Community-Led & Indigenous Tourism
In a world where travel is becoming more mainstream and many destinations have lost the authenticity that attracted travellers in the first place, Guyana stands out. This, along with the fact that the country remains largely undeveloped, means that you will discover pristine ecosystems with amazing wildlife and birding experiences. This didn’t happen by accident. Nine Indigenous Peoples call Guyana home. They’ve been stewards of the country’s megadiversity for millennia.
Guyana Indigenous Peoples are known for their warm hospitality. They are proud to share their traditions and knowledge with guests of their community-led and owned ecolodges. Doing so helps them preserve their heritage and way of life while providing economic benefits to the host community as a whole. Your experience will be fulfilling, transformational and have positive benefits that directly impact the lives of the people you visit.
Surama, one of the first Indigenous villages in Guyana to invest and embark on community-led and owned tourism, welcomed its first visitors in the late 1990s. The ecolodge and its four stilted cottages and block of four modern rooms lie at the edge of the Burro Burro River along with a landing that’s suitable for camping. There is a plethora of activities. You can take a village tour to learn more about Surama, stop by the local school and experience evening cultural presentations. The adjacent nature trail is good for birding and wildlife spotting. Deeper into the rainforest, jungle survival activities are offered. Take part in fishing on the Burro Burro River or travel to a nearby trail to spot the harpy eagle in its natural habitat. More adventurous travellers can go on a an extended dug-out canoe expedition along the Burro Burro River, camping on the riverbanks at night. From Georgetown to Surama Ecolodge via road, it is usually a 12-hour drive. If you want a faster option, a 1 1/2 hour flight can be booked with local air service providers, Air Services Limited or Trans Guyana Airways.
If you are a nature-lover, then Rewa is your dream come true. Widely regarded as one of the best community-led and owned ecolodges in Guyana, Rewa lies in the heart of pristine rainforest at the confluence of the Rupununi and Rewa Rivers. The small population is passionate about protecting the rich biodiversity of their homeland and watershed. The arapaima, the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world, is one such protected species. When you stay at Rewa, you can enjoy piranha fishing or arapaima catch and release fly fishing. You can go wildlife spotting along the river or take a short hike up the Awarmie Mountain. Local guides will accompany you, help spot wildlife, and offer quick insights into some of the most daunting questions as well as take you for a tour of their village, accessible only by river. After an adventure-filled day, retire back to the lodge where you will enjoy delicious local cuisine and spend the night in one of the comfortable benab styled cabins.
Other villages that have set an example are:
- Yupukari Village
Yupukari village in North Rupununi is one of the best places to see conservation tourism in action in Guyana. It is home to the Caiman House Field Station where active research is focused on preserving and measuring the growth of the black caiman population in this part of Guyana. Caiman tagging is a favoured activity among travellers to the village. During your stay in the rustic chic accommodation with local made furniture and beautiful stone walls and bathrooms, you can also learn more about the community’s turtle conservation project and social enterprise that connects local artisans with IKEA customers. This is a popular place in Guyana for nature enthusiasts.
- Warapoka Village
Warapoka is nestled within rich greenery along the Waini River near the coast. Found an hour’s boat ride from the Shell Beach Protected Area, Warapoka is one of the newer communities to embark on community-led and owned tourism in Guyana. Its new ecolodge is quickly becoming known for its access to catch and release fly fishing activities, birding and wildlife spotting excursions. Several harpy eagle nests can be found not too far from the village, and if you’re lucky, one will be nesting during your visit. One thing you can guarantee is that your visit to this community will make a difference.
- Wakapou Village
For travellers looking for an even more intimate, authentic experience near Georgetown, the village of Wakapou delivers. This remote community is located in a scenic wetland and valley on a tributary of the Pomeroon River. It offers very basic lodging, swimming, and a hike to what are believed to be fossilized whale bones. Be sure to partake in samples from the small-scale coffee production enterprise as well.
- Victoria Village
Located on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on the East Coast of Demerara, Victoria is often synonymous with the history of slave uprising in the north. It was the first village in Guyana to be bought by former slaves who gained their freedom in the 1800s. The historic buildings in town and the diversity of bird species that can be found within the thick mangroves that surround the village are a highlight. A visit to the Victoria Honey House for a bottle of locally-made honey is recommended as well.
- Rockstone Village
Located outside of Linden, Rockstone village is known for its great fishing, but other outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, and birdwatching make this village a must visit for travellers and locals looking for weekend getaways. The annual Rockstone Fish Festival is testimony to the village’s love for fishing. Rockstone is also a short distance away from Gluck Island, a key birding area on the coastland.
- Moraikobai Village
The two Arawak words, ‘Mora’ meaning tree and ‘Coba’ meaning stump, gave birth to the name of this village located along the Mahaicony River. As one of the newer communities embarking on community-led and owned tourism, Moraikobai offers rustic lodging and great cultural activities, birding, and recreational fishing experiences closer to Georgetown than its Rupununi and Essequibo counterparts.
- Masakenari Village
Home to the Wai Wais, Konashen is Guyana’s first community-owned conservation area, and Masakenari is in the heart of the protected area. This is one of the most thriving wildlife locations in the country where healthy population of rare species such as Harpy Eagle, jaguar, the giant river otter, blue poison frog, and emerald tree boa among others. Access to the community can only be done via light aircraft or day long jungle treks. While tourism is extremely limited, there are a couple operators who offer trips to Wai Wai country that combine boating, trekking and short flights to access the area. Contact Bushmasters and Rupununi Trails for more information.
- Karasabai Village
Located in the South Pakaraima district, Karasabai is one of the best birdwatching destinations in Guyana. The village and the mountainous topography surrounding it more for an excellent place to spot the golden sun parakeet, a star bird on most any birdwatcher’s list. Make sure that you are well prepared with binoculars, outdoor gear and a local guide to maximise your chances for spotting the more elusive bird species. After a full day of birding, you can stay at the community Guest House or Kezee Ecolodge found on the outskirts of the village. If you do, be sure to hike nearby trails and plan a trip up the Ireng River to spot wildlife.
- Aranaputa Village
Aranaputa offers rustic accommodation in the form of a small cabin that you can visit before and after your journey up the 1600-foot-high Clarence Mountain. Other highlights include a tour of the Women’s Cooperative Peanut Butter Factory (you can purchase the Aranaputa Peanut Butter in Georgetown as well), bird watching and wildlife spotting while hiking the seldom-visited Clarence Mountain Nature Trail.
Mainstay, Tapakuma, and Capoey Villages
The three lakes and the namesake Indigenous villages along the Essequibo Coast should be visited by travellers who want to experience the ‘off-the-beaten-path’ Guyana. A combination of water sports like kayaking and boating, along with backcountry trails rife with biodiversity make these three spots popular with travellers. The calming sprawl of the black waters of these lakes make for ideal spots to picnic, swim and unwind after a day of adventure.