Guyana: A Wilderness Paradise
The cotinga capital of the world.
We currently offer this only as a custom tour.
The small South American country of Guyana is somewhat of an oddity in South America. A former British colony, it is the only nation on the continent that is English-speaking. However, the influences of the Caribbean to the north, Brazil to the South, and its Amerindian population give it a truly unique feel. Thanks to its mostly pristine forests and steadily improving tourism infrastructure, Guyana is starting to gain a reputation on the world birding scene as a great place to see rare rainforest birds that are otherwise hard to find elsewhere. Cotingas are especially well represented, from the tiny Dusky Purpletuft to the magnificent and sizable Crimson Fruitcrow, and they will surely be a highlight of this tour.
Keep in mind that Guyana is one of the most expensive countries in South America in which to run a birding tour, so a large group is recommended to keep per-person costs down. While we can run it year-round, it is best to avoid the rainiest months of May-July and December-January. Booking at least six months in advance is recommended.
Day 1: Georgetown. Most flights arrive in the evening, and we’ll spend the night in the capital city of Guyana.
Day 2: Georgetown and Karanambu. We’ll start birding in the nearby Georgetown Botanical Gardens, a great place to see the Guianan endemic Blood-colored Woodpecker as well as Red-shouldered Macaw, Black-crested Antshrike, and others. Later we’ll take a short flight south over vast rainforests to the savanna of the Rupuruni, where we spend two nights at Karanambu Ranch. This is the home of Diane McTurk, widely known for her work rehabilitating orphaned Giant Otters. She now runs the ranch as an eco-lodge, and while staying here we’ll be treated like part of the family.
Day 3: Karanambu. Karanumbu Ranch has an interesting mix of rainforest and savanna. We’ll spend the morning searching especially for the rare Crestless Curassow and the bizarre Capuchinbird, but we’ll certainly stop to look for anything else, like Black-chinned Antbird and Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher. After lunch, we’ll drive out to the grasslands to look for the local Bearded Tachuri among the more common species like Bicolored Wren, White-tailed Goldenthroat, and Brown-throated Parakeet. At dusk we have a great chance to see White-tailed Nightjar and up to four nighthawk species hawking insects at dusk.
Day 4: Karanambu to Annai. We have another morning here before we board boats and head downriver towards the village of Annai. The river journey can be a lot of fun as we may see a variety of kingfishers darting upriver, and raptors like the fish-eating Black-collared Hawk plunge into the water. We have one night in the pleasant Rockview Lodge, where the surrounding seasonally wet savanna is dotted with huge Jabirus and wide-eyed Double-striped Thick-knees.
Day 5: Annai to Surama. This morning we’ll bird a forest-clad hilltop that just might be the best place in the world to see the striking Spotted Puffbird. The relatively open forest is also great for noisy White-bellied Antbirds, staring Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrants, and cute Blue-backed Manakins. After lunch we’ll drive on to Surama, an indigenous village now run as a lodge.
Day 6: Surama to Atta Lodge. A wide trail first passes though some open habitat before entering fantastic tall rainforest. This is the best place on the tour to see some beautiful parrots like Red-fan, Blue-cheeked, and Caica, but we’ll also have our first go at some of the most spectacular antbirds around: White-plumed and Ferruginous-backed. After lunch, we move on to the huge wilderness area of Iwokrama Forest. We hope to stay here for three nights in a brand new lodge being built onsite, but if it isn’t ready we can still bird here while based in one of the other lodges in the area.
Days 7-8: Iwokrama Forest. The star attraction here is the superb metal canopy walkway built out from the side of a hill. Nowhere else is it easier to see canopy specialists such as Todd’s and Spot-tailed Antwrens, Dusky Purpletuft, and Purple-throated and Guianan Red-Cotingas. Even the superb Crimson Fruitcrow, one of the rarest and most sought-after of the cotingas, is seen here regularly. Along forest trails below the walkway we’ll look for understory birds like the beautiful Black-and-red Grosbeak and Black Curassow, as well as a variety of woodcreepers and antbirds. Elsewhere, patches of drier scrub have different specialties like Rufous-crowned Elaenia, Red-legged Tinamou, and Guianan Antwren. One morning we’ll hike to a lek of Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, surely one of the most spectacular birds on the continent. Night drives may be a highlight here, where White-winged Potoo and even Jaguar are seen fairly regularly.
Day 9: Iwokrama Field Station. Today we’ll bird our way north along a forested road to the northern edge of the reserve. The roadside birding is fairly easy and we’ll keep a lookout for Black-faced Hawk while we search for some colorful birds like Waved Woodpecker and Painted Parakeet. We have one night at the superb Iwokrama Field Station on the banks of the Essequibo River.
Day 10: Iwokrama Field Station to Georgetown. We will have a full morning to bird the trails here, looking for any other rainforest specialties that we may still need. This area is one of the more reliable sites for the huge Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo; if we luck into an antswarm, we may have a chance of seeing this near-mythical bird. Other possibilities include Amazonian Royal-Flycatcher and Scale-backed Antbird. After lunch, we fly back to Georgetown.
Day 11: Georgetown. The tour ends this morning as we catch international flights out of Georgetown.
CLIMATE: Warm to hot and fairly humid. February is in the dry season, but some rain is still possible.
DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate. Most trails are flat, but a few are fairly steep.
ACCOMMODATION: The lure of Guyana is the wilderness experience and the wildlife, so you should not expect luxury accommodation. Outside of Georgetown (where there are excellent hotels), the lodging ranges from rather basic at Surama to very good at Iwokrama. Atta has shared bathrooms, while all the others have private bathrooms. At most lodges, electricity is only available for a few hours in the evening by generator.