Sunday, March 6, 2011


No posts for a while? Well, it's all been a bit hectic at work as I'm changing jobs, which currently means doing two jobs while a replacement is found for the one I'm leaving! On top of that, Megan and I headed down to Guyana a short while ago to check out the country with a view to running some tours them in the future - so there's been a lot of photographs to work through. Well, I know this is a Cape May blog, but there's no harm in sharing life experiences, so I'll do some gallery posts of Guyana to whet the appetite...

Our collective arrival in Guyana was somewhat convoluted as Megan had to arrive from Mexico via JFK, New York as a result of a change in flight times. This meant that we arrived on different days but we did meet up as planned, on the day that we were heading for the interior with the rest of our group. Arriving in Guyana, we soon found out what rainforest really was all about, as a 40-minute boat ride to our first lodge saw the heavens pummel us - and our gear! Luckily the boats has ample covers, otherwise we might just have well swum! Our first port of call was Arrowpoint Nature Resort, a small lodge beside a creek with beautiful views across riverine grassland and rainforest.

Arrowpoint has some nice patches of riverine grassland which offer wider vistas than are possible in a rainforest - and the birds are easier to see too! The tall grass in the foreground is used by the local Arawak people for making arrow shafts and gives the lodge its name.

Immediately behind the lodge, a series of trails runs through the forest and - as was to be the case the whole trip - our group were the only people here. The closest we came to a Jaguar this trip (as far as we know!) was when we found fresh footprints on this trail; it had just finished raining when we entered the forest, yet the prints were on top of the rain marks in the sand...

... and here's one of them! Not easy to see, but it's as big as my hand - one heck of a kitty! There can be little doubt that this animal saw us, even though we didn't see him...

A male white-tailed Trogon right outside my room was the first of many on the trip.

Black-necked Aracari - these small toucans were seen regularly throughout our stay, often feeding on the fruits of Cecropia trees. This one was looking pretty soggy after a heavy shower!

Male Crimson-crested Woodpecker feeding on Moriche Palm fruits at Arrowpoint.

With not much in the way of reference, dragonflies were generally tough to identify - but this appears to be a female Schmidt's Skimmer (Orthemis schmidtii).

The huge, electric-blue Morpho butterflies that flap restlessly through the South American forests are truly awesome; but when they land, their sombre underwings allow them to almost disappear in the darkened forest understorey. This one is Morpho menelaus.

There are no hummingbird feeders at the lodges, so you have to work hard to get good views of hummers. This female Fork-tailed Woodnymph took a rest during a rain shower at Arrowpoint.

Arrowpoint at dusk. We rounded off our stay at Arrowpoint Nature Resort with dinner served on the river bank and a nice campfire roaring away.

From Arrowpoint we travelled by boat back to the main airport near the capital, Georgetown. Guyana has an abundance of rivers and boat trips were to be almost daily experiences for us - I must say, it's the first time that I've travelled to an airport by boat though! We were now heading south, into the interior and to places where few tourists have yet travelled. On our way down, we were scheduled to visit the remarkable Kaieteur Falls, but heavy rain and low cloud literally put a dampener on our visit - miss the falls or crash; hmmm, not a tough decision!

It takes about two hours to fly from the coast down to Lethem, a frontier town on the border with Brazil and the starting point of our adventures in Guyana. We flew in this 14-seater plane which gave plenty of opportunity for some aerial photography...

One thing that Guyana is justly famous for is its rainforest - millions of acres of them and almost all of it has never been logged - truly remarkable given the region's checkered colonial past. The government of Guyana has offered not to cut down the forest (a massive natural carbon soak) if the rest of the world would compensate it for the loss of potential income caused by this selfless act - the rest of the world hasn't answered...

You can see a long way to the horizon at 10,000 feet and all you can see for much of the two-hour flight is rainforest; rainforest and rivers - we called this one the smiley river.

To the south of the country you pass through an area of natural grassland, where the soil is too thin to support forest. Much of this occurs along the Rupununi River and is consequently known as the Rupununi savanna. In this picture, the savanna can be seen stretching away into Brazil. The river here is the Mau, which forms part of the border between Brazil and Guyana.

Rain showers are never far away at this time of year it seems - here's an aerial view of a shower in Brazil.

Much of the savanna grassland is now cattle ranching land, especially in Brazil. To prevent scrub cover developing and to regenerate the grass, fires are periodically set.

One thing to know about Guyana is that it has inherited certain things from its British colonial past. These include speaking English, and driving on the left!! To date this hasn't really been a problem as there are very few places where you can drive into neighbouring countries. However, Brazil recently funded a crossing point at Lethem and this fancy bit of road had to be put in. Beyond the bridge is Brazil, this side of the river is Guyana; Brazil drives on the right, Guyana drives on the left - you work it out!!!

We drove across the Rupununi savanna for a couple of hours or so to get to the village we were heading for, then another 40 minutes or so to the lodge, in the foothills of the Kanuku Mountains.

We had a fair bit of ground to cover so couldn't stop for too much birding, but this Crested Bobwhite refused to leave until I had taken some pictures - albeit through the windscreen.

Wetlands a-plenty ensure that there are lots of waterbirds to enjoy. This juvenile Jabiru Stork was rummaging in a marsh for frogs.

A quick birding session on a trail at the edge of the forest got us our first Black Nunbirds, a widespread species in Guyana.

It had been a long day in the saddle and it was dark by the time we got to our lodge beside the little Maipaima River. We would have to wait for the morning to see just what was outside the door!