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Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago holiday August 2009

September 8, 2009

We’ve just got back from the most amazing holiday we’ve ever had, courtesy of Reef & Rainforest holidays in the UK. map

We haven’t met anyone who has been to Guyana. In fact most of our friends had no idea where it is and always guessed it was in Africa. We knew that spending two weeks near to the equator and mostly in jungle areas via 14 flights in as many days was going to be a challenge. We also knew we were likely to see first hand flora, fauna and spectacular scenery that most people will never see except in a zoo or on television.

We were not disappointed.


We flew out by Virgin Atlantic to Barbados, then by Caribbean Airways to Trinidad and from there to Georgetown, Guyana. The flights themselves weren’t too bad but the repeated immigration and customs form-filling and interminable queues really got on my nerves, especially in that heat. And we had long waits between each flight which made it worse. The customs staff at Trinidad were particularly nazi-like; confiscating our cigarette lighters and searching most people and their hand luggage at least once. I was really niggly by the time we got to our hotel, Cara Lodge, late that evening.

My mood lightened when we discovered that, because all the standard rooms were occupied, they had upgraded us to a top floor suite. Seriously, it was the same area as the ground floor of our 4 bedroomed house! So much wood, so many air conditioners, lights, telephones and furniture! What a shame we were only there one night.

Rum punch time smThe next morning we had an early transfer to the local airport for the first of 6 flights in a 12-seater, single engined Cessna Caravan plane. The flight to the rough airstrip near Karanambu Ranch took about an hour. We were met by Pat and a driver in the most beaten up old Land Rover you can imagine. The boat transfer had been cancelled because the river levels were much lower than normal at the end of the wet season. A very bumpy 5 miles later we arrived at the Ranch, where Melanie served us the first of very many cold Rum Punches.

Our room smYou can see the construction:- rough brick walls, concrete floors, no locks, no glass, no fans and certainly no air-conditioning – unless you count the flapping of bats’ wings in the night as they circled above the mosquito nets, searching for small flying snacks.

Apart from some cattle, the main purpose of the ranch is eco-tourism and looking after orphaned or injured giant otters. [See here for much more detail.]

It was just in the savannah region but jungle areas were close by. The scenery was stunning. the hospitality and food were in stark contrast to the relatively primitive living conditions. Warm water for showers depended on the sun.  Torches and candles were in order after about 9:30 p.m., when the generator was switched off. During the day solar panels provided power in the office for a couple of computers and a huge dish outside provided 24 hr internet access. Amazing!

Bandit smDuring our short stay Diane McTurk was in the UK but ably deputised by Pat & Mel. An eclectic mix of guests passed through: Guyanans, Americans, Canadians, Brits; judges, a zoologist, an art critic, businessmen (and women). Only one giant otter, Buddy, was being looked after plus one Racoon called Bandit, for obvious reasons.

We took Bandit for a walk, played with Buddy while he crunched on a Pirahna, photographed a giant anteater and went on river trips to see birds, caiman and Guyana’s national plant/flower, the giant water lily.

Pat asked us if anyone fancied a horse ride. Three of said we would so she arranged it for the next day. None of us were really experienced so we suggested limiting it to one to one and a half hours. Two hours later we were still not in sight of the ranch and the others were getting a bit worried. Do not scoff at the term “saddle-sore”. Do not under-estimate the damage and longevity of the pain and inconvenience it can cause!


Back to Georgetown for a quick bit of essential shopping, one night (in a standard room – Boo) at the Cara Lodge, then a flying visit to some fabulous waterfalls in western Guyana.

On these flight every passenger, their luggage any parcels and (in our case today) the packed lunches and bottles of water must be carefully weighed before departure.

CNV00019CNV00025Another one hour flight to another rough airstrip where a guide met us and took us past a load of carniverous plants along a path within which (alledgedly) diamonds have been found to a number of vantage points from which to take photos until eventually we were standing in the river just a few metres from the actual edge of the Kaieteur falls; all 741 ft of it.

From there we flew to the  Orinduik falls on the border with Brazil. No guide turned up so the pilot escorted us to places where we could climb, paddle and swim. What a fabulous place!


Next day, we flew to Trinidad and the Asa Wright Nature Center. [See here for much more detail.]

It was a long drive up into the hills and jungle away from the town and coast but what a place! It’s no wonder you’ll find so many photos taken by so many people  who visited there and posted on the web.

LizardHead02Most of us were housed in small buildings of 4 rooms each in the grounds but not far from the main building which included the dining room, library and lounge area and, most important of all, the veranda and bar. Below the veranda were table and hanging bird feeders which attracted a variety of birds from dawn to dusk, along with pigeons, agouti and lizard munching the bits of bread and fruit which drop to the floor.

Gazing straight ahead, south down the valley over the rain forest, the sounds of other birds would rise along with the mist of rain evaporating from the forest. Every so often one of the superb guides based there would provide a view of a distant eagle or hornbill through the very high magnification monocular/telescope.

Maps were provided of the many walks through the forest, along with guided walks along some of them. By the end of our 4 days there Sue and I had managed to walk all but one section of them, including one that returned to the road with a killer climb. We searched in vain for an elusive armadillo which had been sighted twice on one of the trails. We went out at dusk to see a couple of large, hairy tarantulas whose day-time homes had been pointed out to us; another phobia Sue has now overcome.

OilBird01On the last full day we were privileged to be taken to an Dunston Cave, an oilbird roosting cave, where the infra-red capability of my camera proved useful. There was also a snake at the cave’s entrance – a yellow-bellied puff if I remember correctly.

Later we were driven to Caroni marsh, on the coast to cruise down the mangrove bordered canals, past caiman, snakes and various feeding or roosting birds, to a small lake where, every afternoon, large numbers of the scarlet ibis return to their night roosting places.

We had avoided the temptation of swimming in the dubiously dark river at the ranch but the lovely little natural pool and its waterfall, just up the road, was irresistable. A bit cold but so good! Every day there were day visitors, some of whom never left the veranda and its bar, except for lunch, just sitting with a drink and enjoying the tranquil views and visiting birds. And who could blame them?

The food and drink  were very good and the friendliness of the service would be hard to beat anywhere.

They did, however, cock-up the plane transfer time and taxi again. We should have double-checked. Never mind, the airline put us on the next flight.


And so to Tobago. Blue Water Inn is set in a beautiful location on Batteaux bay, near Speyside, just about at the far end of the island from the airport.

Blue Water01I won’t dwell on the laid-back staff (carry your own luggage, find/clean/empty your own ash tray or beach bed, wake the barman or drag him away from his mobile phone etc) or the bat dropping covered sofa or the broken internet PC and room a/c or the litter or broken outdoor tables … Suffice to say the place has the capacity to be a top class retreat for honeymoon couples and similar, but it isn’t.

Bay view1We did walk the road/trail through the grounds, high above the hotel but saw little wildlife. We also walked into Speyside to see the ‘town’ and people and to eat there (much more cheaply) one evening. Every walk involved a really steep hill out  of the grounds, then down and, of course, back again; hard work in that sunshine but my leg muscles had a good work out.

Last rum punchThe place was not without some wildlife but mainly we drank rum punches, sunbathed and took numerous brief swims in that glorious sea. We had intended to snorkel but the water looked a bit choppy in the shallow coverage of some of the reef and rocks.

And so, back to the UK via another three flights. Sue had continued to be bitten by ants and goodness knows what. She also has some unidentified infection giving flu-like symptoms and is off work, pending blood test results but fighting it and determined to take a similar holiday next time. That’s how good it was.

All the photos are now on Flickr. Enjoy.

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