Jump to content

Drinking Rum Punch in the Rupununi


Recommended Posts

Not much more than 20 minutes later, we reached Kwatamang Landing on the Rupununi River, where a boat was waiting for us, our guide for the following day and a half Rovin, introduced himself (and the boatman whose name I’ve forgotten) and we climbed aboard.



Rewa Lodge Guide, Rovin Alvin


The landing is really just a sandbank at the side of the river, from here down the Rupununi River and on into the Rewa River to Rewa Eco-Lodge is a roughly 3hr boat trip. Thankfully, for such a long trip the boat wasn’t too uncomfortable and there were plenty of water birds to be seen along the way, Cocoi Herons, Striated Herons, Jabiru Storks, Ringed Kingfishers, Amazon Kingfishers, Green Kingfishers, Large-billed Terns to name a few and plenty of Black Caimans. One bird proved to be especially common in this area, if anyone who lives in the US or Canada wants to know where their Ospreys go in the winter, visit Guyana, I saw more Ospreys along the Rupununi and Rewa Rivers, than I have seen anywhere else in the world. Normally you can count yourself quite lucky if you see more than one Osprey, here you’d find one or two around every bend in the river.





While the birds and the caimans were plentiful we didn’t see any mammals though there are plenty of species in the forests here.



Boating on the Rupununi River



Jabiru Stork





Local Life on the Rewa River



Rewa Eco-Lodge





The Rooms



Inside the Main Benab


Rewa Eco-Lodge just on beyond Rewa Village. is somewhat similar to Surama Lodge. except that it is in the rainforest sited in a small clearing overlooking the Rewa River. The accommodation consists of three wooden cabins and two traditional benabs, the cabins are rather larger than at Surama and as is typically the case they’re raised up on stilts (for the wet season). they have a veranda at the front with hammocks as well as a table and bench. Inside is another table space for putting your luggage on, plenty of coat hangers to hang your clothes, decent sized beds with proper mosquito nets and then downstairs out the back, an ensuite concrete open air bathroom. As well as electric lights, there are also sockets for charging in the rooms, the electricity coming from a generator. Very basic but perfectly comfortable, one curious thing there were no hooks to keep the wooden windows open, at night it was quite hot so you’d want to leave the windows open, but if the wind got up they’d blow shut.


The main big benab was a single storey building comprising the kitchen, bar and dining room, the food curried/stewed beef or chicken or fried fresh fish with veg of sorts was generally very good and always served with a choice of fruit juice or water. Lying in your hammock looking across at the main benab, you can almost imagine that you are actually staying in a traditional Makushi village in the heart of the rainforest, this is one of the things I particularly liked about Rewa.





Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites


Rewa Village


As at Surama, the lodge is a little distance away from the actual village, so that by staying there, you’re not disrupting village life and you don’t feel that your intruding too much, as you might if you were staying in the village. You can still of course visit Rewa Village, to have a look around and in the afternoon after lunch and a siesta we decided to combine a brief village tour, with a bird walk. It’s only a short walk through the forest to the village which is home to 300 mostly Makushi Amerindians, who still lead a semi traditional lifestyle in the forest, farming cassava and fishing in the river.


Cassava is the main staple food in Guyana and across most of tropical South America, that anyone eats this plant at all is really quite surprising, because the cassava root also known as manioc contains cyanide, clearly this is a plant that does not want to be eaten. Yet Amerindian people have been growing and eating cassava, for perhaps thousands of years and since Colombus it has become a staple in other parts of the tropics as well, notably large parts of Africa. There are actually two types of cassava and it is vital to be able to tell the difference between them. Sweet cassava which only contains very small quantities of cyanide and if peeled and cooked much like a potato is perfectly safe to eat and bitter cassava which contains large quantities of cyanide and would likely kill you if cooked and eaten this way. To eat bitter cassava, it requires considerably more processing, quite how anyone discovered how to safely do this, is a mystery to me.


As we walked through the village we came across two women processing bitter cassava, using a grating machine made from an old bicycle and imported from Brazil. After the cassava is harvested the roots are peeled and then fed through the grater, this requires furious pedalling, the resulting mash is then pushed into a kind of woven basketwork tube which is used to squeeze out the water. The cassava water is collected in a bucket and must be kept well away from children or animals as it is highly toxic, we were told stories of how a cow was once seen to drink from a bucket of cassava water and soon afterwards dropped dead. The mash is then dried out and roasted over a fire until it turns golden brown and hard this is called farine, although it is now safe if eaten straight in this state, it is a little like eating road grit and won’t do your teeth any good. Generally it is used as a kind of seasoning or thickener that you add to soups and stews and because it absorbs a huge amount of water when soaked, it is very filling. It can also be used to make breads of various kinds, though the flatbread we were given at Surama, looked and tasted like it could be better used as an insulation material than a foodstuff. Remarkably the cassava water is then boiled vigorously until it forms a thick black liquid known as cassareep, the boiling effectively destroys the cyanide, often mixed with various spices cassareep is an important cooking ingredient in Guyana and the Caribbean. Indeed it is a vital component of Guyana’s national dish pepperpot, a spicy stewed meat dish of Amerindian origin.





Cassava processing Rewa Village in Guyana



Raw Peeled Cassava





Cassava being fed through the grater



Grated Cassava


As we carried on our walk we spotted a variety of seedeaters and a beautiful Lineated Woodpecker.



Lineated Woodpecker


On our way back through the forest as the sun began to set, we watched parrots flying noisily overhead on their way to roost, prompting our Rewa guide Rovin to say “when the parrots fly it’s beer thirty”. :)

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 10


This morning I discovered in the bathroom a small green/brown and black snake coiled up behind the cistern, this would have freaked many people out, but I’ve never been that afraid of snakes, however, in this case I was slightly nervous about sitting on the loo, knowing there was a snake not much more than a foot or so behind me, though I assumed it was probably harmless. I attempted to take some photos which I showed to our guide Rovin, he informed me that it was a House Labaria, the most I’ve been able to find out since about this snake from the internet, is that it’s related to the Fer de Lance one of the region’s most venomous snakes, so maybe it’s not so harmless. Later in the day when I said to Luke that I had a House Labaria in my bathroom, he mentioned something about the Fer de Lance, but I assumed he was just joking. The snake didn’t stay for long and soon disappeared back outside.


While lunch and dinner are served in the main benab, breakfast is served on some tables on the river bank and consisted of fresh fruit, toast and fry-bake which is like a donut and then scrambled eggs served with fruit juice and a choice of tea or coffee. Very acceptable except for the instant coffee, all over Guyana they serve absolutely awful instant coffee, I’m not a coffee connoisseur, I drink instant at home, but at least it’s good instant. When you’re having breakfast at 05:30 in the morning a good cup of coffee is quite important to get you going, but I guess you just can’t get good coffee in Guyana and it wouldn’t be fair to expect the best coffee, at somewhere as remote as Rewa.


The plan this morning was to head off down river in the boat and go and climb Awarmie Mountain.




From the boat we spotted the same water birds and caiman as the day before, however, this time we also managed to find a Giant Otter, it appeared to be on its own, at least we only saw the one and it kept very much to the other side of the river. Rovin did his best to imitate the calls of Giant Otters and Luke tried playing a recording of Giant Otter calls, but the otter was having none of it and refused to come any closer.


When we went ashore, we decided to try and explore the secondary forest below the Awarmie Mountain/hill first before carrying on, this proved to be a good decision and we were soon spotting plenty of birds, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Blue Ground Dove and Grey-lined Hawk to name a few. Then right in front of us albeit some distance away a beautiful Ornate Hawk Eagle flew into a tree.



Ornate Hawk Eagle


Moments later I spotted some macaws flying over the forest against the hill as I looked at them, I noticed another bird was flying with them, when I got my binoculars on it, I could see that it was a large grey raptor, catching a brief glimpse of its underside, I saw that it was very pale largely white, with a distinct dark band across the chest and a grey head. I only saw it for a few seconds before it disappeared behind a tree, but I knew that it could only have been one bird, I took out my copy of the Bird’s of Brazil and flicked through the eagles and there it was, Harpy, black breast band diagnostic, no other eagle has a dark band across the chest and besides this bird was huge. Finally after being unlucky visiting two different nests, I’d managed to spot a Harpy Eagle by pure chance, if only for a few seconds, no one else saw it well enough to confirm that it was a Harpy, but really it couldn’t have been anything else and I at least was satisfied that I’d finally seen this awesome bird. Thinking about it, I realised that the eagle had obviously not been flying with the macaws, they were mobbing it and chasing it away. This remarkable sighting was further prove that to see wildlife, the one thing you need more than anything else is luck.


We then headed over to a more open area, from where we could get a better view of the mountain in the vain hope that the Harpy might still be visible somewhere, but sadly it wasn’t to be.



Awarmie Mountain





Bat Falcon


However we did see a pair of Bat Falcons, got a great view of a Laughing Falcon and I spotted a White Hawk circling over the forest.



Laughing Falcon



Red & Green Macaws





Laughing Falcon


Although we would miss out on the no doubt spectacular views from the top and possibly miss seeing the White Bellbird that this area is noted for. we decided against climbing the mountain since we were doing so well with the birds down below, opting instead to walk a circular trail at the bottom.



Bird of Paradise Flower


Although we did hear a bell bird. we didn’t see any. but otherwise our decision proved to be a good one. certainly when we came across a beautiful Crested Owl, at exactly the same moment. we found a troop of Weeper or Wedge-capped Capuchins, tearing myself away from the owl. I followed our boatmen who led me to a spot. where I could get a good view and some photos of the monkeys.



Crested Owl





Wedge-capped or Weeper Capuchins









Soon after we found some spider monkeys. though they moved too fast for me to obtain any photos.



Walking through what in the wet season is flooded forest, we found plenty more birds, like this Golden-green Woodpecker before we made it back to the boat.



Golden-green Woodpecker





Returning to the Boat


Even though we hadn’t climbed the mountain this had proved to be a very successful morning.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites


Striped forest Whiptail at the Lodge



Black Caiman below the lodge



In the afternoon, we boated for miles the other way up the river, spotting first of all an Osprey perched in a tree eating a fish and then much later on a troop of Common Squirrel Monkeys moving through the trees.




Common Squirrel Monkey




Inexplicably since my camera has a lock on it, I discovered afterwards that my camera had been set on TV, how this had happened I don’t know but the shutter speed was set too slow to get any decent shots and I didn’t notice until it was too late. After the monkeys, we eventually found another solitary Giant Otter, though as with the one we’d seen in the morning, it wouldn’t come close and I was unable to get any photos. By this time it was getting quite late and the sky suggested that it might be about to rain, after getting pretty wet when caught in the rain in a boat in Brazil, I’d brought waterproof trousers this time to go with my poncho. Sure enough after donning my rain gear it did start to rain, though thankfully not too hard and it wasn’t too long before we were back at the lodge.


Returning to my room, I found the same House Kabaria had returned and was back behind the cistern, evidently waiting in the hope that a tree frog might decide to visit my bathroom, this time I managed to get some slightly better photos than earlier.



House Labaria

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites


You have seen an incredible variety of birds on this trip

It is also interesting seeing the different lodges and environments

I like the capuchins and am glad you got to see your eagle!

Sorry you had your technical issues with your camera - but still lots of pleasing results

(How on earth did anyone learn to eat cassava?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@TonyQ I asked myself the same question about cassava. I wonder how many people died before they discovered how to process bitter cassava properly and why anyone persevered? Using pedal power to grate the cassava requires a lot of effort. but not nearly as much as doing it the old way entirely by hand, so why go to all this effort why not just stick with the safe sweet variety? I think basically people much prefer to grow bitter cassava. despite the extra effort in the processing. for the obvious reasons that the plants are attacked much less by pests and therefore you get a much better more reliable crop. than if you grow sweet cassava. After all the effort of processing the cassava root. it really doesn’t have the greatest nutritional value. but it is filling which is useful if you’re going hunting. because you never know whether you’ll be successful or not.


While I wasn’t too impressed by farine or cassava bread, sweet cassava makes very good chips. indeed you’d hardly know you weren’t eating potato.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 11




Our early breakfast on the river bank, was enlivened by the arrival of a little Guianan Squirrel a species that is common across the Amazon region and a trogon. It was then time to say goodbye to Rewa, I was sad to be leaving, as I could have happily stayed a bit longer, but at the same time, I was excited to be moving on to our next destination Karanambu Lodge.



Loading the Boats



Black Skimmers


On the way back down river we saw the same familiar cast of water birds, plus a few new ones like Black-collared Hawks, a Sunbittern and a Wood Stork.



Wood Stork



Black-collared Hawks


After about an hour or so of boating, we spotted what appeared to be a troop of monkeys climbing about in the trees, however, when we looked closer, we realised that they had ringed tails and were not monkeys at all, but South American Coatis, although I saw many of these animals in Brazil, these were the first and only ones I saw in Guyana.



The coatis were followed by our first capybara of the trip, not a good view as it remained well hidden in the bank side vegetation, but nice to see all the same.



Juvenile Rufescent tiger Heron


Then in a little back water amongst some Victoria amazonica water lilies. a beautiful pair of Muscovy Ducks that quickly took off as we approached



Muscovy Ducks














and many beautiful big Black Caiman if such animals can be called beautiful.





Large-billed Terns



Kwatamang Landing


At around quarter to eleven, we were back at Kwatamang Landing, Vitor from Rock View was there waiting for us, having just dropped off a new guest for Rewa.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On the drive back to Rock View Lodge, we were amused by the sight of a vaquero, pursuing and trying to rope a donkey, which clearly had no intention of being caught and was giving him the run around.







Arriving back at about 11:00, I spent a happy hour wandering around the garden looking for birds and lizards to fill in the time until lunch.



View from Rock View over the Annai Airstrip to the distant Kanuku Mountains






Carambola or starfruit



Carambola tree



View from the garden of the festival site


Not long after we left Guyana, Rock View hosted the first Rupununi Music & Arts Festival, featuring local Amerindian Musicians and other musicians from around the world, this 3 day festival is intended to become an annual event. During our stay the festival site was still under construction, the various buildings you can see in the photo were still being thatched. As far as I know the festival was a great success and should once more people outside Guyana know about it, bring many more tourists to the area



After another delicious meal and a catch up with Colin, it was then back into the car around one o clock, we weren’t staying we‘d just dropped in for lunch, Vitor then drove us for around about an hour, over to Ginep Landing on the Rupununi River.



Ginep Landing, loading the boats for Karanambu


Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We hadn’t actually been certain until this day, whether we be able to get to Karanambu by boat, as there was a possibility that the water level in the river might be just too low, fortunately this wasn’t the case. If the water had been too low it would have just meant going by road it’s actually only 31 miles from Rock View, but some of the journey is on some pretty rough tracks so it would have been rather less comfortable and we would have missed seeing more of the river’s wildlife. Which included lots of Jabirus and plenty more caiman, including a mum with some newly hatched babies, our first Common Iguana and some more well hidden Capybaras. The water was in fact pretty low, but we had a second boat to carry the luggage, so it wasn’t a real problem.



Jabiru Stork



Mum with babies



These little caimans must be very newly hatched







Great black Hawk



Green Iguana


The boat trip had taken just over 2hrs, we’d left Ginep Landing at about 14:15, travelling at this time of day it was very hot, so if you’re doing this trip you want to make sure you got a good hat and plenty of sun oil and perhaps even a long sleeved shirt, we arrived at Karanambu at nearly 16:30, somewhat relieved to be able to get out of the sun. From the boat landing it is a few minutes’ walk up to the lodge.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Karanambu Lodge is probably the best known lodge in Guyana, mainly because it is the family home of the famous Diane McTurk an extraordinary octogenarian, who might perhaps be described as the Daphne Sheldrick of Guyana, though the orphans that she cares for are a little smaller. For over thirty years now, Diane has been raising and rehabilitating orphan Giant Otters and has released some 50 back in to the wild Rupununi .


Giant Otters are intensely curious animals, as I discovered in Brazil and will often come close to check you out, this makes them very vulnerable to being hunted, in the 70s and 80s across South America Giant Otters were hunted for their pelts, to the point that they are now thought to be extinct in both Argentina and Uruguay. This hunting for pelts was a big problem in Guyana, Amerindian hunters without too many other ways to make money, would hunt otters and export their pelts to Brazil, thankfully this hunting is now entirely illegal. Aside from seriously threatening the survival of Guyana’s Giant Otters, this hunting produced many orphans, these if they were very lucky would be brought to Diane at Karanambu. Though the hunting has stopped, otter cubs occasionally still become orphaned or are sometimes stolen from the wild, by people who soon find they can’t look after their pet and they then end up with Diane. At the time of visiting, she was looking after a new cub, that had recently been brought in.


Aside from the chance to meet the famous Diane and her Giant Otters, most people who come to Karanambu also come hoping to meet another of the Rupununi region’s giants, for Karanambu is one of the best places in South America, to see the extraordinary Giant Anteater. Having failed to see one of these odd looking beasts in Brazil, I hoped that the following morning Karanambu might deliver one for me. Of course for birders in particular, there are many other reasons to visit this magical place and keen as I was to see the anteater, I also hoped to see some beautiful and distinctly odd birds too, along with any other wildlife, that might put in an appearance.



 Karanambu Lodge


The rooms are big and spacious with good big ensuite bathrooms, big beds with proper mosquito nets and lots of good big windows, that you can swing open to keep cool at night. One thing which was not a problem at all for me but that some visitors might struggle with, is that there is quite a lot of wildlife in an around the rooms, notably one or two cockroaches, lots of wasps building nest in the rafters and good few bats roosting under the thatch. Given the location and the design of the building I was in, this was much as I would have expected, I just made sure that I kept my wash bag and my main bag zipped up at all times, to ensure that I didn’t leave with any unwanted hitchhikers. There was a can of bug spray, but I didn’t feel any need to resort to chemical warfare as the insects didn’t really bother me, after all at night I was under a mosquito net. With no ceiling in the room they had effectively created one by suspending a sheet of sorts above the mosquito net so as to completely shield the bed from bat mess, this again didn’t bother me. When in the wilds, I would much rather stay somewhere like this than in some hermetically sealed air-conditioned room, where you’re completely divorced from the outside world. However, I thought it was worth mentioning, not as a criticism of Karanambu, but because some people, might not be comfortable with bats and creepy crawlies in the room.



My room







Wasps building their nest


After settling in at the lodge, we took a brief walk along the old airstrip in search of nighthawks, before returning to enjoy a passion fruit rum punch or two with Diane and the lodge manager Salvador, before eating a delicious dinner en famille.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 12


After coffee at 05:30, we jumped in the lodge car another Toyota Hilux and set out across the savanna in search of a Giant Anteater, excited at the prospect of finally seeing one, I scanned the surrounding country ever hopeful that I might get lucky and spot one but no there were no anteaters or any other mammals to be seen. There were a few birds like savanna hawks and in a wet area in the bottom of a valley several Maguari Storks, but otherwise the savanna appeared to be empty of animal life.


After some time we drew up alongside two small corrals, one containing a herd of cows and the other two horses and not far away was a little homestead.




I started to wonder slightly why we’d stopped, the driver than started revving the engine and it soon became apparent that there was something wrong with the car. It seemed that we were now broken down, this would clearly not improve our chances of finding an anteater and we were a very long way from the lodge, quite how we would get back if they couldn’t fix the car, I wasn’t sure. Though thankfully, I needn’t have worried you cannot live somewhere as remote as Karanambu, without knowing how to fix a car, while the driver looked under the bonnet, I scanned the surrounding country in the vain hope of spotting something, fearing that my chances of seeing an anteater were slipping away.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is great, I was hoping you were going to Karanambu Lodge when you started this report - very keen to hear what it is like


I may have missed this but when exactly did you go to Guyana?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This continues to be excellent.

The Guyana tourist board should print this TR as a guidebook.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your TR brings back memories. We did a similar trip back in 2010. Some of the sites are exactly the same as I remember. We didn't see a huge amount of wildlife on our trip, you seem to have had far more success. We did however see that Harpy Eagle's nest with an inhabitant.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Zim Girl Jan/Feb


I was aware that at Karanambu when the vaqueros go out in the morning to do their rounds and check on the cattle they also look for anteaters and when they find one, guests can be taken to see it. Away in the distance on the edge of the plain in the shallow valley below us, I spotted two vaqueros riding steadily in our direction as I stared at them through my binoculars, I realised that I could see a large shaggy grey beast shambling along between the two horses, “I can see an anteater” I exclaimed getting down from my vantage point in the back of the car, I readied my camera as the horsemen started to approach.




Having delivered the anteater that was now running in our direction, the vaqueros backed away, blasting away with my camera I could hardly believe my eyes as one of the world’s oddest looking mammals, ran down the road towards me.














I guess their eyesight is not the best but eventually having come pretty close it spotted us, didn’t like what it saw (or perhaps smelled) turned and remarkably then ran over to the corral and squeezed itself under a very low fence into the pen with the two horses.








Ignoring the horses the anteater walked over to the back of the corral and out under a slightly higher fence and then carried on at a steady pace, soon disappearing from view amongst the low bushes of the savanna.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is the first time that I’ve had a wild animal literally delivered to me in this way, once the anteater was no longer in view we walked over to the mango trees beside the little homestead, while the driver worked on fixing the car.



Car trouble






Going home



Mango Trees on the open savanna








From the top of the larger mango tree a Bicolored Wren was calling loudly, we had to walk around the tree several times before we finally found the bird typically after all the effort we’d put into seeing this one bird, three more arrived right out in the open flying up onto the roof of the house.



Pair of Bicoloured Wrens (the third one had flown away)


Although they are called wrens, these birds are much larger than the wrens we have in the UK. While searching for the wren I was surprised to see a Channel-billed Toucan sitting on a fallen tree, the middle of the open savanna is not where I would expect to see one of these birds and this one proved very confiding, allowing me to approach very close, this rather gave away that it had to be a pet. All the same it was nice to get close to one of these beautiful birds.



Channel-billed Toucan





The Rupununi Savanna at Karanambu


By this time the problem with the car had been fixed, so with some relief we were able to get back on board and return to the lodge for breakfast, getting back around 08:00.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites


Orchid in the garden at Karanambu





Despite the car trouble it had been an amazing morning and I was very happy to have finally seen a wild Giant Anteater, although I would have preferred it to have been in slightly different circumstances, to have just gone out and found one, rather than have it herded to us. However, discussing it over a delicious cheese omelette, we were completely assured that the anteaters are not in any way stressed or harmed by being herded in this way. When the anteater is delivered to you, it is a one shot deal, you need to have your camera ready, if you don’t get the shots for some reason, that’s too bad, once they’ve let the anteater go, they won’t fetch it back for you. Although the anteater had been running it wasn’t running fast, which they can do and it wasn’t making any noises or making any attempt to attack the vaqueros, these animals have huge claws and are more than capable of defending themselves if need be, even jaguars are weary of taking on a Giant Anteater. Besides I’m sure that Diane would not permit the anteaters to be seriously stressed for the benefit of tourists, all that really happens to the anteater once it’s been driven passed the waiting ‘paparazzi’, is that it ends up going in a different direction to where it might have gone, if the vaqueros hadn’t found it. I would also add that in our case, I don’t know what effect our car breaking down had on the process of delivering the anteater and whether the vaqueros had to herd it slightly further than usual or had it not been for the car, whether we would have driven out to where they had first found the anteater.


After much joking with Salvador about the anteater in the corral, I should add in case I ever want to go back to Karanambu, that they absolutely do not keep an anteater corralled at Karanambu. :lol:


Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites


You're right, such a unique creature - could easily be a bloke dressed-up :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since it was still quite early, after we’d finished breakfast, we opted to take a short walk through an area of forest, over to the nearest of the many ponds/oxbow lakes around Karanambu created by the Rupununi River. While walking through the forest we caught a glimpse of some Red Howler Monkeys and Luke spotted a hunting snake, but it disappeared before I was able to see it, however, I did find the lucky Smooth-sided Toad that snake was trying to catch, I imagine the snake didn’t like the taste of this toad much.



Smooth-sided Toad


There wasn’t much happening at the pond so we carried on finding various birds like this White-fringed Antwren




White-fringed Antwren




and this Spotted Puffbird.




Spotted Puffbird





It was a hot walk back through the savanna



This old Triumph hasn't gone anywhere in a while

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Come lunchtime, I decided it might be best not to join Diane in having a pre-lunch rum punch, opting for fruit juice instead for fear that the rum might put me to sleep for the rest of the day. In the afternoon I was happy to relax in a hammock with my book, as during the heat of the day, nothing much would be moving around and there wasn’t really anywhere better to sit, but I didn’t want to fall asleep. After tea at around four, we set off for the boat landing, the boatmen had already gone on ahead, taking the main track/drive we walked down to the river spotting an agouti and some birds on the way.



Red-rumped Agouti




Female White-fringed Antwren





House Wren


When we reached the river we realised we’d come the wrong way and were at the wrong landing. Fortunately there was a track through the forest along the river bank to the right landing; walking along the sandbank to the boat, I was pleased to see that there was a cool box in the boat. Soon after setting off we noticed a flock of wood storks flying overhead. After going some way back down river, we headed up a narrow side channel into one of the Rupununi’s many large oxbow lakes, spotting a nice Sunbittern,





followed by a Boat-billed Heron on the way in.



Boat-billed heron

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Heading down to the end of large lake scanning the bank side vegetation as we went, we drew up alongside a tangle of roots and branches, drifting along very slowly we stared hopefully into this great jumble of sticks. Before long somewhat to our surprise our boatman and guide Jasper, announced that he spotted our target, after plenty of searching through my binoculars I also spotted what we’d come for. There hunting on the lakes edge, hidden amongst the branches was an Agami Heron, one of the world’s most strikingly beautiful herons. Even though it was quite difficult to see in the low light and entirely surrounded by branches, this colourful bird was large enough, that for once my autofocus had no trouble finding the subject and I was able to take plenty of shots as the heron used its long dagger like bill to catch small fish.




Agami heron














Agami Herons are generally pretty secretive and difficult to find, so we were very pleased to have found this one and seen it so well, satisfied at having found our prize, we drifted back out into the middle of the lake and as the sun went down raised a glass of rum punch to the Agami Heron.


Sitting in a boat drifting peacefully across an oxbow lake in the wilds of Guyana at sunset, drinking rum punch watching nighthawks and bats hawking over the still waters, is not a bad way to while away ones time. As well as being home to some pretty big black caiman the waters of these lakes hide other monsters, if you watched the water for long enough every so often an Arapaima would surface to take a gulp of air. The oxbow lakes are somewhat lacking in oxygen, so these fish, the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world. have adapted to breathe air as well as take in oxygen through their gills, consequently they can frequently be seen breaking the surface. Due to serious over fishing Arapaima are endangered across much of the Amazon region, in Guyana where Arapaima are still relatively common positive steps are being taken to conserve these extraordinary fish. A number of these fish have now been tagged to track their movements in the dry season they are basically confined to oxbow lakes, but in the wet season when much of the forest and savanna is flooded they travel further afield. At Rewa Eco-Lodge where we were staying previously. they have introduced catch & release sport fishing for Arapaima, serious anglers can visit one of the oxbow lakes near the Rewa River and with Rovin's help try their luck at trying to catch one of these fish, Rewa is the only place in the world where you can fly fish for Arapaima.


Back at Karanambu after finishing our sundowners on the lake, we made our way back to the lodge in the dark, stopping on the way to watch a freshwater turtle laying its eggs on one of the many sand banks.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Got as far as Day 6 and fully agree with Soukous that this could be a very serious Guyana educational for most people. We listened to the call of the screaming piha and it was wonderful.


My only glimpses so far into Guyana have been through Naipaul and another author called Rahul Bhattacharya (Into the Heart of Guyana). Mostly people based readings, so enjoying this wildlife report very much indeed. Many thanks inyathi for taking so much trouble.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 13


After coffee at 05:30 it was back out onto the savannas, thankfully this time the car did not breakdown. The great open savannas of the Rupununi bear a striking resemblance to the plains of Africa indeed at moments the landscape looked very like parts of the NCA/Serengeti but for one very noticeable difference, Guyana’s plains are devoid of large grazing animals. Where in Africa you would expect to see huge herds of wildebeest, zebras and other herbivores here the grasslands are entirely empty, even of livestock.


Originally Karanambu was established by Diane’s father Tiny McTurk as a balata collecting station, balata is a natural latex rubber that is harvested from the balata or bulletwood tree (Manilkara bidentata), a large forest tree native to large parts of northern South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Local Amerindians would be encouraged to go out into the forests, to tap the balata and bring it to Karanambu, when synthetic alternatives were developed the market for balata collapsed. Karanambu was then turned into a cattle ranch, at one time cattle ranching was big business in Southern Guyana, on the Rupununi savannas huge numbers of cattle were raised and then driven north across the savannas and through the rainforest to Georgetown. However, the grasses on Guyana’s savannas are nutritionally very poor and as a consequence stocking densities have always been by necessity very low. Attempts to introduce better grasses and improve the pastures have so far been unsuccessful; cattle ranching is just not profitable in Guyana, it’s largely for this reason that Diane decided to move Karanambu into conservation and tourism. Karanambu has gone from being a cattle ranch to Guyana’s first privately owned conservation area and the many tourists who have visited over the years, have provided much needed revenue to pay for Diane’s work rehabilitating Giant Otters.


I assume this is why the only cattle we’d seen, were the ones in the corral where we’d seen the anteater the previous morning; in close to 2hrs of driving across these great largely open plains, the only mammal we spotted was a Crab-eating Fox running away from us. Too fast for me to take any photos, when I said it was a crab-eating fox Luke said it was a savanna fox I assumed this was just the local Guyanese name for the same species, but thought I’d check when I returned home. A Google Image search for Savanna Fox didn’t give me quite the results I was expecting; I suppose I should have guessed that Savannah Fox is the name of an adult film star, I did manage to find some photos of actual foxes which confirmed that I hadn’t seen a new species.


While this one fox was the only mammal we saw, we did find some birds starting with this Pinnated Bittern, which seemed to think it was invisible standing behind a clump of grass.




Pinnated Bittern








The Rupununi Savanna a little like the Serengeti but without the wildebeest


Sometime later we spotted a beautiful Short-eared Owl which we watched for a long time quartering over the grassland.




Short-eared Owl



Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eventually we reached are destination, a small patch of marshy ground, that to me looked no different to any of the country that we been driving across, other than being rather wet. Our local guide Jasper got out and after not much searching called to say he’d found our target the Crested Doradito, a tiny yellow bird that while not uncommon in other parts of South America is very rare in Guyana.




Crested Doradito





There are only a few pairs of these birds left at Karanambu and nearly all at this one spot where they are threatened by the frequent fires that people light, which sweep unchecked across the savannas. We also found some Pale-chinned and Yellow-throated Spinetails as well as more Pinnated Bitterns in the distance, however, after a while the swarms of mosquitoes became a little much, so I retreated to the car to enjoy some fruit juice and bananas.








Not far from where we were parked were two little islands of forest/bush, while we enjoyed our snacks the driver informed us that he’d just walked into one of these patches and found some raccoons. Getting back into the car we drove around to the side of one of these forest islands, got out and walked in to this tiny patch of bush and after only perhaps 50 yards or so we found up above our heads, two Crab-eating Raccoons peering down at us. They weren’t particularly happy to see us, but made no serious attempt to get away, not that there was really anywhere else for them to go, having taken plenty of photos of these beautiful animals, we decided to leave them in peace. Crab-eating Raccoons are normally nocturnal, the only one I’d seen before was on a night drive in Brazil, so you don’t often see them in the daytime. I assume this pair must rest during the day in this particular patch of bush and that the driver knew where to look for them, apart from these two tiny islands of bush, there was really nowhere else for them to hide out during the day.




Crab-eating Racoon










I don’t know what this tree is called, but I always wonder when I see a tree like this why it has thorns all over the trunk clearly they are for protection, but against what? My guess is that the thorns are a defence against mammals that are probably now long extinct, part of South America’s extinct megafauna. The thorns would I think deter most animals from trying to climb the tree to get at the leaves or from trying to strip off and eat the bark, but unless I can acquire a time machine from somewhere, I'll never know for sure.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy