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Guyana promotes its huge birding potential

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The poorly explored but staggeringly bird-diverse South American nation of Guyana is finally being promoted a great deal as a first-class birding destination.

One of the things making Guyana so exciting is that it is one of the few places left on the planet where one can still fly over seemingly endless tracts of pristine rainforest. In these enormous expanses of unspoiled jungle, birders still have little idea of what to expect. This is a great destination not only for seeing birds endemic to a small part of South America, but also perhaps for species new to science. On a recent 10-day familiarisation birding tour to Guyana, we found loads of localised, spectacular birds, such as Guianian Cock-of-the-Rock, Guianian Red Cotinga, Guianian Puffbird, Crimson Fruitcrow, Blood-colored Woodpecker, Capuchinbird and many others (the total group trip list was 376 bird species). Guyana is a peaceful, very friendly, English-speaking nation, providing an ideal and perhaps even more exciting (because it is so poorly explored) birding alternative to Venezuela and other neighbouring countries. Getting around this small country is often easiest by boat in this watery wilderness, but light aircraft and 4x4 vehicles also help. Almost surprisingly, in the middle of the jungle, it is possible to find lodges ranging from luxurious to rustic, sometimes with excellent resident local birding guides (there is a very good new training programme for these birding guides in Guyana). You can expect to get first class treatment at most of these lodges.Now that several organisations working together have been heavily promoting the birding potential of Guyana, you will see that many birding tour operators will start (or have just started) offering trips to this country. The GTA (Guyana Tourism Authority), USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and GTIS (Guyana Trade and Investment Support) have recognised the potential of birding tourism to Guyana, and have thus been running familiarisation tours (like the one I joined) to this wonderful country, using Judy Karwacki from Small Planet Consulting in Canada and Wilderness Explorers as the ground organisers of the fam tours. Guyana has a different feel from other South American countries. The coast has a Caribbean feel, there are big Brazilian and Venezuelan influences, and large areas are almost completely untouched. Jaguars and other megafauna are still common in parts of this wild country. Why not try birding this marvellous country? You will not only see tons of good birds (quite possibly including unexpected stuff), but you will also be supporting eco-tourism to and sustainable development of one of the world’s last remaining great wildernesses – this is a better option compared to other forms of development (and development, either the right or the wrong way, is inevitable).

Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours.

4th July 2014