Few people even know where Guyana is let alone travel there. This trip to the lost corner of South America is a fascinating exploration of pristine rainforest, staying in riverside eco lodges with indigenous communities, spotting caiman by torchlight along moonlit rivers and eating delicious Guyanese food at a small local 'backyard cafe'. Iwokrama Rainforest - Search for wildlife from canopy walkways, including many different bird species as well as howler monkeys Burro Burro River trip - Experience a canoe trip led by a team of indigenous guides, searching for kingfisher, ibis and, if we're lucky, giant river otters Paramaribo - Get an idea of plantation life in the surroundings of Suriname's fascinating old Dutch capital
Arrive in Paramaribo, Suriname's capital city and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2002. Occupying a scenic position on the banks of the Suriname River, the city is known for its ornate wooden buildings that date back to the Dutch colonial era. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Paramaribo at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into the Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport (code: PBO) which is approximately 1.5hrs away from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, Paramaribo's multi-cultural and eclectic city centre is a delightful place to explore on foot - Hindu temples and churches sit next door to synagogues, and locals generally celebrate every festival no matter what their faith. Spicy rotis harking back to Indian roots are cooked up in many local shops, while wooden Dutch colonial buildings preside over street corners.
After breakfast, we set out to discover the Surinamese capital. Having played a vital role in the Dutch empire, the city is an unusual blend of historic Dutch-style architecture with a tropical flair. We'll visit 'Fort Zeelandia' and the Presidential Palace along the way, before crossing the Suriname River into the Commewijne district. This is the plantation zone, and through the remnants of old buildings and plantation equipment, we can get just the briefest idea of the brutal life that slaves and workers lived during colonial times. One of the many plantations visited today is Plantation Peperpot, one of the oldest in Surinamese history. It was, in fact, founded by the British before Suriname was conquered by the Dutch in 1667. Although it is no longer in use, the buildings and land are still in a surprisingly good condition, with coffee and cocoa plants surviving in the fields. In the aftermath of abolition, the Dutch were looking to fill a hole in their plantation workforce. This was eventually managed by bringing over indentured servants from Java, Indonesia, to fulfil the labour need. To this end, there is still a strong Javanese presence in Suriname, which is notable at Marienburg, a stylish residence that was once a sugar plantation manned by Javanese labourers. We'll be able to try some of this foot at a typical Javanese restaurant (or warung) over lunch (not included). We'll then continue to Nieuw Amsterdam, an area of the Commewijne district that now acts as an open-air museum - historical buildings here are pristinely kept, giving you a real sense of what it looked like in the 1800s. This evening you have the option to take a sunset dolphin trip around the coast. Often groups of up to 20 dolphins can be seen, and if we are lucky their curiosity will bring them towards the boat to jump and play.
This morning we depart Paramaribo and travel south into Suriname's jungled interior. A three hour drive brings us to the village of Atjoni. From here we join a motorised canoe, navigating our way up the Upper Suriname River to the Danpaati River Lodge. Breathtaking scenery is interspersed with vast open savannahs, and there will be a little excitement as our skilled boatman pass the tempestuous Jaw Jaw rapid. Our lodge for the next two nights is a remote and tranquil oasis on the banks of the river, a part of the water where it is safe to swim. With one view out to the river and the other side facing the thick, surrounding nature, the lodge is an escape from the real world. After dinner there is an exciting adventure to search for caimans. The night boat trip gives us the chance to enjoy the wonderful starry sky and the complete silence of the rainforest.
After breakfast we depart the lodge by canoe for one of 12 nearby villages. The people living in this particular area are not indigenous - they are Maroon populations, the descendants of slaves who escaped their plantation lives of forced labour and settled along the river in the late 1800s. It's a unique way of life that is still rooted in African tradition, as they try and hold onto their heritage. We'll visit the Saamaka Museum, dedicated to the cultural heritage of the Saramak Maroon population, where we'll learn much about their history and traditions. Returning to the lodge for lunch, we set out again in the afternoon on foot, taking a nature walk to discover the secrets of the rainforest. Afterwards there is the choice to swim and simply enjoy the beautiful natural scenery and views from the island, or explore the surrounding area by dugout canoe. After dinner we can enjoy a traditional dance performance by one of the Maroon dance troopes. Each dance has a particular cultural significance or meaning.
Before departing, we will have a leisurely morning to take in the tranquility of the surroundings. After saying goodbye to the team at the lodge, we return to Atjoni by dugout canoe and travel back to Paramaribo by vehicle.
Leaving Paramaribo early this morning, we transfer by bus along the coast of Suriname to the border with Guyana. The Berbice River acts as a physical border here, and by crossing the river on the floating bridge we arrive into a new country, at New Amsterdam. We'll spend some time here taking a short tour of Guyana's oldest town, before continuing to Georgetown. The journey to Georgetown runs alongside the Atlantic Coast, and we'll take a stop right in the heart of Guyana's first mangrove reserve, owned and managed by the community. These mangrove lands play an absolutely essential part in flood prevention here on Guyana's coast, where farmers constantly battle against the encroaching seas. Walking along the trails of this coastal strip, we will see four different mangrove species and a wide wetland area, teeming with birdlife and tropical fish. We may see local fishermen beating the pond water to chase fish into their nets. In the middle of the wetland is a small island of lush, black mangroves where beekeepers produce a distinctive golden mangrove honey. Later in the afternoon we'll arrive into Guyana's capital, Georgetown. It was originally chosen as site to guard the early Dutch settlements of the Demerara River. As such, it was designed largely by the Dutch and is laid out in a rectangular pattern with wide tree lined avenues and irrigation canals that criss-cross the city.
The early part of the morning is the best time to visit Georgetown's markets, and today we'll do just that. Bourda Market is Georgetown's largest market, and is stuffed with local produce from tamarind balls to cassava bread, with fish, meat, vegetables and eveything in between. There are the bush medicine stalls that sell concoctions for every ailment, and haberdashery sections with all kinds of fabrics including beautiful African prints. We'll be guided around the market by the local chef Delvin Adams, who will introduce us to all of the different foods that Guyana has in spades and encourage us to try the new and different tastes - from seaside grapes and large red bananas to fiery chillies! After the market visit we're free to explore Georgetown, or take an optional trip to Kaieteur and Orinduik Falls. The Kaieteur Falls, first seen by a European on April 29, 1870, is situated in the heart of Guyana on the Potaro River, a tributary of the Essequibo. The water of Kaieteur, one of the world's natural wonders, flows over a sandstone conglomerate tableland into a deep gorge - a drop of 822 feet or 5 times the height of Niagara Falls. The Orinduik Falls is 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. The trip departs from Ogle Airstrip in Georgetown and you'll spend approximately two hours on the ground at each waterfall. We will reunite again in the evening and visit Delvin's 'Backyard Cafe' restaurant, which is a little hidden Georgetown gem that Delvin has created in his own backyard. Our meal will be proper Guyanese fare, made from ingredients that we've picked up this morning at Bourda Market. It might vary depending on the tastes in the group and what produce is in season, but it's all guaranteed to be fresh and delicious.
It's an early departure from Georgetown today, as we drive through the Bauxite Mining township of Linden and into the rainforest. The laterite road is easy traveling to Mabura Hill and then it becomes an adventurous drive on rainforest trails to the Essequibo River, which we will cross on pontoon. The trail continues through the million acres of the Iwokrama Rainforest and we will watch for the myriad of bird species that frequent the forest edge, including Crimson and Purple-necked Fruit-crow, and Gray-winged Trumpeter. This road is the only north-south access in Guyana and links the country to Brazil. If we take our time, the road also offers excellent opportunities to spot a host of birds, flowers, and perhaps even sloths residing high up in the trees. We'll explore both from the vehicle and on foot. The trip continues to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway. The Canopy Walkway is a series of suspension bridges and observation decks of up to 30 meters (98 ft) in height and 154 meters (505 ft) in length. The state-of-the-art construction allows trees to grow normally by using adjustable cables and braces throughout the support structure. The four observation decks enable visitors to view the mid and upper-level forest canopy and allow wildlife to remain relatively free from human intrusion. We will be looking for a procession of striking, canopy-dwelling birds such as Screaming Piha, Caica Parrot, White-throated Trogon, Golden-winged Parakeet, Guianan Toucanet and many more. If we are lucky we may even see the stunning and highly sought-after Pompadour Cotinga. Families of spider and howler monkeys are sometimes seen here, feeding on the fruits of nearby trees. Every day brings a new surprise to guests on the Canopy. We will also take time to explore Amerindian petroglyphs and pottery shards along the access trail. The mountain behind the canopy walkway was one of several lookout points in what seems to be an interconnected network of trails and observation points all of which feature carvings to guide travellers.
Today we will spend the day wildlife spotting from walkways and trails in area. Another area where we will want to spend some time is the clearing around the lodge, as this is one of the best places to see another of Guyana's 'must see' birds, the Crimson Fruitcrow. This species is seen here on a reasonably regular basis, as it often comes to feed in some of the nearby trees. We can spend the day birdwatching from the mid and upper canopy on the walkway as flocks travel past and also look for Paradise Jacamar, White-necked Puffbird, the clearing is also a reliable site for Black Curassow, as there is a family party which has become habituated to people and regularly passes through the clearing. With reasonable luck, we should be able to add this bird to the impressive list of species we hope to see around the lodge and walkway.
This morning we will enjoy walks on the walkway or jungle trails before continuing to a rainforest trail where the Guianian Cock-of-the-Rock is known to display and nest. The trail is through interesting forest and the guides will demonstrate the use of the plants. There is also the possibility to do an optional tour to a nearby Harpy Eagle nest assuming this is active. The nest itself is located in a huge emergent tree only a couple of miles from the village and if we are extremely fortunate, we may see one of the adult birds bringing a sloth or monkey to the nest to feed their chick. The trek into the nest site is about an hour each way on a reasonable trail. We continue to the Amerindian village of Surama. The village is set in five square miles of savannah and surrounded by the densely forested Pakaraima Mountains. Surama's inhabitants are mainly from the Macushi tribe and still observe many of the traditional practices of their forebears. Our accommodation will be in 'benabs' (thatched sleeping rooms) and our meals will feature excellent local produce. There is great birding leading to the village and the surrounding savannah and you may see White Throated Toucans, Pearl Kites, Great Potoo and White-tailed and Savannah Hawks. Another of the special birds which can be found around Surama is the Rufous-winged Ground-cuckoo. Whilst this species is undoubtedly amongst the toughest family of birds to locate anywhere in the Neotropics, Surama offers one of the best-known chances for seeing Rufous-winged Ground-cuckoo and to maximise the odds of us finding one, we will use expert local guides to assist us. We will, however, still count ourselves as extremely fortunate if we succeed in getting a good look at this extremely elusive species. Tonight we will enjoy an educational walk to observe wildlife and experience the mystique of the forest after dark.
Today we rise before dawn for a walk across the savannah and then climb up Surama Mountain in the cool morning air. This is the best time to observe birdlife along the trail. Breakfast will be served at a look out point which affords incredible views across the village and savannah to the Pakaraima Mountains. Then we return to the village for lunch and set out later in the afternoon to the Burro Burro River, from where the local guides will paddle us upstream in our indigenous dugout canoes for opportunities to observe birdlife and wildlife in their natural habitat, including plenty of kingfisher, ibis, and if we're lucky, Giant River Otters, before returning to the village. On the walk back, we'll see the forest through the eyes of our indigenous guide, learning about how medicinal plants are used in the Amerindian community to treat everything from upset stomachs to glaucoma.
After breakfast, we transfer to Annai or Lethem for a flight back to Georgetown. The afternoon is free to explore the city, and a great way to do this is to travel into town by the local mini-bus from our hotel, only a 15 minute drive. It's a cheap and easy way to see a bit more of everyday life in Guyana's capital. Georgetown is a nice little city to wander around, highlights being the markets (in particular the Stabroek Market) and the beautiful and impressive wooden cathedral, one of the tallest wooden churches in the world at a height of 43.5 metres.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Georgetown. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Georgetown at any time. If you'd like a complimentary airport transfer you need to depart today from either the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (code: GEO) or the Eugene F. Correira Airport (code: OGL), a 1hr15 minute drive or 15 minute drive respectively from our hotel.
12 Break Fast(s) 6 Lunch(es) 7 Dinner(s)
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