When presented with the chance of visiting the country of Guyana, I simply couldn’t say no. This would be my first time visiting the continent of South America and I’ve always been very eager to check it out. I accepted the invitation and then began excitedly telling my friends that I was off to Guyana. Most people thought I was going to Ghana in Africa!
In Ireland, most people have a very limited knowledge of South America and the small country of Guyana isn’t well known to many.
Well it should be, because after only 9 days in this gem of a country I have completely fallen in love with it. I had thought that the age of discovery was over and that every piece of land in the world has been explored, marked, mapped and plotted. But for the first time in my life I realised that there are still places out there where that is not the case. Guyana is a prime example of this. It is a country situated on the northern tip of South America and shares a border with Venezuela, Suriname, Brazil and the ocean. The country is nearly three times the size of Ireland and has a population of 777,000 people. 90% of the population live on the coastal plains and the remaining 10% live inland but here’s the statistic that really excited me the most: 80% of Guyana is covered in pristine tropical forests and savannahs. These have not been touched or altered by humans in any way. Other countries actually pay Guyana to preserve these forests to prevent logging to help maintain the pristine ecosystem.
What are the people like in Guyana?
Here’s where things get interesting. Guyana is the only country in South America where English is spoken as a first language. In fact, Guyana feels a lot more Caribbean than South American. The population is made up of people from all over the world including a large East Indian and African population…It wasn’t unusual for us to grab a curry and a coffee for breakfast some mornings in Georgetown, a weird combination but not too shabby!
Indigenous people also make up about 10% of the population and are scattered through the interior of the country, deep in the jungles.
What am I doing in Guyana?
The Guyana Tourism Authority invited us to take part in an Amazon Hard Adventure Trip. They specifically sought out action/adventure bloggers and invited them to take part in this amazing trip. They have realised that there is growing demand for adventure tourism where you don’t sit back and let someone do it all for you, you are actively taking part in the adventure.
We spent 9 days getting a taste of what you could do in the country and we had an absolutely fantastic time. Here’s a snippet of what we did during our time there.
Two Nights in the Savannah
Upon arriving in Guyana we needed to get from the international airport to the regional airport. The Tourism Authority managed to hook us up with a police escort so we hauled ass and made it to the regional airport.
There we hopped on a plan and headed into the heart of Guyana to a small town called Lethem. In Lethem we met up with Ian who runs the company Bushmasters which specialises in running extreme trips all over the world. Ian is a former SAS instructor and was once the boss of famous survivalist Bear Grylls. He is a fascinating character and really enriched our time in Guyana.
With Ian we spent two days travelling on ATV’s and 4×4’s across the savannah of Guyana. We aimed for about 100km of driving each day and then we would pick a spot close to the river to set up camp for the night.
Camp consisted of us finding two suitable trees to sling our hammocks together before setting up the camp fire and relaxing for the night. The hammocks were incredibly comfortable and looking up at the stars while falling asleep is a memory that I will keep for a very long time.
During the trekking with the vehicles we drove across ‘main’ roads which were red and dusty and you would see another car maybe once or twice a day. The roads then soon got narrower and narrower until we were driving straight across the bush avoiding termite hills as best we could and navigating some difficult river crossings. We had a couple of falls from the ATV but luckily no one was seriously injured. You can read about the entire experience here.
Cowboy training at Saddle Mountain Ranch
After about 250km we eventually arrived at Saddle Mountain Ranch where we learned that ranching was a huge part of life in the Rupununi region of Guyana. There we met Tommy, his wife Joan and son, Judah. They have lived on this ranch for nearly 30 years and built the entire place from the ground up.
It is a beautiful ranch that has little to no electricity and Tommy looks after around 500 cows across 50 square miles of savannah. They also have a large number of horses which are used for work and then for whenever people visit.
We arrived in the afternoon and then after a delicious lunch and siesta we went out for an evening ride on the horses. I got a beautiful grey horse called Bolt but it took us a bit of time to get used to each other. I have no idea how to trot; so I just kind of bounced around uncontrollably in the saddle as poor Bolt brought me around the place.
By day two I hadn’t exactly figured out how to trot but I started to get comfortable cantering on my good friend Bolt and I was really enjoying our trips out in the Savannah. We also spent some time in the Coral learning how to lasso cows. To read about our time in the ranch, click here.
Chartering a plane and visiting Kaieteur Falls
Guyana actually means ‘Land of many waters’ and has an abundance of rivers and streams running across it. When it comes to infrastructure, you can drive along the coast easy enough but getting inland is a bit more difficult.
From Georgetown to Lethem you could take a one-hour plane or 6-hour bus ride on bumpy roads. We were travelling in the opposite direction, from Lethem to Georgetown, and had chartered our own plane so we could see some things along the way. Ian had the entire route planned. First we did a flyby of the epic Mount Roraima which I’ve wanted to see for years. Unfortunately, as it rains almost every day of the year on the mountain, visibility was very poor so we only caught a glimpse of it.
We then flew over some beautiful and inaccessible waterfalls before landing at Kaieteur Falls to check it out. This waterfall is absolutely massive and the only way to access it is via the airstrip we landed on. It’s a far cry from the throng of tourists craning their necks to see Niagara Falls! We pretty much had the whole place to ourselves to take as many pictures as we wanted.
Spending a few days in Georgetown
After sleeping in hammocks in the savannah, then learning how to become cowboys in the ranch, then seeing one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, we then headed back to Georgetown to soak up what the city had to offer for our final two days.
Georgetown is a city which has a lot to offer in the city itself and also when you explore the nearby Essequibo River. We spent an entire day out on the river visiting islands, and seeing quarries and a prison along the way.
On Fort Island we saw the last remaining fort which was built by the Dutch to protect against the invading English. We also saw some of the local wildlife there which including a sloth napping in a tree, two capybara which are the world’s largest rodent and some howler monkeys as well!
After that we cruised on down the river some more and had a delicious lunch before heading back to the city. That night we went out and spent the evening enjoying the local beer, called Banks. So much so that we all managed to sleep in the next day nearly missing our market tour!
Luckily we made it in time and got to see the locally grown produce that Guyana had to offer before setting off on a tour of the city.
We finished up our afternoon in the Backyard Café which is owned by the very charismatic Delvin Adams. We sat out in the back garden of the café and tucked into a smorgasbord of delicious food. Click here to read more about our tour of Georgetown and Delvin’s serious eats!
After spending some time in the café, we headed off to a press conference where we got the chance to tell to tell the Guyanese media about what a fantastic experience we had in their country.
Should you travel to Guyana?
Guyana is definitely not for everyone. If you’re looking to sit back and relax and read a book by the beach then it’s probably not the place for you.
Tourism in Guyana is for the adventurous type person who wants to spend a few days in the wild, sometimes out of their comfort zone. It is a country brimming full of adventure and possibilities. There are hundreds of mountains that have yet to be summited, there are waterfalls to abseil down and there is an almost infinite stretch of jungle just waiting to be explored.
I will most definitely be going back as soon as I get the chance.