Guianas

Outside Georgetown

The interior of Guyana is a land of great rivers, dramatic waterfalls, rainforests and savannahs. On the coast are turtle-nesting grounds and sea defences. You can stay at working ranches and secluded resorts. At all times, expect superb nature watching.

Southeast to Suriname

Linden

The second-largest town in Guyana is a bauxite mining town on the banks of the Demerara River. The two towns are linked by a good road (slow for the first part to Timehri); police checks are to stop drug and gun running. Linden is a mining town. The opencast mine is 60-90 m deep and is said to have the world's longest boom walking dragline. The town is dominated by a disused alumina plant and scarred by old bauxite pits. In town is the lovely colonial guesthouse on the Demerara River, run by the mining company.

From Linden rough roads suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles run south to the bauxite mining towns of
Ituni
and
Kwakwani
. The road south to the logging centre at Mabura Hill is in excellent condition; from here a good road runs west to Mahdia, with a pontoon crossing of the Essequibo, and another road continues south from Mabura Hill to Kurupukari, but a four-wheel drive is needed. A good road goes west from Linden to Rockstone ferry on Essequibo River. From Rockstone roads run north to Bartica (bad) and southwest to Issano (being improved).

New Amsterdam

On the east bank of the Berbice River, near its mouth, is picturesque New Amsterdam. From Georgetown, take a minibus or collective taxi to Rosignol on the west bank of the Berbice, then cross the river. A new floating bridge from Cotton Tree to Palmyra Village (5 km from New Amsterdam) was opened on 24 December 2008 (a toll is charged). A ferry also runs between Rosignol and New Amsterdam, crossing only takes 15 minutes, but add another 45 minutes for unloading.

Corriverton

The road continues east from New Amsterdam, to
Springlands
and
Skeldon
at the mouth of the Corentyne River. The towns are officially known as
Corriverton
(Corentyne River Town). Springlands is 2 km long, so you need to know where you want to get off the bus. There are the
Republic Bank
and
Guyana National Commercial Bank
. Suriname dollars can officially be changed into Guyanese dollars here. A ferry sails from Moleson, or Crabwood Creek, 13 km south of Springlands, to South Drain in Suriname, 40 km south of Nieuw-Nickerie .

West from Georgetown

The road crosses the 2 km long floating Demerara bridge. Speedboats cross the Demerara from Stabroek market. The road continues 42 km, past rice paddies, kokers and through villages to Parika, a growing town on the east bank of the Essequibo River.

The northwest coastal area is mainly accessible by boat only. Speedboats cross from Parika to Supenaam. From Supenaam minibuses or taxis go to Charity. From Adventure a road runs north through Anna Regina. Nearby there is a resort at
Lake Mainstay
. You can visit a hot and cold lake, which varies in temperature, and the Wayaka Mainstay Amerindian Community, 13 km from Anna Regina. Mainstay is 2½ hours by road and ferry from Georgetown (depending on tides), 17 minutes by plane from Ogle. The road goes on to
Charity
, a pleasant town with loud bars, two
small hotels and a lively market on Monday (quiet at other times).

Border with Venezuela

Near the border with Venezuela are the small ports of
Morawhanna
(Morajuana to the Venezuelans) and
Mabaruma
. Mabaruma has replaced Morawhanna as capital of the region since it is less at risk from flooding. If arriving from Venezuela, make sure that the official who stamps your passport is not an imposter. You may only be given a five-day temporary visa, to be renewed on arrival in Georgetown.

Shell Beach

Part of a protected area of Atlantic coastline, Shell Beach is some 145 km long, from the Pomeroon River to the Venezuelan border. It safeguards the nesting grounds of leatherback, green, hawksbill and olive Ridley turtles. Nesting activity begins in late March and continues, with hatching, until mid-August. Former turtle hunters have been retrained to patrol and identify nest sites, which are logged using global positioning satellite equipment. The project receives support from WWF. The coast consists of areas of mangrove swamps with beaches formed entirely of eroded shell particles. There are large flocks of scarlet ibis. Other birds include Amazon parrots, macaws, toucans, woodpeckers and crab hawks. Iguanas are usually seen in the mangroves, with sightings of rare river dolphin on the narrower stretches of river.

The camp consists of a thatched dining area and huts for the staff and igloo-type tents for guests, with fly-sheets and mosquito netting (vital in the rainy season, when there are 'blizzards' of mosquitos). Showers and toilets are basic. Food is very good. An Arawak family runs the camp and offers daily activities of fishing and birdwatching. They are excellent English-speaking guides. Turtle watching is available in season.

Southwest from Georgetown: to Brazil

Fort Island and Bartica

From Parika a vehicle ferry runs up the Essequibo River to Bartica. The 58 km journey takes six hours, stopping at
Fort Island
; boats come out from riverside settlements to load up with fruit. On Fort Island is a Dutch fort (built 1743, restored by Raleigh International in 1991) and the Dutch Court of Policy, built at the same time. There is also a small village; the rest of the island is dairy farms. River taxis run from Parika to Bartica all day, US$20 per person.

Bartica
, at the junction of the Essequibo and Mazaruni rivers, is the 'take-off' town for the gold and diamond fields and the interior generally. Opposite Bartica, at the mouth of the Mazaruni, is Kaow Island, with a lumber mill. The
stelling
(wharf) and market in Bartica are very colourful. Bars flank the main street;
Crystal Crest
has a huge sound system and will play requests. Easter regatta, mostly power boats.

South of Bartica

The Essequibo is navigable to large boats for some miles upstream Bartica. The Cuyuni flows into the Mazaruni three miles above Bartica, and above this confluence the Mazaruni is impeded for 190 km by thousands of islands, rapids and waterfalls. To avoid this stretch of treacherous river a road has been built from Bartica to Issano, where boats can be taken up the more tranquil upper Mazaruni. At the confluence of the Mazaruni and Cuyuni rivers are the ruins of the Dutch stronghold
Kyk-over-al
, once the seat of government for the Dutch county of Essequibo. Nearby are the
Marshall Falls
, which are beautiful, but too dangerous for swimming. You can swim in the nearby bay, part of the Rainbow River Marshall Falls property.

Kaieteur National Park

The
Kaieteur Falls
, on the Potaro River, nearly five times the height of Niagara, with a drop of 228 m, are almost 100 m wide. Ranking with the Niagara, Victoria, and Iguazú Falls in majesty and beauty, they have the added attraction of being surrounded by unspoilt forest. Lying within a national park, there is also plenty of wildlife: tapirs, ocelots, monkeys, armadillos, anteaters and birds. At the falls themselves, one can see the magnificent silver fox, the cock-of-the-rock and the Kaieteur swift, which lives behind the falls. At dusk the swifts swoop in and out of the gorge before passing through the deluge to roost behind the water. Tiny golden frogs live in the tank bromeliads. In the dry months, April and October, the flow of the falls is reduced; in January and June/July the flow is fullest. In the height of the wet season (June), the overland route is impassable.

The
Pakaraima Mountains
stretch from Kaieteur westwards to include the highest peak in Guyana,
Mount Roraima
, once believed to be the inspiration for Conan Doyle's
Lost World
. Roraima is very difficult to climb from the Guyanese side, but
Wilderness Explorers
offer trips via Brazil and Venezuela.

Orinduik Falls

Orinduik Falls are on the Ireng River, which forms the border with Brazil; the river pours over steps and terraces of jasper, with a backdrop of the Pakaraima Mountains. There is good swimming at the falls which are a 25-minute flight from Kaieteur. Vincent and Rose Cheong run a tourist shelter and are full of information.

Rupununi Savannah

This is an extensive area of dry grassland in the far southwest of Guyana, with scattered trees, termite mounds and wooded hills. The rivers, creeks and ponds, lined with Ite palms and other trees, are good for seeing wildlife. Among a wide variety of birds, look out for macaws, toucan, parrots, parakeets, osprey, hawks and jabiru storks (take binoculars). Many of the animals are nocturnal and seldom seen. The region is scattered with Amerindian villages and a few large cattle ranches which date from the late 19th century: the descendants of some of the Scots settlers still live here. Links with Brazil are much closer than with the Guyanese coast; many people speak Portuguese and most trade is with Brazil.

Avoid the Rupununi in the wet season (mid-May to August); much of the Savannah floods and malaria mosquitoes and
kabura
/sandflies are widespread. The best time is October to April. River bathing is good, but beware of dangerous stingrays and black caiman. Note that a permit from the Home Affairs Ministry is usually required to visit Rupununi, unless you go with a tour operator. Check in advance if your passport is sufficient. A separate permit to visit Amerindian villages is needed from the Minister of Amerindian Affairs, the President's office in Georgetown.

Lethem

A small but scattered town on the Brazilian border , this is the service centre for the Rupununi and for trade with Brazil. There are many small stores, a small hospital, a police station  and government offices. A big event at Easter is the rodeo, visited by cowboys from all over the Rupununi. Prices are about twice as high as in Georgetown. About 2½ km south of town at St Ignatius there is a Jesuit mission dating from 1911. In the nearby mountains there is good birdwatching and there are waterfalls to visit.

Border with Brazil

The Tacutu River separates Lethem from Bonfim in Brazil. The crossing is about 1.6 km north of Lethem and 2½ km from Bonfim. A new bridge across the river has been built. Formalities are tight on both sides of the border and it is important to observe them as people not having the correct papers and stamps will have problems further into either country. You must have a yellow fever certificate. All procedures for exit and entry are carried out at the Guyanese immigration office at the border. You are given a visa for the exact amount of time you stipulate staying. Immigration is supposedly open 24 hours, but officers usually go home at 1800. If arriving from Brazil, buy some Guyanese dollars in Boa Vista, or use the black market at the river, as there are no exchange facilities in Lethem.

Annai

This remote Amerindian village is located in the northern savannahs, south of the Iwokrama Rainforest Programme. It is possible to trek over the plains to the Rupununi River, or through dense jungle to the mountains. About 1-2 hours on foot are the villages of Kwatamang and Wowetta where Raleigh International built a health and community Centre in 1995. Some 25 km north of Annai is the Amerindian village of
Surama
which organizes its own ecotourism activities through the village council and can accommodate guests in the new Ecotourism Lodge 3 km from the river bank near a manakin lek;
comfortable chalets, guided walk
s and river tours. The forest is beautiful, with many animals especially at dawn on the dirt road between Surama and the Lethem-Georgetown road. Birdwatching, night trekking, boating and Land Rover trips arranged. Bookings are made via
Wilderness Explorers
in Georgetown, who have formed a partnership with Surama community to develop tourism, www.wilderness-explorers.com; through
The Rock View Lodge
, or through Iwokrama. Transport to Surama can be arranged from Rock View, who can also organize transport from the Lethem-Guyana road.

Iwokrama Rainforest Programme

www.iwokrama.org.


This is a 360,000 ha project, set up by Guyana and the Commonwealth to conserve habitats such as primarily tropical forest. As well as conservation, the Programme will involve studies on the sustainable use of the rainforest and ecotourism. It is hoped that the results will provide a database for application worldwide. The Field Station is at Kurukupari, near the Arawak village of Fairview (which has an airstrip), on the northern boundary of the reserve. You can meet research teams, take boat trips and stay at satellite camps deep in the forest (Clearwater on the Burro-burro, Kabocalli and Turtle Mountain on the Essequibo). Fishing is good, especially for peacock bass. Well-trained rangers, who speak their native language and English, escort visitors through the forest on many trails. One goes to Turtle Mountain (45 minutes by boat, then 1½ hours walk), go early for great views of the forest canopy. Another trek is to the top of Mount Iwokrama, a difficult 20 km round trip; for the less fit there is a 10 km trail to the foot of the mountain to a pleasant stream and Amerindian petroglyphs. There are set rates for boat and Land Rover use and for field assistants to accompany you.

There is a 33-m high
Iwokrama Canopy Walkway
, managed by Wilderness Explorers, the Macushi community at Surama and Rock View Lodge, under the name of Community And Tourism Services (CATS); for information contact Wilderness Explorers, www.iwokramacanopywalkway.com. The walkway allows visitors to walk among the treetops and see the birds and monkeys of the upper canopy. Night excursions are available on the walkway. There is a library with birding books and a small arts and crafts shop.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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