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Drinking Rum Punch in the Rupununi


inyathi
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This report has been quite a long time in gestation, partly because I decided to try and write everything first, but perhaps mainly, because although I didn’t take half as many photos as I did in Brazil, I’ve decided to upload and include far more. In an attempt yet again to go for the record for the most photos in a trip report. Really, I’ve just had so much else going on at the moment, that I haven’t had time to finish properly editing my photos. I’ve decided if I don’t get on and post this, it will be time to start on the next report, mind you it make me quite a long time to complete this, as although I’ve more or less written everything, I haven’t uploaded all the photos and doing that and then getting the links for all of them will take me some time, time that I don’t really have too much of at the moment. However, I’ll try to get the first section posted and post the rest as and when I can.

 

Originally the idea was to do a birding and primate tour of Sierra Leone, the trip was all planned and ready to go, however, unfortunately the necessary bird guide we needed to lead the tour wasn’t available and there aren’t as yet any Sierra Leonean guides capable of doing the job. Despite this the ground agent in Sierra Leone could still have operated the tour, but it would have meant going without a guide, so on balance it seemed better to put Sierra Leone on hold and save the Diana monkeys and white-necked picathartes for another time and come up with a quick plan B.

 

The most obvious choice was Ghana which would give me a good chance to see the white-necked picathartes and good many other West African birds and with luck some western mammals and also there are good Ghanaian guides. However, to do a proper Ghana tour would require 3 weeks and on this occasion that was just too long, for various reasons this was going to have to be a 2 week trip. It would have to be somewhere that could be done well enough in that time, without having to compromise too much and also because of Sierra Leone not working out, it would be a last minute trip, so it would need to be somewhere off the beaten track enough, to stand a chance of being able to book a worthwhile tour, at very short notice. Ideally somewhere new, with lots of good birds and other wildlife and that would be a good place to be in late January and given the weather in the U.K. somewhere hot. This narrowed things down quite a bit and after effectively ruling out Africa, Guyana came to mind, as somewhere that might just fit the bill almost perfectly.

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When you say that you’re going to Guyana, many people look a little blank, before saying that’s in Africa isn’t it? To which you say no, you’re probably thinking of Ghana or Guinea, Guyana is in the northeast corner of South America. The next question is generally why are you going there? The simplest answer, is just to say why not and leave it at that, or maybe say because I haven’t been there before. Well apart from the reasons already given above, there are a number of reasons for choosing to go to Guyana, all of which basically relate to wildlife, birds and mammals (well and frogs, reptiles, insects, plants, landscapes etc) and one mammal in particular, that eluded me on my recent trip to neighbouring Brazil the giant anteater. I might also add one more reason to search for El Dorado.

 

Because the country isn’t at all well known, I thought I’d start with a brief introduction to Guyana.

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So here's a bit of reading to do before I get to the photos. :)

 

In 1595 the famous English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh sailed for South America, exploring the island of Trinidad and parts of mainland Venezuela around the Orinoco River, in search of the legendary lost city of El Dorado. This region was generally always referred to as Guiana, though Raleigh never actually reached what is now the country of Guyana; he was convinced that El Dorado was to be found beside a lake in the interior. On returning to England he tried to convince Queen Elizabeth 1st that Guyana would prove even richer in gold than Peru and published a book about his adventure called The discovery of the large, rich, and beautiful Empire of Guiana, with a relation of the great and golden city of Manoa (which the Spaniards call El Dorado). While the lake is real, the city is nothing more than a romantic myth, El Dorado is not to be found in Guyana or is it?

 

On a subsequent voyage Raleigh returned to the Orinoco, attacking Spanish bases there, this didn’t go down too well back home, as he had been given strict instructions not to do so, the Spanish ambassador, demanded that the death sentence for treason, originally passed by Queen Elizabeth 1st should be reinstated and Raleigh should be executed. Back in England Sir Walter, still insisted that there was great wealth in Guiana there for the taking, despite having found no new evidence; it seems likely, that Raleigh seriously exaggerated the wealth to be found there, in a vain attempt to curry favour with the royal court, in this he failed. Elizabeth's successor, the new King, James 1st was not inclined to believe Raleigh’s wild claims about gold or lost cities, he agreed with the Spanish and chopped off Sir Walter’s head.

 

Raleigh’s claims may have been wildly exaggerated, but other Europeans besides the Spanish, did take an interest principally the Dutch who started to explore Guyana and set up colonies there, realising it would be a perfect place to grow sugar, a hugely important commodity in the seventeenth century. Sugar is a labour intensive crop so at first the Dutch, decided to enslave native Amerindians, to work in their newly established plantations, though curiously they declared some tribes to be free nations and did not enslave them, perhaps they feared starting a war with these people or maybe they needed to use them as allies, to enslave the other tribes. However, as happened all over the Americas the indigenous peoples, were struck down in huge numbers by introduced European diseases, so the Dutch started to look for a new source of labour and began to import large numbers of slaves from Africa.

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Britain meanwhile, was too busy establishing its own colonies and plantations in Jamaica and other islands of the West Indies and importing its own slaves to be interested in Guyana and what the Dutch were doing. Until the American Revolution/War of Independence, while the French actively provided military assistance to the Americans, the Dutch promised to remain neutral, however, business is business, so they kept on trading with the Americans. Selling them essential albeit non military supplies, Britain took exception to this and decided that the Dutch were not being neutral and so attacked their colonies in Guyana taking them over. The French then came in and captured the colonies from the British for a brief period, handing them back to the Dutch, until the British came back and took them again before again returning them to the Dutch. However, during the Napoleonic wars, Britain invaded and took over the Guyanese colonies once again and after France annexed the Netherlands decided to keep some of them, establishing what would come to be called British Guyana. The Dutch colonies East of the Corentyne river were returned, becoming Dutch Guyana now Suriname.

 

In 1807 Britain abolished the slave trade, what this meant really was that new slaves could not be imported to Guyana, the slaves already there, would remain slaves for some time simply because freeing them would cause huge problems for the plantation owners. Eventually when they did free them, they tried to force them to stay on the plantations, however, as soon as the former slaves were earning money they would pool their resources to acquire land of their own, so that they could escape the hated plantations. The result was a major labour shortage on the sugar plantations, the solution to this problem was to bring in indentured labourers to replace the slaves, and the first such people were shipped over in 1834 from the Portuguese Island of Madeira, which was very poor at the time. Before long those that survived the many tropical diseases prevalent in Guyana, decided that they as white people, should not be doing what they saw as the black man’s work and so left the plantations as fast as they could. The plantation owners didn’t regard the Madeirans, as proper white people and so didn’t treat them much better than they treated the slaves. So many of these poor people, had died of disease or left the plantations, that there was still a labour shortage and so it was decided that new workers should be imported, but not from Madeira because of the high mortality rate, instead they were brought from India. These people however also died in large numbers and were treated appallingly. nonetheless large numbers of Indians were brought to Guyana and after them large numbers of Chinese people. At the same time workers from the Caribbean Islands, were also brought to Guyana.

 

It is this history and mix of peoples that gives Guyana its very distinctive character, unlike almost all the other countries of mainland South America, which are distinctly Latin in culture, Guyana is unmistakably Caribbean and South America’s only English speaking country. However, aside from obviously not being an island, Guyana differs from other Caribbean countries in one significant respect. The Caribbean Sea and the islands therein, were named after the indigenous Amerindian Carib people, they along with Arawak (often now known as Taino) and other peoples colonised the islands by canoe from the Orinoco/Guyana region of South America. However, following the arrival of Christopher Columbus they were effectively wiped out by a combination European diseases and brutal enslavement, such that only one group of Amerindian people survived on the Island of Dominica, although referred to as Caribs, they’re more properly known as Kalinago. Unlike their island counterparts, many of the indigenous peoples of Guyana, were able to recover from the diseases brought by the Europeans, clearly helped by the decision taken by the Dutch, not to enslave some of the tribes. For example the Arawaks, Akawaios, Caribs and Warraus were declared free nations by the Dutch, not only were they not enslaved, but because of their knowledge of the country and of the rainforest, men from these tribes were often recruited by the Dutch to hunt down escaped African slaves. A further five tribes the Wapishana, Wai Wai, Arekuna, Patamona and Makushi also managed to survive the coming of Europeans. In total the nine surviving Amerindian tribes, only make up 7% of the Guyanese population and although the people have survived, thanks to the tireless efforts of (mostly American) missionaries, much of their original culture has not, though amongst themselves, they do still generally speak their native languages.

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While culturally Guyana is undeniably Caribbean certainly in Georgetown and the other main towns, geographically of course it’s not, its coastline lies to the southeast of the Caribbean Sea on the Atlantic Ocean, where you won’t find turquoise blue waters and coral reefs, teeming with colourful tropical fish. Guyana is practically cut in half by the huge Essequibo River and just over the border in Venezuela is the mouth of the mighty Orinoco, the discharge from these two rivers into the Atlantic ensures that the sea along the length of Guyana’s coast is decidedly murky. It is perhaps for this reason as much as any, that Guyana is still a rather off the beaten track tourist destination. While the country is never going to attract beach tourists, what it does have to offer is some of the largest remaining areas of pristine rainforest anywhere in the world and this makes Guyana a fantastic wildlife/eco/adventure destination. One that is still fairly undiscovered, though not for long I suspect, tourism is quite a recent development in Guyana, but as the country becomes better known, the number of visitors will surely increase. For the moment however, it doesn’t get too many visitors, this meant that booking a seriously last minute trip through NatureTrek, wasn’t a problem, thankfully booking flights on Caribbean Airways wasn’t a problem either.

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Just a couple of days before leaving, I realised that I was starting to go down with a cold, although knowing that I would be going on a long flight and starting my trip with a cold was not a happy thought, I was glad to have had enough forewarning that I could visit a chemist and stock up on Sudafed and various throat/nose sweets. While at the airport I also picked up some Airwaves menthol gum, I often think I should carry a few of these sort of things in my medical kit just in case, but I don’t always remember, when I’m preparing for a trip which is a bit silly, when airports and aeroplanes are such great places for picking up colds. Had my cold developed a bit later, I would have had no cold remedies at all and the beginning of the trip would have been pretty miserable, at least now I would be able to breathe rather better, flying when you can’t breathe properly is no fun. Walking through the rainforest having to constantly blow your nose all the time, also gets rather boring and unpleasant as well, but fortunately I had a spare plastic bag that I could keep in my pocket to put soggy tissues in. So in future when travelling at a time of year when colds are prevalent, I would recommend always taking some cold remedies just in case.

 

From the U.K. the best way to get to Georgetown is on Caribbean Airways, their aeroplanes are not the best or rather not the newest, however, the food and service was actually pretty good, the one drawback is that they are based in Trinidad & Tobago. So you have to fly via Port of Spain on Trinidad and change planes there, it’s roughly 9hrs from London to Port of Spain and only about another 1hr on beyond to Georgetown, this is not too bad depending on how long you have to wait between planes. It was only about an hour on the way out which was fine, it’s a little bit frustrating, when you’re arriving at night and you’d quite like to get to bed, of course you wouldn’t really want it to be any shorter, in case the first flight is delayed.

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After being met at Cheddi Jagan International Airport by our guide Luke Johnson, we were driven the 30 miles or so north up to Georgetown and our hotel Cara Lodge, so it was it was really quite late by the time we arrived. After checking in and being given our printed tour information, we decided it would best just to go to bed and save the tour briefing for the morning, thankfully we didn’t have too early a start in the morning. Cara Lodge is a charming old wooden Guyanese colonial style building and probably the best hotel in Georgetown.

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Game Warden

@@inyathi - explores destinations other safari tourists never reach :) Photos...

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Day 1

 

After breakfast we were driven over to Ogle International Airport for our charter flight to Kaiteur Falls, Ogle Airport which is the main domestic airport in Guyana (recently upgraded to an international airport), is just on the eastern edge of Georgetown, so it it’s not that far to drive. Georgetown was originally laid out by the Dutch and in common with many parts of the Netherlands much of it is below sea level and protected by a high sea wall, with a network of canals to keep the town above water. These canals provide much to interest the birder, there are wattled jacanas seemingly everywhere alongside egrets and herons and plenty of snail kites perched on the overhead wires. Anyone who’s been on many African safaris will have been on a few small plane flights and will be familiar with the problem of weight limits for luggage, normally the limit is 15kgs, as a birder and amateur photographer even travelling as light as I can, I invariably exceed the limit, though thankfully this has never been a problem. So it came as a bit of a shock, when first informed that the weight limit for this flight and basically all internal flights in Guyana is just 9kgs for all luggage, my hand luggage on its own weighs more than this. This didn’t effect my packing, since leaving behind a couple of shirts or other clothes, that I might just be able to get by without wouldn’t have made enough of a difference and I wasn’t going to come without a bird book and half my photo gear. In theory you can pay for the excess, so I was counting on this being the case, at check-in after weighing your bags they insist on weighing you with along, with anything you’re taking on as hand luggage. Evidently our combined weight did not exceed the limit or at least we weren’t charged which was a relief, though maybe the fact that it was a charter helped, so after a short wait, we boarded our flight a Cessna 206 and took off at about 10:30. A Cessna 206 is not my preferred mode of transport, I’ve been on a few long 206 flights and after a while it starts to feel like you’re in a flying sardine can. However, the flight to the airstrip at Kaieteur is only about an hour and if you’re lucky with the weather is pretty spectacular, certainly once you reach the Potaro Valley. The weather wasn’t that great on this occasion it was really rather too cloudy to get a proper view of the falls, still looking out the window stopped me from looking too closely at the plane which was showing its age in a few places.

 

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Georgetown

 

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 Farmland near Georgetown

 

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Demerara River

 

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Demerara River

 

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Wild Guyana

 

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More wilderness

 

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Essequibo River Islands

 

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Gold mining one of the biggest threats to the rainforest

 

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Pakaraima Mountains

 

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Rapids on the Potaro River

 

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Kaieteur Falls just visible under the clouds

 

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Another nearby waterfall

 

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The Potaro River

 

The airstrip is on top of a rocky plateau just a short walk from the falls, the walk to and from the 4 viewpoints is very interesting,

 

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The Guiana Shield

 

Guyana is part of a huge eco-region known as the Guiana Shield, formed by one of the cratons that make up the South American tectonic plate, the Shield also includes Suriname, French Guiana, a significant part of Northern Brazil, almost half of Venezuela and a tiny corner of Colombia. This vast area which comprises almost the whole of northeast South America north of the Amazon River, has one of the highest biodiversities of any region in the world and a large percentage of the fauna and flora is endemic to the Guiana Shield. The higher areas of the shield are known as the Guiana Highlands and are dominated by the Pakaraima Mountains, which at their western end are characterised by huge flat topped mountains, known locally as tepuis. The highest best known of which is Mt. Roraima which lies mainly in Venezuela at the point where Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela meet. The flora found in these mountains is particularly interesting, as the different tepuis, peaks and plateau areas, have their own endemic species, and many of the plants found on the Potaro/Kaieteur Plateau are unique to Kaieteur NP.

 

In places what appears to be just a thin layer of algae has formed on the rock, this mat acts like a sponge holding rain water and mist from the falls, mosses, lichens and a variety of small plants are then able to grow on this layer.

 

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Lichens

 

Over time dead leaves and other plant remains form a layer of humus. into which other larger plants can grow, until you end up with a rather stunted scrubby cloud forest. One of the plants to be found growing around the edge of these patches is a type of sundew, a tiny plant that to cope with the lack of nutrients produces globules of sticky nectar to attract insects, which become stuck and are then digested by the plant. Another characteristic plant of this habitat is the giant tank bromeliad, a relative of the pineapple, the largest of their kind they grow so big and tall that the more exposed specimens, frequently blow over since they’re very shallow rooted, when the trunk hits the ground it puts down roots and the crown turns and starts growing back up.

 

 

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Tank bromeliads are so called because rain water collects at the base of the leaves forming little pools or water tanks, these as well as providing drinking water for various animals are also a habitat, principally in this case for the tiny golden rocket frog, a species found nowhere else in the world.

 

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Golden rocket frog

 

These tiny frogs are not that easy to photograph, because, if when trying to get close you accidentally touch the bromeliad leaf, they will disappear into the water and hide down the bottom out of site, that was the best photo I managed to get.

 

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I don't know the name of this plant

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Although the weather really hadn’t been great as we flew in, it had now cleared enough that we hoped we would get good views of the falls, so we started off by heading for Johnson's View accompanied by two local NP guides, this viewpoint is the furthest from the Falls and is the only one that gives you a view of the Potaro River upstream of the Falls.

 

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Potaro River below the Falls

 

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The base of the Falls

 

You also get a good view of this little waterfall across the other side of the river, I’m sure it must have a name, but I haven’t been able to establish what it is yet.

 

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Interesting fruit

 

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Lizard

 

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These rocks are the perfect habitat for one of Guyana's most colourful birds and on our way back through the forest we were lucky enough to spot one

 

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A spectacular male Guianan Cock of the Rock

 

Kaieteur is one of the best places, to see this extraordinary looking bright orange bird.

 

Not long after walking through the forest we glimpsed a pair of black currasows crossing the path, but they disappeared before I could get any photos.

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We then walked over to Boy Scout Viewpoint, this spot provides a closer look at the falls and a pretty spectacular view down the Potaro Valley in the other direction.

 

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The Potaro Valley

 

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Potaro River rapids

 

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Tank bromeliad

 

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The spectacular view down the Potaro Valley

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Then it was on to the aptly named Rainbow View, before heading to the rock overhang that projects out beside the Falls, normally you would suggest that someone stays at Rainbow Point, so that they can photograph you standing on or if you’re mad sitting on this rock ledge, but I was happy just to take a few quick shots of the rainbows and then move on to the top of the Falls, without too much looking over the edge.

 

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Our local guides

 

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Some view!

 

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The final view point is the top of the Falls and you can walk right to the edge if you wish

 

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When we arrived, one of the locals was having a bath just upstream of the Falls

 

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The Potaro River drops 741ft over the Falls and they are said to be the most powerful single drop waterfall in the world, from the top of the Falls to the bottom of the gorge is actually 822ft which is five times the height of Niagara Falls. According to legend a Patomona chief named Kaie feared that his people were about to be attacked and likely killed or enslaved by a Carib war party so to appease the Great Spirit Makonaima, Kaie paddled his canoe over the Falls in the hope that his people would be saved. The Falls were then named in his honour ‘teur’ means falls in the Patomona language so Kaieteur literally means Kaie falls.

 

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This rock is said to be the face of Kaie

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The best thing about Kaieteur Falls, is that they are Guyana’s premier tourist attraction and undoubtedly one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls and yet during the entire time about 1hr that we were walking around the viewpoints, there was no one else there. The other really wonderful thing is these signs

 

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Iguaçu Falls aside from being horrendously crowded (at least when I was there) is all metal and or concrete walkways with barriers and handrails everywhere and cafes and shops close by. Vic Falls is better in that at least the barriers/fences are natural and therefore somewhat less obtrusive, here at Kaieteur, however, there are no handrails, no barriers, just these signs warning you to keep away from the edge and at some of the viewpoints a couple of benches, otherwise the surroundings of the Falls are entirely natural and completely unspoilt. If only every waterfall could still be like this, no matter how impressive Niagara Falls may be, they are effectively in the middle of a city and as such are the one waterfall in the world that I have no intention of ever visiting.

 

One reason why the Kaieteur Falls are so unspoilt and receive so few visitors, is that aside from the fact that not that many tourists visit Guyana, the only really practical way to get to the Falls is by air and adding a charter flight to Kaieteur on to your trip, does put the cost up quite a bit. I suspect that quite a few tourists miss out the Falls, because of the added expense, certainly BirdQuest for example on their tours to Guyana, don’t include a visit to the Falls, except as an optional extension.

 

There are three scheduled flights a week to Kaieteur, on Sun, Wed & Fri which may be a cheaper option than getting a charter. It is possible to travel to the Falls overland, but it's a major expedition, this as it says in the Bradt Guide involves a combination of minibus, boat, trekking and return flight and takes a minimum of 5 days, if you're fit enough this would doubtless be an amazing thing to do, here’s an itinerary from Wilderness Explorers who also organised our whole Guyana trip.

 

 

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The other great thing about Kaieteur is the birds and we were lucky enough to get an even better view of another cock of the rock on our walk back up to the visitors centre.

 

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We managed to spot a few other birds as well, however to bird the Falls properly it’s really best if you stay the night at the Kaieteur Guest House, especially if you want to see the swifts that nest behind the Falls and to give you more of a chance to see some of the areas special birds. Back at the visitor’s centre. there was a group of American birders, who’d just arrived and were about to head off to the Falls, they were the only other tourists we encountered during our time at Kaieteur.

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Kaieteur National Park, is one of the first national parks ever created in South America, back in 1929 the British colonial authorities set aside 45 square miles around the Falls as a protected park. Unfortunately in the 1970s, the Guyanan government decided to reduce the park to just the immediate area around the Falls so as to allow mining operations to occur in the rest. Then thankfully in the 1990’s they decided to reverse this stupid decision and expanded the park to its current size of 224 Square miles.

 

After a very nice packed lunch of a roti stuffed with spiced (curried) potatoes, followed by pieces of pineapple, we climbed back aboard our plane and took off for the short hop over to the airstrip at Fairview Village, just a few minutes’ drive away from Iwokrama River Lodge, where we would be staying for the next 3 nights.

 

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Potaro River Valley in Guyana from the air

 

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Another waterfall

 

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A whole lot of rainforest

 

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The Essequibo River

 

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Fairview Village was formerly known as Kurupukari, why they dropped the original Makushi name in favour of the bland English name Fairview I don’t know, I can only guess due to the influence of missionaries. Not far from the village are the Kurupukari Falls the site of some 6,000yr old petroglyphs, they give an indication of how long Amerindian people have been living in the area.

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The Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, protects roughly 1 million acres (371,000ha) of rainforest, half of this forest is protected from all exploitation, the other half is open to sustainable utilisation which does include a small amount of very selective logging. They have to provide income and employment somehow and Iwokrama is the only logging concession in the country, that is certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council, as well as providing income and employment, the aim is to produce a model of sustainable forestry, that could be used elsewhere.

 

 

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While waiting at the airstrip we enjoyed the sight of noisy blue and yellow macaws flying overhead

 

Before too long a lodge vehicle arrived to collect us.

 

 

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This is going to be really interesting. Guyana has been high on my 'Places to go to that are not in Africa' list for a while. Pleased to see that you didn't encounter many other tourists.

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@@inyathi, wow, you take your TRs seriously man. The amount of detail is intense, guidebook worthy even. This is a Guyana educational.

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@@inyathi thanks for a wonderful start to a little known safari destination. I have considered Venezuela in the past for a wildlife trip and fleetingly wondered about Suriname. Thanks for the history of the area, now I understand better about the background to the Guyanas.

 

Looking forward to reading along as the story unfolds.

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@@Soukous Perhaps I get a bit carried away sometimes, but I like to go the extra mile for places that aren’t at all well known, it makes putting a report together take that much longer, but I enjoy doing all the research and learning new stuff along the way.

 

@@Treepol There were originally in fact five Guianas, Spanish Guiana now part of Venezuela, British Guyana now just Guyana as seen here, Dutch Guiana now Suriname, French Guiana still part of France and Portuguese Guiana now part of Brazil.

 

Venezuela is great wildlife country and there are plenty of good options for tours there, I just wish they would sort out their politics. Guyana to the best of my knowledge doesn’t really have any major political problems, so aside from the fact that like many cities around the world, there are parts of Georgetown that are best avoided on a dark night (or even perhaps in the daytime), Guyana is a great alternative to Venezuela. Guyana thankfully still has vast areas of pristine rainforest, sadly this is not the case in Suriname, so I was told.

 

Edited by inyathi
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Iwokrama River Lodge is built in a large clearing overlooking the Essequibo River, it’s a nice location, although the combined lodge and research station is quite big. The rooms are predominantly wooden cabins raised on stilts, with a decent sized bed, a good mosquito net, shelves and hanging area for clothes, a writing desk/table, a fan on a stand a spare bed and an ensuite bathroom built of bricks at the back, at the front is a veranda with hammocks and chairs for relaxing. All perfectly comfortable, electricity is provided by solar power and importantly you can charge your batteries in your room. All the sockets I encountered in Guyana were of the flat two pin type, using a travel adaptor I had no trouble recharging, although of course most places do operate on a generator.

 

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The main guest cabins

 

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The Lodge dining room is upstairs, in the huge main building called the Fred Alicock building, named after the Makushi leader and entrepreneur responsible for starting much of the ecotourism at Iwokrama and the surrounding area (as seen in the earlier video).

 

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Originally the building had a traditional thatched roof, but after a while this was replaced with a cheaper and more practical alternative.

 

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In the middle of the second floor is the bar with a gift shop on the other side of it, then to one side is the serving area with the enclosed kitchen behind it and on the other side a lounge area, at each end are the dining tables. So effectively there are two separate dining rooms divided from each other by the bar and they operate a curious system at all meal times, whereby the lodge guides, other staff and visiting researchers eat at one end and the guests at the other end. Ensuring that unless you make a point of ignoring this segregation, you can’t socialise with the guides or talk to the researchers, to find out what they’re doing and learn more about Iwokrama. This is the one negative about River Lodge, that everybody including the Bradt Guide mentions, so why they haven’t done something to change this, I don’t know. Aside from addressing this issue, one other obvious thing they could do, but don’t is get some of the guides or researchers or perhaps the manager to put on an introductory presentation about Iwokrama for new guests. Walking down stairs from the dining room to go back to the rooms, I noticed through the window of the room below a shelf covered in camera traps, clearly not in use but they must get used and therefore they must have plenty of interesting photos of wildlife, that they could show to guests.

 

One other curious thing, you'd think if you had a seedling fig tree growing in one of the gutters, that it might be a good idea to remove it, as you walked to and from the stairs to the dining room you past the long thin root of this tree which had just reached the ground and would soon be growing into the lawn.

 

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Edited by inyathi
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Juvenile red-capped cardinal one of the many birds around the lodge

 

After a good siesta, we walked back up the main road from the lodge birding the forest on either side, this produced a handful of new birds. Although we hadn’t achieved a massive haul of birds, to have had great views of the Guianan cock of the rock twice, on our first days birding was pretty special.

Edited by inyathi
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Day 2

 

Got up early and soon after 06:00 departed on a boat trip on the Essequibo River, around Indian House Island opposite the lodge, stopped on a sandbank to have a bit of a walk around looked at turtle tracks on the beach. Also saw some curious bowls excavated in the sand looking almost like the holes elephants dig to find water, these turned out to be dug by frogs which lay their eggs in them and on closer inspection tadpoles were clearly visible swimming around in the bottom. Luke and one of the local guides spotted a heron, this might have been an agami heron, a very special bird but it flew away and could not be found again. So we boarded the boat again and headed on around the island and back to the lodge for breakfast.

 

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Essequibo River

 

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Female white-tailed trogon

 

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Swallow-winged puffbird a very common species in Guyana

 

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Black caracara

 

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Freshwater turtle tracks

 

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Frog's nest

 

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Looking for the agami heron

 

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Iwokrama River Lodge

 

Edited by inyathi
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