The Guianas

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Day 1: Arrival in Suriname

Upon arrival in Suriname, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Overnight in Paramaribo, Suriname.

 

Day 2: To French Guiana, Saint Laurent Du Maroni

We have morning at leisure before we set out along Suriname's coastal road to the border station. Upon crossing the border, we will travel by motorized canoe crossing the Maroni River into French Guiana, arriving in St Laurent du Maroni. We will make a brief visit to the well-preserved Camp de la Transportation. The facility once served as the transit point for slaves and indentured servants imported from overseas, and later for political prisoners and convicts. We will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before continuing on to Kourou, making a brief stop to visit the church of St Joseph in Iracoubo. The entire inside of the church was hand-painted by a convict from a nearby penal settlement and well worth the stop.

We will have our welcome dinner tonight.

Overnight in Kourou, French Guiana.

 

Day 3: Guiana Space Center

After an early breakfast we transfer to the Center Spatiale Guyanaise (Guiana Space Center) for a tour. Launch schedules are a closely-held secret so our schedule today may be amended on short notice. The usual tour includes a motorcoach tour which crisscrosses the center's mammoth facility, including stops at various assembly buildings, launch pads and control centers. Although the tour is offered in French, our guide will supply translations throughout. We will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and an afternoon at leisure.

Dinner and overnight in Kourou, French Guiana.

 

Day 4: Salvation Islands

What is commonly referred to as "Devils Island" is really a triangle of three islands - Îles Salut, or the Salvation Islands - seven miles off the coast of Kourou. After breakfast at the hotel, we sail west aboard a catamaran towards our first stop, Île Royale. The islands played a central role in French history as far back as 1792, when they were first employed as a transit point, first for explorers, then for slaves and later for political prisoners and convicts. Île Saint-Joseph is the southernmost island and was known as the silent island as inmates were not allowed to speak to either the guards or fellow convicts. Papillion claimed to have spent two years in solitary here. St. Joseph was known as the ‘man-eater’ for obvious reasons.

Île Royale is the largest of the three islands and housed the largest collection of buildings, as the commandant and officers were mostly stationed here. It was also the island where the guillotine was used on about fifty occasions. The prison buildings here are quite well preserved, and we can meander at will through the cell blocks, dormitory buildings, and other structures while taking photographs or simply soaking in the powerful ambience. The officer's bungalows are at the top in the middle of the island and there are also the many different kinds of cells, from the lightly guarded to the solitary confinement ones where the convicts were not even allowed to see the light of day. We will spend the night in the former officer's mess on the island.

Dinner and overnight on Île Royale.

 

Day 5: Île Royale and Île Saint-Joseph

Today after breakfast we will have a final tour of Île Royale, making a full walk around the island. We will visit the children’s cemetery where the guard's children were buried. They are the only burials on the island as space was not available to bury the adults, nor the convicts. They were buried at sea near the islands to encourage the sharks and discourage the convicts from trying to escape.

This afternoon we will pay a visit to Île Saint-Joseph which is the southernmost island and is home to striking incarceration facilities that make up this notorious penal colony. We leave the silent island and then reboard the catamaran for the return to Kourou, and transfer to our hotel.

Dinner and overnight Kourou, French Guiana.

 

Day 6: To Suriname, Danpaati River

We transfer to St. Laurent for a boat crossing to Suriname and onwards to Paramaribo, where we continue our nature and cultural experience. After travelling a distance of approximately 190 km you arrive at the village of Atjoni. We join a motorized canoe, where will travel up the Upper Suriname River, famous for its breathtaking rapids, to our river lodge located in the heart of the rainforest. Upon arrival, there will be time to sit back and enjoy the views into the surrounding rainforest or take a swim in the Suriname River.

Our day comes to an end with an exciting cruise on the river, looking for black caiman lying on the river banks.

Dinner at overnight at Danpaati River.

 

Day 7: Pikin Slee Village, Rainforest Walk

Today we will visit one of the 12 villages that are affiliated with Danpaati. Pikin Slee is located 30 minutes by boat from Danpaati. You will be introduced to the unique way of life of the local population and to the wonderful traditions brought from Africa by their ancestors. After the tour, we then visit the Maroon Museum Saamaka which is dedicated to the cultural heritage of the Saramak Maroon population. In the museum, you will learn more about Maroon’s history, their ancient traditions and crafts. After the tour, we return to the lodge for lunch.

In the afternoon, we will discover some of the secrets of the rainforest during our walk. Afterwards, you could choose to enjoy a massage done in a combination of traditional and Western techniques. There are also other possibilities to explore in the surrounding area. We can go fishing or take the dugout canoe around the island.

After dinner, we will enjoy a traditional and cultural dance performance. Traditional dances such as the Seketi, Awasa and Bandamba will be performed by the local population. Our guide will explain the cultural significance of each dance.

Dinner and overnight at Danpaati River.

 

Day 8: Frederiksdorp Plantation

This morning we will have some time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings before departing by dugout canoe to Atjoni and then back to Paramaribo by vehicle. Our journey takes us to Frederiksdorp, which was established as a plantation in 1747. The first owner was a German from Prussia, Johan Friedrich Knoffel. In 1775 the plantation was cultivating 92 hectares of coffee which would have had a value of 370,000 guilders, and nearly 200 slaves worked on the plantation. From 1873 the plantation was worked by nearly 100 Javanese and Hindustani contract laborers and at that time they shifted production to mainly cocoa.

That same year a police station was established, consisting of the commissioner’s house, a prison (the cells are still intact), the residence of the district commissioner and 7 official's dwellings which are now six apartments for guests. Under the apartments you can find hammocks for relaxation.

The plantations Johan-Margarethe and Rest and Work are small village communities, which can be reached by walking or by bike.

Dinner and overnight at Frederiksdorp.

 

Day 9: Kronenburg and Marienbosch Plantations

Today we will have a historical tour of the estate, a village walk to Kronenburg Plantation with a stop at Marienbosch Plantation. We will enjoy a swamp tour, or in season a turtle tour (February – August), and this afternoon enjoy a dolphin spotting tour.

Dinner and overnight at Frederiksdorp.

 

Day 10: Peperpot Plantation, Fort Nieuw Amsterdam, Paramaribo

Today we continue to the Commewijne district which is situated to the east of Paramaribo, across the river. We make a stop at Peperpot Plantation where the old coffee and cocoa factory, deputy-director’s house and the old office are located. Peperpot was established by the English and already existed before Suriname was conquered by the natives from Zeeland in 1667. This is one of the last plantations still in its former original state. On the plantation you can still see coffee and cocoa plants as well as an ancient shed and factory, the manager’s residence and a kampong (worker's living area). Peperpot is renowned for the many birds which can be spotted.

From Peperpot, we make a stop at the mini-museum of Marienburg, a former sugar plantation, before enjoying a delicious lunch in a typical Javanese restaurant (warung) in Tamanredjo. We then continue to the confluence of the Commewijne and Suriname Rivers at Nieuw Amsterdam. Here we will visit the outdoor museum, Fort Nieuw Amsterdam. The large fortress was built by the British as a defense for the plantations that were situated along the upper parts of both rivers.

We continue on to the capital city of Suriname, Paramaribo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002. We will have a guided tour, where we will see the former Fort Zeelandia, the Presidential Palace, the Independence Square and many other monuments. The buildings are a true representation of the colonial history of Suriname. Our stroll takes us along the Waterkant, the bank of the Suriname River and through the Palm Gardens. We will also see a mosque right next to a synagogue.

Dinner and overnight in Paramaribo.

 

Day 11: Flight to Kaieteur Falls

This morning we take a short flight to Georgetown where we will have a scenic flight to Kaieteur Falls. Upon arrival we will check in to our guesthouse which has basic facilities but is situated right beside the mighty waterfalls.

At Kaieteur, be on the lookout for greater yellow-headed vultures and rufous-crowned elaenia. The famous Kaieteur swifts are seen above the river - the most numerous are white-chinned swifts that flicker in large flocks at a great height, among them a few significantly larger white-collared swifts. White-tipped swifts are more readily identified by their clearly delineated white throats. The bird everyone wants to see at Kaieteur is the Guianan cock-of-the-rock, which is often seen at a lek site on the way to the first lookout.

Dinner and overnight in Kaieteur.

 

Day 12: Flight to Apoteri, Rupununi River, Rewa River Community

The early morning mist of Kaieteur gives way to a fantastic view of the falls. Johnson’s View affords a full-frontal vista of the falls. We will have a look for the Guianan cock-of-the rock and the golden frog. The frog spends its entire life from tadpole to maturity in the bromeliad. We will also listen to tales of ‘Old Kaie’, who is said to have saved his people from the warlike Caribs by sacrificing himself sailing over the falls. We then have a short flight to the village of Apoteri where we will board a boat and travel along the Rupununi River with opportunities to see wild giant river otters and black caiman.

We then head out on the river again, passing locals fishing and bathing in the river, until we reach the Rewa River and the Amerindian community of Rewa. The surrounding area is rainforest, mountains and oxbow lakes which are teeming with wildlife, birds, and fish. In 2005 the community constructed the eco-lodge so that they could establish a sustainable eco-tourism business. The eco-lodge where we will be staying is owned and operated by the community.

We take a short boat ride where we will see the Victoria amazonica, the world’s largest water lily and the national flower of Guyana. The leaves that float on the water grow up to 3 meters in diameter with a submerged stalk of 7 to 8 meters. The flowers which bloom at dusk are white on the first night. By the third night, they change color to pink and also change to a male flower. The golden colors across the pond at dusk combined with birds coming into roost provide a lovely nature experience.

Dinner and overnight in Rewa River.

 

Day 13: Exploring Rewa River

After breakfast take a boat up the Rewa River and then a 15-minute hike to Grass Pond. This lake has a beautiful setting and allows us to see the Victoria amazonica water lily again. It has a good population of arapaima (reportedly the highest density in Guyana), the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world, and you can also fish for peacock bass.

We will take a guided walk through the community of Rewa to see how the locals live. We will visit the villager’s houses where we can experience their everyday life and see activities such as grating cassava, weaving baskets and tending kitchen gardens.

This afternoon we will travel up the Rewa River to a location known as Seawall, where river turtles come to lay their eggs. Along the river banks, we may see red howlers, squirrel and brown capuchin monkeys.

We continue up the river and then hike through the rainforest to an area where we can observe the Goliath bird-eating spider, the largest spider in the world by mass and size. The practice of calling theraphosids "bird-eating" derives from an early 18th-century copper engraving showing one eating a hummingbird. Despite its name, it is rare for the Goliath bird-eating spider to actually prey on birds. In the wild, they have been observed feeding on rodents, frogs, toads, lizards and even snakes.

On our way back to the lodge by boat, we will stop for a sundowner and dinner on a sandbank. This will undoubtedly be one of the many magical memories that you will take with you from your stay at Rewa.

Dinner and overnight in Rewa River.

 

Day 14: Iwokrama Canopy Walkway

This morning we journey to The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, situated near the southern boundary of the Iwokrama Reserve in central Guyana. The walkway has four suspension bridges leading to three platforms, the highest of which is over 30 meters above the ground, which allow for great sightings of canopy species, many of which you would struggle to see well from the forest floor. Amongst the likely highlights are painted, brown-throated and golden-winged parakeets, caica parrots, Guianan puffbird, waved and golden-collared woodpeckers and spot-tailed, Todd’s and ash-winged antwrens.

Another area where we will want to spend some time is the clearing around the lodge, as this is one of the best places to see another of Guyana’s “must see” birds, the crimson fruitcrow. This species is seen here on a reasonably regular basis, as it often comes to feed in some of the nearby trees. The clearing is also a reliable site for black curassow, as there is a family party which has become habituated to people and regularly passes through the clearing. We will stay overnight at a charming rainforest lodge located just 500 meters from the base of the Canopy Walkway.

Dinner and overnight at Atta Rainforest Lodge.

 

Day 15: Bird Watching and Wildlife at Iwokrama Canopy Walkway

Before dawn, we will return to the canopy where we can birdwatch easily and may see rufous-throated sapphire, green aracari, pygmy antwren and Guianan streaked-antwren. With some luck, Guianan toucanet, pompadour cotinga, buff-cheeked greenlet and a host of crown specialists may come within our view. From this treetop vantage, you can sometimes see red howler and black spider monkeys.

Apart from the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway itself, you can enjoy a wildlife and birdwatching walk on the trails around the area. For those interested in botany, many of the trails have the key tree species marked. Many bird species, stunning insects, noisy amphibians, and playful primates make the surrounding forest their home. Deer, tapir and agouti are also regular visitors to the lodge. Serious birders will want to search the undergrowth for the rarely seen rufous-winged ground-cuckoo.

As darkness falls on the walkway, you may see the white-winged potoo. Night walks are also possible and something interesting or new always seems to pop on the scene along the transnational road near the lodge.

Dinner and overnight Atta Rainforest Lodge.

 

Day 16: Rupununi River to Karanambu Wetlands and Savannah

Enjoy the sights and sounds of the jungle on your early morning stroll that includes the Canopy Walkway before returning to the lodge for breakfast. Next, we will be escorted by skilled guides on the Awariku Lake for bird and wildlife spotting. Egrets and ibises are regular sightings and there is also the possibility of seeing giant river otters and black caiman. Paddle through a creek in some lowland forest and come out into the Rupununi River to our next lodge at Karanambu.

Karanambu, a 110-square mile former cattle ranch located in the North Rupununi, was the home of the late Diane McTurk, a conservationist and a world-renowned expert on giant otters. Known for its expansive wetlands and savannah, as well as its biological and cultural diversity, Karanambu encompasses savannah, marshy ponds, riparian forest, and a 30-mile stretch of the Rupununi River. Karanambu is located roughly in the middle of this beautiful and fascinating biological hotspot where species like the giant otter, black caiman, jaguar, giant anteater, and arapaima can be found. The number of species found here is much higher than expected given its size, with at least 600 species of birds and over 200 species of mammals. The seasonally flooded savannahs and forests also draw substantial fish migrations with as many as 700 species of fish — more than anywhere on Earth.

This region is rich in history and is the homeland of the Makushi and earlier peoples, dating back more than 7,000 years. Several prominent explorers and naturalists have written about their experiences here, including Robert and Richard Schomburgk, Charles Waterton, Evelyn Waugh, Gerald Durrell, and David Attenborough.

With both the river and the savannahs close at hand there is a wide variety of activities to be enjoyed at Karanambu. You are free to determine what you want to do based on your interests, the time of year and whether the guides have found anything especially unique and interesting to see. Two guided excursions are provided each day - one early in the morning and another late in the afternoon and into the evening. As well as being the coolest times to be out, these are usually the best times to see the different birds and animals. Trips may be on the river by boat, on the savannahs by 4 x 4, or along forest trails on foot to the different ponds in the area.

Late in the afternoon, we will travel by boat to look for wild giant river otters and, as dusk falls, to the ponds to see the giant Victoria amazonica waterlily bloom at dusk. On the return trip, we will spotlight for black caiman, birds and other creatures of the night.

Dinner and overnight at Karanambu.

 

Day 17: Exploring Karanambu Birds and Wildlife

This morning we make an early start to an area of rolling grasslands, home to a population of giant anteaters. With luck, we shall locate one of these six-foot long animals excavating its breakfast from one of the termite mounds that stud the savannah. Though giant anteaters live in overlapping home ranges they are mostly solitary except during mother-offspring relationships, aggressive interactions between males, and when mating. Mother anteaters carry their offspring on their backs until weaning them.

We have an evening river excursion or the option for bird watching, where you can explore woodland patches or gallery forest along the river. A feature bird for the area is the agami heron. An evening walk along the airstrip offers seven species of nightjar, and among the grasslands the double-striped thick-knees.

Dinner and overnight at Karanambu.

 

Day 18: Caiman House Field Station

We then transfer to 4x4 trucks to visit the village of Aranaputa, where we will have a tour of their peanut butter factory and a visit to the school for a short cultural presentation.

We continue down the Rupununi River by boat to the Amerindian village of Yupukari and Caiman House. We will stay at the Caiman House Field Station, a combination guest-lodge and education center focused on research and conservation projects along the river. The Field Station is the hub of several participatory development projects, including the introduction of classroom libraries in all three village schools and an Internet-enabled public library. Visitors may have the opportunity to meet local craftspeople, including the furniture builders at Yupukari Crafters, a nonprofit venture to create village jobs and generate income to sustain educational development.

As a guest, we have the unique opportunity to support and participate in an ongoing field study of the black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), the largest member of the alligator family and an endangered species. We are invited to accompany the Indigenous crew as they search for and capture black caiman on the river. Guests will be offered the opportunity to assist in data collection. The caiman are weighed, measured, sexed and tagged before being released back into the river. The research has already discovered interesting information on the caiman's nests and diet.

Dinner and overnight at Caiman House.

 

Day 19: Karanambu to Georgetown

In the event you did not see a giant anteater the previous morning, there is time to travel out to search the savannah again. You can either explore the Rupununi River in search of wild giant river otters, black caiman and arapaima, making a boat journey along quiet stretches of a river or take a trail walk to several of the honey ponds in the area. We return to the lodge for breakfast before our departure.

We take a flight over the Essequibo and Demerara Rivers and hundreds of miles of tropical rainforest to land in Georgetown where we will check in to our hotel. We will enjoy our farewell dinner in an elegant colonial atmosphere, followed by an evening with a local guest speaker who will give a presentation on Guyanese culture.

Dinner and overnight in Georgetown.

 

Day 20: Depart Georgetown

We say farewell to the Guianas today as we make our way back to the airport for our flights homeward.

 
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