Wildlife Holidays in Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana


The Hidden Guianas

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Dossier

The small South American country of Guyana rarely features on most people’s travel plans, but discerning travellers are coming to recognise it as one of the premier wildlife destinations on our planet. Brought into the spotlight by the BBC’s ‘Lost Land of the Jaguar’ series, Guyana offers unique opportunities to spot incredible wildlife such as Tapir, Giant River Otters, Caiman and of course the Jaguar itself. On this trip we head to Karanambu Lodge with its landscape ranging from savannah to wetlands to forest where we take trips on the river, look for birds, monkeys and Giant Anteaters, and experience the overwhelming hospitality that characterises this part of the country. We travel deep into the rainforest to Iwokrama – one of the best places for spotting these cats – and gain a unique perspective of the forest from its amazing canopy walkway, as well as visiting the Amerindian village of Surama to learn more about the lives of Guyana’s indigenous people. In neighbouring Suriname we explore the unique capital of Paramaribo with its superb colonial architecture, and look for freshwater dolphins on the river. We also visit old plantations for an insight into the country’s history, and visit Maroon villages more reminiscent of Africa than South America. French Guiana, an overseas region of France adjoining Suriname and Brazil, makes up the third of the Guianas, known for the Isles du Salut and the Ariane Space Centre. The three combined make for a unique tour within Latin America.


Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●● | Culture ●●●○○ | History ●●○○○ | Wildlife ●●●●●

Tour Pace

Busy

Tour Highlights

  • The flight over Kaieteur Falls, the highest free falling waterfall in the world
  • The varied landscapes and natural beauty of Karanambu with the opportunity to spot Giant River Otters and Giant Anteaters 
  • The pristine rainforest of Iwokrama
  • Meeting the local Maroon people in Suriname
  • Visiting the Iles du Salut and the Guyana Space Centre in French Guiana 

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Lodges and comfortable hotels 
Included Meals: 
Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: 
Maximum of 8 (you may be joined by travellers from companies other than Undiscovered Destinations)
Start Point: 
Paramaribo
End Point: 
Georgetown
Transport: 
4WD, motorised boats, pirogue & domestic flights
Countries: 
Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana

Day 1 – Paramaribo
Arrive in Paramaribo, Suriname’s capital and transfer to your hotel. Overnight at Eco Resort Inn or similar.

Paramaribo
Suriname’s capital looks rather out of place in South America – an unusual collection of architecture that often has you wondering exactly where you are. Located on the banks of the Suriname River, Paramaribo (Parbo to the locals) changed hands a few times between the Dutch and the English in the early days of their involvement in the region, but was under Dutch control from 1815 until the end of colonial rule in 1975. Evidence of this heritage can be seen in the city’s historic district (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), where wooden houses with elaborate and elegant facades line the streets close to the old Fort Zeelandia. Elsewhere African markets vie for space with mosques and Hindu temples and buildings sport Chinese script, all of these reflecting the unique ethnic make-up of the capital and of Suriname itself. On street corners and open air bars look out for men sitting with caged birds – a popular pastime in Suriname is entering songbirds in singing competitions. The population of the city is just 250,000, giving it rather an intimate feel, and the historic inner city is a fascinating place to wander round, with stunning old wooden churches and whitewashed mansions lining the streets.

Day 2 – Danpaati
We head south from Paramaribo by road to Atjoni, and then travel by motorised boat along the Upper Suriname River to Danpaati River Lodge which is situated on an island in the middle of the rainforest. We pass Maroon villages through breath-taking scenery. On arrival you can swim in the pool or the river and relax in the forest surroundings. In the evening we head out on the river in search of Caiman lying on the river banks. Overnight at Danpaati River Lodge or similar. (BLD

Day 3 – Danpaati
Today we will visit one of the twelve villages that are affiliated with Danpaati to learn about the customs and culture of the local Maroon groups. In the afternoon we take a forest walk and learn about the traditional medicinal uses of the plants here. The rest of the day is at leisure with the opportunity to take a dugout canoe around the island or try some fishing. Overnight at Danpaati River Lodge. (BLD)

The Maroons
The Maroon people are the descendants of former runaway slaves who fled the colonial plantations from the end of the 17th century onwards, for a better life in the interior. Most settled alongside rivers, some crossing into French Guyana and customs that they had brought with them from Africa remain largely free from outside influences. A visit to Maroon villages presents an utterly different side of Latin America that is rarely encountered by travellers.

Day 4- Paramaribo
This morning is at leisure at the lodge until lunch, and in the afternoon we depart by dugout canoe for Atjoni and return by vehicle to Paramaribo. Overnight at Eco Resort or similar. (BL)

Day 5– Commewijne Plantations
Today we head to the Commewijne district to the east of Paramaribo across the Suriname River. The tour takes us along the former colonial plantations, most of which are now abandoned. We make a stop at plantation Peperpot where the old coffee and cocoa factory, deputy-director’s house and the old office are located. This former plantation is one of the oldest in the history of Suriname. Peperpot was established by the English and already existed before Suriname was conquered by the natives from Zeeland under the command of Abraham Crijnssen in 1667. This is one of the last plantations still in its original condition.  Peperpot is renowned for the many birds which can be spotted. From here 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 a visit the outdoor museum of Fort Nieuw Amsterdam, with its large fortress which was built as a defence for the crop fields that were situated along the upper parts of both rivers. Overnight at Eco-Resort or similar. (BL)

Day 6- Kourou
Make an early start and travel along the coastal road to the border point at Albina where we will go through the customs and immigration formalities. This is generally very quick and we will soon be on the ferry crossing the Maroni River heading for French Guiana. We will be met by our French guide and transported by road to Kourou where we will join a tour of the Guyana Space Centre. The tour is conducted in French but your guide will provide translations as often as possible. After the tour  transfer to your hotel for the evening. Overnight at Hotel Atlantis or similar. (BL)

Launch schedules are a closely guarded secret so the schedule today may be changed at short notice.

Day 7- Devils Island- Cayenne
What is known as Devil’s Island is actually a triangle of three islands. After breakfast we take a motorised catamaran to our first stop, Ile Saint Joseph. It can be easily walked around in less than two hours before the next stop, Ile Royale. Ironically Devil’s Island is closed to visitors due to dangerous shoreline conditions.

Return to Kourou by catamaran and transfer to Cayenne for the night. This evening will be at leisure for you to explore the capital city. Overnight at Central Hotel or similar.(BL)

Iles du Salut
The islands played a central role in French history from as far back as 1792 when they were used firstly as a transit point for explorers, then slaves and later for political prisoners.  Ile St Joseph is the southernmost island of this notorious former penal colony and the prison buildings here are quite well preserved; you can wander through the cell blocks, dormitories and other structures at leisure and observe Nature slowly reclaiming the land. Ile Royale is the site of the oldest buildings on the islands with an old church, administration buildings, officers’ quarters and today a restaurant and lodging facilities.

Day 8- Paramaribo- Georgetown
Transfer by road to St Laurent de Maroni making a brief stop at the church of Saint Joseph in Iracoubo, to see the interior which was hand painted by one of the convicts from a nearby penal colony. On arrival in St Laurent enjoy a mini city tour making a brief visit to the well preserved Transportation Centre. The facility was the processing centre for the majority of convicts being sent to the penal colonies in French Guiana. Having served their original sentences the convicts were then obliged to serve the same length of time here in an attempt to populate the colonies- perhaps the best known inmate was Papillon. Just offshore lies the wreck of the British steamer Edith Cavel which sank in bad weather in 1924- it is now so overgrown with vegetation that it looks like an island. Make the return journey by pirogue to Albian and continue to the Zorg-en Hoop Airport in Paramaribo for the flight to Georgetown (1630/1645). Transfer to your hotel for the evening. Overnight at Coastal Hotel. (B)

Day 9- Georgetown
This morning we join our chef Delven Adams from the Backyard Café at the fresh produce markets as he shops for ingredients for our lunch later today. While he heads back to prepare lunch we continue on a tour of the capital city, visiting a number of the places of interest including the cathedral of St George, the Avenue of the Republic with its historic buildings, the renowned Stabroek Market and the zoo. We will make our way to the Backyard Café for a delicious lunch. In the afternoon we head to the waterfront to board a water taxi for a  cruise along the banks of the Demerara River. Your guide will give you a brief history of the buildings as we pass and we will continue to the Demarara Harbour Bridge, once the longest floating bridge in the world. As we return to shore with the sun setting you may see Egrets and Scarlet Ibis as they make their way to the Mangroves for the night. Overnight at Grand Coastal Hotel. (BL)

Day 10- Kaieteur Falls
Make a very early start for a visit to the Botanical Gardens where we will hope to see Blood Coloured Woodpeckers which are only found in the Guianas. We will walk along the trails in search of the many other bird species that live in the gardens. Later in the morning we transfer to the airport for a scheduled flight over the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers and hundreds of miles of unbroken tropical rainfall to visit the famous Kaieteur Falls, the world’s highest free-falling waterfall, where the Potaro River drops 741 feet into the gorge below. Afterwards we return to Georgetown for the evening. Overnight at Grand Coastal Hotel. (B)

*On occasion the visit to Kaieteur Falls may need to be re- scheduled.

Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur Falls is a spectacular site, five times higher than Niagara Falls, and one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world. First seen by Europeans in 1870 it was known to indigenous people before this – the legend is that it was named after Kai, a great chief of the Patamona tribe, who canoed over the falls to save his tribe.  Although there are taller and wider falls, Kaieteur’s distinction comes from its combination of both volume of water and height.

Day 11- Iwokrama
Fly over Guyana’s rainforest to land at Fair View Airstrip, from where we transfer to Iwokrama, an incredible region of rainforest with a breath taking diversity of species. Take a boat journey, looking for birds along the way, for the hike to Turtle Mountain, where we walk to the summit (approximately 2 hours) for spectacular views over the forest canopy. The area is home to Red Howler Monkeys, Black Spider Monkeys, and five different eagles. For those who feel that the walk may be too strenuous an alternative boat ride can be taken to Stanley Lake to search for Giant River Otters and Black Caiman. Return to Iwokrama River Lodge for lunch after which we travel along one of the best trails for seeing Jaguar. Sightings cannot be guaranteed but if you are very lucky you may see one of Guyana’s most elusive creatures. Along the road we will look out for a myriad of bird species that frequent the edge of the forest. The road is the only north to south access in Guyana and links the country to Brazil, but there is very little traffic and wildlife such as Agouti, Tayra, Puma, Tapir and Black Curassow are sometimes spotted. We continue to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, 30 metres above the ground, for a different perspective of the forest. We will also spend time exploring the clearing around Atta Lodge, where you will have an excellent chance of spotting the Crimson Fruit Crow, and Black Curassow. Overnight at Atta Rainforest Lodge. (BLD)

Iwokrama
Iwokrama Forest covers nearly a million acres and is home to a bewildering array of different species. Its name means ‘place of refuge’ in the language of the Makushi Amerindians, who retreated here to avoid the predations of the slave trade. Iwokrama was established as a centre for the study of the rainforest and has been set aside to promote sustainable tourism within the region. Wildlife here includes Jaguar, Caiman, Howler and Spider Monkeys, rodents such as Pacas and Agoutis, and Peccaries among numerous other species. The birdlife here is equally spectacular, with Toucans, Macaws, Hummingbirds and the sought after Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock. The forest is in the homeland of the Makushi people, who have lived here and used the forest for thousands of years. Although the forest around Atta Rainforest Lodge is excellent for birds, the major attraction here is a 154 metre long canopy walkway which is only 750m from the lodge.  The walkway has four platforms, the highest of which is over 30 metres above the ground, and these will allow us the opportunity to spot a range of canopy species, many of which we would struggle to see well from the forest floor.

Day 12- Surama
Experience the dawn chorus from the canopy walkway and look out for Red Howler and Black Spider Monkeys. Transfer by vehicle through the rainforest to Corkwood before setting off for the Amerindian village of Surama, stopping on the way at a spot known for sightings of one of Guyana’s most intriguing birds, the Cock of the Rock. We then continue to Surama, where a local guide will give us a tour of the forest and the village, with an opportunity to visit some of the houses, the church, the medical centre and the local school. This evening we head out to experience the forest at night. Overnight in the basic accommodation at Surama Eco Lodge. (BLD)

Surama
Surama is a small Makushi village on the savannah with inhabitants still following time-honoured traditions and relying on the jungle for their livelihood. This isolated and idyllic location offers an escape from the concrete jungle to a serene and peaceful existence with nature. Dawn hikes, led by Surama guides across the savannah and up Surama Mountain, reveal a multitude of birds and fantastic vistas. The guides have lived their entire lives in the rainforest, and have an incredible understanding of nature and how to utilise its resources.

Day 13– Surama Mountain
Rise before dawn and walk across the savannah in the cool morning air to climb Surama Mountain. This is not a technical climb but can be arduous, and for those who prefer not to undertake it the local guides will arrange alternative activities. After lunch back at the village we set off to walk the three miles to the Burro Burro River for a canoe trip, hoping to spot Giant River Otters, Tapir and Spider Monkeys amongst other wildlife. Return to the village for sunset. Overnight in the basic accommodation at Surama Eco Lodge. (BLD)

Day 14 – Georgetown
Take an early forest walk to look for wildlife and birds before breakfast, after which we transfer to to the Rupunini airstrip for a scheduled flight across swathes of tropical rainforest to Georgetown. Overnight at Grand Coastal Hotel. (B)

Day 15 – Tour ends
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

Inclusions:

Arrival and departure transfers
Domestic flights as shown
Transport throughout
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guide
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded:

International flights
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Visas
Drinks

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