Monday 18th November - Sunday 1st December 2019
Guyana is 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 and really offers the visiting birde something special. 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 in any of the surrounding countries. Our tour takes in all of the top sites beginning with the Mahaica River where we can see Scarlet Ibis and Hoatzin before checking out the botanical gardens in Georgetown where Blood-coloured Woodpecker and White-bellied Piculet could wel be the highlights. The spectacular Kaieteur Falls are next as we travel to some of the best situated lodges you can imagine - Surame Eco-Lodge, Atta Rainforest Lodge and Iwokrama River Lodge. We will see a huge variety of species that include many highly sought-after rarities such as the spectacular Sun Parakeet and Red Siskin. Zoothera only use the very best local guides and you can rest assured that your money will go to help Guianan owned lodges and local communities. If you want to see cotingas, parrots, Guianan Cock-of-the Rock, Harpy Eagle, the rarely seen Crested Doradito or Capuchinbird and an endless supply of mouth-watering species then this could be your best trip ever!
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Day 1 Arrival in Georgetown, Guyana - 18th November 2019
Today is purely an arrival day in Georgetown, Guyana and no activities are planned. Night in Georgetown.
Day 2 Mahaica River - Botanical Gardens
This morning, after a well-deserved cup of coffee, we will leave our hotel 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 visit the Georgetown Botanical Gardens, an area of parkland with open grass, scattered trees, bushes and several ponds and wet areas. Here we will target several special birds starting with the Guianian Shield Endemic Blood-coloured Woodpecker, as well as White-bellied Piculet and gorgeous Spotted Tody-Flycatchers. Rusty-margined Flycatchers areeverywhere, and we also hope to see Southern Beardless and Yellow Tyrannulets, Lesser Kiskadee, Black-capped Donacobius, Yellow Oriole, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Wing-barred Seedeater, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Black-collared Hawk, plenty of Snail Kites, and in the treetops hopefully Red-shouldered Macaw, Orange-winged, Yellow-crowned and Mealy Amazons, and with luck Festive Amazon, a species in serious decline due to the illegal pet trade in parrots. If the trees are flowering we will search for hummingbirds such as Black-throated Mango, and both Glittering and White-bellied Emeralds. After an action-packed day we will return to our hotel in plenty of time for a delicious dinner and time to reflect on all of the great birds we have seen today! Night Georgetown.
Day 3 Kaieteur Falls – Surama
After breakfast at our hotel, we will take a chartered flight over endless unspoilt pristine forest to Kaieteur Falls, one of the world’s highest free-falling waterfalls. Kaieteur is a single massive, thundering cataract 100 meters wide, created as the Potaro River makes a sheer drop of 228 meters, nearly three times the height of Niagara Falls and twice the height of Victoria Falls. The spectacle is even more impressive for its remoteness and it is most likely that we’ll be the only people 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 see a spectacular Orange-breasted Falcon as it hunts for its favourite prey - the swifts. After a 3-hour stop at the falls we will continue to Surama Eco-Lodge and the grassland along the way can hold Lesser Elaenia, Wedge-tailed Grassfinch, Savanna Sparrow and amazingly a good population of Ocellated Crakes! These tiny birds may be vocal but seeing them presents one of the biggest challenges in birding and we are still working on our many strategies for securing a view of this near-invisible species. The forest here holds a wealth of species and we will search for Rufous-capped Antthrush, Spotted Antpitta, Cinereous Tinamou, White-browed, Rufous-throated and White-plumed Antbirds, Eastern Slaty Antshrike, White-chinned and Black-banded Woodcreepers, Amazonian Royal Flycatcher, Spotted Puffbird, Grey-crowned Flycatcher, Capuchinbird, Buff-cheeked Greenlet, Greyish Mourner, Cayenne Jay, Blue-backed Tanager, Caraya and Buff-breasted Wrens, Golden-spangled Piculet, Guianan Toucanet and Fiery-tailed Awlbill. Along the river we could find Grey-rumped, Short-tailed, Band-rumped and with luck Chapman’s Swifts, White-banded Swallow, as well as Crane Hawk, Grey-headed Kite, Green Ibis, Amazon, Green, Green-and-rufous and American Pygmy Kingfishers, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Long-billed Starthroat and White-fringed Antwren. We will then return towards dusk so we can search for Least and Lesser Nighthawks around the lodge and if we do not see White-tailed Nightjar tonight then we will have a good chance near the lodge and during the daytime tomorrow. An optional short night walk might also find us the resident Mottled Owl. Night at Surama Eco-Lodge.
Day 4 Harpy Eagle Trail
This morning we will drive the short distance to the main dirt road and we will take a 45-minute walk along the Harpy Eagle trail which will bring us to the Harpy’s nesting site and once here 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 birding our way back to the road. Birds can be elusive in this forest but we can search for the shy Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo, Great and Little Tinamou, Rufous-throated Antbird, Grey Antbird, Rufous-bellied Antbird, Wing-banded Antbird, Scaled-backed Antbird, Chestnut Woodpecker, Golden-headed Manakin, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Pink-throated Becard, Black-spotted Barbet, Paradise Jacamar, Black-necked Aracari, Murial Guan, Green-backed Trogon, Golden-bellied Euphonia, Todd’s Antwren, Guira, Flame-crested, Opal-rumped and Spotted Tanagers. Returning for lunch we will again take a short rest in the heat of the day before walking to a nearby area that offers us the chance of roosting Great Potoo, plus Moriche Oriole, Red-bellied Macaw, Brown-throated Parakeet, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Blue-chinned Sapphire, Black-throated Mango, Scaled Pigeon and even Sulphury Flycatcher. Night at Surama Eco-Lodge.
Days 5 - 6 Surama - Atta Rainforest Lodge
This morning we will leave Surama and check a few forest edge streams to see if we can locate the highly elusive Zigzag Heron. We also have chances for Grey-necked Woodrail and Ash-throated Crake. After a final birding session we will depart and bird along the road towards Atta Rainforest Lodge. This is a very productive road as you will see and the birding simply spectacular. In the stunted White Sand forest known as Mori Scrub we will look for Black Manakin, Rufous-crowned Elaenia, Cinnamon Attila, and nearby we will search for Ladder-tailed and Blackish Nightjars. This is also a fantastic opportunity to spot the magnificent Jaguar, but obviously a lot of luck is also involved. 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, and both Painted and Golden-winged Parakeets, while forest edges may reveal Lineated, Waved, Yellow-tufted, Golden-collared 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 where an optional night walk into the forest will target the much sought after White-winged Potoo.
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, Great Jacamar, Paradise Tanager, Opal-rumped Tanager, Golden-sided Euphonia, Purple and Green Honeycreepers, Black-faced Dacnis, Long-billed Gnatwren 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, Spangled, 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, Painted Tody-Flycatcher, Ferruginous-backed Antbird, Guianan Warbling Antbird, White-crested Spadebill, 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 Antbirds, Guianan Streaked Antwren, Amazonian and Mouse-coloured Antshrikes, Reddish Hermit, Tiny Tyrant Manakin, Rose-breasted Chat, Black and Red-throated Caracaras, Guianan 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 surprisingly are often seen at dawn and dusk here. 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, Great Potoo, Common Potoo and Long-tailed Potoo, plus Northern Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, and both Spectacled and Crested Owls. Night at Atta Rainforest Lodge.
Days 7 - 8 Atta Lodge - Iwokrama River Lodge - Turtle Mountain
Today we will once again check the area around the lodge for any target species we may have missed before heading out for a 30-minute drive to the lek of the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock where we have a very good chance to see this beautiful bird. Other species may also be seen and previously we have had Long-tailed Potoo on a day roost here. Afterwards we will set out on the journey to Iwokrama River Lodge in the heart of Guyana’s beautiful rainforest. We hope to arrive in time for a little birding on the nearby forest trails around the lodge and hopefully 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 very 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, Black Caracara, Swallow-wing and possibly Red-rumped Agouti or Wedge-capped Capuchin Monkey. This will be followed by dinner and then an optional boat ride on the river to look for night-life such as Ladder-tailed Nightjar, Great Potoo, Boat-billed Heron, Black Caiman, Amazonian Tree Boa and other nocturnal creatures.
Don’t be surprised to be woken up at dawn by the calls of Spectacled Owl or Barred 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, Red-and-green and Scarlet Macaws, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Cream-coloured Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Jacamar, Dusky Purpletuft, Tiny Tyrant-Manakin, Golden-headed Manakin, Black-headed and Black-chinned Antbirds, Amazonian Antshrike, Ferruginous Antbird, and possibly Brown-bearded Saki Monkey can all be found. From the lookout we have our best chance of seeing the spectacular Orange-breasted Falcon. 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 breath-taking – 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 have even encountered the mighty Harpy Eagle on a previous tour! After a picnic lunch and more excellent birding we will return by boat to the lodge. Nights at Iwokrama River Lodge.
Days 9 - 10 Iwokrama - Doradito Marsh - Caiman House
This morning we will take one of the forest trails in search of the very elusive and hard to see Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo, as well as a variety of other forest species such as Dusky-throated Antshrike, Chestnut-rumped and Plain-brown Woodcreepers, Brown-bellied, Grey and White-flanked Antwrens, Cinereous Antshrike, Channel-billed Toucan, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, and with luck we may even find an Amazonian Pygmy-Owl. Our journey then takes us eastward across the Northern Rupununi Savanna. The road we follow skirts numerous gallery forests and wetland areas offering great views of a variety of water birds including Cocoi Heron, Maguari Stork, huge Jabiru, possibly Pinnated Bittern, Azure Gallinule, Double-striped Thick-knee, Bicoloured Wren, Grey Seedeater, Grassland Yellow Finch, Yellowish Pipit, Crested Bobwhite, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Yellow-hooded Blackbird and the agile Aplomado Falcon. Savanna Hawk, Great Black Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Northern Caracara and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures should also be present and we may even encounter a Giant Anteater if we are lucky. The open grasslands eventually take us through to a small area of forest and to Caiman House where we have 2 nights. On our first afternoon we will take a leisurely boat trip on the river beside our lodge. Here we are likely to find kingfishers including both Green-and-Rufous and American Pygmy, the superb Agami Heron, Capped Heron, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Pied Lapwings, Boat-billed Herons, Large-billed Tern, Black Skimmer, Pale-legged Hornero, with luck Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Spot-breasted Woodpecker and with even more luck we may come across the secretive Crestless Curassow. 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. At the end of our day we may see Band-tailed Nightjars and possibly Nacunda Nighthawk and Common Potoo. Our next day we have the chance to see many species including Blue-backed Manakin, Pale-tipped Inezia, White-bellied Antbird, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Finch’s Euphonia, Ochre-lored Flatbill and even Tropical Screech-Owl. We will then set off into the Savanna in our 4x4’s in search of several seldom seen birds, namely Crested Doradito and Bearded Tachuri, both of which like to keep low down in short grasses close to water. The rare and localised Crested Doradito was only recently discovered here and we have a very good chance of finding it. Other species on our morning hit-list include Sharp-tailed Ibis, Yellowish Pipit, Pinnated Bittern, Brazilian Teal, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Vermilion Flycatcher, Bicoloured Wren, Double-striped Thick-knee, Burrowing Owl, Maguari Stork and Savanna Fox. This is also our best chance to see the remarkable Giant Anteater in habitat that is perfect for it. Night at Caiman House.
Day 11 Caimen House - Karrasabai - Sun Parakeet Day Trip
Today we head for Karassabai Village, a distant border village perched between the northern Rupununi Savannas and Pakaraima Mountains along the Brazilian border. Here is where we are delighted to have a rare opportunity to see 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 seven individuals remained at the time and the population has 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, nonetheless local hospitality reigns and when not on the trail looking for the parakeets we’ll have a great opportunity to meet and interact with the Amerindian community here. They see very few tourists and are eager to share their stories and learn about a world outside their own and maybe we will 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. Hopefully after seeing the beautiful Sun Parakeet we will head out towards the rodeo town of Lethem. Small patches of forest again give way to open grassland savanna and the main road sees infrequent traffic and therefore serves as an excellent vantage point for birdwatching. We will keep a look out for species such as Orange-backed Troupial, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Pied Water-Tyrant, Red-breasted Blackbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Buff-necked Ibis, Southern Lapwing, Pearl Kite, Zone-tailed Hawk, and also focus our attention on seedeaters, which may including Yellow-bellied, Grey, Plumbeous, Ruddy-breasted and Lesson’s Seedeaters, and both Large-billed and Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finches. This stretch of Rupununi Savannah is also some of the best landscape to catch a glimpse of the Giant Anteater and Savannah Fox. We have more opportunities for Azure Gallinule and previously we have even found Giant Snipe in this area, although we would have to be lucky to find this again. Later in the day we will arrive at our delightful accommodation just outside of the cowboy town of Lethem. Here we have a little time to relax and enjoy the local hospitality as we have an early start tomorrow. Night at Manari.
Day 12 Red Siskin Day Tour to Sandcreek
Today we will have to leave the lodge very early in our 4x4’s. Roughly 90km southeast of Lethem the drive will take us about 3 hours depending of what we see along the way. The road is actually a trafficless sand track meandering across the hilly savannahs with ample opportunities for spontaneous birdwatching stops. We can scan numerous wetland areas for Maguari Stork, Brazilian Teal, Savanna Hawk, White-tailed Hawk and Double-striped Thick-knee, and even Bearded Tachuri. 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. We will meet one of our local guides here that has been studying the rare and localised Red Siskin, a bird only discovered in Guyana in 2000. The Red Siskin is a much sought-after species by birders and our efforts will be concentrated on seeing this special bird, although many other species will be seen on our quest. In the surrounding areas we could find Little Chachalaca, Black-collared Hawk, Amazonian Scrub Flycatcher, Plain-crested Elaenia, Pale-tipped Inezia, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Brown-crested Flycatcher, White-naped Xenopsaris, Burnished-buff Tanager, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Glittering-throated Emerald, Black-crested Antshrike, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Hooded Tanager, Vermilion Flycatcher and Flavescent Warbler. Making our way back across the savanna we will arrive a tour lodge by late afternoon. Night at Lethem.
Day 13 Irang River Area - Georgetown
Another early morning start we have us leave our delightful base where we have access to the dry scrub and savanna alongside the Takatu and Iring Rivers. Once again our 4x4’s will come into play as we have to get to an area where two highly restricted and poorly known species occur, namely Hoary-throated Spinetail and Rio Branco Antbird. These two birds will be our main focus and once we have succeeded in finding them we will make our way back towards Letham, checking areas of wetlands as well as the dry desert for 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, South American Snipe, Wattled Jacana, Marail Guan, Crested Bobwhite, Southern Lapwing, Pearl and White-tailed Kites, Savanna Hawk, Aplomado Falcons, Brown-throated Parakeet, Red-bellied Macaw, Guianan Toucanet, Striped Cuckoo, Pale-legged Hornero, 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, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Yellow-olive and Ochre-lored Flatbills, Vermilion, Short-crested and Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Yellowish Pipit and Orange-backed Troupial. Once we are back in Letham we will make our way to Lethem airport for our return flight back to Georgetown where we will overnight. Night in Georgetown.
Day 14 End of Tour - 1st December 2019
Today we will transfer to Georgetown and our international flights home.
Leader: Ron Allicock and Nick Bray
Ground Price: £4250 - Georgetown/Georgetown
Airfare: £650.00 - £950.00 (Approx) - UK/UK
Single supplement: £250.00 per person
Deposit: £500.00 per person
Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 3 and maximum 8.
Included in cost: Accommodation in rooms, mostly en-suite, all meals from dinner on 14th Sept to breakfast on 27th Sept, all transportation within Guyana, domestic flights, a variety of vehicles including 4x4’s, boat trips, all entrance and land owners fees including Surama Harpy Eagles conservation fee, Surama Village visitors fee, Yupukari Village village fee, Iwokrama Forest User Fee, Iwokrama Canopy Walkway fee, Kaieteur National Park fee, bottled water and daily 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. Most of them have private bathrooms but at some lodges, electricity is only available for a few hours in the evening via generator. At Atta Rainforest Lodge facilities are shared. Hot water may not be available at some lodges, and you will find showers are set at 'tropical temperature'.
Tour Code: This is a standard birding tour with all day birding. No particular strenuous walks are planned and birding is mostly from open flat roads, wide tracks and boats. The walk at Turtle Mountain is the most strenuous although we do take it slow and in its steepest parts there are handrails to help climb the last few forest steps. To see a good amount of endemics and specialities you need to be prepared for full days, so 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. We can expect all types of weathers from warm and hot to cool and showery, so please be prepared for this. Several days we have the opportunity to relax for a few hours during the heat of midday. A very important factor in running a tour to Guyana is to use local operators and local guides as your money will go to the local guides and communities.
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