Georgetown, Guyana: 10 Things To See And Do To Make The Most Of It 

Georgetown, Guyana: 10 Things To See And Do To Make The Most Of It 

Georgetown, Guyana, is an interesting city and it would be a pity to miss it when visiting the country. I am a strong believer that visiting a foreign country without exploring the capital is a bit like eating pizza without mozzarella – you just miss out on a huge chunk of flavor.

Indeed, the capital is where the heart of the country is, where visitors can learn more about its history, its culture, and where they can find the best food and the nicest hotels. This surely was the case for Georgetown, Guyana.

I appreciate that most people who visit Guyana go there to explore the wild interior, but since all international flights to the country land in Georgetown, one may as well spend a day or two to visit it, right?

This post highlights what to do and see in Georgetown to make the most of it, and why it is worth visiting.

For more things to do in Guyana, read my post “13 Absolutely Amazing Things To Do In Guyana.”

Some Background Information On Georgetown, Guyana

Georgetown sits on the east bank of the Demerara River, where this gets into the Atlantic. Along the coast line of the city a seawall has been built by the Dutch colonizers, along with a canal system that drains the town, which is actually over two meters below sea level.

The city is divided into several small districts: Kingston to the northwest; Cumminsburg; Alberttown; Queenstown and Newtown in the center; Robbstwon, Lacytown, Starbroek and Bourda south of Church street; Werk-en-Rust, Wortmanville, Charlestown and Le Repentir even more south; Thomas Lands to the east and Kitty further east.

Georgetown was founded in the 18th century, initially as the capital of the Demerara-Essequibo colony that was administered by the Dutch. The colony was subsequently captured by the British in 1781, and the mouth of the Demerara River was picked by Liutenant-Colonel Kingston for the establishment of a town.

Under the French, who colonized it in 1782, Georgetown became the capital with the name of Longchamps. The Dutch took it back in 1784 and renamed it Starbroek, after Lord Starbroek who was the president of the Dutch West India Company. That’s when Georgetown started expanding.

The name Georgetown was assigned in 1812, in honor of King George III and gained official city status in August 1842, under Queen Victoria’s reign.

In 1945 a large fire (known as “The Great Fire”) destroyed large parts of the city.

Georgetown, Guyana

Georgetown, Guyana, as seen from the plane

Why Georgetown, Guyana, Is Worth Visiting

With its roughly 250000 inhabitants (though the urban area gets to around 600000, making up around 80% of the entire population of Guyana), Georgetown glory days may be over. Yet, Guyana’s capital remains a charming city which is easy to navigate, and where the often dilapidated architecture and the urban parks give the impression of a really laid-back atmosphere despite all the chaos.

The infrastructure of Georgetown, Guyana, changed dramatically in 2007, once the city hosted the semi-finals of the World Cricket Cup: new hotels were built; better sport facilities; and a bunch of businesses catering to tourists’ needs started. Tourists remain few, but hotels are often busy thanks to NGOs workers and other businessmen who often visit the city.

Behind the crumbling exterior, the city has a bunch of interesting historic monuments, a thriving intellectual scene and some fantastic restaurants. The atmosphere is that of any other Caribbean country – which takes first time visitors a bit by surprise as they expect more of a South America feel! It’s chaotic, colorful and full of life. In other words, it is fun to explore it.

Georgetown, Guyana

Starbroek is one of the most iconic buildings of Georgetown, Guyana

10 Things To See And Do To Make The Most Of Georgetown, Guyana

Shop at the local markets

Whenever I get to a new place, I make a beeline for the local market. I love the energy of a good city market, and I think it is a great place to get a first feel for the local way of life and culture. Besides, much of a country’s culture can be understood by knowing what the locals eat. The same can be said for Georgetown, Guyana.

Sure enough, one of the nicest things to do in Georgetown, Guyana, is visiting Bourda Market. This is a great place to see, buy and try delicious fresh produce. Sellers are usually quite nice (though I have to say I met some grumpy ones too!) and are happy to offer tastings of the best fruit they have for sale.

Make sure to try the bananas: there are more varieties of bananas for sale at Bourda Market than I will ever remember. They all vary in size, texture, flavor and sweetness and they are all delicious. And to think that in Europe we only know one!

Another thing you should not miss on is fresh coconut. To me, drinking coconut water straight from the fruit is a sign I am in the tropics. There are several places around the market that sell really cold coconut, cutting it open for you. It’s a great way to stay fresh and hydrated!

Keep an eye out for other delicious tropical fruits such as mango, papaya and pineapple, and check out the avocados. I don’t think I have ever seen avocados as big as those I have seen at Bourda Market! All the produce, all the colors and the busy, friendly vibe make visiting Bourda Market one of the things to do in Georgetown, Guyana.

Another market to is Starbroek Market – this actually is one of Georgetown, Guyana, landmarks and one of its more famous buildings, thanks to its cast-iron structure, and the clock tower which dates back to the 1700s (although the current structure dates back to the 1880s).

Similar to Bourda Market in terms of what is sold, Starbroek is also a transportation hub, with vans, minibuses and commuter buses all gathering there. This means two things: there is a lot of traffic, and there are pick pockets. So make sure not to bring any valuables there.

Georgetown, Guyana

The interior of St. George’s Cathedral in Georgetown, Guyana

Visit St. George’s Cathedral

Georgetown St. George’s Cathedral is one of the most iconic buildings in the city. It’s been included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1995. Thought to be the tallest wooden structure in the world, it was completed in 1892 and has pointed arches, vaulted ceilings and beautiful colonial architecture. The main structure is built from greenheart trees, native of Guyana, very hard and virtually fireproof and bug resistant (quite important, in this tropical country!).

The church is currently under renovation – the bits that have already been renovated are of a beautiful, sheer white!

Learn about Guyana’s Amerindian culture at the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology

Most people who travel to Guyana do so to appreciate its incredible wildlife and nature, as well as to get to know its indigenous peoples and cultures. Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology is a great place to learn more about Guyana’s Amerindian heritage. There are artifacts, exhibits, photographs and a lot of reading material. The permanent exhibition is laid out on two floors. Keep in mind that as with most museums in Georgetown, Guyana, visitors are not allowed to take photos of the interior unless someone is posing in the frame.

To find out more about the Amerindian indigenous culture of Guyana, check this post.

Visit the National Museum of Guyana

Warning: if you are bothered by the sight of stuffed animals, this is not the place for you.

The National Museum of Guyana in Georgetown is a good place to learn more about the country and the bonus is that there is no admission fee. There are exhibits that cover the history of Guyana, with explanations about Amerindian culture; others about colonial expansion and finally about the post colonial times. For those who want to find out more about wildlife in Guyana, there are plenty of stuffed and preserved animals, as well as reptiles and birds. There even is an entire exhibit dedicated to the giant sloth, who lived in the region during the Ice Age and was more than 4 meters tall!

Learn more about the incredible animals that live in Guyana on my post “The Most Amazing Wildlife In Guyana.”

Georgetown, Guyana

One of the many crumbling yet charming buildings of Georgetown, Guyana

Walk along Main Street 

One of the unmissable things to do in Georgetown, Guyana, is taking a stroll down Regent and Main Street. Lined along them, there are some gorgeous old colonial buildings, among which the is the State House, which is where the President of Guyana lives, and the National Gallery, which was founded by Andrew Carnegie and is still a functioning library with lots of antique books inside!

Go to the Botanical Gardens

One of the highlights of visiting the Botanical Gardens of Georgetown, Guyana, is that even though it’s a city park it is an incredible place to bird watch. Another highlight is the Victoria Lilies, which are really huge water lilies that apparently can hold a weight of more than 45 Kg!

Stop at the seawall

To be honest, there isn’t much to see at the seawall other than the ocean, which sadly is of a brown, muddy color. Yet, as this is one of the first historical landmarks of the city, connected with its colonial past, and it runs for miles and miles along the coast, I feel a quick stop is at least a must.

Tour El Dorado Rum Distillery

If you plan to visit Georgetown, Guyana, make sure to go to El Dorado Rum Distillery. All Caribbean countries produce rum, and all of them claim that their rum is the best. Sure enough, Guyana is proud of its El Dorado Rum. After all, Demerara, where Demerara Sugar comes from, is right here! This is one of the finest sugars in the world: it has large grains; it’s fairly crunchy and has a natural caramel color and flavor. It’s easy to see why any rum produced with Demerara sugar canes is delicious!

A tour of El Dorado includes a short visit to the museum, where the old distilling machines are exposed, and of the enormous aging cellar. The best part, however, is the tasting – which includes three samples of different aging. My favorite was actually the youngest one, El Dorado Cask Aged 5 Years: I found it has the most delicate, yet full flavor.

Georgetown, Guyana

Delven Adams is the chef at the Backyard Café, one of the best restaurants in Georgetown, Guyana

Eat at the Backyard Café

One of the highlights of a visit to Georgetown, Guyana, is eating at the Backyard Café. Chef Delven Adams has established a tiny restaurant literally at his house backyard, in what used to be a neighborhood with high criminality rates. He made it a point to involve the local community in his project: he employs local people; he shops at the local market; he uses local ingredients.

More importantly so, the food at Backyard Café is simply delicious: from the appetizers to the main course; from dessert to the fantastic juices, everything is made from scratch and with the freshest produce.

To learn more about Guyanese cuisine, check out my post 21 Mouthwatering Guyanese Food And Drinks You Need To Try.”

Georgetown, Guyana

The lovely pool at Duke’s Lodge in Georgetown, Guyana

Stay at a fabulous heritage hotel

Georgetown, Guyana, has a few good hotels that range from international chains to boutique, heritage hotels. My preference always goes to the smaller boutique hotels. Anyways, staying in a lovely hotel is one of the things to do in Georgetown, especially if this is the last stop of a tour of the country which involved roughing it in the Amazon rainforest!

These are the nicest hotels in Georgetown, Guyana:

Practical Information

When to visit Georgetown, Guyana

Guyana knows two seasons: rainy and dry. This means that it’s always hot in Georgetown, Guyana, with the difference that it can be hot and humid; or hot, rainy and humid. I’d recommend avoiding the rain season (between May and August) and opt to visit between September and December. It will be really hot, but at least it won’t rain!

Guyana runs festivals throughout the year, as its population really is multicultural. So, why not go during Diwali or Holi?

How to travel to Georgetown

Cheddi Jagan International Airport is located 41 km south of Georgetown, Guyana. It’s a small airport, but there are several international flights connecting it with other Caribbean countries such as Trinidad and Tobago or Antigua, or to Brazil and Panama. Caribbean Airways has direct flights to New York.

How to move around the city

Unless you are on a guided tour, the best and safest way to move around Georgetown is by taxi. The minibus system seems less than reliable and difficult to use if you are not accustomed to it!

Other useful information

Proof of yellow fever vaccination is a requirement to travel to Guyana. Though Georgetown doesn’t nearly get as many bugs as the Amazon interior, I advice to cover yourself with long sleeve and pants or to apply a good mosquito repellent. I assumed that since I was in a city there wouldn’t be many mosquitoes around, but judging by the number of itchy bites I got, I was wrong!

I also recommend traveling with a good travel insurance. Allianz Travel Insurance is a great one. You can check deals, packages and prices here.

For tips on what to pack for your trip to Guyana, check out this post

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Guyana during my visit, and wish to thank them for the wonderful welcome and the incredible experiences. The views expressed in this post remain my own.

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Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Kaieteur Falls

Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Kaieteur Falls

A trip to Guyana is not complete without a visit to Kaieteur Falls. This is, quite simply, one of the most incredible natural wonders of South America, if not the world, and one of its best kept secrets. Part of Kaieteur National Park, this is the world’s widest single drop waterfall; a fabulous combination of height and volume of water that make it a top attraction of Guyana.

To read more about Guyana, check out my post “13 Absolutely Amazing Things To Do In Guyana.”

I have seen many beautiful waterfalls in the world –  Iguazu Falls, between Argentina and Brazil; and Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe, among them – but there is something truly spectacular about Kaieteur Falls. And to make the overall experience of visiting even more incredible, people who venture to this remote part of Guyana usually have the entire place to themselves, as this really is off the beaten path.

Let me say it clearly: you should really go as soon as possible, before the world discovers this place!

This post explains everything you need to know before visiting Kaieteur Falls, and shares a few tips on how to organize a trip there. But before getting to the organizational bits, I will give some background information on this marvelous place.

Some Background Information On Kaieteur Falls

How Kaieteur Falls got its name

Kaieteur Falls were “officially” discovered by English explorer C. Barrington Brown in 1870, though the Patamona, an Amerindian indigenous people, had lived here long before he arrived and likely showed him the way to get there.

The name “Kaieteur” derives from the Patamona language, where “Kayik Tuwuk” means Old Man’s, and “teur” means falls – hence Kaieteur Falls means Old Man’s Falls. According to legend, the name is a tribute to a Patamona chief named Kai, who paddled a canoe over the falls and sacrificed himself to the Great Spirit Makonaima to save his people from the Carib tribe. As his people were finally safe, they named the waterfall after him.

This is only one of the many Amerindian legends that can be heard in Guyana. Many more are still passed orally by the indigenous groups that live in the country, in an effort to preserve their culture.

To read more about the impressive effort of the Amerindians peoples to preserve the indigenous culture of Guyana, read this post.

Kaieteur Falls

At the rear view of Kaieteur Falls, the National Park looks just stunning

Kaieteur Falls and Kaieteur National Park

Kaieteur Falls is located in the Potaro-Siparuni region of Guyana, in the Guyana Shield – a massive geoformation covered in rainforest and savanna. The area is characterized by an impressive biodiversity, and it’s been the subject of mining interests. However, in 1929 the British government (who at the time was still ruling Guyana), realizing the outstanding natural value of the area, turned it into a national park. This was one of the first conservationist acts in the region of South America and the Caribbean.

Kaieteur Natural Park now counts almost 63000 hectars, and it is heavily protected because of its incredible tourism potential – which itself depends on the place remaining intact.

And intact it is, indeed. Nestled as it is in the Amazon rainforest, nature is pure here, especially when compared to other more famous waterfalls.

At Kaieteur Falls, the Potaro river plummets down a cliff of 250 meters, into Kaieteur National Park.  Depending on the season, the falls are between 76 and 122 meters wide.

The National Park is home to various wildlife species, so a visit to Kaieteur Falls is also an excellent occasion for wildlife spotting. Along the trail that approaches the waterfalls it’s possible to see the beautiful scarlet cock-of-the-rock bird. There are also various minuscule golden (highly endangered and just as highly poisonous) frogs that live at the base of the waterfalls. The best time to spot wildlife is actually the early morning, right around sunrise (so it’s an option for those staying there overnight).

It really seems that Kaieteur Falls is birdwatchers and wildlife lovers heaven.

Find out more about the incredible animals that live in Guyana on my post The Most Amazing Wildlife In Guyana.”

Among the flora in the area of Kaieteur Falls there is the sundew, a natural insecticide plant that apparently eats mosquitoes (so hopefully they don’t eat visitors!); the coula, a rubber plant that can hold 2 times its weight; the capadulla, which is a water vine (a life saver if you get dehydrated in the rainforest!); and the giant tongue bromiliad, which is part of the pineapple family and has huge leaves that can grow to over 2 meters tall.

Kaieteur Falls and the National Park are blissfully isolated. Home to a tiny population of Patamonia Amerindians, it’s a hard to reach destination. This, and the fact that the number of tourists allowed to visit is limited (no more than 6000 visited last year; on the day I visited there was only my group, of a total of 7!) make it completely pristine. It just is a show of nature at its best – one that I hope you get to enjoy.

Moving on, I am going to share some practical tips on how to organize a trip to Kaieur Falls, Guyana, and how to make the most of it.

Kaieteur Falls

Flying to Kaieteur Falls, the view from above is breathtaking

Everything You Need To Know To Plan Your Visit To Kaieteur Falls

When to visit Kaieteur Falls

I visited Kaieteur Falls in September, after the rainy season had ended. The vegetation was incredibly lush thanks to the recent rain, but the walkway was dry and mosquito free, and the weather as hot as in the rest of Guyana, though there was a pleasant breeze right at the waterfalls.

Prince Henry visited Kaieteur Falls in December 2016, even more into the dry season, and according to media reports there wasn’t that much water then.

Apparently, depending on the time of year you visit, the paths are flooded with water and can be very slippery.

TIP: Regardless of the time you plan to visit Kaieteur Falls, make sure to wear a pair of good hiking boots and to pack a rain jacket – it can rain any time of year, really (and though it didn’t in the two hours I was there, the clouds promised a lot of rain for the afternoon).

To find out what you need to pack for a trip to the jungle of Guyana, read this post.

How to get to Kaieteur Falls

The are two ways to get to Kaieteur Falls: on a small charter flight for an easy day trip from Georgetown (or other locations in Guyana), or on an overland journey that can last up to five days and that is way more adventurous but significantly less comfortable. In both cases, it’s better to look into Kaieteur Falls tours for organizational purposes.

By the way, I have written a post about Georgetown, which you can read here.

By plane or on an organized tour

Most people reach Kaieteur Falls for a day trip, by flying to Kaieteur International Airport. This really is nothing more than an airstrip which is a mere 15-minutes walk from the waterfalls and which is beautifully located – the views approaching it are simply breathtaking.

Flying to Kaieteur Falls is not only a comfortable, hassle free way to get there, but it also affords fantastic views of the rainforest and of the actual waterfalls from above.

TIP: Make sure to sit on the right hand side of the plane on the way back, as this gives you one last view of the waterfalls from above.

Flights to Kaieteur Falls leave from both Georgetown’s airport – Cheddi Jagan International Airport and Ogle Airport, which is actually much closer to the city. It takes around 45 minutes to get there.

Although there are many companies that fly to Kaieteur Falls (among them Trans Guyana Airways, Air Services Limited and Air Guyana), it’s important to keep in mind that the aircrafts generally require a minimum number of passengers to operate the flight (it could be anything between 4 and 12). In other words, flights don’t depart if there aren’t enough reservations, or if the weather conditions are not good.

TIP: Make sure to be a bit flexible and prepared for a change of plans, so schedule a few days in Georgetown just to make sure that you do get to Kaieteur Falls (there is plenty to do there: stay tuned as I will be writing more about it!). Or else, be ready to charter an entire plane!

There are also flights departing from other locations in Guyana. I traveled from Rock View Lodge, in Annai, which has its own airstrip. The flight took around 90 minutes.

The best way to book the trip is via a local agent in Georgetown. It costs between $120 USD and $220 per person. There also are organized tours that include extra stops at other sites and other amenities such as a nice packed lunch. The prices vary between $300 and $500.

Various companies organize Kaieteur Falls tours, including the operators of Guyana’s Tourism Authority. Otherwise, you may want to opt for a full tour of Guyana that includes a stop at the falls.

These are some good tours of Guyana that all stop at Kaieteur Falls:

Kaieteur Falls

The sheer beauty of Kaieteur Falls is enhanced by the fact that there aren’t many visitors to the site!

Exploring the grounds

Kaieteur Falls day tours are pretty much all organized the same way, as the National Park only has one airstrip and each flight is allowed to two hours on the ground inside the park. It may sound like it is not enough time to explore, but since chances are that the only visitors to the park will be those on the flight (so really, there are no more than 12 people at the site at the same time!), this means that you won’t have to dodge any crowd, making it way easier to explore (and immensely more enjoyable).

Furthermore, a guide meets visitors and takes them around the park, so there is no such thing as getting lost or wasting time finding the way to the viewpoints.

There are 5 viewpoints overlooking Kaieteur Falls, though two have been closed as they are too close to the waterfalls. I really enjoyed the views from Boy Scout View (named after the boy scouts who arrived there and camped at the exact spot after a strenuous overland trip) and from Rainbow View (from where it’s possible to see the rainbow inside the waterfalls).

The view changes ever so slightly from each lookout point, but it’s always impressive.

TIP: Make sure to take in the view of Kaieteur Falls, and then turn around. The view of the valley below, with the Potaro River making its way through it, is simply impressive!

SAFETY TIP: There are no guardrails to stop falling off the cliffs, so make sure to stay safe and don’t get too close to the edges!

The guided visit also includes a walk in the forest, to spot the famous cock-of-the-rock (I got to see four!) and go in search of other wildlife, and to get to know the local flora too.

On an organized overland expedition

The overland expedition to Kaieteur Falls is meant for hard core adventurers, and involves a boat ride upstream, tough hikes and overnight camping in the jungle.

It takes around 5 days to get to Kaieteur Falls from Georgetown, where the trip start with an 8 hours (but it could be more, depending on the road conditions) bus ride via Linden to reach Mahdia, a mining township, and then onto the Pamela Landing on the Potaro River.

On the second day, the boat departs to travel upstream towards Amatuk Falls and then Waratuk Falls, famous for the beautiful natural pools. Then, it will be a couple of days hike to get to the base of Kaieteur Mountain, and a final three to four hour hike to get to the final ascent leading to Kaieteur Falls. The return journey to Georgetown is by charter flight.

This is probably a more rewarding way of getting to Kaieteur Falls, and the adventurer in me says I would enjoy it, but after having been on 3 short hikes (you can read about them here) and having literally melted in the heat of Guyana, I’d have to think about this challenge quite carefully before embarking on it.

Various adventure tour operators organize overland trips to Kaieteur Falls. Among them, Wilderness Explorers and Dragon Tours.

Final Remarks

Whichever way you pick to visit Kaieteur Falls, make sure that you are covered by the yellow fever vaccination (it is required to enter the country, anyways), that you apply sunblock and mosquito repellent, and that you have a good travel insurance cover. I recommend Allianz Travel Insurance. You can check out deal, packages and prices here.

Visiting Kaieteur Falls is a once in a life time experience: the sheer beauty of the site, the fact that it’s such a private experience, the fact that it is so unspoiled make it special!

Have you ever been to Guyana and visited Kaieteur Falls? What did you enjoy the most about it?

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Guyana during my visit, and wish to thank them for the wonderful welcome and the incredible experiences. The views expressed in this post remain my own.

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Jungle Clothes And More: Everything You Should Include In Your Amazon Packing List

Jungle Clothes And More: Everything You Should Include In Your Amazon Packing List

Picking the right jungle clothes and deciding what to pack for a trip to the Amazon basin is easier said than done. That’s why I have decided to put together a packing list to make things easier for you.

With the amount of traveling I do, I have become a pro at packing, for just about any kind of trip. I have plenty of hiking clothes (I hike so much that my closet is packed with hiking pants and rainproof jackets!); safari clothes, thanks to a recent trip to southern Africa; and after having traveled to Guyana I also have a good deal of jungle clothing.

I have become so good at packing that it now takes me no more than one hour to pack before a trip, and I do it right before walking out the door to catch my flight. Gone are the days when I’d agonize over what to pack and I’d end up carrying my entire closet on my back (I remember once my backpack weighted 18 kg, and I literally bent over the weight!). I was so bad at it that I even admitted being an unsuccessful backpacker.

Read why I call myself an unsuccessful backpacker in this post.

The Challenge Of Packing The Right Jungle Clothes

A recent trip to Guyana, however, proved challenging in terms of packing. The trip organizers sent out a detailed packing list, but some items on it made absolutely no sense to me. I was asked to bring a 10 meters long paracord – which I didn’t bring because (errr!) I don’t actually know what that is (and thankfully I was never asked to use it!). I was warned to pack as light as possible (which I am ok with). And obviously, I was told to pack a good deal of jungle clothes.

But, for as detailed as the Amazon packing list I had was, I wish there were some items I took with me, and others I had left home. So, for all those of you who are planning to visit Guyana soon (which you will be, since it’s an absolutely incredible country), I have put together a packing list which includes all the jungle clothes you will need, and a few other essential items, and I have also listed what you really should leave at home instead.

However, before I tell you what to actually pack, let me go over a few things you need to keep in mind when picking your jungle clothes.

jungle clothes

I guess I picked the right jungle clothes! Wearing my Kuhl Kliffside Convertible Pants and carrying my 28 liters Cabin Zero bag.

What You Should Know Before Packing Your Jungle Clothes

You need to pack light

A trip to the Amazon basin in Guyana is not like any other. There’s no luxury involved, nothing fancy about it, and chances are you will get dirty, sweaty, muddy most of the time. So, don’t pack anything precious with your jungle clothes.

Furthermore, chances are that you will be moving around quite a bit, on a combination of tiny charter flights (for which weight restrictions are taken seriously, and prior to the flight every single item is weighted: bags, food supplies and passengers too), small boats and 4×4 rides along bumpy roads. Space is always limited, and there will be weight restrictions in place. This means that your Amazon packing list has to be kept to the absolute essentials.

It’s hot in the jungle

When putting together your Amazon packing list for Guyana, keep in mind the weather conditions. Guyana is pretty much located on the equator. There are two seasons: dry (from September to December) and rainy. I obviously recommend visiting during the dry season (though keep in mind there can be showers even then). What hardly changes throughout the year is the average temperature, which stays between a balmy 29 and 32 degrees Celsius during the day, and hardly decreases at night.

It wouldn’t seem so bad, right? Temperatures during the summer get even higher than that in southern Europe, after all. However, a factor that has to be considered is the humidity. It makes the air heavy, and the perceived temperatures much higher: the minute you get out of air-con (which by the way isn’t really a thing outside of Georgetown) the air becomes literally thick – even the slightest form of exercise results in profuse sweating. So much for keeping your nice jungle clothes clean!

Long sleeve tops and pants are a must

Bugs, mice, mosquitoes, chiggers and other small parasites love the jungle as much as we do (possibly more). Such thick vegetation and humidity provide the perfect environment for them to thrive. This means two things: no matter how hot it is, forget about wearing tank tops, shorts and flip flops unless you like the idea of itching like like a mad man (your jungle clothes should all be long sleeve tops and pants); and wear a good insect repellent on any inch of skin that remains exposed.

As well as the right (non) colors

I learned the importance of wearing the right colors when I went on a safari in Africa. Bright colors attract insects, whereas neutral colors such as mauve and khaki are best to view wildlife (there is a great deal of wildlife in Guyana – check my post to discover more) and are not as attractive to  bugs. The same reasoning should apply when picking the right jungle clothes for Guyana, for wildlife spotting is a thing there.

See what I wore in Africa on my post “What To Wear On Safari.”

Clothes take forever to dry

When I had to pack for my trip to Guyana, I was thorn between taking many changes of clothes, or just rely on washing whatever I wore daily. In the end, I washed most of my clothes at the end of every day, since I could rely on the fact that I’d spend 2 nights in most of the places I visited. However, keep in mind that with such high humidity, unless clothes are hang to dry in the sun, it take a good while for them to dry (do not expect them to dry overnight!). Make sure your jungle clothes are made with light, quick dry fabric.

Amazon packing list

A 28 liters Cabin Zero proved to be perfect for my trip.

Jungle Clothes And Other Essential Items To Add To Your Amazon Packing List

The Backpack And The Daypack

The first thing to consider when putting together an Amazon packing list is the kind of bag you want to carry. Having established that you will need to pack more or less light, what you travel with depends on the kind of trip you will be going on.

For a soft adventure trip like the one I did, a 40 liters Cabin Zeroor something similar, or a similar size trolley is just perfect: it will feet all your jungle clothes, shoes and other essentials and it won’t take too much space on the boat, or on the plane.

If, on the other hand, you plan to go on a hard core adventure, you will need a good backpack. Osprey is my go to brand. I am a fan of the Ariel 65 (the equivalent for men is the Aether 70). Kestrel 68 (for men) and Kyte 66 (for women) are excellent alternatives. All of them are spacious enough to hold all your essential jungle clothes and whatever else you may need for the trip.

However, keeping in mind you want to keep weight down as much as possible, I’d suggest going with the Tempest 40(for women) or with the Stratos 50 (for men). I have used my Tempest 40 on a recent trip to Catalunya, where I had to carry around my backpack for the whole day even when hiking, and found it comfortable and able to carry just the right amount of clothes. It probably is the best choice for an Amazon packing list.

With regards to the daypack, I traveled with a 28 liters khaki Cabin Zero, and found the backpack to be comfortable and to hold everything I needed. One thing I did miss, though, was having side pockets to keep bottles of water handy. So, it’s probably a good idea to opt for an Osprey Daylite Plus.

jungle clothes

A proper Amazon packing list shall include a camera

Camera Gear

One of the nicest things to do in Guyana is taking hundreds of photos of the unique, breathtaking landscape and of the beautiful wildlife. This is the kind of place where you will wake up to the call of howler monkeys; where if you may spot the elusive jaguar as it runs off into the forest; where the cock of the rock will show bright and orange against the thick green layers of the jungle. Make sure that your Amazon packing list includes the right camera gear that will allow you to take beautiful photos of what you’ll see.

Other than your smartphone (I am a huge fan of iPhones), which is perfect for taking quick videos while walking around in the jungle, make sure to carry a good DSLR camera (I have a Nikon D3300 which is nice and easy to use) and a couple of good lenses. I had an 18-105 millimeters which proved good for landscape photography (I used it to take photos of Kaieteur Falls, both on land and from the plane). I also took my 70-300 millimeters lens, which is best for shooting wildlife.

If you are into action, also take a Go Pro or a steady cam.

To fit all this camera gear and a few more accessories and things, take a good daypack. I am a fan of the Osprey Daylite Plus and of the Cabin Zero 28 liters.

For more things to do in Guyana, head over to my post “13 Absolutely Amazing Things To Do In Guyana.”

Essential Jungle Clothes

This is an list of jungle clothes and a few other items that you must include in your Amazon packing list:

2 pairs of loose fitting hiking pants in neutral colors (remember what I said: bright colors attract insects!). I had my Kuhl Cliffside Convertible pants (which I never converted, by the way!) and my Hykr pants.

A pair of cotton pants. I like ali-baba pants, even though they are not the most flattering, because they are lose and comfortable. The bonus is that they are usually made with cotton, and they are easy to wash and dry.

3 or 4 long sleeve t-shirts, better if cotton and also in neutral colors. Make sure they are easy to wash and dry. I took my Kuhl Sora t-shirt which I have in several colors, and my Wunderer shirt.

3 or 4 tank tops – you can wear them under the shirt, to soak up the sweat (I know, gross!) and keep you cool.

4 or 5 pairs of underwear and the same amount of socks – make sure the socks are lightweight cotton. I had a pair that was rather thick and my feet almost exploded in them, as it was so hot.

3 sports bra for the ladies: they are more comfortable than the regular stuff, and in the heat all we want is to at least be comfortable, if not cool!

A long sleeve and long pants pajama – either that, or jungle clothes that you can happily wear to bed too. I know it sounds crazy to sleep in anything but your underwear in such heat, but insects and other creatures do get in the room when in the jungle (besides, what if you sleep in a hammock like I did after hiking?). Besides, despite mosquito nets anything can get in your bed (I had a small mouse in my bed one night, stuck inside the mosquito net with me!).

A rain jacket or poncho: even in the dry season, rain can suddenly come in the Amazon. I was walking along the Canopy Walk at Iwokrama Rainforest when it started pouring and I had to rush back to the lodge, getting soaking wet on the way. A good rain jacket or poncho is an essential item to add to your Amazon packing list. I have a fantastic Kuhl Airstorm Rain Jacket.

jungle clothes

My Kuhl Kliffside Convertible pants and my Sora t-shirt proved to be perfect jungle clothes

Leave At Home

Things you don’t really need to include in your Amazon packing list, on the other hand, are:

Shorts: there really is no use for them. I wore them in Georgetown thinking there would be less mosquitoes than in the jungle, and ended up being covered in bites and itching for days.

Leggings, jeans or tight pants: I brought a pair of leggings with me and literally melted in them. They really do not belong to an Amazon packing list. The same goes for anything tight (it’s too hot to wear tight clothes, and mosquitoes can pick right through it!) or jeans (they were included in my suggested packing list, but I am unable to wear them when it’s hot so didn’t bring them).

An extra cardi or light sweater: I used mine only during the flight. Other than that, it is always too hot to even conceive the thought of wearing something warm.

The Shoes

A pair of good hiking boots: a proper Amazon packing list can’t do without. I have been wearing the same Dolomite pair for ages (they aren’t really available outside of Italy). They are so comfortable that when the sole got completely worn out I had them resoled. You’ll need something with extra ankle support, especially if you plan to hike a bit, because the forest can get extremely muddy and slippery. Besides, you will want to keep your ankles covered to avoid mosquito and chigger bites (I only know too well!). Columbia makes some excellent hiking boots, like these ones.

Check out my post about the nicest hikes I did in Guyana.

An extra pair of shoes: this is totally up to you, but I was glad to have something more lightweight that I could wear around the camp at night. I took a pair of Converse All Stars but going back I would opt for a pair of light canvas shoes. They are much lighter to carry, and go well with jungle clothes.

A pair of sandals: I took my usual Hawaianas flip flops, which are great to get in the shower and I find comfortable to walk around, but a pair of Teva sandals are also great, especially as you can wear them with socks at night – your feet will get a break, and you won’t get eaten alive by mosquitoes and other insects. I know that wearing sandals with socks isn’t exactly glamorous, but when in the jungle, I hardly think anyone is bothered!

Beauty and Personal Care

A proper Amazon packing list needs to include a few essential items that will be much needed in the jungle. Other than the obvious stuff – which you do need to carry, because the lodges in the rainforest only offer soap in terms of toiletries, here’s what I recommend taking.

Sunscreen: the sun is intense on this part of the world, so you need to protect your skin accordingly. I opted for a SPF 100, though I tend to burn easily. A good quality SPF 50 should be plenty. In any case, make sure to reapply sunscreen throughout the day.

Sunscreen lip balm: we always protect the skin, but forget to protect the lips! They are delicate too, you know?

Sunscreen spray: when the temperature is too hot, the last thing we want on our face is a thick layer of cream. A goodsunscreen spray is lighter in texture but just as effective, and it won’t stain all your nice jungle clothes.

Water mist spray: seems futile, right? Believe me, when the heat of the jungle strikes, you will be glad to have this little Evian water mist spray that will instantly refresh you. I didn’t have one with me, but thankfully one of my travel mates made sure to include it in her Amazon packing list so I occasionally snatched it from her.

Face and baby wipes: they are light and easy to carry, and much needed after a hike. They are also perfect to remove the thick layer of insect repellent and sunscreen before going to bed, and a must if camping in the jungle overnight.

Hand sanitizer: it will come in handy any time you have to use the bush toilet, especially if camping overnight.

jungle clothes

The perfect jungle clothes are long sleeve shirts and pants

Insect Repellent And Itch Creams

If you are even remotely similar to me, mosquitoes are big fans of you. You want to avoid being bitten, not only because it gets itchy and annoying, but also because of malaria and yellow fever risks. Make sure to apply copious amounts of mosquito repellent, preferably with DEET. I opted for a 50% one, but it’s a bit oily. There also are lighter options. Either way, make sure that you include it in your Amazon packing list.

You may also want to consider a clothing treatment, whereby your jungle clothes get sprayed with repellent that stays for up to 30 washes (you can either do it yourself, or take it to specialized places to do this for you).

Other things I recommend carrying are mosquito repellent patches or bracelets – just so as not to leave any chances on those mosquitoes.

In case that, despite all precautions, you get bitten, make sure to have a good itch cream (preferably with cortisone) to treat the bites immediately. Chigger bites itch badly, but if you don’t want to make it worse, don’t scratch it (it will only inflame the bites) and apply a good cortisone cream. If you fear you may get an allergic reaction to bites, make sure to also pack some benadryl antihistamine tablets that you can swallow with some water. It takes up to 3 weeks for the bites to heal fully.

Another thing I’d take, just in case, is tea tree oil. Its smells keeps the bugs away, and its healing powers are well known: applying a drop on a bite will immediately soothe it.

By the way, remember that there are still malaria and yellow fever warnings for Guyana, so you will need to show proof of having a yellow fever vaccination in order to enter the country, and I also recommend you get a good travel insurance. Allianz has some good travel insurance packages. You can check them out here.

First Aid Kit

I take a first aid kit with me pretty much on any trip. Sure enough, I had to include one in my Amazon packing list. This should have: paracetamol or any other pain relief tablets; imodium or other diarrhea medications; bandaids and bandages; a good antiseptic cream and antiseptic wipes; a cortisone cream; steristrips; hydration tablets(ideally, you’ll be drinking plenty of water and juice throughout the day, but the heat is fierce and you may need extra help!)

Amazon packing list

Binoculars are a nice addition to an Amazon packing list

Miscellaneous Stuff To Add To Your Amazon Packing List

Other things you will want to include in your Amazon packing list are a good hat to protect your head from the sun – personally, I think I look silly in a hat, but I had to wear it as the sun was really getting to me! Besides, the right hat can match even the nicest jungle clothes.

Sunglasses are a must during the day, to protect your eyes from the fierce light. And another must to include in your Amazon packing list is a head lamp or a torch, which will be needed at night as there often is no electricity around the lodge, and even less so when camping in the wild. Make sure to take one with a red light option, to keep bugs away.

Make sure to take a power bank: there is no phone reception at all in the jungle, but if you plan to use your smartphone for photos and videos, it make come in handy to have a bit extra power, so I recommend adding it to your Amazon Packing list.

Binoculars are a nice add on, if you have room in your luggage. You’ll need them any time there is any cool bird around (which is pretty much every day) or if you are lucky enough to spot a jaguar (I was, by the way!).

A water bottle is a must. There is no garbage disposal in the Amazon basin of Guyana, and though the indigenous communities due their best to protect their environment, plastic waste is still an issue. A refillable water bottle significantly reduces the amount of plastic you consume, so make sure to include it in your packing list. I have a steel one which is wonderful, as it keeps my water cold for hours.

Read more about the indigenous communities of the Rupununi region of Guyana in this post.

If you enjoy reading, make sure to include a nice book (or a Kindle) in your Amazon packing list. You probably want to include it even if you are not much of a reader. Tv is not a thing in the Amazon basin, let alone the internet. You will want to keep yourself entertained once you are back at the lodge at night!

One last thing I’d include in an Amazon packing list (and which I regret not bringing) is snacks. Don’t get me wrong, food in Guyana is delicious (you can read more about it in this post), but on those long boat rides a snack such as a protein bar or a trail mix wouldn’t hurt.

Travel Insurance

I recommend getting travel insurance whenever you get out of the country. You definitely want to get a good one if you plan to visit a remote place as the jungle of Guyana, especially as there still are cases of yellow fever and malaria there! (Also remember that yellow fever vaccination is required to enter the country) I recommend using Allianz Travel Insurance. You can get a quote here.

Final Notes

A trip to the Amazon basin of Guyana is by no means a comfortable one. Forget about looking pretty, and make sure you actually feel comfortable. Pick jungle clothes that are, more than anything else, smart. Protect yourself against the heat and the insects; drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables to make sure you get a good dose of fibers and sugars.

By all means have fun!

Have you ever been to the Amazon? What are you essential jungle clothes?

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Guyana during my visit, and wish to thank them for the wonderful welcome and the incredible experiences. The views expressed in this post remain my own.

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21 Mouthwatering Guyanese Food And Drinks You Need To Try

21 Mouthwatering Guyanese Food And Drinks You Need To Try

Guyanese food is simple, earthy, tasty and comforting. It is quite similar to that of the rest of the Anglo Caribbean countries such as Antigua, thanks to a similar ethnic mix. Indeed, the food reflects the varied culture of the country, whose inhabitants are of African, Creole, East Indian, Amerindian, Portuguese, Chinese and even European (British) descent, and its colonial history.

By the way, you can read more about culture in Guyana on my post “How 3 Tiny Villages Are Helping To Preserve Indigenous Culture In Guyana.”

Sure enough, I didn’t miss the chance to try traditional Guyanese food when I visited, and I truly enjoyed its clean flavors. Yet, what I loved  the most about it is the freshness of the ingredients used to create seemingly simple yet delicious meals. This is the kind of place where chances are that what’s on your plate is locally sourced and seasonal, probably bought fresh at the local market – where there is an incredible selection of produce.

A trip to the food markets of Georgetown reveals more kinds of bananas that any European would imagine – they are different in shape, flavor, texture (one really has to try them to appreciate them, and by the way, they are all so good). Pineapple, papaya and mango are as sweet as one could hope for, and avocados are ridiculously big (I have a photo of one next to a pineapple, to give it perspective, and they are almost the same size!) and have the softest texture.

I know food isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Guyana (most think of its wild beauty, that really makes it a must when in South America). Yet, I do recommend trying at least some Guyanese dishes and sampling the local ingredients such as all the delicious fruit as one of the things to there. For anyone who is planning to visit, I thought I’d write a little something about the nicest Guyanese food – the one that you really should try when you visit. Keep in mind that my list is absolutely not exhaustive!

For more things to do in Guyana, check my post “13 Amazing Things To Do In Guyana.”

Guyanese food

Cook-up rice is a staple Guyanese food

21 Delicious Guyanese Food And Drinks You Must Try

The Staples

Bake

Bake is a kind of bread that I have mostly seen served for breakfast. The most interesting thing about it is that it isn’t baked at all. This is a traditional Guyanese food: it is a plain white flour dough lightly fried. It’s usually served nice and warm. I tried it with peanut butter, and it was simply mouthwatering.

Cook-up Rice

Cook-up rice is a nice reminder of what part of the world you are in. In its various forms, this rice dish is seen in many Caribbean countries such as Antigua (they have something similar in Central America countries such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which however is saltier and more spicy). It is a one pot dish made with rice and pretty much any kind of peas available (can be pigeon peas, chickpeas, beans). Meat is also added to it.  As far as Guyanese food goes, this is an absolute must try.

Cassava Bread

Cassava is known in other countries as yuca or manioc. I was quite sure I could recognize the taste of it, and it was only when I read the international names that I finally understood why! Anyways – cassava bread is another staple traditional Guyanese food. It’s a kind of flat bread made with grated cassava, that is commonly used to accompany meals or to be eaten as a snack. It’s fantastic with peanut butter or with avocado.

Farine

Farine is a derivate of cassava – it’s basically made with the residue of what has been used to make cassava bread. It looks like a sort of thick cous cous in shape, color and texture, and it is used to accompany meals, much like rice and cous cous. It’s omnipresent on Guyanese tables, so it’s easy to see why this is a must try Guyanese food.

Salt fish

Another staple in Guyanese cuisine is salt fish. I have mostly seen it served for breakfast. It is made with salt fish, which is rinsed and boiled for an hour and a half, and then fried with oil, garlic, onion and pepper. Locals love to eat it with bake.

Guyanese food

When it comes to Guyanese food, pepperpot is a must

Pepperpot

This must be one of the ultimates Guyanese dishes. Whenever I asked any local about their favorite food or their comfort food, they’d mention pepperpot. Apparently, it’s a must for Christmas or any celebrations, too. It’s a dish made with stewed meat which is flavored with cinnamon, cassareep (a sauce made from the root of cassava) and other ingredients. Any kind of meat can be used to make it – beef, pork and mutton. Some also use chicken and a vegetarian version is becoming more common.

Pepperpot cooks for several hours and it’s meant to last several days thanks to the preserving properties of cassareep. It’s usually served with rice, roti or home-style bread (though I have a feeling most locals would eat it with farine).

Metemgee

Another popular sort of stew is metemgee. This is made with corn, dumplings, cassava, plantains, okra and hot peppery coconut milk sauce. Traditional Guyanese food is very earthy, and this is not different: it has lots of root vegetables such as potatoes, edoes or yam. It’s served with salt fish or fried chicken.

Guyanese food

Bake is among the must try food in Guyana

The International Flavors

Roti

Paratha or oil roti is a kind of flat bread that is made with flour, salt, water, baking power and lots of oil (sometimes pea flour is also added to the mix) and it’s used to accompany curries. It’s very fluffy and moist.

Curry

With such a large part of the population whose ancestors are from the West Indies, it’s only obvious that among the most popular dishes in Guyanese cuisine there is curry. This can be made with any sort of meat, though chicken is a favorite. It’s nice, thick, flavorsome and never too spicy (contrary to the food in India, which is sometimes unbearably hot for me!). It’s usually served with roti.

Guyana style chow mein

Chow mein is a Chinese dish made with noodles, lots of chopped vegetables and usually chicken, all fried in the wok with lots of oil. To be honest, as a complete amateur when it comes to Chinese food, I haven’t really noticed much of a difference between the original recipe and the Guyanese version. All I can say is that I liked it, and that I noticed it is quite common in Guyanese cuisine.

Fried chicken

Not a day went by when I visited Guyana without having chicken. It’s practically always on the table, in one form or the other. A favorite among Guyanese dishes is definitely fried chicken, whereby chicken is covered in a light batter and then fried until golden, crispy yet moist. It’s a common international dish, but Guyanese people definitely love it.

Guyanese food

Plantain chips are my favorite Guyanese snack

The street food and the snacks

Chicken Foot

There is actually no chicken in what may well be the most popular snack in Guyana. These are fried strips of a delicious dough made with flour, curry and cumin. It’s one of the most popular Guyanese food.

Plantain chips

A common snacks that is easily found in grocery stores and markets in Guyana, and that is often served freshly made to accompany a good rum punch, is plantain chips. As far as snacks, this is my favorite food from Guyana.

Methai

Methai sticks are prepared by mixing flour, sugar, margarine and baking power. They are then fried in vegetable oil and coated in custard power. They are very crunchy, on the sweet side, but good on the go.

Egg ball

The most popular fast food in Guyanese cuisine is egg balls. To be fair, the preparation isn’t that fast at all, but since it is a street food most people grab it on the go. A boiled egg is covered with a mix of boiled, mashed cassava and raw eggs, butter and pepper, and then fried. The result is, needless to say, delicious.

Pholourie

In the list of snacks among Guyanese food, there has to be pholourie. It’s (guess what) fried, spiced dough balls that are generally served with a chutney. Not the healthiest, but definitely yummy.

Guyanese food

Barbecued fish accompanied by farine, a staple Guyanese food

Other Delicious Guyanese Food

Real peanut butter

Ok, this isn’t exactly a dish, but since I mentioned it when I talked about bake, I thought I’d share a few more facts about it. Peanut butter in Guyana isn’t the industrial, sugary, added flavors one that people of the northern hemisphere get over the counter at the grocery store. It is real food, so much so that I want to classify it among the Guyanese food that has to be tried when visiting.

It is made in the most traditional way by the Amerindian communities of the North Rupununi region in Guyana. The bad news is that this delicious peanut butter is only sold in Guyana. The good news is that they are looking to export it. Either way, if I were you I’d stock on it at the local stores before traveling home!

Grilled fish

With so much water, it’s quite obvious that one of the staples in Guyanese cuisine is fish. A typical fishing expedition in the Amazon basin ends up in a fantastic impromptu barbecue: while the fire gets ready, the fish is washed and cleaned and seasoned with a fantastic spice mix, and then grilled to perfection. Any fish can be used, really. I tried piranhas and vampire fish.

Here are 10 unmissable tips for fishing in Guyana.

Guyanese food

Juice is the perfect thing to accompany Guyanese food

The Drinks

Rum

In the country of Demerara, it’s quite obvious that the spirit of choice is rum. Used to prepare fantastic drinks (the most popular one is rum punch), Guyanese rum is of exceptional quality. Several rum distilleries are located in or near Georgetown, Guyana capital, and they can be visited on guided tours that include also a tasting.

Banks Beer

One of the things I always to whenever I am in a new country is trying the local lager – I just look for the kind that is sold over the counter at local stores and in the local bars. Guyana beer of choice is Banks. It’s perfect when icy cold, and a fantastic way to accompany local snacks.

The juices

One of the things I enjoyed the most, and which is regularly used to accompany Guyanese food, is a good fruit juice. Other than my favorite – icy cold coconut water – I enjoyed trying lime juice and mixed juice and watermelon. They are usually made with the pulp of the fruit mixed with cold water and some sugar, and served with ice.

Guyanese food

The best Guyanese food is found at the Backyard Café

Where To Have The Most Delicious Guyanese Food

There is no doubt that the best Guyanese food is that served by the Backyard Café in Georgetown. This is not just a restaurant, it is an overall cultural and social experience. A visit can include a tour of the market in the company of the incredible chef, Delven Adams, who takes care to show all the best local ingredients (don’t ask him to cook pasta, though I am sure he can pull out the best arrabbiata sauce if you ask him!) and suggests the best ways to use them. Upon request, cooking classes are organized.

The restaurant is literally located in the chef’s back yard, in a small, cozy and lovely garden where the trendy looking furniture has been made using recycled materials, and passion fruit vines provide much needed shade.

In an effort to revive and give new life to a neighborhood that was burdened by crime, he made sure to involve all the local community in his project. And there’s more: this is the kind of restaurant where the staff keeps an eye on customers to make sure that, should they have too many celebratory drinks, they don’t drive home. It’s much in line with the rest of the country’s effort to increase community conscience, and deserves to be praised for this.

Needless to say, food at the Backyard Café is delicious: fresh, made to order, according to customers’s tastes and dietary requirements and using local ingredients, it really is the best place to try some Guyanese food, though cooked with a modern, creative twist.

Have you ever been to Guyana? What is your favorite Guyanese food?

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Guyana during my visit, and wish to thank them for the wonderful welcome and the incredible experiences. The views expressed in this post remain my own.

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Discover the best food in Guyana and where to have it - via @clautavani

How Three Tiny Villages Are Helping To Preserve Indigenous Culture In Guyana

How Three Tiny Villages Are Helping To Preserve Indigenous Culture In Guyana

Culture in Guyana is an incredible combination of Amerindian, African, Indian, Chinese, British, Portuguese, and Dutch cultures, a reflection of the colonialist plantations past. Add to this already fantastic mix the fact that Guyana is considered the only mainland territory of South America to be part of the Caribbean region, and it is easy to see how this beautiful South American country is a fabulous melting pot with the most varied culture one could hope for.

As a former human rights lawyer, and having written my doctorate thesis and subsequently my book (and many more scientific publications) on the right to culture and the protection of cultural identity of minorities, I was intrigued to find out more about Guyanese culture and happy to learn about the involvement of the local indigenous communities in the preservation of their language, history and traditions, as well as of the environment and wildlife.

To find out more about wildlife in Guyana, check my post “The Most Amazing Wildlife In Guyana.”

During my time in Guyana I had the opportunity to visit 3 tiny indigenous villages in the Rupununi region and to get in close touch with the local communities. I loved to see the pride and joy with which the local communities embrace the comforts of modern life (for as little as they may be in this remote part of the country) and mix them with the most traditional Amerindian Guyanese culture.

I know that the indigenous communities of Guyana strive for their culture to survive, much like all indigenous and minorities groups around the world. So, they ought to be praised for everything they do for the survival of their traditions and for the preservation of the environment where they live.

Before I get into more details about the 3 villages I have visited and my experience there, let me provide some background information on the indigenous peoples and culture in Guyana.

culture in Guyana

Surama is one of 3 villages in the Rupununi region that’s been doing an outstanding job in preserving culture in Guyana

Some Background Information On The Indigenous Peoples And Culture In Guyana

There are 9 officially recognized indigenous peoples in Guyana. According to the 2012 census, there are around 78500 Amerindian persons in Guyana. This number marks around 10.5% of the total population of the country. Of these, around 90% live in the interior of the country, as opposed to the vast majority of Guyana population, which lives in the narrow Atlantic coastal strip.

The indigenous peoples have been largely integrated in the Guyanese culture. The Amerindian groups that live on the coast share many cultural features with the Afro-Guyanese and the Indo-Guyanese population, with intermarriage often occurring: Afro-indigenous children that are born in Amerindian villages (typically by an Amerindian mother) are accepted as Amerindians by the village.

Minority Rights Group International reports how the standards of living of the indigenous peoples of Guyana is generally lower than that of most citizens of the country. I have to say, having visited 3 indigenous villages, that indeed there are few modern life comforts there. Yet, these communities appeared to be happy, and they strive to make sure that their traditional culture is preserved and becomes a full part of the culture in Guyana.

In 1995 the government of Guyana designated September to be the national Amerindian Heritage Month. This heavily focus on sports, environmental activities and the Amerindian culture in Guyana and it was conceived to showcase nationally and promote (and as such protect) the Amerindian culture. It may be a great coincidence that I visited Guyana in September.

Of the 9 indigenous peoples of Guyana, I mostly got to know the Makushi group. These originally lived in the Rio Branco region of Brazil and started drifting to the northern Rupununi savannahs of Guyana at the beginning of the 18th century. More of them left throughout the century in order to flee the colonial resettlement policies of Brazil in the 1780s.

Much like the rest of Guyanese people, the Makushi show pride in their identity and traditions. This came across quite strongly when I visited 3 tiny villages, who are doing an outstanding job in preserving the indigenous culture in Guyana, which is constantly at risk of erosion given the difficult living conditions that the Makushi face.

Culture in Guyana

The main office in Rewa Village – where Guyanese culture is shown with pride!

How Three Tiny Villages Are Preserving The Amerindian Indigenous Culture In Guyana

Visiting indigenous villages is one of the nicest things to do in Guyana (read more about all that this country has to offer on my post “13 Absolutely Amazing Things To Do In Guyana”). Not only do they provide a vantage point to access some of the most stunning places in the country; but they also are perfect places to get to know Guyanese culture better.

I visited Rewa, Surama and Annai, all of them different from one another and each one offering a unique experience to the visitors they get.

Rewa and its effort to save the Arapaima

Rewa is a village of 312 people, mostly belonging to the Makushi indigenous community, and located in the Amazon basin of Guyana, at the confluence of the Rupununi and the Rewa rivers. It is an incredibly remote place, that is extraordinarily open to tourism, and that has been working hard to protect the indigenous culture in Guyana.

Visitors have the option to stay at Rewa Ecolodge, which was founded in 2005 thanks to a grant provided by Conservation International with the intention of protecting the land for future generations, of protecting the environment and the local wildlife from poachers, and to preserve the indigenous culture in Guyana.

The community smartly thought that if they opened up to tourism, they’d have more employment opportunities without having to leave their land, and they would as such be able to contribute to the protection of the local environment and to the preservation of their culture in Guyana.

And this is very much what’s been happening: taking 2 weeks shifts, pretty much everyone in the village is employed at the lodge. Women cook and clean; men tend to the garden and take care of the transportation; others guide the tourists into visiting the jungle and teaching them about the traditional lifestyle and Amerindian culture in Guyana – ie showing them how traditional fishing and hunting is done.

Even I went fishing for piranhas, and it was an incredibly fun experience. Find out more about my fishing experience on my post “Ten Tips For Successfully Fishing In Guyana.”

The lodge is extremely modest, much as the village next to it: there are five self-contained bungalows which have a private bathroom, and two “benabs,” each having two rooms and sharing bathrooms and showers, for a total of 18 beds. All bungalows and benabs are built in the traditional way, once again reflecting the Amerindian Guyanese culture: a small and plain wooden construction with plenty of gaps between the wooden boards and the walls and the thatched roof (to allow air from flowing through, but with air come also the bugs and, in the case of my bungalow, also a small mouse!); plain beds with the very much needed mosquito nets; and a basic bathroom with only cold shower (but really, in such heat that’s all one may possibly want!).

Since the culture in Guyana, at least in the Rupununi region, is to sleep in hammocks, all bungalows also have a hammock on the porch. I tried sleeping in one after hiking Awarmie mountain and wasn’t very successful, to he honest.

By the way, more about my hiking experience in Guyana can be found on my post “Three Short Yet Challenging Hikes in Guyana.”

All meals are home cooked by the women of the village and served in the dining benab, and even then there’s an element of Guyanese culture as along with international dishes such as pancakes for breakfast or mac and cheese for lunch, there’s also the local farine (a derivate of cassava) or the pepperpot.

The local community of Rewa not only has a mission to perpetuate its culture in Guyana, but it goes above and beyond in its effort to protect local wildlife. It was only two years ago that the people of Rewa realized that, following the dry season, a pond where the huge arapaimas lived was almost drying out, putting in danger the lives of 20 of these giant fish. That’s when they decided they’d do anything they could to save them, and sure enough they did! Over the course of two days, they loaded the fish on canoes, covered them in water so they’d continue breathing, and took them to the main river.

Of course, visiting the actual Rewa Village is a highlight. It is tiny, really: think just a few small huts, each with a garden and chickens roaming about, and a few dogs for good measure. There is a church; a village school (it was too late in the afternoon when I visited, so I didn’t get to meet any children, unfortunately); a main office and even two shops. Life seems to go by slowly and peacefully.

Needless to say, I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Rewa to experience the pristine nature of this part of Guyana; and to appreciate the indigenous culture in Guyana. Whatever Rewa Ecolodge is lacking in comforts, it makes up for it with the kindness and the smiles of the local community.

How to get to Rewa

Those who wish to visit Rewa have two options. The first is to fly on a 12-seater Trans-Guyana plane from Georgetown to Apoteri airstrip (it really is nothing more than a strip of grass in the middle of the jungle) and then get a two-hours boat ride to Rewa. This is the way I got there.

The other option is to fly to the Annai airstrip (which is actually linked to a village, more about it below!) and then drive all the way to Kwatamang boat landing and take a two hours boat ride to Rewa (I did this journey in reverse to leave from Rewa).

culture in Guyana

Children at Surama Primary School participate in activities to help preserve Amerindian indigenous culture in Guyana

Surama and its tribute to mother earth

Surama is another tiny village in the Rupununi savannah region of Guyana, surrounded by the Pakaraima Mountains and not far from the Iwokrama International Center for Conservation and Development.

The village counts a population of little over 300 people, of which 55 are children attending the local school. The inhabitants of Surama are mostly of the Makushi indigenous group, though there are also some of African descent coming from Georgetown. There actually are a few examples of intermarriages among Amerindian and African Guyanese, whose children are considered to be Makushi, as I have mentioned above.

Travelers wishing to explore the savannah of the Rupununi have the option of staying at Surama Ecolodge. This actually was the first community lodge to be founded in Guyana, more than 20 years ago (in 1996 to be more precise), with the aim of using the natural resources and the traditional indigenous culture in Guyana in a socially appropriate manner, giving the locals the chance to be trained and later on employed.

The idea is that any money that gets into the lodge stays with the local community, to help preserve the local environment and the traditional indigenous culture in Guyana. That’s why the lodge is completely run by locals: from the guides to the cooks, from the drivers to the admin staff, all employees of Surama Ecolodge are members of the local community.

The lodge is built in a traditional way, reflecting the Amerindian indigenous culture in Guyana, much like Rewa Ecolodge: four plain bungalows, and a larger benab which houses four small bedrooms, each with its individual bathroom; a benab housing the dining room, and a larger one housing the office. The thatched roof are a great hiding spot for lizards and bats, so these are not an uncommon sight in the rooms at night (on the plus side, they eat bugs!).

Surama Ecolodge offers a wide range of activities, such as hikes to Surama Mountain, fishing and birdwatching. However, my favorite part of visiting Surama was experiencing the Guyanese culture of this part of the country.

Entering the village a totem welcomes visitors, immediately showcasing the indigenous culture of this part of the country. The local school makes for a fun stop: the children enthusiastically welcome visitors, inviting them to play, while the teachers proudly show the facilities, which though basic are colorful and joyous, providing for a great learning environment.

The same children and teachers that attend the school during the day are members of the Makushi Culture Group and of the Wildlife Club. Here, children are taught about their heritage and they put together a show of traditional dances and songs, proudly demonstrating the strict connection between the environment and the culture in Guyana. The group has gained popularity to the point that it travels around the country and even overseas, inspiring the creation of other similar groups having the aim of showcasing the indigenous Guyanese culture.

Surama is a fantastic place to visit. The setting of the village and the lodge, the surrounding nature, the wildlife (imagine waking up to the sound of howler monkeys and casually walking into an ant eater on your way to breakfast) are all great reasons to visit; but the personal touch of everyone that lives and works there makes it a truly special place.

How to get to Surama

Surama can be reached from Georgetown on a journey that can last anything between 4 and 8 hours, as the road is not paved and the journey can be bumpy even during the dry season. On the way to Surama, it is possible to stop at the nearby Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, which is at around one hour drive and one of the most fun places to visit in Guyana.

Guyanese culture

The local radio in Annai does a great job in promoting and protecting the indigenous culture in Guyana

Annai and the importance of education

For as small as it is, Annai has been doing an impressive job in preserving and promoting culture in Guyana. Little more than 300 people, most of them Makushi, live in this village, located at the edge of the Rupununi Savannah in the Upper Takutu – Upper Essequibo region.

Less of a tourist destination compared to Surama and Rewa, travelers who visit Annai usually do so in order to travel to other destinations, as there is an airstrip right at the back of Rock View Lodge, the only place to stay in the area that is geared to international tourists. It’s a pity, as this is a great starting point to explore more of this amazing part of the country and to enjoy its natural beauty.

Contrary to Surama and Rewa Ecolodges, Rock View is not a community lodge but it is owned by a private family: Colin Edwards, an English businessman, bought what used to be a cattle farm in 1992. Obviously, much of the local community is employed at this lodge, which like the rest of those I have mentioned is run in an eco-friendly manner and in complete respect of the local Guyanese culture.

One of the must sees in Annai is the local radio station. Located in the main square of the village, this frugally run radio station has been doing a great service to educate the local community about what happens in the region – any sort of social, political and cultural announcements are spread, along with a good deal of international and local music. But there’s more: this radio station constantly advocates the preservation of the local culture and way of life.

How to get to Annai and Rock View Lodge

Getting to Annai and Rock View Lodge is fairly easy: charter flights connecting it to Georgetown depart from the airstrip located right behind the lodge. Ground transportation is a bit more complicated, given the road conditions on this part of the country, but from Annai it is possible to reach Iwokrama Forest and Atta Lodge, Surama and Kwataman Landing, from where it is possible to charter boats to Rewa.

Have you ever been to Guyana? Which aspect of the culture in Guyana did you enjoy the most?

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Guyana during my visit, and wish to thank them for the wonderful welcome and the incredible experiences. The views expressed in this post remain my own.

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Discover how 3 tiny villages are helping preserve culture in Guyana - via @clautavani