If you are interested in doing something extra special for your next vacation, consider immersing yourself in an indigenous community experience and learning local traditions and customs without the need for an interpreter. Because Guyana is the only country in South America where English is the official language, visitors are able to communicate directly with their indigenous hosts.
Far removed from the bustle of the city, community tourism enterprises in Guyana are quite different from most destinations. The majority are owned and managed by local indigenous communities, which ensures that the income from tourism benefits communities as a whole. Other wide-reaching benefits include preserving cultural heritage, fostering cultural pride, and protecting wildlife, bird species and their habitat.
Nine different indigenous peoples call Guyana home. They are proud to share their traditions and their intimate knowledge of Guyana’s complex rainforest and savannah ecosystems with their guests. Host communities are scattered across the vast hinterland, offering a variety of experiences to suit most any traveller’s needs.
The Best of the Best
One of the more popular communities that demonstrates an impressive example of a thriving community-led and owned tourism model is the village of Surama located in the North Rupununi. This was the first indigenous village to embark in community tourism and build its own eco-lodge. The local Makushi community has masterfully curated activities that include multi-day hikes and camping expeditions, river canoe trips, wildlife-spotting, visits to community centers and traditional celebrations. The promotion of local gastronomy using regional produce and preservation of biodiversity are key aspects of the village’s vision of sustainable living. www.suramaecolodge.com
Journey to Rewa Eco-lodge, found in a community that offers an excellent base for exploring the nearby rivers and rainforest. The accommodation here is rustic and close to nature; but on the plus side, you will be in the heart of the rainforest. Numerous day hikes, fishing expeditions and, canoe trips, bird watching treks and wildlife observation trips are offered by the Makushi locals. This area of Guyana was the filming location for much of the BBC’s Lost Land of the Jaguar docuseries. www.rewaecolodge.com
Another amazing experience can be found at Caiman House in the heart of Yupukari Village. It combines a guest lodge and education centre focused on research and conservation projects along the nearby Rupununi River. If you are a history buff, you will be invited to participate in the research of the history and ecology of the black caiman and yellow-footed tortoise species. Other experiences offered include caiman tagging (involving weighing, measuring, tagging and releasing), wildlife spotting, and Village hikes and tours. The accommodation itself is simple, but spacious and comfortably located in the heart of the village. www.rupununilearners.org
Other Indigenous Tourism Experiences not to be missed
Konashen is Guyana’s southernmost indigenous village and is the first community owned conservation area within Guyana’s system of protected areas. It is part of the more expansive High Biodiversity Wilderness Area of Amazonia. The native Wai Wai people here have maintained their way of life for millennia. The community’s guided treks, some including overnight camping, offer total natural immersion in the dynamic rainforest terrain. Bushmasters offers custom tours to the community, and into Konashen Community-Owned Conservation Area. www.guyanatourism.com/local-tour-operators
Aranaputa on the Georgetown – Lethem road, is known for its production of arguably the best peanut butter in Guyana, and one of the many and more successful community initiatives in the North Rupununi. Local guides take guests on expert tours of nature trails and hiking routes familiar to the Makushi for generations. Accommodation is available in the form of an eco-lodge where guests can stay in a thatched roof benab. Following a day of adventure out in the savannahs, the Makushi like to engage visitors in their traditions, culture and cuisine. Most tour operators can arrange trips to Aranaputa: www.guyanatourism.com/local-tour-operators/
Community Experiences near Georgetown
Located closer to the capital city, Georgetown, Santa Mission is set in the sandy savannahs of the Kamuni Creek. It is perfect for experiencing the Arawak way of life. You will get the chance to see weavers and other artisans at work with many of the handicrafts available to purchase. If you prefer to explore, you can take a short journey up the creek to the nearby Arrowpoint Nature Resort: www.guyanatourism.com/arrowpoint-tour/
Moraikobai is one of the more popular indigenous villages found on the coastland of Guyana. Approximately a three-hour journey via land and river from the capital city of Georgetown, the journey is scenic and relaxing. Your tour guides aim to please and offer a variety of options from village tours and highly entertaining cultural presentations to fishing, wildlife spotting, and birding along Moraikobai Franswa Creek. But the best part about this village in interacting with the local indigenous peoples and learning their way of life. Rainforest Tours arranges day tours and overnight visits: www.rftoursgy.com
Guyana is working toward becoming leading sustainable destination. With community-led and owned tourism, locals are at the forefront; providing you with cultural experiences that highlight the people, places, foods, and experiences they find most significant. If you’re seeking truly authentic travels, look no further than Guyana.