. I was particularly impressed and pleased with the quality of the guiding that I received throughout. They all seemed to be highly knowledgeable and patient with me. I had lots of questions and wanted to see everything, not just the birds. I found the Bullet Ants as fascinating and exciting as the Boa, the Cock-of-the-Rock and the Coati Mundis.
For me the biggest attraction of these Eco-Lodges is that they are small, not large and impersonal, where you feel you can get to know the staff and be happy knowing that your payments will directly support families in that village and help prevent the slow steady drift of youngsters towards the larger towns. In turn the villagers understand the value of conservation because they recognise that the foreign visitors are there mainly to experience their rich natural heritage that is all around them. It all makes perfect sense to me. I love this kind of tourism.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
One of the building that impressed me more while in Georgetown was the City Hall.
According to what I leant there, the builcing was erected at the end of the XIX century in Gothic style.
It was unexpected to me to find that building in Southamerica. It was about 30 meters high.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Adventure Travel
Lots to see from the air
The tiny planes you'll take to fly around Guyana give you a very up-close-and-personal look at the country from the air. Flying from Georgetown to Annai, we were amazed by how thinly populated the country was, and how huge the jungle was. You can go for long, long stretches without seeing a sign of human habitation.
The lighter patches of jungle in this photo are gold mining operations scratched out of the endless forest. Gold mining is one of the country's few sources of export revenue, and it's growing fast. These mines are a source of conflict in the country: they are environmentally destructive, given Guyana's lack of effective regulation and a healthy dose of government corruption.
This is Guyana's one real tourist attraction, and it's pretty much a given that you will go there no matter what else you're doing in the country. The Falls really are pretty impressive, and it was almost as much fun to fly over them as it was to hike around the site. You can get as close to the edge of the Falls as you dare, and in low-water season, you can walk right out into the river at the top. On a hot day, that cool water is supremely refreshing!
The only thing to do at the Falls site is take the loop hike around to the three viewpoints along the route, which give you a progressively closer and higher look at the thundering waters. There is a lodge building near the airstrip, but there's nothing actually in there except a bathroom.
Visit one of the world's greatest waterfalls.
My first glance at Kaieteur Falls from the air took my breath away. Kaieteur Falls are in the centre of Guyana's rain forest and a National Park has been established to highlight the falls and the biodiversity of the rain forest. As soon as our plane landed, we wasted no time in walking down the nature trail that led to the falls. As we approached, the roar of the thundering falls got loader and louder. Finally, the falls came into view and I was simply awestruck by their magnificence. You can admire the falls from several vantage points and there are some great photo opportunities.
On the way back from the falls, we took our time to enjoy the nature walk. A guide pointed out the interesting flora and fauna of the park, such as the golden frog that spends its entire life inside the water- collecting bromeliad plant. The guide also pointed out a mosquito eating plant that will hopefully reduce the number of these pesky critters in the area.
Also on the site, for those of you Canadians who were Pierre and Margaret Trudeau fans, is the lodge built for their honeymoon. It still serves as a lodge for visitors.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
The Iwokrama Forest is a Wilderness Preserve of nearly one million acres of untamed wilderness as part of the Guiana Shield. The forest sits on one of the oldest exposed rock surfaces in the world. This area is one of the last four "frontier forests" in the world - apart from small Amerindian settlements, it is uninhabited and offers unrivalled rainforest adventures for people seeking a truly unique ecotouring experience.
The purpose of Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation is to preserve values pertaining to the realtionship between nature and the local people who live here, visitors and the people of Guyana in general.
The contsruction of roads, tourist facilities and mineral extraction is prohibited, timber harvesting is restricted as is the use of motorised vehicles. Fairview is the only settlement within Iwokrama, a Macushi village of 127 people.
In Iwokrama there are estimated to be over 200 different species of mammals, 50 birds, 420 fish and 150 reptiles and amphibians.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Birding one of the best destinations of the world
Birding in the rainforest
Guyana has been featured in Birdwatch, Waterlife, Condé Nast Traveller, Guardian Unlimited, and the Sundowner. Guyana has also been ranked alongside Peru, also on the South American continent, which is considered the best destination in the world for birding.
Divided into three distinct areas: the Coastlands, the Rainforest and the Savannahs. Each of the three natural regions offers its own diverse array of species. Several species can be seen in the capital city, Georgetown. Guyana’s Coastal Plain.
Eighty percent of Guyana's 83,000 sq miles is covered with tropical rainforest. It is geographically linked to the great Amazon River basin and therefore shares the spectacular avifauna of this region.
The Scarlet Ibis, Egrets, Herons, Gulls can be seen on the seashore.
Hawks, Tanagers, Flycatchers, Finches, Blackbirds and Orioles can be seen in the cultivated area.
Georgetown has almost two hundred species such as the Snail and Kite, as well as several species of Tanagers, Parrots and Hummingbirds.
Two distinct areas of savannah include;: the intermediate and Rupununi Savannahs.
This ecosystem accommodates a wide variety of waders which include Storks, Ibises, Ducks and smaller species of waterfowl, in addition to grassland species. The savannahs bordering the Kanuku Mountains are particularly rich in birdlife as there is an overlapping of species, such as the magnificent Harpy Eagle. Spectacular Rainforest Species
The canopy supports many species such as the elusive Harpy Eagle, Toucans, Macaws and Parrots, including the endangered Scarlet Macaw.
In the middle section of the forest, Hummingbirds, Trogans, Jacamars, Tanagers, Woodpeckers and Antbirds are other species are found. This section is also home to the distinguished Cock of the Rock and the ever present Screaming Phea which provides the familiar voice of the rainforest. The fallen fruits found on the forest floor provide food for many species such as Tinamous, Curassows, Guans, Chacalacas and Trumpeters
Visit Shell Beach
A remote beach on the north coast, accessed by speed boat. I visited this beach with a group of friends, the trip there wasn't easy to say the least and we ended up having to walk miles to get to where we were staying but it was worth it in the end.
Watching the sunset whist drinking from coconuts around a camp fire with no one around for miles.
Also the chance to catch a glimse of some of the most rare sea turtles.
The only place in guyana where you can swim in a relitivly un muddy bit of sea.
Mother Nature's Jacuzzi...Orinduik Falls
Our last full day in the Pakaraima region included a 6 hour hike in the scorching sun that took us from Kurukaburu to a little village on the Guyana/Brazilian border. From here we would catch a flight back to Georgetown. Our reward at the end of this grueling trek was the discovery that we were at the site of Orinduik Falls. The falls are found on the Ireng River, one of the tributaries that forms the Amazon River system. These beautiful falls stretch from one side of the river to the other, tumbling over rocks and terraces. What I really loved about these falls were the natural pools that formed, big enough to swim in. There's nothing more enjoyable than relaxing in Mother Nature's jacuzzi. It wasn't long before we grabbed our green bio-degradable soap and showered under one of the gentler cascades, luxuriating at the same time, in an invigorating massage...
...and at the end of the day, after the sun had set, we were lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of this beautiful waterfall.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
our trip also included a stop at orinduik falls. You must bring bug spray here or you will be eaten alive! It is worth the bugs though if you're into climbing the falls and doing some swimming. Kevin and I were the only ones in our group who climbed and swam so i imagine the rest of our group was bored just sitting at the top waiting for us but we didnt' care as our goal was to see and experience all that we could!
get out of town as soon as possible. The jungle has many offerings.
Take a day trip to Kaeteur Falls. $100.00 round trip on a little plane.
Visit the shops. Even if you don't see them...ask. Seems everyone does some craft.
Go uptown to the shops and museum. Take in the local flavorRelated to:
- Historical Travel
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Movie Guiana 1838.
The making of Guiana 1838
In April of this year Guyana hosted a film crew led by Rohit Jagessar, the director and writer of a historical film about indentureship and slavery in British Guiana during the early 1800s. The film was partly shot on the Corentyne in the cane fields and
Wednesday, August 4th 2004 .
If you would like to see the trailer for the film it can be viewed at http://www.rbcradio.com/guiana1838.html.
65 Anira & Peter Rose Sts, opposite the Brazilian Ambassador's Residence, Georgetown, Guyana
Good for: Couples
They have A/C rooms and fan rooms. Comfortable enough if you are waiting for ongoing transportation....more
Princess is equivalent to a Standard family hotel in Canada. Your not gonna get better than this in...more
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