Experts like the Guyana Amazon Tropical Birding Society contend that there are more than 910 bird species in Guyana. Others like the Smithsonian Institute cite 820 plus species. We feel the quality of the birding is what is most important. Many rare and endemic species can more easily be seen here in Guyana than other neighbouring countries. These include species like the Rio Branco Antbird, Hoary-throated Spinetail, Crested Doradito, Bearded Tachuri, Red Siskin, Sun Parakeet, Harpy Eagle and Crested Eagle. The Cock-of-the-rock, toucan, Screaming Piha and the Hoatzin – Guyana’s national bird – often top the list of birdwatchers as well. The accessibility is epitomised by Georgetown where there are more than 200 species alone. It is no wonder that Guyana is considered by hardcore birders as one of the best birdwatching destinations in the world. Read more here.
The forests of Guyana are known as the best place to spot wildlife. Some of the most popular mammals that will excite the wildlife enthusiasts are jaguars, pumas, manatees, white-faced saki monkeys, sloths, capuchins, tapirs, bats, ocelots, spider monkeys, capybaras, giant anteaters, giant river otters, tamanduas, coatis, red howler monkeys, deer and porcupines.
Key wildlife spotting regions
The extensive grasslands of South and Central Guyana, numerous river basins and the dense rainforests throughout the country make Guyana one of the wildlife hotspots of the world. With an estimated 87% of its forests intact, Guyana is well protected and home to megadiversity. The pristine ecosystems and abundant resources of the Guiana Shield create the perfect environment for some of the world’s most fascinating creatures.
Some of the key regions to spot wildlife in Guyana are the interior savannahs, the highland rainforests, the hilly, sand and clay area and the low coastal plains. The Rupununi grasslands in the country’s interior are home to giant anteaters, capybaras, caimans, tapirs, anacondas and hundreds of bird species, which have a high chance of being spotted, especially if you choose to stay at any of the best eco-lodges of the region.
The Iwokrama Rainforest of the Highland region offers great chances to spot caimans, Harpy Eagles, Jaguars, river otters, Arapaima, sloths, river turtles and many more species. Here too, jungle-flanked eco-lodges like Atta, Surama and Rewa, offer some of the best opportunities to experience the wildlife of Guyana. Hundreds of bird species call the high canopies of greenheart, crabwood, mora and purpleheart trees home.
Other key wildlife areas are the basins of Essequibo, Demerara and other major rivers of the country. The Mahaica River is another hotspot for birders. Kaieteur National Park is home to unique species like the Kaieteur Golden Rocket Frog and the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock. Upstream of the park, new species like the electric blue tarantula, known to the Indigenous Peoples, were still being discovered by Western scientists
The majestic Kaieteur Falls in the namesake national park will leave you awestruck. As one of the most beautiful places in South America, this is the highlight of any trip to the country. Following along the course of the Potaro River, the falls tumbles 741 feet. Almost five times as tall as Niagara and twice as tall as Victoria Falls, Kaieteur is considered to be one of the most powerful single drop waterfalls in the world, and one of the top places to see in Guyana. That is why it has been listed as #2 in the World’s Top 100 Highest Rated Waterfalls list. Your journey to Kaieteur Falls starts with an aerial view as your aircraft circles over the falls and the National Park before landing on a short airstrip. The short nature trail with three vantage points affords you breathtaking views of the falls, each better than the last and all a part of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For those seeking a little more adventure, you can take the thrilling 3 to 4-day overland trek to the falls. It is also possible to overnight at the Falls in the nearby basic guesthouse to experience thousands of swifts coming to roost behind the cascades as night falls and sip coffee at dawn as the mist lifts above the gorge. Read more about Kaieteur here.
Victoria Amazonica —World’s Largest Lily
Guyana’s national flower and the world’s largest lily can be found in lakes and the shallow waters of the Amazon Basin. The leaves extend up to three metres in diameter – which are, surprisingly big and strong enough to withstand some say the weight of a baby. The flowers are white on the night that they bloom and turn pink on the second night.
Black Caiman – World’s Largest Alligator
The black caiman is the largest member of the alligatoridae family. It is a carnivorous reptile that lives along slow-moving rivers, lakes and other freshwater habitats of South America. In Guyana, they are found in abundance in the waters of the Rewa and Rupununi Rivers. These species are monitored and protected by Caiman House Field Station and Guest House in the village of Yupukari. Guests staying at the lodge can opt to join the research crew at nights for caiman spotting and tagging activities. This ongoing study is run entirely by locals.
Giant River Otter – World’s Largest and Rarest Otter
Guyana’s giant river otters are a surprise – the largest in the world. They were first documented at the Karanambu Lodge in the North Rupununi in 1988. World famous conservationist, Diane McTurk, worked tirelessly on rehabilitating otters in this region. Since then, a stable population has been present in the area, providing wildlife enthusiasts an opportunity to observe these rare and extraordinary creatures. Nowadays giant river otters can be seen along expansive stretches of the Rupununi River and tributaries like the Rewa River.
Giant Anteater – World’s Largest Anteater
With small eyes and ears that contrast its large snout, body and tail, the world’s largest anteater is truly an extraordinary animal to see. They are found in the Iwokrama Forest and the Rupununi Savannahs. It takes a trained eye to spot these unique animals, but your chances increase if you stay at Karanambu Lodge, Waikin Ranch or Caiman House in the North Rupununi, or Wichabai and Saddle Mountain Ranch in the South Rupununi. They are known to have been spotted near these establishments more frequently than other sites.
Harpy Eagle-The Most Majestic Bird Of Guyana
Often on the wish list of many birdwatchers, the Harpy Eagle can be found in the untouched canopies of the Kanuku Mountains and Iwokrama Rainforest. Pristine tropical rainforest is the perfect home for this majestic beauty as it offers them ample prey to feed. The Iwokrama River Lodge, Atta Rainforest Lodge, Rewa Eco-Lodge and Surama Eco-lodge make the ideal launch pads to spot this species in the North Rupununi. Along the coast, the magnificent bird can often be spotted near the village of Warapoka.
Arapaima – World’s Largest Scaled Freshwater Fish
The network of Essequibo, Rupununi and the Rewa Rivers are home to oxbow lakes and ponds which house a healthy population of arapaima, the world’s largest scaled freshwater fish. Fishing enthusiasts from all over the world visit Guyana to try their luck at sustainable catch and release fly fishing for the species. As a protected species, this freshwater giant has to be constantly monitored by the village of Rewa and its partner organisations. This conservation effort has helped to restore the arapaima population to well over 4,000 in the area.