Imagine being woken up by the sound of toucans, jacanas or even parrots. It may be the early hours of the morning, but the edge of the rainforest is bustling with activity. Put on your full-length pants and hiking boots, spray a generous dose of insect repellant and meet your Indigenous guide for a walk in the thick Guyana rainforest. If you have all day, then get to the edge of Burra Burra River to see caimans laze on its shores, otter families swim swiftly below the mangroves and monkeys call out from top of high trees. With a little luck, you may even spot a jaguar. And this is only a small slice of what Surama Eco-Lodge has to offer.
Surama Eco-Lodge was the first community-owned lodge in Guyana. The business is 100% owned and run by the local community and is a stellar example of indigenous hospitality. One of the best ways to get a taste of authentic Amerindian culture, wildlife and adventure is to spend at least 2-3 days here.
The Making of Surama
Located at a setting that offers access to the savannah, bush and Pakaraima Mountains in Region 9, Surama is the land of the Macushis, one of the main Amerindian tribes of the country. Though the land is ancient, it was in 1974 that R.F. Allicock and T.V Allicock, developed the current village system, which allowed for better management of natural resources and created harmony amongst the villagers and the outside world. A part of that was letting travellers get a view into the Macushi’s world. Surama Eco-lodge was developed in a manner that it would be owned and run by the Surama village locals and benefit the community as a whole. It would in turn create sustainable income for guides, naturalists, cooks and the staff that work here.
A central common area and dining hall anchor the lodge, with five circular stilted wooden cottages around it. Each spacious, wooden-floored room is equipped with an attached bathroom, a mosquito net and wide windows for a breezy interior. The cottages have modest décor and facilities but are extremely comfortable. Life size paintings of Guyana’s indigenous people adorn the doors. The terrace area of the central building doubles up as a space to spot birds or lie on a hammock to relax. The ground floor is dedicated to a dining hall, and a place to make your own tea or coffee. This place is also used for dance and music events in the evenings. The food at Surama Eco-lodge is always excellent and filling. Local cuisine of meats and breads, and fresh juices are the highlights.
About a kilometer from the main building, lies a camping spot (Carahaa Landing) with a large shed to tie hammocks, right next to the gurgling Burra Burra River. This is excellent for those who prefer the company of nature.
Wildlife and birding take centre stage at Surama, and there is ample one can do over 2 to 3 days.
Wildlife and Birding – The lodge is close to a 3km forested Marabunta trail that can be reached via a short walk. The scene from grasslands changes completely in seconds to a thick dark forest. Surama and the surroundings are home to 500 species of birds, of which 72 species are endemic to the Guianan Shield. Harpy eagles, Cock-of-the-rock nesting sites, puff birds, black-capped Donacobius and black-faced hawks are some of them. For wildlife enthusiasts, black caimans, giant otters, sage frogs, poison-dart frogs, jaguars and howler monkeys hold great charm. The village lake is home to several anacondas. A nervous walk around the lake’s edge can create great anaconda photo opportunities if you are lucky.
Survivor Training – The opaque forest close to Surama is a learning ground for outdoor enthusiasts who want to learn the art of jungle survival. Many workshops have been held here in the past. The proximity of habitation and the complete wild side of Guyana helps in narrowing this down to an apt location. The guides and naturalists show you how to build a fire and a waterproof shelter for protection with minimum means. The only thing essential to carry is a machete. They also help you identify fruits and leaves that can be eaten, and how to catch and cook a fish from the river close by.
Fishing – You can spend an entire day fishing in the Burro Burro River. Start the day with hiking from the lodge to the river, hunt for your bait (worms inside fallen nuts from trees) and embark on slim local boats to waters that brim with catfish, piranha, and other local species. This is also an excellent time to spot otters and caimans on the banks of the river and be constantly surprised by rustling on the mangrove packed edges and seeing small animals scurry away.
Hiking – A 8-kilometer round trip hike rewards hikers with an amazing lookout point in the middle of the forest. There are several short trails around, each great for excellent views and proximity to nature.
A walk in the village is the best way to see how the Macushi community lives. This is a fairly developed village with a hospital, school, a large playground and community centre. The children of the village run the nature and wildlife club, and they take it upon themselves to offer a cultural immersion experience to guests through skits, dances and songs. Dressed in the traditional costumes and headgears, the Makushi children make sure you get to enjoy a slice of traditional life of the village in the evenings during your stay.
Access to other wildlife lodges in the rainforest
Surama falls on the Guyana Eco-lodges Trail, which includes Caiman House, Atta Lodge, Rewa and Iwokrama. Other popular lodges in the area include Karanambu and Rockview. Wildlife and birding visitors often cover these to see the heart of rainforest areas, each lodge offering a different setting and proximity to the wild.