Posts tagged "Guyana"

Tag Archives: Guyana

Ultimate Guyana Adventure

By


Better late than never!

We have been a little reticent about posting blogs due to our major move from Ecuador to South Africa. Finally our container arrived and most things are now installed. We love it. Quite simply it is spectacular here in Betty’s Bay in the Western cape.

Earlier in the year we took two groups, once again to Guyana – that seldom talked about, English speaking country nestled in the north-east corner of South America between Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela. Why it is so often overlooked on people’s lists of a fabulous tropical/wildlife destination remains a mystery to us. The two trips were different, the first a more tried and tested Pete Oxford Expeditions trip and the second (a closed trip) was a hard hitting, short, intense look at key areas with some very important conservationists from the world stage.

Once again the country did not disappoint and wildlife was all we hoped it would be ranging from spectacular looks at giant anteaters, giant river otters, myriad birds, huge black caiman, a plethora of tree boas and the world’s largest spider, the Goliath bird eater.

Change is afoot in the country with massive oil and gas reserves recently discovered offshore. With production soon to begin Guyana is hailed by some as becoming the richest country per capita in the near future.

Today Guyana stands proud as one of the most pristine countries in the world with a massive tract of intact primary rainforest cover still standing. The FAO estimates 71% of total land area is forest with a further 17% cover of ‘other wooded land!”

Without doubt oil and gas revenues will be a blessing or a curse and need to be carefully applied and distributed for the sake of the wellbeing of the peoples and biodiversity. We remain attentive.

In the meantime, in April of 2020 we again have two trips planned. We have chosen to deviate from the norm and highlights will include actually staying overnight at the super-impressive Kaieteur Falls, which believe me is stunning and quite a privilege.

Apart from the savannas. We also plan a 4 night stay, in hammocks, under a permanent roof with good food in one of the very best wildlife areas. It is remote and very seldom visited. We hope to see harpy eagle close to camp as well as snorkel in the clear-water river! It is an adventure and not for the feint hearted. My best memories of the country have come from these areas!

Have a look at the two links:

https://www.peteoxfordexpeditions.com/guyana-adventure-2-13-april-2020/

https://www.peteoxfordexpeditions.com/guyana-adventure-16-27-april-2020/

Join us, if you dare!!

The Undiscovered Jewel – Guyana

By


I have lived in Ecuador, South America for 32 years and have travelled the continent extensively. One destination that retains an inexplicable calling is Guyana.
Having published arguably the two most important coffee-table books on the country I have been privileged to have traveled its length and breadth by road, boat and helicopter. The continent’s only English-speaking country, Guyana is virtually pristine and rich in biodiversity including a ‘full house’ of the South American giants. An undiscovered jewel it is, with good reason, a firm favorite in our suite of expeditions.

Pete Oxford Expeditions is proud to jointly lead many trips with the Oceanic Society a USA based conservation NGO, the first in the states to be dedicated to ocean conservation. This was no exception and after assembling the group at Georgetown’s colonial Cara Lodge we headed out the following morning in our privately charted Cessna caravan aircraft to land at Guyana’s most iconic destination – Kaieteur Falls. This stunning waterfall, set in the wilds of a pristine forest is the world’s highest single-drop waterfall, several times higher than Niagara at 741 feet. With a choice of spectacular lookout points and no barriers whatsoever the experience transports the visitor back to an ageless time when Nature was still in charge. As if that was not enough, in the falls we absorbed ourselves in finding the endemic golden frogs at the base of the leaves of the humongous and omnipresent giant bromeliads.

Before returning to the aircraft we ducked into the forest to the well-known lek of one of the country’s most flamboyant birds. We easily spotted the gaudy, bright orange male Guyana Cock-of-the-Rock on his favorite perch. Obligingly he let each of us photograph him in his element offering various poses as we did so.

Taking off from the dirt strip at the falls the pilot offered both port and starboard sides an intimate aerial view of the Potaro River thundering over the escarpment as we turned north to Fairview and the Iwokrama forest. Checking in to the Iwokrama Lodge on the bank of the mighty Essequibo River our first call was to Sankar – a huge black caiman that has been hanging around the dock for many years. Portrait photography of this living dinosaur was spectacular as his prehistoric gaze stared down the barrel of the lens to be immortalized in an image.

Iwokrama has been well studied scientifically and is well known for its huge biodiversity. Many species are endemic to the Guyanan shield on which the lodge sits and are different from the main Amazon rainforest. This is of particular note to birdwatchers who ‘flock’ to the area for new ticks on their list.
On our boat ride on the river, using a spotlight we found many more caimen, some roosting birds including the very attractive capped heron and two tree boas hunting for food.
From Iwokrama we had elected to leave to our next destination – Atta Lodge and the Canopy walkway – via open truck at night along the ‘main road’. Although the dirt track is indeed the main artery connecting the coast to the interior and the Rupununi Savannas it travels in a virtual straight line through primary rain forest. It has become the best spot in Guyana to see jaguars. We had a good spotlight, drove slowly and had our eyes peeled. Although I’ve seen quite a few on this road before, this time we were not so lucky and the jags remained elusive.

At first light, we hiked the 500 meters from our lodge to the canopy walkway – a series of 3 platforms some 30 meters in the canopy. We spent the morning looking at the birds that came through and listened to the unmistakable, megaphonic, sounds of howler monkeys.
From Atta we were preparing to drive to a spot from where we could hike into the forest to hopefully find a harpy eagle – the most powerful eagle in the world. Camera packs were already loaded in the vehicle when, unbelievably, an adult harpy flew right into camp! A harpy in the hand, was definitely worth one in the bush so we stayed and marveled at the one that had come to us.
Our next stop was Rewa – an Amerindian owned and operated eco-lodge. Rewa is known for its healthy population of arapaima, another South American giant and one of the largest fresh water fish in the world. It was not always so, but once the community realized that the population of arapaima was dwindling they initiated a self-imposed moratorium on fishing these fish for 5 years until the population was seen to increase. Arapaima are territorial and obligate air-breathers, meaning that they periodically break the surface to gulp air. Individual fish can therefore be identified by size and sex to the trained eye. Hunting with bow and arrow the fishermen can then selectively take individual fish in a sustainable manner. Their entire project has been heralded as a conservation success and numbers are once again at a high level. We spent an afternoon at one of the well-known arapaima lakes, surrounded by giant water-lilies and waiting for the huge fish to break the surface, gulp and roll.

Boat trips on the river from Rewa also showed us several troops of monkeys, a plethora of herons, large-billed terns and black skimmers. Night walks produced many smaller animals and birds not least of which were a dozen or so pink-toed tarantulas!
Our last stop was to be the famed Karanambu lodge – home of the ‘otter lady’ the late Diane McTurk. A legend in her own lifetime Diane had dedicated the latter part of her life to rehabilitating giant otter orphans back to the wild. Steeped in tradition and the true spirit of pioneers Karanambu is a delight and worthy finale. Through a combination of walks and boat rides, we could secure great views of many bird species and of course giant otters. These, the longest otter species in the world, are highly endangered throughout most of their range with Guyana being one of the last strongholds of the species. Highly social animals they are very efficient predators and seem to be able to catch a good-sized fish any time they put their mind to it.
Perhaps the highlight of Karanambu however was our early morning sojourns by 4×4 out into the Rupununi savannas. With a local vaquero (cowboy) on horseback to guide us we always managed to get excellent views of one of the animal kingdom’s most bizarre denizens – the giant anteater. A strange animal indeed, somewhat laterally flattened the shaggy beast walks awkwardly on large claws that it uses to break open hard termite mounds whereupon it squats on its haunches to lap up the teeming insect with its long sticky tongue.

The camaraderie of a great group, lively meal time conversations and the wonder of new life-time experiences our 2018 Guyana trip lived up to expectations. I miss it already!

Over Guyana

By


The Essequibo River is the longest river in Guyana, and the largest river between the Orinoco and Amazon. Rising in the Acarai Mountains near the Brazil-Guyana border, the Essequibo flows to the north for 1,010 km through forest and savanna into the Atlantic Ocean.

I’m looking forward to getting back in the air and doing some more flying over Guyana! Presently in Georgetown, the capital which lies below sea level and defended from the ocean by a Dutch-built sea wall. It’s tropical, very tropical here right now and I’m guessing even hotter than Hades.

This small country, the third smallest in South America, is highly diverse, largely due to the stunning variety of topography. With Suriname, Venezuela and Brazil for neighbors it is surprising that English is the official language making travel easy. Less than 1,000,000 call Guyana home and most of those live on the thin coastal strip involved in the rice or sugar cane industries. Anything inland of the coast is known as the ‘Interior’ and a huge percentage of Guyanese have never crossed its threshold. A shame indeed as nearly 75% of the country is still intact, composed of distant and dramatic Tepuis, savannas dotted with extensive wetlands and millions of hectares of beautiful primary rainforest where jaguars can  be seen regularly!

The objective this time, after having published one successful book on the area is to show off this diversity, from the air, to wow the Guyanese and hopefully to instill a sense of pride in their country. Without that basic requirement, we believe, conservation is not possible. Working in collaboration with WWF Guyana and the Guyana Defense Force helicopter crews we have a lot of work ahead of us and I intend to post as regularly as an internet connection allows. Wish us luck!

Pete Oxford

Wai Wai

By


It was a place I never expected to reach. In the deep south of Guyana, while working on images for an aerial photographic book on the country, we took off from Dadanawa Ranch, once the largest privately owned ranch in the world and across the expansive South Rupununi savannahs to the edge of the rainforest. Flying further south, over a dense and pristine canopy of green, the massive palm thatched cone of the communal hut (benhab) of the Wai Wai stood proud above the foliage. Our direction of flight first took us over the now seldom used community center on the edge of a great bend in the Essequibo River offering a sense of serenity, calm and belonging. Where the human footprint still looked small against a backdrop of wilderness – rare sight in today’s world. We landed our chopper at Gunns, in the Konashen region amongst the community buildings. Now missionarised the Wai Wai are a small indigenous group of Guyanese Amerindians living close to the border of Brazil. The Wai Wai hold title to a now protected area of 2300 square miles and still retain a deep sense of cultural identity. Despite their western apparel and hunger for possessions from the developed world, they maintain a strong affinity with the forest, relying on it to provide food and building materials. Indeed, a privilege to visit such a remote community who have received few visitors but hope, one day, to host foreign tourists to be able to showcase the incredibly diverse fauna that includes regular sightings of jaguars.

Pete Oxford