A GUYANA ADVENTURE – ATTA RAINFOREST LODGE (PART 2)
Day two of our Guyana adventure and we were leaving Georgetown behind to journey to the country’s interior.
We departed from Georgetown’s Ogle airport on a small 12-seater aircraft bound for Fairview airstrip, located on the bank of the Essequibo River and in the Iwokrama Rainforest Reserve. We were told that the airstrip had recently been upgraded which now allows regular services to Iwokrama, greatly supporting tourism to the local area.
On arrival, we were met by our guide for the next few days, Gary Sway, and a 4x4 to transport us to our next stop, Atta Rainforest Lodge, approximately 1.5 hours away by car.
Gary, a Makushi Amerindian, explained that we were in region nine; Guyana’s largest but least populated region. We were travelling on the main road which connects Georgetown to Lethem (on the Brazilian border) traversing the north and south boundaries of the country. Despite this, the path is unpaved and during the journey, we saw just two other vehicles. Gary said that during the night the road remains one of the best places to spot jaguars and other mammals given that it offers a clear viewing strip amongst dense rainforest.
Iwokrama means ‘place of refuge’ in Makushi, the local dialect. The Iwokrama Forest is one of the four last pristine tropical forests in the world and is a vast, protected, wilderness. In recent years, it has also become an important base for conservation and ecotourism. Our destination, Atta Rainforest Lodge is located near the southern boundary of the Iwokrama Reserve. On arrival, we turned off the main road and drove through a rainforest-lined path until we reached a pretty circular clearing with two small accommodation buildings, and a main lodge in the centre.
As we stepped out the vehicle, we were instantly struck by the immensity of the surrounding rainforest with trees stretching to the skies and a cacophony of jungle sounds. We were greeted by the staff, who all come from nearby local communities. They gave us a warm welcome in the main lodge house which has a seating area dotted with bird books, a restaurant area and bar.
The staff explained that Atta means hammock in Makushi and when the lodge first started welcoming visitors, they would sleep in hammocks. They soon realised that this was a bit too intrepid for some travellers who felt a little bit exposed (sleeping in the middle of the jungle) so the rooms were added.
The accommodation was simple and unassuming but very comfortable, complete with mosquito nets and outside en-suite bathrooms. There was even a whistle by the bed that we could blow in case of any unexpected jungle visitors at night.
We noticed tiny brilliantly-coloured hummingbirds whizzing around at blazing speed as well as bright blue butterflies. We were surrounded by bird life and Gary and one of the local guides, Dave, soon started pointing out Paradise Jacamars with their long beaks, brightly-coloured macaws and cream-coloured woodpeckers (with a yellow plumage). Before lunch, we took a walk through the jungle, learning about the local botany before returning for a great spread of local home-cooked food.
After eating, and as if on cue, we were alerted by the sound of a group of howler monkeys playing in the trees just at the edge of the clearing. We walked over to take a closer look and observed 5-6 monkeys moving around in the canopy. We were struck by their huge tails which they seemed to use as an extra arm to hang to the branches.
As the howlers moved on, we looked back to lodge to see two huge black carassows (resembling large turkeys) foraging around for food, and an agouti strolling behind.
Iwokrama Canopy Walkway
Later that day, we walked to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway located about 15-minute walk from the lodge, up a series of stairs. The walkway has four suspension bridges leading to three platforms, the highest of which is over 30 metres above the ground allowing the rare opportunity to view wildlife from the canopy.
We spend most of our time on the second platform, which is elevated the furthest into the canopy and therefore offers the best chance for bird and wildlife spotting. Sitting high in the canopy offered such an intense feeling of calm and tranquillity whilst we observed even more species of tropical bird life including Fortale woodnimphs, cream-coloured woodpeckers, blue-headed parrots and channel-billed toucans. Our bird list was growing by the second and we were glad to have Gary and Dave’s encyclopaedic bird knowledge. We stayed at the canopy until sunset, before returning to the lodge for dinner.
That night, we fell asleep to the sound of the jungle.
For more information on Guyana as a tourism destination, please visit https://www.guyanatourism.com/.
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Part one of our Guyana adventure (Kaieteur Falls) is published here.
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