The one wildlife species you’re bound to encounter several times during your trip into the heart of Guyana is the black caiman. Sprawled on the river banks during the day or swimming with their eyes glinting in the night, caimans are fascinating to watch. One of the best places for a close encounter with the species is at the unique Karanambu Lodge, found just at the edge of the Rupununi savannahs. Karanambu’s swamp, savannah and riverside landscape make it an exciting place for wildlife enthusiasts.
Giant otters tend to take centre stage at Karanambu, as this was the home and passion project of the late conservationist Diane McTurk who spent most of her life taking care of and rehabilitating orphaned otters. Karanambu became Guyana’s model lodge for ecotourism thanks to Diane’s work, which won her accolades and the notice of researchers and renowned wildlife authors worldwide. A project which might have started as a focus of otters, soon brought other creatures into the fold. The local community got involved and strong tenets of ecotourism were introduced, which makes Karanambu an essential stop for wildlife enthusiasts visiting Guyana.
Karanambu falls on the trail of eco-lodges in the North Rupununi circuit and demands at least 3-4 days to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Activities like horseback riding, anteater spotting, hiking, birding and interacting with the locals can fill your days. However, one of the best treats takes place when the sun goes down – night spotting on the Rupununi River for caimans and other wildlife while enjoying a local passion fruit punch. The black water of the night mirrors the sky as caiman eyes sparkle in the water. It is a surreal scene with scores of glinting eyes, that shine even brighter when the torchlight scans the water.
The lodge lies at the edge of the river that wends its way along the landscape offering birds, caimans, fish and other wildlife species a nearby water resource. In the green periods (May to August), the water rises several feet high giving you an up close view of the nearby trees and birds, but the peak travel seasons (September to April) make the river shrink giving you a chance to see many more birds feeding along the banks and other wildlife in and around the river.
The Victoria Amazonica Lily Pond
A top experience and benefit of staying at Karanambu is visiting the giant water lily pond. The hour-long boat ride gives you front row seats to trickling mangroves and nearby wildlife; the stories recounted by the guides also make the journey very lively. Just before you meet the pond, the river becomes very narrow then opens up into a sprawling large lake filled with beautiful victoria amazonica lilies.
The journey back is timed with the setting of the sun. As the sun sets in the background, bright stars slowly start appearing, till the inky blue sky is covered in the shimmering carpet of the Milky Way Galaxy. Under the canopy of stars, the boat splashes through the water as the sounds of the rainforest become more distinct. It’s time for many nocturnal animals to become active, offering a treat for the ears as well as the eyes. You reach back to Karanambu right in time for dinner to swap stories of the day’s adventures with other guests.
Vitals: The closest airport to Karanambu is Lethem, which is connected by both Air Services Limited (ASL) and Trans Guyana Airlines (TGA) by daily flights to and from Georgetown. Chartered flights can also be arranged by Roraima Group of Companies and Wings Aviation Limited. Mini-buses that take 12-14 hours also run from Georgetown. Book here .