Come Enjoy the Pristine Iwokrama Rainforests of Guyana
Practicing mindfulness and being present is of paramount importance. Being able to detach from technology and ubiquitous consumerism and focus on individualism is a concept that most of us only dream about. So why not silence the mind and regain that sense of harmony with nature and childlike peace that was once so familiar? Why not reconnect with the spirituality of immersing yourself in pristine wilderness?
Set within an area of 371,000 hectares, Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development is a globally lauded example of a truly sustainable forest — where environmental conservation and ecosystem services benefit indigenous communities. Whether you stay at the Iwokrama River Lodge, Atta Rainforest Lodge or both, you will be inspired to detach from the hustle and bustle of urban life and reconnect with nature.“The Green Heart of Guyana” is a fitting title as this understated beauty is so much more special than a rainforest getaway. It epitomizes the prolific conservation and community development ethics of Guyana.
From the abundance of bird life singing to the cheerful calls of a large variety of mammals, Iwokrama is home to some of Guyana’s finest bird watching and wildlife spotting experiences. Whether traveling by air or overland, be prepared to be consumed upon arrival by silence only disturbed by the sounds of birds and animals in the distance.
The Makushi Culture
The Essequibo River cuts through the protected area. Although it is usually calm, it transforms into an extraordinary and hauntingly large entity flooding the forests during the green season. Brace yourselves as this is the basis of one of the many stories that the animistic Makushi people of Iwokrama will share. Tales of mischievous, fickle and cunning spirits like Makonaima and Pia will captivate you as will tales of how their spirit god Makonaima created man by wetting wood and how he lost his foot during a battle with a Tapir. The stump of his foot, according to the Makushi people, can be seen if you look up in the sky at Orion’s belt. Their culture is rich and largely untainted, and their patience and accepting nature when communicating their beliefs will make this an immersive learning experience.
Conservation Tourism and Research
As an oasis among the rainforests, Iwokrama River Lodge is an epicenter of Guyana’s scientific research and conservation tourism. Climate change, hydrology, species monitoring and forest mapping are just a few of the projects untaken at the Lodge. What’s even better, local people and resources are involved in every aspect of their work which emphasizes Iwokrama’s commitment to conservation and community development.
Wildlife and Environs
Swimming is usually prohibited and for good reason – the upper Essequibo is home to the iconic black caiman, South America’s largest predator. Other wildlife spotted in the area include the jaguar, capuchin monkeys, and three-toed sloth.
Iwokrama River Lodge’s spacious river facing cabins and Atta Rainforest Lodge’s well-appointed rooms are equipped with all the amenities that emulate a comfortable stay. When it’s time to relax, there’s an amazing wrap-around veranda at Iwokrama River Lodge and lounge area at Atta Rainforest Lodge. Both offer hammocks, perfect for catching a glimpse of the wildlife as the sun goes down or a quick afternoon nap.
There is an array of soft adventure activities that you can do when you visit Iwokrama. From taking an exhilarating hike up Turtle Mountain, a canoe ride down the Essequibo river, wildlife spotting at night, or searching for birds atop the tree line at the Canopy Walkway, there is something for everyone.
Turtle Mountain is a highlight. Depending on your fitness level and the water levels, it takes between an hour and a half to two and a half hours to get to the top of the mountain. Expert guides will highlight fauna and flora enroute. All of the effort pays off at the top. The view of unbroken rainforest is truly a wondrous sight and worth the hike.
Another highlight activity is visiting the Canopy Walkway. The walkway provides a thrilling opportunity to be suspended in the heart of the forest. Here, various species of birds such as the red fan parrot, green aracari, scarlet macaw, Guianan toucanet and channel-billed toucan can be seen and you might be lucky enough to spot white faced Saki monkeys, peccaries or the three-toed sloth.
Canoeing down the Essequibo River can be done on your own and at your own pace under the watchful eyes of the guides. This allows you to take in the environs surrounding the lodge as well as the various species of birds and fish.
As your stay winds down, consider relaxing at Iwokrama River Lodge’s riverside bar and restaurant or Atta Rainforest Lodge’s Parrot-A-Fly Bar where you can relive your discoveries over authentic yet exquisite Guyanese food. You can even take this opportunity to learn more about the culture of the Makushi people. Don’t forget to support the local industry by purchasing fun trinkets or souvenirs to take back home.
Iwokrama is a gem that should be on every traveler’s agenda. Their dedicated efforts to support sustainable community development through conservation tourism preserves the authentic beauty of the land and benefits the indigenous people. Your visit will support both, leaving a positive impact.
Travelling to Iwokrama does not come without its fair share of options. Guyana’s trans-national road passes directly through the Iwokrama Rainforest and provides ground access to both Georgetown and Lethem. Travelers can arrange to be transported by an Iwokrama Vehicle, usually a 4×4, directly from their Georgetown office. This air-conditioned vehicle, paired with an experienced driver and guide will prove satisfying, especially after a quick lunch stop at 58 Mabura comprised of local Guyanese dishes and beverages. Taking into consideration the condition of the road, this option takes about six to nine hours both ways. For larger groups, specific vehicles can be arranged.
Another option is to travel via a public minibus service. Travelers are required to make their own arrangements, so P & A Bus Service in Georgetown is usually suggested. At about 6 pm, the bus will leave Georgetown and travel throughout the night. Then at about 6 am travelers will arrive at the Kurupukari Crossing on the Essequibo River, then join a ferry service. An Iwokrama vehicle will then be designated to make pickups from the Radio Station cottage once the ferry has arrived.
Flying to Iwokrama is much more comfortable. Trans Guyana Airways provides a number of daily flights between Georgetown and Lethem. For travelers that want to have an all-inclusive Iwokrama journey, TGA can arrange stops at Fairview airstrip where an Iwokrama vehicle can pick you up. A maximum number of three persons are required to make this diversion to Fairview.
Large groups of travelers can also charter a flight through Roraima Airwards from Georgetown to the Fairview airstrip which is just 2 km from the Iwokrama River Lodge. Ensure you contact the local airlines for more details on their rates.