Guyana is a rarely visited country but one that offers some of South America’s best wildlife and rainforest experiences. Here’s a brief travel guide.
Where to go in Guyana:
You’ll invariably catch a flight to Georgetown, the capital city, which is found on the Atlantic coast. It’s an interesting and beautiful city, and along with most of Guyana’s coastal zone, a hotch-potch of different cultures – the English, Dutch, Hindu and Islamic cultures have all left their influences on the coastal region. There’s a few luxury rainforest resorts near Georgetown – consider visiting either Timberhead or the Emerald Tower Rainforest Lodge.
Without doubt, the main reason to travel to Guyana is to visit the sparsely populated interior – travel to this region is almost always by plane or by river boat. Guyana is indeed one of South America’s best places to experience the Amazon rainforest – if only as so much of the country is so remote. You’re more likely to spot a Jaguar here than just about anywhere else in South America. The Iwokrama Rainforest Programme is certainly your best bet for visiting the Amazon. The Iwokrama Rainforest Programme is a research station deep in the Amazon – you can take boat trips, trekking tours in the rainforest (guides are very good) or stay at satellite camps even deeper into the Amazon to get about as remote as you’ll every be in your life. There’s also a canopy walkway - access at night is also possible. You’ll be staying at the Atta Rainforest Lodge – contact Wilderness Explorers in Georgetown to book (they can also arrange visits to relatively nearby indigenous villages such as Annai and Surama, which offers a community ecotourism programme).
Another highlight of travelling to Guyana’s interior include the magnificent Kaieteur Falls (among the highest in South America). Kaieteur Falls are found in Kaieteur National Park – surrounded by pristine rainforest they are without doubt some of the most amazing in the world. There’s plenty of wildlife viewing oppurtunities in the surrounding rainforest. Try to visit during the wettest months of Janaury and June / July when the falls are most spectacular (to avoid disappointment, don’t visit during the dry season months of April and October). From Kaieteur, the Pakaraima Mountains stretch to the West – Mount Roraima (the inspiration of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World”) is here but it’s almost impossible to access the amazing mountain from here – you’re better off arranging a trek from Venezuela, or Brazil.
Guyana offers plenty of other majestic waterfalls in addition – consider visiting the beautiful Orinduik Falls, which have a fantastic setting, and offer good swimming – it’s a 30 minute flight from Kaieteur.
The Rupununi Savannah is a fascinating region in the South of Guyana – with a scattering of indigenous Indians and descendants of Scottish settlers, it feels culturally closer to Brazil than Guyana. It’s an interesting and remote place to visit with some great birdwatching and wildlife tours available – October to April are the best months to travel here (to avoid the floods, and mosquitoes). The Dadanawa Ranch and Karanambu Rach are two of the best places to stay in this part of Guyana.
On Guyana’s coast, there are no decent beaches at all, though you could visit the 140km long Shell Beach if you’re into either birdwatching or wish to see some turtles (turtle watching season is from March until August). A local Arawak family runs the main camp for visitors – accommodation is pretty basic, but the food and tour guides are spot on.
When & How to Visit:
The South of Guyana, where you’ll invariably be spending most of your vacation, have a wet season from May to July – try to avoid travelling to Guyana during these months.
Tourism is far from big in Guyana – this is one of South America’s most splendidly off the beaten track travel destinations. Given the difficulties of travelling about Guyana, in reality you’ll have to dump the independent travel idea and go with a tour operator. Contact a Latin America specialist tour operator in your own country – ask to speak to someone who has actually visited the country, otherwise you’ll almost certainly have an (understandably) clueless travel consultant on the phone.