Getting To And Around
The most popular way to get to and explore this region is a combination of road and river. However, several options are available.
Take a 45-60 minute drive from the capital city of Georgetown along the Atlantic coastline. You will cross the expansive Demerara Harbour Bridge. Be sure to check the Retraction Schedule in advance to avoid any unnecessary delays. Continue your journey just a little further, and you will reach the town of Parika - this is one of the main access points to the Essequibo River and Essequibo Coast region.
The best way to explore a river is by boat. After you have landed at the Parika Stelling, you can take a ferry across the river to the islands in the mouth of the river and onto the Essequibo Coast, or you can take a small jet boat and explore the forts and nature resorts that populate the islands in the river. Old Fort Tours, Evergreen Adventures, and Dragon Tours offer day-long river tours of the islands.
Historical and Cultural Sites
The Essequibo’s massive water highway is filled with many of Guyana’s smaller islands. One of the biggest draws to this area, and to the islands specifically, are the unique historical and cultural sites you can find.
Located at the mouth of the Essequibo River, the island bears an imprint of the Dutch in the form of two important structures – the Court of Policy and Fort Zeelandia. Take a walk through the Court of Policy, which was built in 1752, and learn more about this time in Guyana. This is the oldest non-military structure in Guyana and has donned many hats as a store, a church, court, and now a well-curated museum. A short walk away from here is Fort Zeelandia, an 18th century brick fort, which was one of the very first buildings constructed in the country. Though the fort is relatively small, it was vital as a defensive fortification.
A brick arch on a grassy island on the Essequibo River is the only remaining part of the Dutch fort that kept other European enemies at bay. Kyk-Over-Al translates to ’see over all’ in Dutch, referencing the expansive view of the entire riverfront from this spot. Stand here and let your imagination take you back in time, when Dutch soldiers would have intensely guarded this region. Now, only a handful of travellers visit for photo-ops.
The battle between ‘Hogg’ and ‘Hog’ is constant when you ask locals about the original name of the largest island on the Essequibo. Some attribute it to hundreds of wild hogs that once occupied it. Another explanation points to it being named after Quintin Hogg, an Englishman who helped to modernise sugar production. Regardless, the island is a beautiful one with one main hook – the Hogg Island Windmill. The 36-foot Dutch structure was built with clay bricks on what used to be Plantation Luyksberg.
Leguan Island will give you a taste of life on a river island. As one would guess, it is easy paced. You can stroll through the main street, watching rice stalks swaying in the breeze. A stroll away from the main jetty lies the 200-year-old St. Peter’s Anglican Church, which was built in the early 19th century. The photogenic church and the laid-back ambience of the island are perfect for a day trip.
The inspiration of the name of this Arawak village comes as no surprise. The word Saxacalli translates to ’kingfisher’ – and there are plenty around the Essequibo. It is one of the oldest communities in the region, having been established before the Dutch arrived in these parts. Cassava making, local life, a handicraft centre and a beach bordered by white sand are the biggest draws of the village. Saxacalli Beach is a great spot for swimming and relaxing.
While wending down the Essequibo towards Bartica, one can spot the Mazaruni Prison in the distance. It lies across from the Penal Settlement and Susan Island. Not quite a tourist attraction but good for some intriguing stories during a guided trip along the river as you pass by.
Eddy Grant’s House
The famous musician’s fans never tire of gawking at his small island conclave set right in the middle of the Essequibo on the way to Bartica. Grant’s holiday home has an atmospheric location, perhaps contributing to the inspiration for his songs.
RIVERSIDE NATURE RESORTS
Baganara Island Resort
The 187-acre Baganara Island is home to Baganara Island Resort. This resort has a strong appeal for outdoor enthusiasts. Nature walks, kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking trails, birdwatching and just plain old rest and relaxation are some of the highlights. It is ideal for groups of family, friends, and colleagues.
Hurakabra River Resort
Hurakabra River Resort is known by many locals for its water-based activities and relaxing homey atmosphere. Here you can enjoy swimming, kayaking, hiking, birding, or just lounging around in a local hammock with a good book. The owners welcome both overnight visitors and day trip visits.
Sloth Island on the Essequibo River doubles up as a perfect romantic and adventure getaway. Your time here can be filled with bird watching, nature walks, canoeing, fishing or just enjoying hammock time. Naturally, sloth watching is a top priority for most visitors, and you’re likely to spot one.
Lake Mainstay & Adel’s Rainforest Resort
One of the best swimming beaches along the Essequibo lies along Lake Mainstay – complete with white sand and inviting warm water. Two miles further from the lakeshore is a village of the same name (also known as Wyaka). You can even stay overnight at the Lake Mainstay Resort or make a day trip to unwind.
Another resort to explore is the Adel’s Rainforest Resort. For those travellers looking to visit the Pomeroon River region or simply get off-the-beaten-path, look no further than this is a great place to unwind. This rustic Colonial-style resort is set on the confluence of Akawini Creek and the Pomeroon River. The rooms are pretty basic, but the location and setting make for a good base to explore the area.
FOR NATURE LOVERS
The Lower Essequibo has a thriving ecosystem of flora and fauna, making it one of the most accessible locations along the coast for nature experiences, birding and wildlife spotting. Many of the nature resorts found along the river have excellent birding and nature-based experience offerings and some have good wildlife spotting as well.
Waterfalls & Islands
The Essequibo has numerous waterfalls in all shapes and sizes. Given Guyana’s perennial summer, several along the Lower Essequibo are popular. Baracara, on its namesake island, and Marshall Falls are favourites with locals. In under 30 minutes you can reach these falls on foot. The easy workout is worth it for a crowd-free time in the soothing pools. Baracara is a tiered waterfall with a mellow mood, while Marshall falls is slung over a 30-foot-high escarpment. Both are natural Jacuzzis to cool off in the tropical weather.
Some of the islands to explore are:
- Gluck Island
Gluck Island is a great refuge for the nature enthusiast. Visit here to see the best of the country’s well-preserved biodiversity – caimans lazing around on river shores and Victoria Amazonica Water Lily-laden ponds – and keep your eyes peeled for over 200 species of birds.
- Parrot Island
Amongst the many islands of the Essequibo, pick an evening for a visit to Parrot Islands. If your timing is right, you will see thousands of parrots that come to roost at night. The thick forest canopy of the small island is undeveloped, providing a safe haven for the birds. That plus plenty of fresh fruit make it hard for the parrots to resist.
Capoey Lake and Mission
The backdrop of savannah glinting in the sun, ancient rainforest and lakeside beaches are hard to resist at Capoey Lake and Mission. For those who like to take the road less travelled, this is the place for you. It’s the perfect locale to hit pause on your travel and explore simple living.
Bartica lies at the confluence of the Essequibo, Cuyuni and Mazaruni Rivers. It’s the gateway to the gold and diamond mining regions of Guyana. No wonder its main market street has entertainment hotspots in several pubs and shops targeting the mining community. Bartica’s standout event is the annual Easter Regatta, where powerboat racing, street jams, and even a beauty pageant amp up the weekend.
Sunday Market at Parika
Get to Parika’s market grounds early on Sundays to get dibs on the freshest vegetables and fruits from the surrounding farms and islands on the Essequibo. If you are not a bargain hunter, then sit at one of the local food stalls and watch the market throb with life. There is produce, clothes, plastic-ware, utensils and other household items, along with memorable photo-ops of one of Guyana’s largest weekly markets.
If you are heading to Shell Beach or looking for a remote getaway close to Georgetown, then you will likely visit Charity. The village lies on the banks of the Pomeroon River which is sandwiched between the Orinoco and Essequibo Rivers. One would think that this remote outpost would make for a calm setting, but it astonishes travellers with its bustling markets and often action-packed weekend evenings with multiple local bars.
Off the standard traveller’s radar, Moruca is a fascinating cluster of multiple Indigenous villages. The journey to Moruca is as striking as the place itself. It consists of narrow waterways bordered by dense mangroves in multiple shades of green and wide stretches of golden savannah. You can base yourself here for a couple of days and explore the local villages like Santa Rosa, Kumaka and Kabukali.
North-western Villages & Other Towns
Only 10 miles from the Venezuelan border, the villages of Hosororo, Mabaruma, Kumaka and Warapoka are the gateway to the hilly regions of northwest Guyana. Overland journeys reward hardy travellers with pristine rainforests and savannah. Take a couple days to explore the region’s cocoa plantations, Wauma Palm Oil Estate, Hosororo Falls, Kissing Rocks and Tiger Caves. This insider’s view makes you feel as if you have been let in on a secret. Some of the other towns to explore are:
- Santa Rosa
As one of the gateways to Shell Beach Protected Area, Santa Rosa welcomes you with its natural beauty and the easygoing vibe of the village. Stroll about to see the many shrines of Mary and visit the Mariaba Craft Shop. Here, souvenirs in the form of baskets, hammocks, jewelry, toys and plates are made from the local tibisiri straw. Enjoy the view of the Moruka river and golden savannah from the hilltop church.
- Anna Regina
The town has the best of both waterfronts – the Atlantic along its northern edge and the Tri-Lakes to the south. The breezy town makes wandering an easy affair. Step out to explore the Anna Regina High Bridge built by the Dutch, the 19th century St. Bartholomew Anglican Church, and the Damon’s Cross and Damon Monument memorial, which pay homage to a hero of the slaves’ uprising in 1834.