Join Naturalist Journeys on an adventurous tour to Guyana, South America’s hidden gem. This unspoiled wilderness, off the radar for many of our travelers, offers an amazing wildlife experience — birds and mammals simply abound! The substrate here is the ancient granitic Guianan Shield, which, along with the Brazilian Shield to the south of the Amazon River, forms the primeval geologic heart of South America. Tropical rainforests have grown here for millions of years, slowly adapting to differing soil conditions as nutrients leached from the soils. Today Guyana still holds jaw dropping and unending forest, myriad rivers, and expansive savannah. This Guyana wildlife tour also takes a bit of time to explore the vibrant, multi-cultural urban center at Georgetown, and its well-known botanic gardens.
- Expand your horizons and visit one of the few remaining untamed places on planet earth
- Witness members of the odd cotinga family: brilliant Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, wine-and-white Pompadour Cotinga, and elfin Dusky Purpletuft … the birding here is incredible!
- Enjoy cozy casitas at Surama Village ecolodge, where the Mukushi tribe are very proud of their ecotourism efforts
- Watch for rare predators—six of South America’s elusive wild cats patrol the forests here
- Discover the majestic Crimson Topaz Hummingbird, Red Howler Monkey, and Amazonian Motmot
- Cruise down a river in search of Giant Otter, Jabiru, multiple species of kingfisher, Harpy Eagle, and Green-tailed Jacamar
- Experience jaw dropping Kaieteur Falls, travel with local expert guides, and find rare and iconic species
- Support locals who are extremely committed to conserving their forests and wildlife through ecotourism
Day 1: Arrivals in Guyana | Georgetown
Arrive today at Cheddi Jagan International Airport on the outskirts of Georgetown, a coastal colonial city. Georgetown is a modern capital city and the chief port of Guyana. Along tropical, tree-lined streets, the city sports a fascinating mix of British, French, and Dutch colonial architecture.
Guests are met at the airport and transferred to the lovely Cara Lodge. One of the first birds we often see en route is the Rufous Crab Hawk, very much at home in mangroves around the city.
Cara Lodge is a bit of a splurge, and a long-standing tradition for our trips to Georgetown. Built in the 1840s and originally consisting of two houses, the hotel is one of the oldest wooden buildings in Georgetown. It has a long and romantic history … over the years it has hosted many dignitaries, including England’s King George V, who stayed at the house in 1923 and planted the sapodilla tree in the front garden to mark the occasion.
Please note: We have an early departure tomorrow morning. If you are considering a late-arriving flight, you may want to come in a day early to both enjoy this lovely hotel and to rest up from your travels. You will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel regardless of which day you choose to arrive.
Accommodations at the delightful and relaxing Cara Lodge.
Meals are at leisure today, those arriving in time for dinner can gather informally.
Day 2: Mahaica River in Search of Iconic Hoatzin | Botanic Garden
This morning, after coffee and tea service, we leave our hotel early to head eastward along the Atlantic coast, making a few stops along the way to check the mud flats for Scarlet Ibis as they set out to feed at dawn. We continue towards the community of Mahaica where we take a boat trip along the river. Among our targets is Guyana’s iconic national bird, the bizarre and primitive Hoatzin, which is found in abundance on this river system. We also look for a host of other species including the Rufous Crab Hawk, Black-collared Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Long-winged Harrier, Barred Antshrike, Silvered Antbird, Striped Cuckoo, Little Cuckoo, Green-tailed Jacamar, Golden-spangled Piculet, Mangrove Rail, Mangrove Cuckoo, and a host of other interesting species. It’s wonderful to be on the water, but by mid-morning it is hot (thus the need for an early start).
Depending on the water level, we may be able to check the shoreline for Least, Semipalmated, and Western Sandpipers, Whimbrel, Black-belled and Semipalmated Plovers, Short-billed Dowitcher, Tricolored Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Little Blue Heron, Magnificent Frigatebird, Royal, Gull-billed, and possibly Yellow-billed Tern, and Brown Pelican.
We return to Georgetown for lunch and a rest, and then in the afternoon visit the Georgetown Botanical Gardens, an area of parkland with open grass, scattered trees, bushes, and several ponds and wet areas. Raucous parrots and colorful macaws pass overhead as Wattled Jacana tread the lotus plants and water lilies. While the gardens are not elaborate, large trees provide habitat for the Guianas-endemic Blood-colored Woodpecker and other species such as White-bellied Piculet, the gorgeous Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Southern Beardless- and Yellow Tyrannulet, Lesser Kiskadee, Black-capped Donacobius, Yellow Oriole, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Wing-barred Seedeater, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, and plenty of Snail Kite. In the tree tops, we hope to see Red-shouldered Macaw, Orange-winged, Yellow-crowned, and Mealy Amazons, and with luck the Festive Amazon, a parrot species in serious decline due to the illegal pet trade. If the trees are flowering, we search for hummingbirds like Black-throated Mango and Glittering and White-bellied Emeralds. Coming and going to the gardens we see some of the city’s colonial architecture.
Accommodations at Cara Lodge, Georgetown (B,L,D)
Day 3: Off to the Wilds! Kaieteur Falls | Surama Village & Eco Lodge
After breakfast at our hotel, we take a chartered flight over unspoiled pristine forest to Kaieteur Falls, the world’s highest free-falling waterfall, impressive in its remote setting. Though Venezuela’s Angel Falls is greater in total height, its filamentous drop occurs by stages, whereas Kaieteur is a single massive, thundering cascade 100 meters wide, created as the Potaro River makes a sheer drop of 228 meters. These falls are nearly five times the height of Niagara Falls. It’s quite possible that we are the only people viewing it, and pending good weather conditions, we land to see it up close, also viewing birds.
Near the falls, we hope to find White-chinned and White-tipped Swifts swirling over the gorge, and perhaps we are lucky enough to spot Orange-breasted Falcon hunting for its favorite prey, the swifts. There is also a Guianan Cock-of-the-rock lek here, so we have a good chance at our first look at this brilliant species. Along the trail, look carefully to find the rare Golden Poison-dart Frog that lives in water held in bromeliad leaves.
We spend about two hours at the falls, then our flight continues to Surama Village airstrip from which we are driven to Surama Eco Lodge in the heart of Guyana’s beautiful savannah and rainforest. We arrive in time for a late lunch before birding the trails around the lodge and visiting a nearby Great Potoo roost. At dusk we look for White-tailed Nightjar and a few owls.
Tonight, we settle into our simple but comfortable casitas with private bath and open-air ventilation through large windows; mosquito netting keeps you comfortable in your bed. Views overlook the savannah to the encircling mountains?stunning. Meals feature local foods prepared by a well-trained culinary staff … a treat so far out in the wilds!
Accommodations at Surama Eco Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 4: Surama Eco Lodge | Harpy Eagle Trail | Village Life
Don’t be surprised if you are awakened by the dawn calls of Spectacled Owl or Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon and Little Chachalaca. No matter, as we are up early to bird, then take a short drive to the Harpy Eagle trailhead. This trail winds its way through beautiful primary forest where Red-and-black Grosbeak, Golden-sided Euphonia, Orange-breasted Falcon, Blue-and-yellow and Scarlet Macaws, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Jacamar, Tiny Tyrant-Manakin, Cinnamon Attila, Black-headed Antbird, Amazonian Antshrike, Ferruginous Antbird, Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo, and possibly Guianan White-faced Saki Monkey reside. We arrive at the view point where in some years, a Harpy Eagle pair is attending their nest; they are always in the area, here and near the river corridor. We can hope that they are present today!
Back in the village we learn about community conservation efforts. Visit the local school and perhaps the community building for the Guyana Wildlife Club. It was here in the pastoral setting of mountain and savannah that Charles Waterton passed through in 1812. He journeyed in search of the secrets of the useful Wourali poison known as Curare. Waterton was so impressed by this spot that he wrote in his memoirs, “The finest park that England boasts falls short of this delightful scene.”
Surama’s inhabitants are mainly from the Macushi tribe and still observe many of the traditional practices. Our guide takes us on a village tour, an experience most find far more enjoyable than they expect?it’s inspirational how the local people relate to nature and how they see their place in this modern world. We visit the local school, medical center, and church, along with some of the village houses.
As the afternoon cools, a local guide shares knowledge of nature and birding on trails to seek out resident mammal and bird life. See the forest through the eyes of your indigenous guide and learn about the medicinal plants and their uses in the Amerindian culture. The whole experience here is unique.
Tonight we enjoy another walk to observe wildlife and experience the mystique of the forest after dark. We hope to locate the recently split Northern Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, as well as Tropical Screech-Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, White-tailed Nightjar, and both Great and Common Potoos.
Accommodations at Surama Eco-Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 5: Surama Eco Lodge | Burro Burro River
Morning here is a treat … imagine waking so close to the wilds. However, just a step away is fresh coffee and breakfast.
During our stay here, we hope to encounter Red-legged Tinamou, Painted Parakeet, Dusky Parrot, Lilac-tailed Parrotlet, Pale-tailed Barbthroat, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Great and Paradise Jacamars, Black-spotted Barbet, Golden-spangled Piculet, and Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper. The South American clan of antbirds is well-represented here—we look for Northern Slaty-Antshrike, Rufous-bellied, Spot-tailed, and Todd’s Antwrens, Dusky, White-browed, White-bellied, Ferruginous-backed, Rufous-throated, and Guianan Warbling Antbirds, and other birds including Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Lemon-chested and Ashy-headed Greenlets, and Finsch’s Euphonia. Hopefully it won’t be too long before our attention is drawn to the far-carrying, growling song of the bizarre, social lek displaying Capuchinbird. The skilled local guides sometimes know of the territories of these canopy-dwelling birds, their bald heads and strange hump-shouldered appearance an unforgettable sight if we are lucky enough to spot them.
To find all these gems, we might choose to explore the surrounding habitats on trails, or we can venture out in small boats on the Burro Burro River for a quiet and skillfully-guided paddle, hearing the voices of many birds singing, and with luck coming down to the shore. We also search the banks for mammals like Giant River Otter, Tapir, Tayra, Black Spider Monkey, and more.
The Burro Burro River trail is known for reliable sightings of Blond-colored Woodpecker, Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo, Red-legged Tinamou, Guianan Puffbird, Fiery-tailed Awlbill, and Blue-throated Piping-Guan. We count ourselves extremely fortunate if we succeed in getting good looks at some of these more elusive species.
Back in the village, the dining room’s upstairs bar boasts views all around (as well as cold sodas and beer). Local crafts and artwork are displayed here as well. We gather here ahead of dinner to recap our bird list, enjoy the sunset and each other’s company.
Accommodation at Surama Eco Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 6: Atta Rainforest Lodge | Canopy Walkway | Iwokrama Forest
This morning we depart Surama to head to nearby Atta Rainforest Lodge where we spend the next two nights surrounded by pure nature, with no sounds but the noise of the forest. But first, en route, we walk a trail to a Guianan Cock-of-the-rock lek where we hope to have another opportunity to see this beautiful bird as it displays ahead of nesting. We then continue on to Atta for lunch and a well-deserved cold beer or cold drink of your choice.
After a rest, we spend the afternoon birding on the main road through the Iwokrama Forest, just a short distance away. The road has little traffic and makes an ideal place for us to wander at a birder’s pace. The trees are impressive, their height deceiving as we sort through mixed flocks. Thankfully a number of large, loud, and colorful species exist here, including several species of parrots and macaws. We look for Black Manakin and Rufous-crowned Elaenia, as well as Blue-backed Tanager, Swallow-wing, Black-chinned, Scale-backed, and Gray Antbird, Guianan Streaked Antwren, Amazonian and Mouse-colored Antshrike, Reddish Hermit, Tiny Tyrant Manakin, Rose-breasted Chat, Black and Red-throated Caracara, Violaceous Trogon, Golden-winged Parrot, and Yellow-green Grosbeak. While birding along the road, we also keep watch for the elusive Jaguar and Tapir, which are difficult to find but most possible to see at dawn and dusk.
Beside a small wetland we could find Dwarf Caiman, Uniform, Ash-throated, and Russet-crowned Crakes, and Zigzag Heron?all of which are difficult. This is a good night birding route, and there are possibilities for White-winged, Rufous, Great, Common, and Long-tailed Potoos, plus Spectacled and Crested Owl.
Accommodations at Atta Rainforest Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 7: Atta Rainforest Lodge | Canopy Walkway
At dawn, we visit the canopy walkway to look for passing flocks of canopy-dwelling species. Time is spent looking for Todd’s Antwren, Spot-tailed Antwren, Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, Guianan Toucanet, Green Aracari, Painted Parakeet, Screaming Piha, Black-headed Parrot, Guianan Puffbird, Dusky Purpletuft, Paradise Tanager, Opal-rumped Tanager, Golden-sided Euphonia, Purple and Green Honeycreepers, Black-faced Dacnis, and Black Nunbird. The rest of the morning we spend on the grounds, taking in all we can see.
The grounds of Atta Rainforest Lodge are wonderful and support some great post-lunch leisurely birding. This wonderful area is famed for its variety of colorful cotingas and if we can locate a few fruiting trees we are in for an avian spectacle with possibilities of Pompadour, Brilliant, Purple-breasted, and Guianan Red Cotinga, as well as White Bellbird. Within the forest that surrounds the lodge we can look for Red-legged and Variegated Tinamous, Gray-winged Trumpeter, Cayenne Jay, Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Red-billed Woodcreeper, Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Ferruginous-backed Antbird, Waved, Chestnut, and Red-necked Woodpeckers, as well as Black Spider Monkey and White-faced Saki Monkey.
This is one of the best places to see another of Guyana’s “must see” birds: the outrageous Crimson Fruitcrow. This species is seen here on a reasonably regular basis; it often comes to feed in nearby trees. The clearing is also a reliable site for Black Curassow?there is a family party that has become habituated to people and regularly passes by. With reasonable luck, we should be able to add this bird to the impressive list of species we hope to see around the lodge and walkway. Few places in the world rival this experience, with nature so abundant and right outside the door.
A 20-minute walk along a very good trail takes us to Atta's celebrated Canopy Walkway. The trail leads partially up a steep hillside, and from it we step onto a series of suspended walkways and decks, each anchored to a giant rainforest tree. This nearly-level system of walkways carries us to vantage points up to 35 meters high, which overlook the surrounding canopy. From these decks, we train our binoculars and scope on any wildlife we find. Among the 134 bird species recorded at the walkway are Painted Parakeet, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Guianan Puffbird, Green Aracari, Waved Woodpecker, Pygmy Antwren, Guianan Streaked-Antwren, Dusky Purpletuft, Purple-breasted Cotinga, Guianan Toucanet, Pompadour Cotinga, Buff-cheeked Greenlet, Caica Parrot, and a host of other canopy specialists. From this treetop vantage you can sometimes see Red Howler Monkey and Black Spider Monkey, too.
Accommodations at Atta Rainforest Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 8: Black Manakin of the White Sand Forest | Rock View Lodge
This morning as we leave Atta, we walk a trail through a white sand (dry) forest, looking for specialties like Black Manakin. There are some fascinating plants along the way and open skies make for good raptor views.
On our drive to Rock View Lodge, we bird along the forest edges and visit a nearby Great Potoo and Mottled Owl roost. We may find Grassland Sparrow, Wedge-tailed Grassfinch, Yellow-crowned Elaenia, White-throated Toucan, Fork-tailed Palm Swift, and at dusk White-tailed Nightjar, Least Nighthawk, Lesser Nighthawk, Tropical Screech Owl, and Northern Tawny-bellied Screech Owl.
Our host at Rock View Lodge is a local character and very welcoming … the whole place is an oasis. On the grounds we look for Sooty-capped Hermit and tanagers in the fruiting trees. A short walk takes us up to a viewpoint of the surrounding savannah and local airstrip.
Accommodations at Rock View Eco-Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 9: Rock View Lodge to Caiman House Lodge | Northern Rupununi Savannah
Today our journey takes us across the Northern Rupununi savannah. The North Rupununi area of southern Guyana is an extraordinary and pristine natural area. We travel by boat both upstream and downstream to get to varied habitats. Grasslands host Bicolored Wren, while forest patches host Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Guianan Trogon, Blue Ground-Dove, Plain-crowned Spinetail, and Great Antshrike.
We explore the maze of lagoons along the Rupununi River with our hosts in search of Giant Otter, scanning the treetops for family parties of Red Howler Monkey, and the exposed riverbanks for Capybara and Black Caiman. These quiet backwaters are also home to the legendary Arapaima, the largest of all scaled freshwater fish. We visit lakes and ponds crammed with Jabiru, egrets, herons, and other water birds, and blanketed by enormous Victoria amazonica water lilies, Guyana’s national flower. Black-capped Donacobius whistle their entertaining calls.
The river is home to Wood Stork, White-faced and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Stripe-backed Bittern, Least Grebe, Purple Gallinule, and both Capped and Little Blue Herons. The road we follow skirts numerous gallery forests and wetland areas, offering great views of a variety of herons, ducks, Jabiru, possibly Pinnated Bittern, Great-billed Seed-Finch, Bicolored Wren, Gray Seedeater, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Yellowish Pipit, White-fringed Antwren, Crested Bobwhite, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, the colorful Orange-backed Troupial, and the agile Aplomado Falcon. We may even encounter a Giant Anteater if we are lucky.
In the afternoon we bird the local forest and some ponds where we hope to see Sunbittern, Azure Gallinule, White-faced Whistling-Duck, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, White-browed Antbird, Buff-breasted Wren, Pale-tipped Tyrannulet, Blue-backed Manakin, Striped Woodcreeper, and maybe Undulated Tinamou. An evening excursion to the open grasslands should see the end of a magical day with Nacunda, Least, and Lesser Nighthawks.
Accommodations at Caiman House Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 10: Northern Rupununi—Crested Doradito & Bearded Tachuri Quest
This morning we start with a cup of Brazilian-style coffee before heading out into the Rupununi Savannah by 4x4. As we move across the savannah we scan the vast wetland areas for the sought after Bearded Tachuri, plus Sharp-tailed Ibis, Yellowish Pipit, Pinnated Bittern, Brazilian Teal, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Vermilion Flycatcher, Bicolored Wren, Double-striped Thick-knee, Burrowing Owl, and Maguari Stork. We also check an area where the rare and localized Crested Doradito was recently discovered. This is also our best chance to see the remarkable Giant Anteater and Savannah Fox.
In the afternoon we have an opportunity to travel on the Rupununi River again. This time we head down river to Simony Lake where we are likely to find Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Agami Heron, Capped Heron, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Pied Lapwing, Boat-billed Heron, Common Potoo, Band-tailed Nightjar, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, and Spot-breasted Woodpecker. With a lot of luck, we may even come across the secretive Crestless Curassow and we have even seen fresh Jaguar tracks in the past!
Additionally, 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. Colorful butterflies accompany us much of the day.
Our sunset boat expedition wraps up and we return to a delicious dinner back in the restaurant of the lodge.
Accommodations at Caiman House Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 11: Sun Parakeet Excursion | Lethem
We leave early today, heading west towards Lethem to an area known for its gorgeous yellow and orange parrots, colored as their name indicates, as bright as the sun. We leave early, driving straight to Karasabi where we meet local guides that can help us locate the flocks. We ride with them to the Pakaraima Mountains and look for the parrots by road and on a trail. The parrots are social and a specialty of Northeast South America, currently an endangered species due to loss of habitat and pressure from poaching for the pet trade. Ecotourism provides income for locals who watch after this population. We enjoy their company and return to Karasabi for lunch.
Then it’s nap time in the van as our drivers head to Lethem, Guyana’s second largest city, on the Brazilian border.
Accommodations at Manari Ranch (B,L,D)
Day 12: Fly to Georgetown
This morning we enjoy our last breakfast and a birding outing to find a few more gems, the Rio-Branco Antbird and Hoary-throated Spinetail.
We then depart Lethem on the afternoon flight back to Georgetown’s Ogle International Airport on a scheduled flight that takes about 90 minutes. Soak in the vast expanse of green, Guyana’s tropical rainforest.
We have a chance to clean up, enjoy the luxury of air-conditioned rooms, and a final dinner at our hotel in Georgetown. Dinner is at your leisure tonight since your guide does not travel back with you to Georgetown. There is someone to meet you however, and you can order drinks and dinner as you wish?on your own or joining others from the group, and pay with credit card at the end of your stay.
Accommodations at Cara Lodge Hotel (B,L)
Day 13: Departures from Georgetown
Today you depart Guyana. We arrange to transfer you to the airport in good time for your check in time and departure.
Photo credits: Banners: Sun Parakeets by Leon Moore; Kaieteur Falls by Narca Moore-Craig; Red Howler Monkey by Leon Moore; Giant Anteater by Peg Abbott; Birding Walk by Peg Abbott; Atta Canopy Walkway by Noel Snyder; Capped Heron by Peg Abbott; Banded Longwing by Narca Moore-Craig; Black-capped Donacobius by Narca Moore-Craig; Georgetown Market by Narca Moore-Craig; Guianan Cock-of-the-rock by Dave Weaver; Hoatzin by Greg Smith; Karanambu Airstrip, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Jabiru, Barry Ulman; Butterfly, NS; Rufous Crab-Hawk, LM; Black-capped Donacobius, NMC; Hoatzin, LM; Scarlet Macaw, Cliff Hensel (CH); Yellow-rumped Cacique, Noel Snyder; Kaieteur Falls, NMC; Wattled Jacana, Mike Boyce (MB); Surama Village x3, PA; Harpy Eagle, PA; Blue-and-yellow Macaw, PA; Giant Otter, Bud Ferguson, Tayra, Mukesh Ramdass; Tropical Screech-Owls, MB; Lesser Nighthawk, Sandy Sorkin (SS); Atta Walkway, NMC; Purple Honeycreeper, PA; Rufous-tailed Jacamar, PA; Great Potoo, Greg Smith; Red Brocket Deer, PA; Zigzag Heron, PA; Spectacled Owls, SS; Green Aracari, CH; Green Honeycreeper, MB; Black Curassow, CH; Jabiru, PA; Group Walk, PA; Pygmy Kingfisher, PA; Spider Monkey, PA; Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, PA; Sunbittern, PA; Capped Heron, PA; Burrowing Owls, LM; Sun Parakeets, LM;Group with Anteater, Peg Abbott; Red-necked Campephilus, Noel Snyder; Orchid, Narca Moore-Craig; Botanic Gardens, NJ Stock (NJS); Exploring by Truck, NJS; Jabiru, Noel Snyder; Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, Dave Weaver; Boat Trip, NJS; Surama, Narca Moore-Craig; Green Kingfisher, Peg Abbott; Group at Plane, NJS; Giant Anteater, Peg Abbott; Black-capped Donacobius, Bud Ferguson; Group, NJS; Scenic Road, NJS; Birding from Ridge, NJS; Group with Lilies, NJS; Group Birding, NJS; Group, NJS.