The Kanaku mountain range lies in the southern half of Guyana dividing the Rupununi into the north and south savannas. The Rupununi River rises in the deep south, flows north and bisects the mountains into the eastern and western ranges. These mountains are internationally recognized as being extremely rich in biodiversity and in 2011 the Guyanese government in partnership with the local indigenous communites declared the Kanakus a protected area. Totalling an area of 611 000 Hecters and occupying nearrly 3% of Guyana’s landmass makes this the largest protected area in the country. Ninety nine percent consists of pristine tropical rainforest while the remaining 1% is natural savannnah and scrub.
Over 50% of the bird species recorded for Guyana can be found in the Kanakus; some highlights here include: harpy eagle, white bell bird, oil bird, pompador cotinga, wing banded wren, scarlet, blue and gold macaws, crested eagle, white winged pootoo, zig zag heron as well as many parrot and toucan species. Additional birding delights are guianian red cotinga,cock of the rock and fasciated tiger heron. Deeper in the forest antbirds, flycahtcers, manakins and a host of other species can be found.
Not to be outdone by the birds, mammals rank high in the Kanakus too, over 70% of Guyana’s species having been recorded there. Black spider monkeys, red howler, squirrel, brown capuchin and bearded saki monkeys are common, as are giant river otters and the smaller neotropical otter. Nocturnal species such as paca, opossum, ocelot, and many species of tree rats and bats can be seen on night drifts.
Although harder to see the tracks of larger mammals, such as tapir, capybara, jaguar and peccaries can frequently be found along the sandy banks of rivers and creeks indicating their presence. The local indigenous guides are expert trackers and will point out interesting tracks and sign for you. Of course with a slice of luck you may get a nice sighting of the animals themselves and many have been fortunate.
The Kanakus are also known for its abundance of reptiles and in particular its amphibians. Frogs are best at the beginning of the rainy season when breeding activity starts and the forest rings to the sounds of amphibian calls. Black caiman, dwarf caiman and river turtles are common along the rivers. Forest hikes and night drifts will often turn up some interesting snake species.
This short custom built 4 or 5 day trip is perfect for those with a limited amount of time but wishing to get into a remote and pristine wilderness area. A variety of daily activities can be arranged depending on your interests such as birding excursions, hikes on forest trails looking for wildlife, quiet drifts on the creek at dawn or dusk and night drifts looking for wildlife in the beam of a spotlight. A harpy eagle nesting site is located nearby and when nesting this is a great opportunity to view this majestic and spectacular raptor. Goliath bird eating spiders (Theraphoso blondi) the worlds largest spider is also a common local species.
During this trip, a parabolic microphone and playback system can be used to facilitate better viewing of birds.
START YOUR ADVENTURE IN THE RUPUNUNI
Your adventure begins at Caiman House in the Amerindian village of Yupukari. You will depart from this rustic and comfortable lodge and travel South, up the Rupununi River by boat passing though savannah and into primary rain forest, birding and looking for interesting wildlife along the way. As the white water river winds though high banks, giant black caiman might be seen basking and lurking along the banks. Black skimmers and large billed terns peruse the river surface whilst Jabiru storks watch on unconcerned.
A picnic lunch is served on a shady and cool sandbank overlooking the river. During the dry season when river levels are low the Awawa falls a small rapid has to be negotiated. Those wishing to assist are welcome or if you prefere, cool down with a swim in the refreshing waters whilst the crew pulls the boat up the rapids. After a couple more hours of travelling, birding along the way one arrives at the the Mapari creek. This black water creek runs cold and clear from eastern flank of the mountains and holds a 5 mile adventure of dodging under and over tree falls across the creek.
At the end of the day, a comfortable hammock camp is set in a shady spot overlooking the Mapari Falls.
Overnight hammock camp
MPARI AREA EXPLORATION
Coffee cup in hand, experience the tranquility of a early morning river drift down the creek, floating silently and listening to the dawn chorus of the forest whilst birding and keeping an eye out for monkeys and other wildlife such as neotropical or giant otters.
After breakfast one can relax on the rocks by the rushing cool waters of the creek or have a swim. For the keen nature observers, a forest walk or mountain hike in search of forest birds, snakes and other reptiles can be arranged.
Following lunch a short siesta or a refreshing dip in the creek is normally the order of the day. In the cool of the afternoon there is the option of a walk on one of the many trails searching for more wildlife or another boat float, drifting silently down the creek birding and watching the sun set over the forested mountains.
Dinner is served around a camp fire, hosted by your guides who will share the stories of their lives in the forests and rivers.
Overnight hammock camp
DAY AND NIGHT NATURE EXCURSIONS
Awaken to the dawn chorus of howler monkeys macaws and parrots. Depending on your interests options include birding and wildlife viewing along the river or on forest trails. A visit to a harpy eagle nesting site is another option for those interested in potentially seeing this the largest and most powerful eagle in the world. Additional activities include a forest walk to learn about the various forest trees and plants and their uses in both commercial and traditional applications. Post lunch activities can include bathing in the creek, fishing, napping in your hammock, exploring more trails or an afternoon river drift.
Overnight hammock camp
EXPLORE AND RELAX
Last full day to experience the Kanuku mountains and Mapari creek. Options include early birding on a forest trail or another drift down the creek looking for wildlife or you can try handline fishing. For those not adverse to spiders a short hike away are the burrows of Giant bird eating spiders (Theraphosa blondi). These tarantulas the worlds largest spider are nocturnal and normally at home in their burrows during the day. However one of the guides will tease it out if its lair with a twig for your viewing and for photos.
After dinner one can go night spotting along the creek. We will glide under the tropical stars in complete silence listening to the sounds of the night forest which are completely different than those of the day, somewhat mysterious and eerie. In the beam of the spotlight we will look for amazon tree boas, frogs, dwarf caiman, paca, opossums and other rodents. Nocturnal species like boat billed herons, oil birds and pootoos can be seen and sleeping birds like kingfishers, woodrails, sunbitterns can be found and closely approached for better viewing and photography. Occasionally tapir or capybara can be spotted and in the past lucky guests have been treated with the highlight of watching an ocelot stalking along the creek edge.
Overnight in hammock camp
Whilst the crew breaks camp, you will bird along forest trails then return to camp for breakfast. Upon departure you will have a last drift down the creek before starting up the engine and slowly spending the rest of the day heading back down the river to caiman house field station arriving in the late afternoon.
Overnight at Caiman House
RETURN TO GEORGETOWN
OR CONTINUE ONWARD FOR MORE ADVENTURE
Today depart Caiman House, returning to Georgetown by air or minibus transport. Or, continue your journey onwards to one of the other amazing destinations in the Rupununi… including Surama Eco-Lodge, the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, the Karanambu Lodge, or the Iwokrama River Lodge!