Travelling through Guyana’s impenetrable jungle can mean going blissfully off-the-grid – no phone connectivity and no Internet! But there’s definitely a new connection that begins where the cell connection ends. One with nature and the fantastic wildlife of the country. The dense jungles and river systems make for perfect habitats for some iconic animals like the elusive jaguar, the giant anteater, capybaras, black caimans and one-of-a-kind birds such as the harpy eagle and cock-of-the-rock. Guyana has more than 900 species of birds, 225 species of mammals, 880 species of reptiles and more than 6,500 species of plants and trees! This amazing abundance and diversity gives the country a reputation as one of the best wildlife destinations in South America. The most unusual species of Guyana have been given the moniker of ‘Giants’, and it’s every adventurers’ dream to explore the ‘Land of the Giants’ in search of these amazing creatures.
Jaguar – King of the Jungle
The elusive jaguar is probably the most famous animal in South America. It is one of the largest cats and the top terrestrial predator to stalk the continent. According to the Audubon Magazine, “the Iwokrama Forest may be the best place in the world to spot a wild jaguar”. Jaguars are found all through the country, especially along the rainforest belt in the heart of Guyana. Base yourself at one of the eco-lodges and follow the trained local guides into the jungle at night, to try your luck for a glimpse of the mighty jaguar.
Giant Anteater – World’s Largest Anteater
With tiny eyes and ears that greatly contrast its long snout, body and tail, the world’s largest anteater is truly an extraordinary animal to view from up close. Giant anteaters are found in the Iwokrama Forest and the Rupununi Savannahs. It takes a trained eye to spot these unique animals. You can stay at a ranch like Saddle Mountain or Karanambu and head out multiple times during the day into the savannah for that perfect photograph with this gentle giant.
Arapaima – World’s Largest Scaled Freshwater Fish
The network of Essequibo, Rupununi and the Amazon River Basin is home to the giant arapaimas. These fish are found mostly in the southwestern part of the country and the tropical weather is perfect for them. Isolated pools and rivers are the best spots for fishing enthusiasts planning an epic catch and release battle with this water monster. If you are planning to visit Guyana hoping to bag an arapaima, then be sure to bring the right equipment and take all the advice you can get from the local guides. Rewa Eco-Lodge is a prime location for such fishing.
Harpy Eagle – The Most Majestic Bird of Guyana
The harpy eagle is the most powerful bird of prey in the world and one of the largest in the entire South American continent. Always at the top of the wish list of birders, they are most likely spotted in the Kanuku and Iwokrama mountains. Untouched tropical rainforests are a perfect home for the harpy eagles, offering them ample prey to feed on. Iwokrama River Lodge, Surama Eco-Lodge and Rewa Eco-Lodge are ideal launch pads to spot this species in the North Rupununi Region. If you are along the Essequibo Coast, this magnificent bird can be spotted at Warapoka and Sloth Island.
Giant River Otter – World’s Largest and Rarest Otter
Of all the otter species in the world, the giant river otter is the largest and the hardest to spot. Guyana’s giant river otters were first documented in detail at the Karanambu Ranch in the North Rupununi in 1988 by the conservationist Diane McTurk. The exemplary work on rehabilitating the otters was taken up by her at the Karanambu Lodge. Since then, a stable population has been present in the area, providing wildlife enthusiasts an opportunity to observe these rare and extraordinary creatures.
Black Caiman – World’s Largest Alligatoridae
Caimans cruising around is a sight that you are likely to experience in Guyana, as you explore its riverine world. The black caiman is the biggest member of the alligator family. It is a carnivorous reptile that lives along slow-moving rivers, lakes and in other freshwater habitats of Guyana. It is the largest predator in the Amazon ecosystem, preying on a variety of fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. Any river in the heart of the country offers sightings. You can go caiman tagging, undertaken for conservation purposes, in the evening, during your stay at the community-owned Caiman House.
Capybara – World Largest Rodent
As far as statistical superlatives go, even the rodents do not disappoint. The world’s largest one, the capybara, is found in the savannahs, dense forests and near water sources. Usually spotted in family groups, they look like a monster rat or groundhog from a post-apocalyptic future.
Victoria Amazonica —World’s Largest Lily
Guyana’s national flower can be found in oxbow lakes and the shallow waters of the Amazon Basin. The leaves sprawl up to 3 metre in diameter – surprisingly big enough to hold a baby. The flowers are white on the night they bloom and then turn pink on the second night. To witness this process is a fascinating addition to the many wild wonders that you are to bound to experience during your visit to Guyana.
Travel Better with Guyana: Guyana is working hard to conserve its vibrant wildlife and ecosystems and protect its culture and heritage. We realise that it is often difficult to understand how you can support these aims and make a difference when you travel. That’s why we’ve set out to help you by creating Visitor Guidelines For Sustainable Travel. All passionate globetrotters, curious culture seekers and bold adventurers are encouraged to do all they can to leave a positive impact on the people and places you visit in Guyana.
Images provided by Pete Oxford.