Check Out Our Top Picks For Guyanese Eco Sites
by Lou-Ann Jordan Jun 17, 2019
Ecotourism has changed the way we travel. It has changed the traveller’s interaction with the country visited, encouraging the visitor to engage responsibly with ‘natural areas.’ This ensures that no harm befalls the environment or the well-being of the locals.
Guyana abounds with natural, untouched locales. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most celebrated features of the country. Moreover, as ecotourism blossoms, the aim remains to have visitors enjoy and preserve the beauty of the natural environment. Or, as stated in a local newspaper: “Take only pictures and leave only footprints.”
And Guyana offers lots of scenery that begs to be captured on camera. For those adventure-seeking eco-tourists, this is the place to be. We’ve listed those that are on the beaten path and others for which new tracks will be trodden.
Here are our top picks for eco sites.
The imposing Pakaraima Mountains, pristine rainforest and the sprawling North Rupununi savannahs all come together to create an incredibly picturesque landscape. The Surama village is an Amerindian community and home to the Makushi tribe. Visitors can while away the days at the Surama guest lodge.
Located in the southwest, Lethem lies on the Brazilian border. Near the cattle ranches of Karanambu and Dadanawa, it offers much to experience. Also, you can view the vast expanse of the Rupununi Savannah, or traverse the Rupununi River and forest if you would like to encounter wildlife. You can stay at the Maipaima Eco Lodge or travel a little further east to the Rock View Lodge in Annai.
North Rupununi Wetland
In the south of Guyana lies the North Rupununi wetland. Inundated by the Rupununi, Essequibo and Rewa rivers the marsh is over 54,000 acres and is home to such endangered species as the river otter, black caiman, harpy eagle, the Arapaima, river turtles, and the jaguar – Guyana’s national animal. This natural area also boasts many other types of flora and fauna.
Visiting the rainforest is a must, and so we present Iwokrama! A vast wilderness of one million acres, the Iwokrama Forest is in the heart of one of four of the last untouched tropical forests in the world. The forest is a protected area with a difference as its preservation has the full participation of locals. Also, while there, be sure to get in some bird watching on the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway.
Picture sprawling plains of varying shades of green against a backdrop of majestic mountains that seem to inch toward an azure sky, softened by white playfully shaped clouds. Now, book a ticket and get there, it’s not a dream it’s the Rupununi Savannah. Situated between the Rupununi River and the Brazilian border, the savannah lands of the Rupununi are said to be one of the world’s largest open ranges. The area is home to the Wapishana, Wai Wai and Macushi Amerindian tribes. A visit to the savannah is an excellent opportunity to experience the local culture. The cultural exchange doesn’t stop there; the various ranches worked by vaqueros will allow you to plunge into an entirely different cultural experience. Oh, and to get you ready…vaqueros are cowboys.
Nestled at the foot of the Pakaraima Mountains with open savannah flatlands fanning out, lies Annai. Trek to the top of any of the hills and have its breathtaking landscape, or the calming breeze vies for your enjoyment. Stroll through the village of Annai Central, and meet the villagers; learn about their practices. Annai also offers visitors many opportunities for wildlife spotting and bird watching.
Lining the western border of Guyana is the Ireng River. Its waters flow through the savannas, forming several beautiful waterfalls. One such waterfall is Orinduik Falls. Approximately 25m tall and 150m wide, its waters cascade over a series of multi-tiered platforms made of pure jasper—a beautiful semi-precious stone. The pools that lie beneath the falls allow for a relaxing soak or invigorating swim. Additionally, because of the airstrip that is near the falls, this gem is easily accessed by visitors and locals.
It’s a sprawling, untouched coastline that is the preferred nesting spot for four species of turtles. The Leatherback, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley and Green turtles all make this remarkable journey each year to lay their eggs. Two other options for viewing the turtles’ nest are the nearby Almond and Tiger beaches.
The endangered animals are protected from poachers by local rangers. The Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS) manages the 90-mile stretch. Keep in mind that Shell Beach is not the most accessible location, but the experience is worth the trip.
Kaieteur National Park is home to one of the most identifiable features of Guyana—Kaieteur Falls. Measuring approximately 741 feet high, four times higher than Niagara Falls, it is the world’s largest single drop waterfall. Set in the Amazon rainforest, the caramel coloured waters of the Potaro river winds through lush vegetation for 225 kilometres. The river thunders down in a 450 feet wide vertical curtain. Kaieteur Falls is a sight to behold and is accessed easily by chartered flights. The area boasts an airstrip that is a 15-minute walk from the top of the falls.
Also, visitors wishing to take in the overwhelming sight of the falls in its natural surroundings can book a tour with local guides. Along the way, there are sites such as Boy Scout View and Rainbow View to be enjoyed. And, do look out for the Guiana Cock-of-the-Rock fowl and the tiny Golden Frog which are native to this part of the rainforest.
So you’ve visited Kaieteur National Park but before you head back to the coast, why not take a short boat trip up the lulling waters of the Potaro River. Just for a moment, embrace being transported into the purest and modest of times when cell phones, laptops, radios or televisions were not necessities; where entertainment came from one’ surroundings and actual social interaction. Get to know the people of Chenapau; it’s a close-knit community that takes pride in being crime-free. This village lies in stark contrast to city life. Here, even if just for a few hours, you can shed the bustling anxieties of everyday life.
A favourite place to visit and certainly much more easily accessed than some of the other sites we’ve listed is Fort Island. Formerly Flag Island, it sits on the Essequibo River. Fort Island is a tourist attraction that houses Fort Zeelandia and the Dutch Heritage Museum.
The fort was erected in 1744 and named for the Zeeland, a province in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, the Dutch Heritage Museum, which was previously known as the Court of Policy Hall, was built in 1752. Both structures are cultural artefacts representing the rich heritage of Guyana and in 1999 were declared national trusts.
Approximately an hour away from Bartica runs the cascading waters of Marshall Falls. The water flows from the Mazaruni River, creating swimming pools, and a whirlpool. Its unspoiled surroundings and cool, golden-brown waters prompt the tensest muscles to relax.
Guyana is known as the Land of Many Waters, so we guarantee there are many other rivers and waterfalls besides those listed here.
Visit as many as you can, as it’s sure to be a memorable experience.