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: 
    Georgetown
    January 2019 led by Paul Prior and a local guide
    Number of Persons Limit: 
    8
Reviews
Highlights

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

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

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

 

Overview

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 45 minute drive from the airport to our hotel provides us with the opportunity to see this bustling coastal capital, perhaps with a few of the commoner local species to start off our birding adventure – an assortment of herons and Snail Kites foraging along  the roadside ditches, Yellow-headed Caracaras, Southern Lapwing, Tropical Kingbird, Tropical Mockingbird, Southern House Wren, Blue-gray and Palm Tanagers, and Gray-breasted Martin. The hotel grounds usually attract Plain-bellied Emerald, Great Kiskadee 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 Brown-throated Parakeets, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Little Cuckoo, Red-capped Cardinal, Buff-breasted Wren and perhaps Silvered Antbird. We also may have time to stop at a mangrove restoration project to search for Bicolored Conebill, and a view of the mudflats for shorebirds and Scarlet Ibis. Overnight Georgetown.

Day 2 – The Atlantic coast and Georgetown Botanical Gardens 

Dawn will find us at the mouth of one of the rivers or canals emptying into the Atlantic, excellent places for Rufous Crab-Hawk, as well as Black-crested Antshrike, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Greater Ani, White-bellied Piculet, Ashy-headed Greenlet and Blood-coloured Woodpecker, a colourful and much sought Veniliornis woodpecker endemic to the coastal plain of the Guianas.

In the late afternoon, we visit Georgetown’s Botanical Gardens, a marvelous park of palms, mature trees, waterways covered in lotus blossoms, and many special birds, from Snail Kites, Bat Falcon, Limpkins and Black-capped Donacobius to 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 – Kaieteur 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 (housing the endemic Golden Rocket Frog). Guianan Cock-of-the-Rocks occur here, as does Orange-breasted Falcon (making the most of the local swift population which nest behind the falls!), Cliff Flycatcher and noisy Coraya Wrens.

We then fly over miles of unbroken tropical rainforest to land at the Iwokrama Airstrip, from where we make the 5 minute truck transfer 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 and dazzling Painted Parakeets flash by, occasionally stopping to rest in the riverside trees. Trails at Iwokrama support Red-throated Caracara, Gray-winged Trumpeter, Spix’s Guan, Green-backed Trogon, several woodpeckers (including Chestnut, Golden-collared and Ringed), Cinereous and Mouse-coloured Antshrikes, and Rufous-capped Antthrush. This afternoon we bird trails close to the field station, specifically in search of the weird and wonderful Capuchinbirds. An evening boat ride should reveal Ladder-tailed Nightjars, Black Cayman, Greater Bulldog Bats (i.e. fishing bats!), “Gladiator” tree-frogs and perhaps an Amazonian Tree-Boa. 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 Black-chinned-Antbird, and spotting various Macaws and Toucans catching the early sun, we either continue our journey to Turtle Mountain, elevation 300 m, for views over the forest canopy or explore the trails in the vicinity of the lodge. Both hikes pass through primary forest where we look for Red-and-black Grosbeak, Yellow-billed and Great Jacamars, Waved Woodpecker, several woodcreepers  (Plain-brown, Amazonian Barred, Chestnut-rumped and Wedge-billed), Dusky-throated Antshrikes, Long-winged Antwren. Should we encounter an antswarm, we will look for several ant followers including the astonishing White-plumed and Rufous-throated Antbirds and, if very lucky, Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo. Overhead glide Greater Yellow-headed and King Vultures, Plumbeous and Swallow-tailed Kites, and Zone-tailed Hawks. Mammals include Guianan Red Howler and Black Spider Monkeys. After lunch and a well-deserved siesta we bird the entrance road to the River Lodge in search of fruiting trees and their attendant array of tanagers and honeycreepers. We may take another boat ride on the river after supper.  Overnight at Iwokrama River Lodge.

Day 5 – Transfer to Atta Rainforest Lodge  

We leave after an early breakfast for the Atta Rainforest Lodge, birding along the road between Iwokrama and Atta and arriving at the lodge in late morning, in good time for lunch. The road is one of the best areas for seeing Black Curassow, Crimson Topaz, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Yellow-throated Flycatcher, Pompadour Cotinga and Blue-cheeked Parrot, and we make stops in the Mori Scrub for the regional specialities: Bronzy Jacamar, Rufous-crowned Elaenia and perhaps Blackish Manakin.

In the afternoon we visit the Canopy Walkway, 30 meters above the forest floor. From platforms we scan for Black-faced Hawk, Purple-breasted and Spangled Cotingas, several parrot species, 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, perhaps woken by Amazonian Pygmy-Owl, we will perhaps repeat the visit to the walkway to look for passing flocks of canopy dwelling species such as Todd’s and Spot-tailed Antwrens, Guianan Toucanet, Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers and Blue Dacnis. Red-and-black Grosbeak, Black-eared Fairy, Racket-tailed Coquette and Ferruginous-backed Antbird occur close to the lodge clearing as do Guianan Warbling Antbird, Tiny Tyrant-Manakin, Black-headed  Parrot and Guianan Red Cotinga. We again try for White-winged Potoo should we have been unsuccessful the previous night, and maybe Blackish nightjar and Black-banded Owl. 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 in the hopes that one of these spectacular birds is in residence. We then continue south for the Macushi Amerindian village of Surama. Either on the way, or potentially later in the afternoon we stop at the Harpy Eagle trail, where we have a walk of about an hour to a known nest site where with luck these impressively huge 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, Tropical Screech-Owl, White-tailed Nightjars and Pauraques call nearby. Overnight at Surama Eco-Lodge

Day 8 – Surama Area – Savannah Edge and Forest

In the morning, if we haven’t already managed to visit the Harpy nest-site, we will hike the hour or so across flat terrain deep into the forest. The hike will present us with opportunities to see birds such as Grey-winged Trumpeters, Screaming Pihas, Black Nunbird, Spotted Antpitta, Red-fan Parrot, Golden-headed and White-crowned Manakins and several species of monkeys including Wedge-capped Capuchin and perhaps Guianan Saki. The nearby trails around the Eco-Lodge offer excellent opportunities for birding, especially if we encounter army ant swarms. Species here include Black-spotted Barbet, Cream-coloured Woodpecker, Blue-headed Parrots, Scarlet and Red-and-green Macaws, Great and Paradise Jacamars, Green and Black-necked Aracaris, Lesser, Forest and Plain-crested Elaenias, Sulfury Flycatcher, Finsch’s Euphonia,  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 and Least Nighthawks and White-tailed Nightjar. Overnight at Surama Eco-Lodge.

Day 9 – Transfer to Caiman House 

We leave Surama early in the morning for the drive to Caiman House. This is very much a driving day, but this takes us through wonderful open Savannah affording many opportunities to stop and scan for Buff-necked Ibis, White-tailed Hawk, Aplomado Falcon, Vermillion and Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Yellowish Pipit and Grassland Yellow-Finch. We should reach our destination - Caiman House – in time for lunch and then in the later part of the afternoon we will hike down to the river, exploring the riparian forest for White-bellied Antbirds, Capuchinbird, Burnished-buff Tanagers and Blue-backed Manakin. 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, White-tailed Kite, Burrowing Owls, Crested Bobwhite, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, 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, and Guianan Slaty-Antshrike. 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, and Giant Otters may be spotted. Scanning the trees along the bank we will find Swallow-winged Puffbirds, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers, and White-throated and Channel-billed Toucans. 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, all the while scanning for Sunbitterns. In 2018 it was here that we saw a pair of Bare-necked Fruitcrows flying to roost! Returning to the lodge as dusk falls we should spot Capped and Boat-billed Herons, and we may be serenaded by the night sounds of Tropical and Northern Tawny-bellied Screech Owls, and see Band-tailed 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 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, Jabiru, Grey-lined Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Red-and-green Macaw, Golden-spangled Piculet, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Orange-backed Troupial, Glittering–throated Emerald, Southern White-fringed Antwren, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Ochre-lored Flatbill, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Chestnut-vented Conebill, 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, past small wetland pockets where we could encounter a fine array of waterside species such as Pinnated Bittern, Black-collared Hawk, Muscovy Duck, White-faced Whistling Duck, 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, Flavescent Warbler, Black-faced Dacnis, and Hooded and Hepatic Tanagers. Crab-eating 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.

Map
Featured Wildlife
Reviews

"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