Guyana - A True Wilderness!
Saturday 10th November – Sunday 25th November 2012
Guyana really does offer something special, a small South American country nestled on the Atlantic Coast east of Venezuela and west of Suriname, it is one of the last unexplored wild places on earth yet offers incredible access into a great variety of pristine habitats. It is also a land of great contrasts as you leave behind the coastal city of Georgetown travelling into the interior, over vast unspoilt forests and incredible isolated waterfalls. The lure of Guyana is its true wilderness and amazing wildlife with many sought after species easier to see here than any of the surrounding countries. We have worked hard to offer the most complete itinerary available which includes all the top sites visited by other companies but also includes the spectacular Kaieteur Falls, and cutting out long travelling days by staying right at the heart of endangered species such as Red Siskin and the stunning Sun Parakeet. With many brightly coloured Cotingas, the unbelievable Guianan Cock-of-the Rock, Harpy Eagle, the rarely seen Crested Doradito, the strange Capuchinbird and an endless supply of mouth watering species this could be your best trip ever!
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Night in Georgetown.
Day 2 Georgetown – Mahaica River – 11th Nov
This morning, after a well-deserved cup of coffee, we will leave our hotel at 5.00 am
and head eastward along the Atlantic coast to the Mahaica River. This is where you will have your only chance of seeing Guyana’s national bird, “the Hoatzin,” on this tour. This prehistoric bird is found in abundance on this river system along with many other species including the localised Rufous Crab Hawk, Black-collared Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Long-winged Harrier, Barred Antshrike, Silvered Antbird, Striped Cuckoo, Little Cuckoo, Green-tailed Jacamars, Golden-spangled Piculet and a host of other interesting species. Depending on the tide we may be able to check the shoreline for birds such Scarlet Ibis, Greater Yellowlegs, Least, Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers, Whimbrel, Black-belled and Semipalmated Plovers, Short-billed Dowitcher, Tri-coloured Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Little Blue Heron, Snowy and Great Egrets, Magnificent Frigatebird, Royal, Gull-billed and possibly Yellow-billed Terns plus the odd Brown Pelican. We will return to Georgetown for lunch and in the afternoon we will again visit the Georgetown Botanical Gardens to try and connect with any species we may have missed yesterday. With luck, we may see again the rare and elusive Blood-coloured Woodpecker, a bird every birdwatcher wants on their list. This bird is restricted to the narrow coastal plains and is considered one of the Guianan Shield endemics. Night in Georgetown
Day 3 Kaieteur Falls – Iwokrama River Lodge – 12th Nov
After breakfast at our hotel, we will take a chartered flight over unspoilt pristine forest to the Kaieteur Falls, the world’s highest free-falling waterfall. Though Venezuela’s Angel Falls is greater in total height, its filamentous drop occurs by stages, whereas Kaieteur is a single massive, thundering cataract 100 meters wide, created as the Potaro River makes a sheer drop of 228 meters, nearly five times the height of Niagara Falls. The spectacle is even more impressive for its remoteness. It is altogether possible that we’ll be the only persons viewing it. Here, we will hope to find White-chinned and White-tipped Swifts swirling over the gorge, and perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to have our first sighting of the astonishingly colourful Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock or see an Orange-breasted Falcon as it hunts for its favourite prey, the swifts. We should also be able to find the rare Golden Poison-dart Frog that lives in water held in the leaves of Bromeliad plants. After a 3-hour stop at the falls, our flight will continue to Fair-View Village where we will be transferred to Iwokrama River Lodge in the heart of Guyana’s beautiful rainforest. We will arrive in time for a late lunch and afterwards we will bird the trails around the lodge and visit a nearby Capuchinbird lek. To see and hear these strange birds displaying is a truly unique experience. The impressive surrounding forest protects a unique ecosystem in the heart of the Guianan shield where Amazonian and Guianan flora and fauna form one of the highest species biodiversities in the world. Our comfortable lodge has modern cabins each with balconies that overlook the beautiful Essequibo River. There will be plenty to look at with Pied Lapwings, Black-collared and White-winged Swallows over the river as well as a host of species in the surrounding forest edges. With luck we may come across Spotted Antpitta, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Ringed and Waved Woodpeckers, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-necked and Green Aracaris, Guianan Toucanet and possibly Red-rumped Agouti or Weeping Capuchin Monkey. This will be followed by dinner and then an optional boat ride on the river to look for Ladder-tailed Nightjar, Great Potoo, Boat-billed Heron, Black Caiman, Tree Boa and other nocturnal creatures.
Overnight at Iwokrama River Lodge
Day 4 Iwokrama River Lodge – Turtle Mountain – Atta – 13th Nov
Don’t be surprised to be woken up at dawn by the calls of Spectacled Owl or Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon. Then after an early morning excursion on the Essequibo River, we will continue our journey to Turtle Mountain where we will explore the main trail, visiting Turtle Pond and climbing to an elevation of about 900 feet for a spectacular view of the forest canopy below. The trail to Turtle Mountain winds its way through beautiful primary forest where Red-and-black Grosbeak, Golden-sided Euphonia, Orange-breasted Falcon, Blue-and-yellow and Scarlet Macaws, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Cream-coloured Woodpecker Yellow-billed Jacamar, Tiny Tyrant-Manakin, Cinnamon Attila, Black-headed Antbird, Amazonian Antshrike, Ferruginous Antbird, Rufous-crowned Eleania and possibly Brown-bearded Saki Monkey can all be found.
The trail up the mountain is well designed with sturdy handrails to help you walk up at your own pace and the view from the top is indeed breathtaking – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to enjoy nature at its best. We may see a fly-by King Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Short-tailed Hawk or Red-and-green Macaw, while mammals here include Red Howler Monkey and Black Spider Monkey. We will return to River Lodge for lunch and afterwards depart and bird along the road towards Atta Lodge. This is a very productive road as you will see and the birding simply spectacular. In the stunted sandy forest known as Mori Scrub we will look for Black Manakin, while nearby we will search for Ladder-tailed and Blackish Nightjars. From open areas we can check tree tops for the amazing Red-fan Parrot, Dusky Parrot, Red-and-green Macaws and possibly Blue-cheeked Amazon, while forest edges may reveal Lineated and Cream-coloured Woodpeckers, Green-tailed and Paradise Jacamar, Rufous-rumped Foliage-Gleaner, Thrush-like Shiffornis, Grey-winged Trumpeters, Black Curassow and with luck the stunning Guianan Red Cotinga or the even more stunning Crimson Topaz which comes out and fly catches in the early evening.
As evening draws in we will arrive at Atta Lodge. Night at Atta Lodge
Day 5 Atta Rainforest Lodge – 14th Nov
To spend the night at Atta Rainforest Lodge is to spend the night surrounded by pure nature with no sounds but the noise of the forest. At dawn, we will visit the canopy walkway to look for passing flocks of canopy-dwelling species. Time will be spent looking for Todd’s Antwren, Spot-tailed Antwren, Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrants, Guianan Toucanet, Green Aracari, Painted Parakeet, Screaming Piha, Black-headed Parrot, Guianan Puffbird, Dusky Purpletuft, Paradise Tanager, Opal-rumped Tanager, Golden-sided Euphonia, Purple and Green Honeycreeper, Black-faced Dacnis and Black Nunbird. This entire morning will involve birding on the canopy walkway and the trails around the lodge. This wonderful area is famed for its variety of colourful cotingas and if we can locate a few fruiting trees we will be in for an avian spectacle with possibilities of Pompadour, Brilliant, Purple-breasted and Guianan Red Cotinga, as well as White Bellbird and the outrageous Crimson Fruitcrow. Within the forest that surrounds the lodge we can look for Red-legged and Variegated Tinamous, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Cayenne Jay, Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Red-billed Woodcreeper, Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Ferruginous-backed Antbird, Waved, Chestnut and Red-necked Woodpeckers as well as Black Spider Monkey and White-faced Saki Monkey. After lunch, we will spend the afternoon birding on the main road through the Iwokrama Forest. We can try again for Black Manakin and Rufous-crowned Elaenia as well as Blue-backed Tanager, Swallow-wing, Black-chinned, Scale-backed and Grey Antbird, Guianan Streaked Antwren, Amazonian and Mouse-coloured Antshrike, Reddish Hermit, Tiny Tyrant Manakin, Rose-breasted Chat, Black and Red-throated Caracaras, Violaceous Trogon, Golden-winged Parrot and Yellow-green Grosbeaks. While birding along the road, we will also keep our eyes open for the elusive Jaguar and Tapir which is often seen at dawn and dusk. Late evening, on our way back to Atta Lodge, we will use a spotlight to do some night birding, mainly looking for owls and potoos, Beside a small wetland we could find Dwarf Caiman, Uniform, Ash-throated, and Russet-crowned Crakes as well as a Zigzag Heron all of which are difficult. This is a great place to look for potoos but it must be stressed these birds can be very hard to find. Nevertheless there are possibilities for White-winged Potoo, Rufous Potoo, Great Potoo, Common Potoo and Long-tailed Potoo, plus Spectacled and Crested Owl. Night at Atta Rainforest Lodge
Day 6 Atta Lodge – Surama Eco-Lodge – 15th Nov
Today, we will make an early start in 4x4 vehicles for a 30-minute drive to the lek of the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock where we will have our second chance to see this beautiful bird. Hopefully having seen the bird well, we will continue to the Harpy Eagle trail. A 45-minute walk will bring us to the Harpy’s nesting site where the morning will be dedicated to observing Harpy Eagle activity and taking photos. If we are lucky, we may witness the male bringing in prey for the female. Following a satisfying sighting, we will continue back to Surama for lunch and a well-deserved cold beer or cold drink of your choice. Birds in the forest on our return walk may include the shy Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo or Rufous-throated Antbird. This afternoon, we will bird along the forest edges and visit a nearby Great Potoo and Mottled Owl roost. We may find Grassland Sparrow, Wedge-tailed Grassfinch, Rufous-crowned Elaenia, White-throated Toucan, Fork-tailed Palm Swift and at dusk, White-tailed Nightjar, Least Nighthawk, Lesser Nighthawk, Tropical Screech Owl, and Northern Tawny-bellied Screech Owl will be quite likely.
Night Surama Eco-Lodge
Day 7 Surama Area – 16th Nov
At dawn, a walk through the forest will bring us to the Burro-Burro River for a quiet and skilfully-guided paddle, searching the banks for riverside birds including Silvered Antbird, Black-chinned Antbird, White-browed Antbird, Coraya Wren, Buff-breasted Wren, White-banded Swallow, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Guira Tanager, Crane Hawk, and Grey-headed Kite, we will return to the lodge for lunch. After lunch the nearby forest trails around the eco-lodge offer excellent opportunities for birding and swarms of Army Ants may be encountered patrolling the forest floor in search of prey. Species that can be found here include Capuchinbird, Red-legged Tinamou, Black-spotted Barbet, Green Aracari, Black-necked Aracari, Guianan Toucanet, White-tailed Trogon, Murial Guan, Red-throated Fruitcrow, Golden-collared woodpecker, Spotted Puffbird, Yellow-throated Flycatcher, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, Eastern Slaty Antshrike, Tiny Tyrant-Manakin, Golden-headed Manakin, Rufous-throated Antbird, White-plumed Antbird, Scaled-backed Antbird, Wing-banded Antbird, Spotted Antpitta, and even Crimson Fruitcrow and Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo.
Night at Surama Eco-Lodge
Day 8 Surama – Karassabai – 17th Nov
Before dawn and after coffee, tea, and a typically generous breakfast we hop aboard our 4X4’s for the early morning southerly departure for Karassabai Village, a distant border village perched between the northern Rupununi savannahs and Pakaraima Mountains along the Brazilian border. Here is where we are delighted to have a rare opportunity to spot the highly endangered Sun Parakeet. In the early 1990’s, this species was on the brink of extinction due to extreme pressures from the pet trade until local villages took aggressive action to rehabilitate the population. A mere 7 individuals who remained at the time have struggled to regain their previous numbers, but signs are hopeful and current population counts suggest at least 300 birds are thriving in the area today. Karassabai is well off the standard tourist track, offering a government guest house with adequate but sparse accommodations for our group. Nonetheless, local hospitality reigns and when not on the trail looking for the sun parakeet we’ll have a great opportunity to meet and interact with an Amerindian community that sees very few tourists and is eager to share their stories and learn about a world outside their own and maybe offer to show them birds through a scope. We will see plenty of other species during the day but our main focus will be on finding and seeing this gorgeous parakeet.
Night at Karassabai Government Guest House
Day 9 Karassabai – Karanambu – 18th Nov
Today our journey takes us eastward across the Northern Rupununi savannah. The road we follow skirts numerous gallery forests and wetlands areas offering great views of a variety of herons, ducks, Jabiru, possibly Pinnated Bittern, Great-billed Seed Finch, Bicoloured Wren, Gray Seedeater, Grassland Yellow Finch, Yellowish Pipit, White-fringed Antwren, Crested Bobwhite, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Yellow-hooded Blackbird the colourful Orange-backed Troupial and the agile Aplomado Falcon, we may even encounter a Giant Anteater if we are lucky. The drive should take about three hours before arriving at Karanambu Ranch but this depends on what we see along the way. The ranch is run by Diane McTurk, legendary for her work with abandoned Giant River Otters and her gracious hospitality is wholly welcoming. After a welcome rum punch if you so desire we will settle into our traditional clay brick and thatched cabins. In the afternoon we will bird the local forest and some ponds where we hope to see Sunbittern, Azure Gallinule, White-faced Whistling-Duck, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, White-browed Antbirds, Buff –breasted Wren, Pale-tipped Inezia, Blue-backed Manakin, Striped Woodcreeper and maybe Undulated Tinamou. An evening excursion to the open grasslands as the sun sets should see the end of a magical day with Nacunda, Least and Lesser Nighthawks. Night at Karanambu Lodge
Day 10 Karanambu Lodge – 19th Nov
This morning we will start with a cup of Brazilian style coffee before heading out into the Rupununi Savannah by 4x4. As we move across the savannah we will scan the vast wetland areas for the sought after Bearded Tachuri plus Sharp-tailed Ibis, Yellowish Pipit, Pinnated Bittern, Brazilian Teal, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Vermilion Flycatcher, Bicoloured Wren, Double-striped Thick-knee, Burrowing Owl and Maguari Stork. We will also check an area where the rare and localised Crested Doradito was recently discovered. This is also our best chance to see the remarkable Giant Anteater in habitat that is perfect for it and Savanna Fox. Karanambu is a bit of a fabled institution in the Rupununi, having hosted such luminaries as David Attenborough and Gerald Durrell. In the afternoon we have an opportunity to travel on the Rupununi River. This time we will head down river to Simony Lake where we are likely to find Green and Rufous Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Agami Heron, Capped Heron, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Pied Lapwings, Boat-billed Herons, Common Potoo, Band-tailed Nightjars, Bare-necked Fruitcrow and Spot-breasted Woodpecker. With a lot of luck we may come across the secretive Crestless Curassow and we have even seen fresh Jaguar tracks before! In addition we may be lucky enough to see Black and Spectacled Caiman, Giant River Otter, Capybara and many species of monkeys and even the occasional Arapaima or River Stingray. As a relaxing finale to our day we will enjoy sundowners while lazily floating in one of the oxbow lakes watching the huge Victoria Water Lily’s the world’s largest water lily open its flowers. Our sunset boat expedition wraps up with a delicious and hearty dinner back at the Lodge.
Night at Karanambu
Day 11 Karanambu – Dadanawa Ranch – 20th Nov
This morning we will have an early breakfast before hitting the road to Dadanawa Ranch, roughly 90km southeast of Lethem. The drive will take us about 3 – 4 hours depending of what we see along the way. The road is actually a traffic-less sand track meandering across the hilly savannahs with ample opportunities for spontaneous birdwatching stops. We can scan numerous wetland areas for Sharp-tailed Ibis, Maguari Stork, Brazilian Teal, Savanna Hawk, White-tailed Hawk and Long-winged Harrier. Along the way we pass the Amerindian communities of St. Ignatius and Shulinab where the traditional homes and lifestyles of Amerindian Guyana are on display and remind us just how far we’ve come. The end of our journey brings us to the venerable and storied Dadanawa Ranch, some 50,000 acres of, dry scrub, gallery forest and savannah land for cattle grazing, here is where the Giant Anteaters and the beloved Red Siskin are known to be in abundance. The Red Siskin is a much sought after species and our efforts will be concentrated on seeing this special bird, although many other species will be seen on our quest. Dadanawa Ranch figures prominently in Rupununi history and you’ll have an opportunity to meet the people that operate the ranch and make Dadanawa such a unique destination. Accommodations here is basic, but clean and comfortable accented with a unique style of local hospitality. The remainder of the afternoon is free to relax and refresh after a long day on the road. Dinner is a simple, home-cooked affair with local staff and stories of the Ranch’s unique place in Guyana history. Night at Dadanawa Ranch
Day 12 Dadanawa Area – 21st Nov
After a quick breakfast, we depart unusually early this morning in order to reach the hilly region in the southern sector of the Ranch known for its population of Red Siskin. The reason for staying at Dadanawa soon becomes clear as the early morning offers the most realistic chance of seeing this prized species and to travel from Lethem to here would be absurd. The journey can be a memorable adventure in itself, crossing extremely remote tracts of land zigzagged with rivers, muddy gullies, and seemingly-impassable corners of Guyana’s hinterland. With the able and highly experienced expertise of our 4X4 crew, however, we eventually arrive in an area where we begin our walk in search of the siskin and numerous other savannah birds such as Red-bellied Macaw, Burrowing Owls, Buff-necked Ibis, Double-striped Thick-knee, Whit-fringed Antwren, White-naped Xenopsaris, Highland Hepatic Tanager and Red-breasted Blackbird. Returning to our trusty cross country vehicles we return to the ranch in time for lunch and a flexible afternoon schedule permitting additional bird watching around the ranch or an opportunity to explore various corners of this working ranch, including a general store that resembles something out of a wild-west film. Night at Dadanawa Ranch.
Day 13 Dadanawa – Lethem – 22nd Nov
Today we trek northward along Guyana’s solitary trans-national highway, commonly referred to as ‘the road.’ This path once served as the trail for intrepid cowboys driving thousands of cattle from Dadanawa to the port in Georgetown where the beef was exported to supply the Caribbean and other countries across the globe. We’ll enjoy a relaxing lunch along the way to break up the drive, but fortunately for us, the road sees infrequent traffic and therefore serves as an excellent vantage point for birdwatching. With plenty to see we will mainly focus our attention on seedeaters, which may including Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Lesson’s Seedeater, Large-billed Seedfinch, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Chestnut-bellied Seedfinch, Grey Seedeater and Plumbeous Seedeater. This stretch of Rupununi Savannah is also some of the best landscape to catch a glimpse of the Giant Anteater and Savannah Fox. We will spend the rest of the afternoon in Lethem.
Night at Savannah Inn Hotel
Day 14 Lethem – 23rd Nov
Lethem is yet another cowboy town and from our base we have access to the dry scrub and savanna alongside the Takatu and Iring Rivers. Depending on water levels we will either search by vehicle or boat to get us to areas where two highly restricted and poorly known species occur, namely the Hoary-throated Spinetail, and Rio Branco Antbird. We even have the chance of seeing the strikingly pink Amazon River Dolphin. During the day we will search areas of wetlands as well as the dry desert and can expect a variety of species such as Pinnated Bittern, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Cocoi and Capped Herons, Striated Heron, Wood Stork, Limpkin, Double-striped Thick-knee, Wattled Jacana, Marail Guan, Crested Bobwhite, Southern Lapwing, Pearl Kite, White-tailed Kite, Savanna Hawk, Aplomado and Orange-breasted Falcons, Brown-throated Parakeet, Red-bellied Macaw, Caica and Blue-cheeked Parrot, Guianan Toucanet, Striped Cuckoo, Pale-legged Hornero, Cayenne Jay, Fork-tailed Palm Swift, Blue-tailed and Glittering-throated Emeralds, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Golden-spangled Piculet, Guianan Puffbird, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Black-crested and Barred Antshrikes, White-flanked Antwren, Guianan Warbling Antbird, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Yellow-olive, Yellow-breasted, Vermilion, Short-crested and Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Yellowish Pipit, Bicoloured and Buff-breasted Wrens, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Flavescent Warbler, Hooded Tanager, Yellow-rumped Cacique and the beautiful Red-and-Black Grosbeak. Night at Savannah Inn
Day 15 Lethem – Georgetown – 24th Nov
Today, as our Guyana adventure winds down, we will depart Lethem via Trans Guyana Airways, scheduled flight, for Georgetown Ogle International Airport and transfer to our hotel. Depending on our domestic flight time we may have time for a final look around either Lethem or Georgetown. This evening we can enjoy a farewell dinner and review what is without doubt the best tour on offer to this fabulous country.
Night in Georgetown
Day 16 End of Tour – 25th Nov
You will be transferred from your hotel to the International Airport, Guyana, for your departing flight.
Leaders: Steve Bird, Gina Nichol & Ron Allicock
Ground Price: £3395.00 - Georgetown/Georgetown
Airfare: £800.00 (Approx) - UK/UK
Zoothera tour prices explained
Single supplement: £250.00 per person
Deposit: £400.00 per person
Minimum for tour to go ahead 5 and maximum 9.
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin rooms, mostly en-suite, some with shared facilities, all meals from dinner on 10th to breakfast on 16th Nov, all transportation within Guyana, a variety of vehicles including 4x4 Landcruisers, many boat trips, all entrance fees, water and snacks and services of all leaders and local guides.
Not included: International airfare, insurance, drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature
Accommodation: Our hotels and lodges vary in quality but all are within easy reach of the areas we wish to bird. You should not expect luxury accommodation outside of Georgetown, and the lodges we use range from rather basic at Dadanawa, Karassabai, to good and very good Surama, Atta, Karanambu and Iwokrama. Most have private bathrooms while a couple have shared facilities. At some lodges, electricity is only available for a few hours in the evening via generator.
Tour Code: This is a standard birding tour with all day birding. No particular strenuous walks are planned and birding is mostly from open roads, wide tracks and even boats. To see a good amount of endemics and specialities you need to be prepared for full days. We will generally start early and either have an early breakfast or return for breakfast. Lunches will be either picnic or at the lodge depending on our schedule. All in all this itinerary is probably the best available to see a really good selection of Guianan birds, and has been designed to maximise our birding at the right times of day, which will allow for an impressive list. We can expect all types of weathers from warm and hot to cool and showery. Please be prepared for this.
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