Rainforest adventure 4: Iwokrama, Sankar the caiman and howler monkeys

From Rock View we made the 2 hour journey to Iwokrama Lodge in a rackety old Hilux pickup. There is only 1 road here – it runs between Lethem and Georgetown. During the journey we only saw 3 other vehicles!

This was lucky, because as there was no air conditioning in the car, we kept the windows open. These had to be closed when there was passing traffic due to the amount of dust that went flying into the air.

I unwisely choose to wear a white T-shirt that day which was orange by the time we arrived at Iwokrama Lodge.

Guyana Iwokrama

Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development is situated in 1 million acres of pristine protected Guiana Shield rainforest and homeland to the Makushi people. It serves as a living lab for scientific research, ecotourism and tropical forest management. What is staggering, is the numbers of species that can be found here – over 1500 species of flora, 200 of mammals, 500 birds, 420 fish, 150 reptiles..!


The Lodge sits on the bank of the mighty Essequibo River which rises in the Kamoa Mountains on the Brazilian border and flows north for over 600 miles, to enter the Atlantic Ocean through a large estuary that is filled with islands. There are 365 islands in total with the largest, Hogg island being nearly the size of Barbados!

P1030176Accommodation is in huts complete with shower, toilet and accompanying little black frogs. They like to rest under the seat of the toilet – which made going to the toilet somewhat tricky!

After lunch I felt rather nauseous. I put this down to the journey getting here. A nap was needed before setting off to explore the river by boat.

Imagine our surprise when on descending the steps to reach the little wooden boat, we spotted a big black caiman nestled in the water. He was quietly observing us!

Guyana Sankar 1

S1090030Elvis our guide told us that he likes to bask by the steps taking in the late afternoon sunshine. He has been nick named ‘Sankar’. My youngest was fascinated with him and spent much time taking pictures of him during our stay there.

On our boat journey we spotted some locals travelling by canoe and watched a fisherman catch a fish with a line and hook and then speared the fish.

Further up the Rapids, we caught sight of an osprey so moved in to take a closer look. We were just in time to see him swoop down into the water, pick up a fish and fly off into a nearby tree to eat his catch.

By the time we returned to the Lodge, I was feeling rather queasy so declined dinner and went for stroll instead, taking in the parrots, macaws and toucans and the many birds that could be seen in the tree tops.

After dinner, the rest of the family equipped with torches went on a night journey on the boat. I decided on an early night.

As I laid in bed tucked in under the mosquito net, the cacophony of sound began to get louder…crickets, toads, macaws, loud reverberations from the howler monkeys… it was a racket


The following morning I was determined to join in with the activities and managed to eat aGuyana Turtle Mountain slice of bread. We set off with Elvis by boat to reach Turtle Mountain where we will be hiking. The mountain takes its name from the nearby Turtle Lake where river turtles used to be abundant. Sadly, they are now on the endangered list.

I must admit to feeling quite apprehensive. Here we were in the dense untouched rainforest with a guide who only had a small knife to clear the branches away! What if we were attacked by the numerous creatures that inhabit the forest?

The 93m climb through the rainforest was surprisingly quiet! I then realised that the nature programmes on TV do not show the painstaking hours and luck it takes to capture and photograph animals in the wild!

S1090009There were plenty of noises from the birds above and the one that stood out was from the screaming piha which makes a piercing whistling sound. We managed to spot one and expecting a vivid coloured bird was surprised to see that it looked like a blackbird!

The trees in the forest ( Purple hart, Mora, Balata…) were nothing short of magnificent with some being several hundred years old.

At the top of the mountain we were treated to a panoramic S1090027view of the Rainforest as far as the eye could see. We were also rewarded by the sighting of an orange breasted falcon preening his feathers up in a nearby tree.

Returning to the boat we were surprised that none of us were bitten by any bugs. On the return journey, a group of Howler monkeys could be seen traversing the branches of the trees with flashes of their brilliant orange coats amidst the green foliage.

Guyana Howler monkey 2

We sat in the boat which was gently swaying with the slight breeze, listening to the ‘howls’ and soaking up the atmosphere of this amazingly beautiful remote piece of paradise.

Next stop: Atta Rainforest Lodge, monkeys and the Canopy walkway

We travelled with Wilderness Explorers

This blog is a series of blogs capturing my adventures in the Rainforest:

Rainforest adventure 1: Kaiteur and Orinduik Falls 

Rainforest adventure 2: Shell Beach and the Turtles

Rainforest adventure 3: Rockview, savanah and fly catchers


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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