A trip to Guyana is a crash course in wildlife and birding with the world’s most exciting and unusual creatures roaming freely in intensely green lands. For many travellers, one of the most memorable experiences of travel is seeing creatures they would never dream of encountering. There is truly nothing better than seeing wild animals in their natural habitat.
Land of the Giants
The thick forests and river systems are home to iconic animals and birds. 820 plus birds, 228 species of mammals, 900 species of fish and more than 6500 plants have given Guyana its deserved reputation as a serious wildlife and birding destination. Travellers often come with extensive checklists when visiting the many protected areas and pristine rainforest – hoping for glimpses of jaguars, arapaima (world’s largest freshwater fish), giant anteaters, harpy eagles, capybaras, giant river otters, black caimans and the world’s largest lily, Victoria Amazonica. Other heart-stoppers include puma, leatherback turtles, bird-eating spiders, several species of monkeys and a host of snakes – bushmasters, anacondas, rattlesnakes, labarias and corals.
Jaguar-King of the Jungle
One of the more popular ‘giants’ and most famous animal in South America, the jaguar plays a vital role in its habitat by regulating other species’ populations and contributing to the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem. The best places to spot these beautiful creatures are in Guyana’s Protected Areas and along remote rivers in the early mornings or late afternoons. While there is no guarantee that you may spot a jaguar on your first visit, excursions can be arranged to take travellers to the areas where the jaguars are most frequently seen.
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.
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.
Giant Anteater – World’s Largest Anteate
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.
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.
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.
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.