Guyana is an integral part of the Amazonian love affair with nature. It lies on the northern edge of South America with 80% the land covered in rainforest. The country has a large network of rivers, headlined by the Essequibo, Demerara and the Berbice, with scores of tributaries enriching the banks with silt. The wildlife in Guyana is as much above water, as below it. The most prominent water-habitant is the caiman. Of these, the black caimans are considered one of the eight wildlife giants of Guyana. Freshwater streams and rivers have ample of them to spot, making it a great destination for wildlife lovers. In fact, caiman spotting is one of the prominent activities that bring adventure and nature enthusiasts to the country and the rest of the Amazon.
How do I differentiate between a caiman and a crocodile?
While Caimans and alligators belong to the same family, they are starkly different from crocodiles. For those who like a little scientific delving in, ‘alligatoridea’ is the formal category for caimans and alligators. Both have a rounded nose with an overbite and sharp teeth on the top jawline. There is slight difference in the colour of the mouth– organgish for caimans, and beige for alligators. Both alligators and caimans are freshwater creatures, often found in creeks and rivers. With plenty to eat in Guyana’s rivers, the black caimans can become pretty huge. Crocodiles have lesser things in common with a caiman and are easy to differentiate on account of a V shaped nose, no overbite and can vary drastically in size. They are found in the salt-water marshes instead of the rivers.
Where can I spot caimans in Guyana?
Guyana’s maze of rivers and their tributaries forms a network of thin capillaries when you look at the map. You can tell with a single glance that the country has a rich river-system, ideal for fish and large varieties of creatures and organisms to thrive. Essentially, all of these freshwater bodies are home to caimans. A trip down the Burro Burro River, Rupununi, Essequibo, Demerara, Berbice and other tributaries offer a chance of seeing caimans from up close. A number of river trips in the day and at night are organised by tour operators and accommodations in different parts of the country. For example, to traverse the Burro Burro River, you can base yourself at the Surama Eco Lodge. River trips from Iwokrama Lodge are ideal for both day and night, and Karanambu Lodge also makes for a good base to spot caimans in the Rupununi. The night trips are more intriguing as one can see only caiman eyes blinking in the inky darkness. Once your boat glides closer, they are easy to spot with the help of a flashlight. Black caimans can be seen not only in Guyana, but also Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.
What is caiman tagging?Tagging refers to the process of temporarily capturing a caiman for data collection and for them to be weighed, measured, sexed and tagged for future developments. The tagging process involves fitting two metal tags between the toes of the back feet, so researches can monitor the movement, growth and survival of the species. Tagging is done by specialists but can be joined in by serious travellers who want to learn more about these wonderful creatures. Caiman House and Iwokrama Lodge are two of the most popular places in Guyana that offer a tagging experience.
Plan a tagging trip
The Caiman House Field Station in Yupukari is one of the major destinations for caiman tagging. Book a trip here for a tryst with science, adventure and nature.
- Best Season: Guyana has two major seasons, wet and dry. The dry season is better for navigating the country and better to spot caimans for tagging.
- Accommodation: Since Caiman House is one of the major tagging and conservation centers, you can book a room in the lodge, close to Yupukari village. You can also choose to stay in Karanambu Lodge, which is the closest from here, and offers proximity to the tagging areas on the Rupununi River.
- Tour Operators: Join Wilderness Explorers on exciting trips in Rupununi in the caiman-tagging season. As on-ground experts they also help you travel in the interiors so you can experience local life and other adventure experiences.
The nighttime conservation activity of caiman tagging is definitely a unique experience for both researchers and travellers. Since caimans are found only in the Amazon, it is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to be in the company of experts and learn about these creatures.