Guyana: Neotropical Wilderness Birding

  1. 2019
    Thursday, January 17, 2019 to Tuesday, January 29, 2019
    Tour Duration: 
    13 days
    Tour Price:
     $9,295 CAD, $6,975 USD
    Single Supplement:
     $265 CAD, $200 USD
    Tour Starts/Ends: 
    January 2019 led by Paul Prior and a local guide
    Number of Persons Limit: 

• Exceptional, high quality birding and wildlife viewing in a range of habitats

• Picturesque and spectacular scenery, from huge waterfalls to stretches of unbroken forest and scenic rivers

• Exciting experiences, from canopy walkways, many boat rides, a Macushi village and ecolodge, lots of endemics and endangered species, possible Harpy Eagle, and Giant Otters



Guyana, an English-speaking country in northern South America, has a small human population concentrated along the coast. The rest of the country is a marvelous stretch of unbroken, mostly untouched rainforest blending into savanna on the Brazilian border. It is home to Kaieteur Falls, where the Potaro River plunges 741 feet in the single longest drop of any waterfall, and is a site for Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock. The vast Iwokrama Forest Reserve offers miles of forest roads and trails, affording some of the best viewing of cotingas in the world (including the weird and wonderful Capuchinbird). If we encounter any ant-swarms, we have a very good chance of seeing surely the coolest-looking antbird – White-plumed.

Early in the tour we travel along Georgetown’s local rivers for Hoatzin and Rufous Crab-Hawk; further south we take in the Amerindian village of Surama - a fascinating experience, potentially with an active Harpy Eagle nest nearby; and visit an eco-lodge on the wonderful Rupununi River in a still remote part of central Guyana, complete with Giant Otters and Black Caiman. Large expanses of untouched forest are a welcome sight, offering hope for the continued survival of those species that require large unfragmented habitats – Harpy and Crested Eagles, big cats, tapirs, macaws, parrots, cotingas and much more.

Leaving the rainforest, we take in rivers on the border with Brazil for some very range-restricted and scarce endemics – Rio Branco Antbird and Hoary-throated Spinetail - and we travel west to an area where the spectacular and highly endangered Sun Parakeet occurs. Our tour has a sense of adventure - we travel by boat along rivers through miles of forests, fly over large expanses of forests to land beside huge waterfalls, and stay in lodges far removed from other habitation. 


Itinerary View Short Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival in Guyana 

On arrival at Cheddi Jagan airport in Guyana, we transfer to our hotel in Georgetown to begin our Guyana birding tour. The route to our hotel should introduce us to many familiar birds – Cattle, Great and Snowy Egrets, Southern and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Southern Lapwing, Pale-vented Pigeon, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Brown-throated Parakeet, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Mockingbird, Southern House Wren, Blue-gray and Palm Tanagers, and Gray-breasted Martin. The hotel grounds usually attract White-chested Emerald, Gray Kingbird and Pale-breasted Thrush.

 Time permitting, we drive east of town and take a boat on the Mahaica River to see Guyana’s national bird, the Hoatzin, as well as Snail Kite, Zone-tailed Hawk, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Little Cuckoo and Red-capped Cardinal. We also may have time to stop at a mangrove restoration project for Bicolored Conebill, and a view of the mudflats for shorebirds and Scarlet Ibis. Overnight Georgetown.

Day 2 - Abary River and Botanical Garden 

Dawn will find us in the area of the Abary River, an excellent place for Rufous Crab-Hawk, as well as Crane Hawk, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Striped Cuckoo, Greater Ani, White-bellied Piculet, Ashy-headed Greenlet and Blood-coloured Woodpecker, a colorful  Veniliornis woodpecker endemic to the coastal plain of the Guianas.

In the late afternoon, we visit Georgetown’s Botanical Gardens, a marvelous area of palms, mature trees, waterways covered in lotus blossoms, and many special birds, from Snail Kites, Limpkins and Black-capped Donacobius to Black-crested Antshrike, Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Turquoise Tanager, Cinnamon Attila, Pied Water-Tyrant, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet and numerous other goodies, and perhaps another chance at Blood-coloured Woodpecker. We’ll also make a good start on what will likely be a very long trip-list of parrots with Orange-winged and the rare Festive, together with our first of several macaw species - Red-shouldered. Night in Georgetown.

Day 3 – Kaiteur and transfer to Iwokrama 

After breakfast, we depart on a chartered flight to Kaieteur, the world’s highest single-drop waterfall; although Venezuela’s Angel Falls are greater in total height, their filamentous drop occurs by stages whereas Kaieteur is a single, massive, thundering cataract 100 meters wide, created as the Potaro River makes a sheer drop of 228 meters (741 feet), nearly five times the height of Niagara Falls. We walk around this interesting area, with its unique flora of heaths and giant tank bromeliads (with its golden frog). Guianan Cock-of-the-Rocks occur here, as does Orange-breasted Falcon (as it hunts swifts), Cliff Flycatcher and noisy Coraya Wrens.

We then fly over miles of unbroken tropical rainforest to land at the Iwokrama Airstrip, from where we transfer the short distance to Iwokrama River Lodge. This protected area was established in 1996 as the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development. The lodge is situated along the Essequibo River, where Cocoi and Capped Herons, Black Skimmer, Pied Lapwing, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns and Anhinga occur. Moriche Orioles forage in palms near the lodge. Trails at Iwokrama support Red-throated Caracara, Gray-winged Trumpeter, Spix’s Guan, Collared Trogon, several woodpeckers including Chestnut, Golden-collared and Ringed, Guianan Slaty-Antshrike, Rufous-capped Antthrush and Sooty-headed Tyrannulet. This afternoon we bird trails close to the field station, perhaps the aptly named Screaming Piha Trail. An evening boat ride should reveal several Black Cayman and white Ghost Bats, and we look for Ladder-tailed Nightjar and perhaps a Potoo. Overnight at Iwokrama River Lodge.

Day 4 – Iwokrama Rainforest Reserve 

After an early morning excursion on the Essequibo River looking for riverside foragers such as Silvered Antbird, we continue our journey to Turtle Mountain, elevation 300 m, for views over the forest canopy. The trail to Turtle Mountain passes through primary forest where we look for Red-and-black Grosbeak, Yellow-billed and Great Jacamars, Golden-sided Euphonia, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Waved Woodpecker, several woodcreepers –Plain-brown, Amazonian Barred, Chestnut-rumped and Wedge-billed, Dusky-throated and Cinereous Antshrikes, Long-winged Antwren, and foliage-gleaners. Should we encounter an antswarm, we will look for several ant followers including the astonishing White-plumed, Rufous-throated and Scale-backed Antbirds, Spotted Antpitta, and if very lucky Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo. Overhead glide King Vultures, Plumbeous and Swallow-tailed Kites, and Zone-tailed and Short-tailed Hawks. Mammals include Red Howler and Black Spider Monkeys. After lunch, we bird the trails around the River Lodge, perhaps visiting a nearby Capuchinbird lek, or a roost of Blue-and-yellow Macaws. After dinner, we may take another boat ride on the river. Overnight at Iwokrama River Lodge.

Day 5 – Transfer to Atta Rainforest Lodge  

After breakfast, we leave for the Atta Rainforest Lodge. We bird along the road between Iwokrama and Atta, arriving at noon for lunch. The road is one of the best areas for seeing Black Curassow, Marail Guan, Gray-winged Trumpeter, Pompadour Cotinga and Blue-cheeked Parrot, and we make stops in the Mori Scrub for Bronzy Jacamar and perhaps Blackish Manakin.

In the afternoon we visit the Canopy Walkway, 30 meters above the forest floor. From platforms we scan for Purple-breasted and Spangled Cotingas, several parrots perched on the tops of trees, Crimson Fruitcrow, Dusky Purpletuft, Guianan Puffbird and Waved and Red-necked Woodpeckers. At dusk our local guide will attempt to find a White-winged Potoo. Overnight at Atta Lodge.

Day 6 – Atta Rainforest Lodge 

At dawn we may again visit the walkway to look for passing flocks of canopy dwelling species which may contain Todd’s and Spot-tailed Antwrens, Guianan Toucanet, Green and Shining Honeycreepers and Black-faced Dacnis. Red-and-black Grosbeak and Whiskered Flycatcher occur close to the clearing, as do Tiny Tyrant-Manakin and Guianan Red Cotinga We again try for White-winged Potoo should we have been unsuccessful the previous night. Overnight at Atta Lodge

Day 7 – Mori Scrub, Harpy Eagle and Transfer to Surama 

This morning, we drive further south and hike about 20 minutes into the forest to a traditional Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock nesting site. We then continue south for the Macushi Amerindian village of Surama. On the way, we stop at the Harpy Eagle trail, where we have a walk of about an hour to a known active nest site where with luck these huge impressive birds will be visible or perhaps there will be a well-grown young bird waiting to be fed. We then continue to Surama.

Lying amidst rich rainforests punctuated by the jagged Pakaraima Mountains, Surama has become a model for Amerindian Ecotourism by creating an innovative system of locally designed natural and cultural conservation. After being greeted by the local staff, we settle into our comfortably rustic accommodations, a mix of traditional en-suite Benab-style huts and a brick guest building. We may go for a late afternoon walk or maybe relax in a hammock, before dining together in the central Benab. In the evening, Least Nighthawks and Pauraques call nearby. Overnight at Surama Eco-Lodge

Day 8 – Surama Area: Burro-burro River  

At dawn we plan to walk through the forest to the Burro-Burro River for a quiet paddle by our local guides in canoes along the river. We have possible opportunities to observe Giant Otter, several species of monkeys including Brown Capuchin, and a wealth of birds. We search the riverine forest and banks for Blue-throated Piping-Guan, Black-chinned and Silvered Antbirds, Pygmy Antwren, Buff-breasted Wren, White-banded Swallow, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Black-faced Hawk and Gray-headed Kite. The nearby trails around the Eco-Lodge offer excellent opportunities for birding, especially if we encounter army ant swarms. Species here include Great and Common Potoos, Black-spotted Barbet, Cream-coloured and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, Red-fan and Blue-headed Parrots, Scarlet and Red-and-green Macaws, Great and Paradise Jacamars, Green and Black-necked Aracaris, several elaenias, Sulfury Flycatcher, several woodcreepers including Black-banded and Olivaceous, and Tiny Tyrant-Manakin. In 2011 and 2015, we found Fiery-tailed Awlbill here and in 2014 Large-headed Flatbill. At dusk we look for Lesser Nighthawk and White-tailed Nightjar. Overnight at Surama Eco-Lodge.

Day 9 – Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock and Transfer to Caiman House 

We leave Surama early in the morning for the drive to Kwatamang. We board boats for a long ride on the Rupununi River, looking for an assortment of riparian species – Jabirus Green Ibis, Muscovy Duck, a wide assortment of kingfishers and herons, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, and perhaps a Sunbittern foraging along the banks.  Our destination is Caiman House, located just off the river. The lodge has had a long running research program on caiman and we may have a chance to join the researchers one evening to observe them capturing and tagging these beautiful reptiles. Overnight at Caiman House.

Day 10 – Caiman House 

Whilst at Caiman, we intend on exploring the rich fauna of the wonderful variety of landscapes and habitats. We spend time driving across the local savannah in search of Savanna and Great Black Hawks, Crested Bobwhite, Yellowish Pipit, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Wedge-tailed Grass-finch, Double-striped Thick-knee, Bicoloured Wren, and rarities such as Bearded Tachuri and Crested Doradito. With luck, we might come across a Giant Anteater making its way to its day-time resting spot. The forest here holds a good diversity of species – Undulated Tinamou, Screaming Piha, Spotted Puffbird, an assortment of woodcreepers, Guianan Slaty-Antshrike, and Blue-backed Manakin. If we’re really lucky we might bump into a Crestless Curassow.

A boat trip will take us along the Rupununi River, past sand banks where river turtles come to lay eggs, and where, along the river banks, Capybara, Howler Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Brown Capuchin and Giant Otters may be spotted. On one of our two evenings, the boat will take us to Mobay Pond, an oxbow lake which holds a spectacular collection of Victoria amazonica, the giant water lily. As dusk settles we watch the flower of the lily bloom, a slow-motion event which unfolds before our eyes. Returning to the lodge as dusk falls we may spot a Boat-billed Heron, and we will be serenaded by the night sounds of Tropical and Northern Tawny-bellied Screech Owls, Band-tailed and Lesser Nighthawks, and perhaps Great and Common Potoos. Overnight at Caiman House.

Day 11 – Karasabai and the Sun Parakeet then transfer to Manari Lodge 

We leave the ecolodge very early and drive to Karasabai, a border village between the northern Rupununi Savannas and Pakaraima Mountains along the Brazilian border. Our target species is the highly-endangered Sun Parakeet, a stunning species. Local knowledge will likely help us in our quest; we have most of the day to visit a number of likely locations, and where the birds are will depend on the location of flowering and fruiting trees. Other species we may encounter include Maguari Stork, Green-tailed Jacamar, Gray Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Red-and-green Macaw, Golden-spangled Piculet, Dusky-capped and Streaked Flycatchers, Orange-backed Troupial, Squirrel Cuckoo, Blue-chinned Sapphire, Glittering–throated Emerald, Southern White-fringed Antwren, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Ochre-lored Flatbill, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Burnished-buff Tanager, Pearl Kite and Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. Overnight at Manari lodge north of Lethem.

Day 12 – Rio Branco and Ireng River; transfer to Georgetown 

Two range-restricted species, Hoary-throated Spinetail and Rio Branco Antbird, occur in gallery forest along the Rio Branco and tributaries. The spinetail is classed as endangered and the antbird near-threatened. We drive across the savanna to gallery forest, where we could encounter a fine array of waterside species such as Pinnated Bittern, Black-collared Hawk, Muscovy Duck, kingfishers, herons, Pale-legged Hornero and maybe Capybara. Along the Takutu River, possibilities include Aplomado Falcon, Green Ibis, Red-bellied Macaw, Barred Antshrike, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Pale-tipped Inezia, Painted Tody-Flycatcher, Cinereous Becard, Flavescent Warbler, Black-faced Dacnis, and Hooded and Hepatic Tanagers. Savanna Foxes could be a nice addition to our mammal list on the early morning drive. After lunch at Manari we will catch a mid-afternoon flight back to Georgetown. Overnight in Georgetown. 

Day 13 - Departure  

Our Guyana birding tour ends today. You can depart anytime for Cheddi Jagan International Airport in time for your flights home.


Featured Wildlife

"This trip was a wonderful adventure into the backcountry of a small South American country. Nearly all the target birds were seen and seen well. And some of the birds were spectacular. There was also other very interesting wildlife." - 2017 tour participant

"Nice variety of experiences (paddleboat, motorboat, rainforest, savanna, canopy tour, Rainforest and River Lodges, city life and rural life). I enjoyed seeing how the native villages and people worked as cooperative communities and how many of the local guides were helping each other to get better." 2016 participant

"Good quality of birds seen (Cotingas, Harpy Eagle, etc), but overall numbers were low possibly due to the drought." 2016 participant