In the next instalment of Our Routes series dedicated to sharing travel experiences from our experts all over Latin America, Senior Marketing Executive Laura Radford explored the savannahs and rainforests of mysterious and magical Guyana.
I flew direct from Gatwick Airport on British Airways, with a brief touchdown in St. Lucia.
This was my first time visiting Guyana, but it has ALWAYS been high on my list. Ever since I watched Lost Land of the Jaguar on BBC, I have been intrigued to visit this country rich in culture and biodiversity.
It’s a tough one to choose, as I loved both the Rupununi region and its vast savannahs and wildlife, plus INCREDIBLE sunsets, but I’d have to say the Iwokrama Rainforest region. I have loved rainforests ever since studying them at primary school, and have visited rainforests in Costa Rica & Australia, but I was well and truly blown away by the vastness of the Iwokrama Rainforest in Guyana, it really is an untouched wilderness. As far as the eye can see is pristine, primary rainforest, and it is honestly breathtaking.
There were a few! We had a moment in the middle of the Essequibo River where our boat engine failed just as night fell, and whilst we waited for another boat to collect us, we played Eddie Grant (a famous musician originally from Guyana) and the group all sang along, which was special! However, I’d have to say it was a moment when we were in the Iwokrama Reserve on a night walk, using our torches to spot eye shine on the lookout for nocturnal creatures, when our guide told us all to turn our lights off and we were all just silent in the darkness listening to the noises of the forest and in the moment I think we all fully realised just how alive the rainforest becomes at night, and although you might not see them, the wildlife can definitely see you.
I must also mention an excursion on the Rupununi River as well when we spotted giant river otter. We turned the boat engines off and just watched them for a few minutes as they were hissing and making quite a bit of noise, suddenly we saw a huge caiman and the altercation that followed, let’s just say it was spectacular, straight out of a wildlife documentary. It’s safe to say the otters held their own!
It is so difficult to pick just one as in Guyana incredible experiences are everywhere! But I’d say the moment we spotted our first giant anteater on the Rupununi Savannah. We headed out just as dawn broke on 4×4 jeeps through the vast grasslands, passing amazing termite mounds, and it wasn’t long before we saw the vaquero (Guyanese cowboy) on horseback who had been tracking these creatures since the early hours. As he faded into the distance the giant anteater appeared bounding past the trees and through the grass. It must be said they are not the most graceful of creatures as they actually run on their knuckles, so look a bit gangly, but they are perfectly adapted to live in this region, with an elongated snout for sniffing out the ants and termites, and a sense of smell that is 40 times more sensitive than ours! An impressive creature that was high on my list to spot, so that was pretty memorable!
Whilst I went in the dry season and there were minimal mosquitos, it is always wise to cover up at dawn and dusk with long sleeve shirts and plenty of repellent. I’d recommend packing light ones as it is hot in Guyana and so you will sweat, so the lighter the fabric the better. I also recommend packing a handheld fan, I used mine a lot whilst there to keep cool when out and about, plus I also packed a spray bottle of Permethrin, which is bug spray for fabrics. Great to spray your clothes with for added protection, I even sprayed my mosquito nets! Otherwise just come prepared with open-mindedness and intrigue, as Guyana is a true off-the-beaten track destination that will fascinate you at every turn!
The food in Guyana is INCREDIBLE. As a vegetarian there was nothing short of food for me to eat. Whilst I avoided the national dish of Pepper Pot (Beef stew), I had plenty of other delicious dishes to choose from, including cook-up rice, chow mein, grilled vegetables, fresh exotic fruit. But my favourite dish was Cassava Pone, a sweet dessert made with cassava, coconut milk, brown sugar and flavoured with spices, to me it tasted just like Christmas!
I also really enjoyed walking through Bourda market in Georgetown with chef Delven Adams. This was a fabulously foodie experience, as we were trying all the delightful fruits and treats from the various stalls, including fresh papaya, baby bananas that tasted like green apple, and much more!
The sunsets in the Rupununi are probably the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen. But I think my photo of the Guianan cock-of-the-rock is my favourite from the trip. It was a challenge to photograph him as he was in between the branches and leaves, but we sat and watched him for a while, a flash of brilliant orange amongst the green and brown of the forest. Whilst the cock-of-the-rock isn’t Guyana’s national bird (that’s the hoatzin), it is considered a great find for birdwatchers!
Intrepid. Fascinating. Diverse.