Guyana’s sustainable accommodation options are never less than immersive, enfolding guests in this spectacular country’s natural and cultural beauty. Lodges are typically built with natural materials and in traditional style, modest in size – most offer just half a dozen or so comfortable rooms or cabins – but offering big experiences. You might lie down amid the pristine rainforest of Iwokrama, waking to the calls of red howler monkeys, or on the banks of the mighty Essequibo River, ripe for relaxation or watersports. Staying in the wide Rupununi region, you could saddle up on a working cattle ranch or thrill to the antics of giant river otters. Best of all, you’ll meet and learn from indigenous communities, keen to share a deep knowledge of their homeland’s rich biodiversity and traditions.
Arrowpoint Nature Resort
Named after the giant arrow trees that thrive in the surrounding forest, Arrowpoint Nature Resort provides a perfect toe-dipping glimpse into the pristine, unmistakable beauty of Guyana. It takes about 45 minutes by road from Georgetown to the Timehri dock, then 60 minutes by boat along the Kamuni Creek, passing overhanging jungle vegetation that eventually gives way to the wide open savannah, to reach the Indigenous community of Santa Aratak. Most of the staff at the resort, which nests comfortably within these ancestral lands on the banks of Kamuni Creek, is from the Arawak community. The indigenous people are eager to welcome travellers and share their culture and traditions through fun activities that can be enjoyed on a day or overnight trip – such as canoeing, spear-fishing, forest-hiking and wildlife-spotting (look out, especially, for crimson topaz hummingbird), visit Indigenous homes and try your hand at making delicious cassava bread. The resort itself – part solar-powered – has a handful of rustic cabins, plus a communal thatched lodge and a riverside lounge. Dinner is usually served on the beach, by the light of flaming torches and fireflies. 94-95 Duke Street, Kingston, Georgetown; +592 231 7220; facebook.com/ArrowPointResort
Atta Rainforest Lodge
Tucked deep inside the Iwokrama Rainforest Reserve, one of the least-spoiled tracts of jungle left in the world, is Atta Rainforest Lodge. Just eight rustic rooms, with solar-generated electricity and cool open-air showers, stand in a forest clearing, miles from anywhere but only a short walk from the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway. This series of suspended bridges, up to 30 metres above the forest floor, takes you high into the treetops; guests at Atta can ascend for the choruses at dawn and dusk. The lodge also has glorious gardens, where hummingbirds zip about and tapir come to feed, as well as a network of well-maintained trails in the surrounding forest that might reward with sightings of other species, even elusive jaguar. And, at the end of each day, savour a delicious dinner: indigenous-influenced fresh-cooked meals, made from local produce, served under the stars. 141 Fourth Street, Campbellville, Georgetown; +592 226 2085; iwokramacanopywalkway.com
Baganara Island Resort
And relax… This private retreat – on one of the 365 isles scattered along the mighty Essequibo River – is the place to kick back and unwind. Its 15 simple but comfy rooms look out to the river, over luxuriant gardens of exotic blooms and fruit trees.. There’s a lovely stretch of sand – ideal for lazing and river swimming by day, beach bonfires and alfresco dinners by night and a new swimming pool for a refreshing dip. Take a birding walk to tick off the island’s umpteen species, splash about by kayak or paddle board, or head a little further afield: soak up some off-the-tourist-trail culture in nearby Bartica, a lively mining town developed from a 19th-century mission; or sail over to neighbouring Parrot Island at dusk, to watch hundreds of these colourful birds returning to roost.
Baganara Island, near Bartica, Essequibo River; +592 222 8053; baganara.net
Caiman House Field Station
A few nights spent at this research-based community lodge in the Rupununi savannah is a chance to get hands-on with nature conservation and immerse yourself in local culture. Founded to study black caiman, the nonprofit station sits in the indigenous village of Yupukari and is now run entirely by community members – your visit directly contributes to locally driven initiatives. Rooms are simple but sizeable, plus there’s a lovely lounge, open deck and cool veranda for lazy afternoons. You can meet the villagers, learn a few words of Makushi, and visit sustainable furniture-making ventures. And you can head out at night with the caiman study crew as they capture, measure and release black caiman of various lengths and sizes. . There are also opportunities for riverboat trips to see the huge Victoria Amazonica water lily bloom, plus bird walks, wildlife-spotting and chances to learn about other on-site projects such as river turtle rearing.
Yupukari, Rupununi; caimanhouse.com
Iwokrama River Lodge
These eight river-facing cabins lie within one million acres of pristine rainforest in the vast Iwokrama wilderness, a privately owned nonprofit area with unmatched biodiversity, dedicated to conservation and sustainability. Expert-guided nature walks, mountain hikes, safari drives and boat trips (both day and night) will reveal some of the resident species, from the vibrant profusion of birds to black caiman, and (with luck) elusive jaguar. You can also mingle with the on-site research teams over dinner in the lodge’s main building. Or simply loll in your comfy, solar-powered cabin – each has a breezy wrap-around veranda strung with hammocks, so you can kick back by the riverbank, swaying gently as the sun sets.
Kurupukari, Essequibo River; +592 643 2622; https://iwokramariverlodge.com
This former working cattle ranch and balata collection station, sprawled across the diverse Rupununi region, is now a beacon of ecotourism. It was here that Diane McTurk established a pioneering centre for conservation, focused on the plight of endangered giant river otters. Now, guests staying at the lodge’s simple but comfortable clay-brick cabins can immerse themselves in the Rupununi's savannah, wetlands, rivers and forests, exploring by boat, 4WD or on foot. Some 600 species of bird have been recorded here, as well as big charismatic critters: giant river otters, giant anteaters, capybara, black caiman. You can join two guided excursions each day, in the early morning and late afternoon, and watch a new cast of animals emerge at night. There’s also plenty of time to sit back with a rum punch, watching the wetlands erupting into life.
Rupununi; +592 643 4110; karanambutrustandlodge.org
Rewa Eco Lodge
In 2005, a small Makushi community living at the confluence of the Rewa and Rupununi rivers decided to shift from animal-poaching to ecotourism and conservation. The result is one of Guyana’s most isolated, most authentic, most sustainability-focused ecolodges, where the locals will welcome you to enjoy hand-built cabins, delicious food, warm hospitality and an invitation to explore their unique, biodiverse home. Head out on jungle walks to look for macaws, toucans and a variety of other birds, and maybe spot anaconda, agouti and armadillo. Drift along in a dug-out canoe or try your luck at fishing for piranha, peacock bass and himara among other big game fish. Climb nearby mountains for views over the snaking rivers and sweeping forest, and visit the nearby village of Rewa to meet the community.
Rewa, North Rupununi; +592 645 2602; https://www.rewaecolodge.com
Rock View Lodge
Tucked beneath the foothills of the Pakaraima Mountains, Rock View Lodge is an ideal base for forays into the wild Rupununi savannah. There are eight comfortable guest rooms, with shady verandahs and relaxing hammocks. These sit amid a profusion of flowers and fruit trees, around a cool swimming pool. The birding here is spectacular, with 300 species recorded. The lodge is also well placed for biking and hiking trips across the grasslands, and horseback riding to the surrounding homes in the villages of Annai, Aranaputa and Wowetta. Travellers can also partake in tours to the local peanut butter factory and sample some locally made peanut and cashew nut butter. It’s a great choice for culture-lovers, too: the lodge has an extensive library and art collection, while the Makushi village of Annai, where you can spend time with the local people, is only a five-minute walk away.
Annai, Rupununi; +592 645 9675; https://rockviewlodge.com
Surama Eco Lodge
This wonderful lodge is managed by the residents of the Makushi village of Surama. Local carpenters and artisans built the cosy round guest huts, and farmers and fishermen provide fresh produce for the meals. The first community-owned and run tourism project in Guyana, many local people are employed as cleaners, cooks, drivers and guides – after all, no one knows the area better. It’s less like staying in a lodge, more like becoming part of the community. The wildlife here is spectacular, too: you might spot black spider and red howler monkeys on hikes up Surama Mountain, peccaries and tree frogs in the forest, piranhas on expeditions down the Burro Burro River, and an abundance of birds everywhere, from Scarlet Macaws to Harpy Eagles.
Surama, North Rupununi; +592 653 7160; suramaecolodge.com
Waikin Ranch (above)
Embrace the lifestyle of a savannah cowboy at Waikin, a working ranch on the rolling North Rupununi, close to the border with Brazil. Four large, stylish, solar-powered cabins gaze over the gardens and the grasslands to the distant Kanuku Mountains; fold-back glass doors and wrap-around verandahs invite in all that wilderness, as do the bathrooms, with their open-to-the-sky showers. Head out on birdwatching walks around the grounds or saddle up with the vaqueros to help take the cattle out to pasture – keeping an eye out for giant anteaters as you ride. Afterwards, cool off in the pool and peruse the kitchen garden to pick your own produce for the delicious farm-to-table dinners. Plan to stay up late: the sunrises and star-gazing are out of this world.
Lethem, Rupununi; +(592) 226 8989; waikinranch.com
For details on adventure activities in Guyana as well as natural and cultural attractions, see our Green Traveller's Guide to Guyana