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Potaro-Siparuni, Guyana

GPS: 5.2732770759734, -59.39145450856

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Situated in the centre of the Guiana Shield, in an environment devoid of any roads or tourist infrastructure, the Kaieteur National Park is home to one of the last virgin forests in the world. Founded in 1929 by the British Commonwealth in the Potaro-Siparuni region, it remains the only national park in Guyana today. Still little visited, the Kaieteur National Park has seen a significant increase in visitor numbers in recent years and this trend is expected to continue in the future. In 2018, the number of tourists visiting Guyana exploded by more than 15% (including a 10% increase for the park). Travellers seeking authentic experiences, eco-friendly destinations and unspoiled nature, mainly converge on the park’s raw resources embodied by the sumptuous Kaieteur Falls.

Enlarged by presidential decree in 1999, Kaieteur National Park is endowed with numerous ecosystems (coastal plain, savannah and dense tropical forest) evolving between the Caribbean coast and the Amazon rainforest. It forms a landscape of high mountain plateaus on the borders of the imposing Mount Roraima. These tepuys (large tabular mountains) are composed of high sandstone cliffs and dominate the tropical jungle as well as the surrounding rainforests. The territory of the park, which is claimed by Venezuela, is inhabited by a multitude of fauna and flora creatures, some of which are rare and still unknown to the public. According to recent studies, Kaieteur National Park has one of the highest levels of endemic species in the whole of South America.

Within the Kaieteur National Park, along the Potaro River, are the powerful Kaieteur Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in South America (along with those of Salto Ángel in Venezuela). Peaking at 226 metres, they are four times higher than Niagara Falls in North America or twice as high as Victoria Falls in Africa. In addition, the Kaieteur Falls are 70 to 120 metres wide depending on the season and generate an impressive flow of 30,000 litres of water per second. These isolated falls in the Guyanese rainforest still enjoy a preserved environment for its hundreds of species of exotic birds and animals.

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  • The majestic Kaieteur Falls in an almost untouched tropical environment
  • The primary forest and lush vegetation of the park (Guyanese rainforests, highland savannahs…)
  • The proportion of rare and endemic species (all the biological resources of the park are still far from being identified)
  • The variety of tree species and exotic plants (carnivorous plants, orchids, hundred-year-old trees, thousands of types of vascular plants…)
  • The populations of howler monkey, golden frog and amphibian, exotic bird, insect, butterfly, giant otter, jaguar, Harpy eagle (the largest raptor of South America)…; the incredible number and variety of insects
  • Boat trips along the Potaro River in a 20 km long canyon
  • Hiking in a wild and unexplored environment, inhabited in part by the indigenous Chenapau people (Patamona community)
  • Flying over the falls and the Kaieteur National Park by tourist plane
  • The tepuys of the Guiana Shield, the Kanuku Mountains and the Pacaraima Mountains
  • According to a local legend, the Kaieteur Falls were named in honour of a great chief of the Patamona tribe, Kaie, who sacrificed himself to save his people by diving into the falls in his canoe.
  • This isolated region of Guyana, together with Canaima National Park (Venezuela) and Mount Roraima National Park (Brazil) was made famous following the publication of the book “The Lost World” written by the British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1912. This novel of adventure and science fiction has greatly inspired the films “Jurassic Park” and “King Kong” in more recent times.
  • Coveted by logging companies, cattle breeders, gold and oil companies, these vast tracts of jungle are part of the Guiana Shield. This covers a large area of north-eastern South America, including parts of Guyana (Kaieteur National Park), Venezuela (Canaima National Park), Colombia (Puinawai Natural Reserve), Suriname (Central Suriname Nature Reserve), French Guiana (Guiana Amazonian Park) and Brazil (Mount Roraima National Park). This enormous territory of untamed nature is dominated by tepuys and unexplored forests. It is an opulent land of biodiversity distinct from the Amazon.
  • The tepuys around the Kaieteur National Park are believed to be the remains of an ancient plateau 1.7 billion years old. In addition to an ecosystem that is unique in the world, they contain extraordinary geological formations such as abyssal chasms, disproportionately large caves, gigantic piles of rocks and sumptuous crystal fields.
  • Venezuela disputes the ownership of the Guayana Esequiba (or Esequibo) territory in Guyana, an area of 160,000 km² corresponding to two thirds of Guyanese territory of which the Kaieteur National Park is part. This land conflict has been going on since 1966 under the Geneva Agreement signed between Venezuela and the United Kingdom to delimit the border with British Guyana (which became independent that same year). In the absence of a political agreement and at a time when a large quantity of oil has just been discovered in the Guayana Esequiba region, the diplomatic situation between Venezuela and Guyana is likely to stay deadlocked.
  • Despite its renewed interest, Guyana remains a tiny tourist destination. In 2018, it welcomed less than 300,000 visitors, including only 8,000 explorers who visited the Kaieteur Falls. Guyana is also the only country in South America whose only official language is English.
  • A network of seven new natural protected areas is expected to be established in Guyana in the coming years.
  • There are two ways to reach the Kaieteur National Park, a particularly remote destination that is difficult to access in the absence of a road. The first possibility is by small plane from Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, to the Baganara airport (3 to 4 hours flight time) or the new Kaieteur International Airport (located barely 1 km from the falls).
  • The second option is to venture out into the jungle by boat and then on foot, accompanied by a local guide (in this case, allow several days for the trip and make sure you have enough food). To keep mosquitoes away, consider using natural remedies and essential oils.
  • April to September is the best time to visit this natural site.

Where to eat

  • Java Coffee Bar
    (the waffle is a delight)
  • Bruster's Ice Cream
    (tasty ice creams)
  • Silhouette Restaurant
    (in a romantic setting)

Where to go out

  • Pacaraima Mountains
    (mountain full of waterfalls)
  • Iwokrama Forest
    (unique wetland in the world)
  • Rupununi savannah
    (away from any urbanisation)

Where to sleep

  • Signature Inn
    (clean and comfortable)
  • The Durban Hotel
    (modern and welcoming)
  • Aruwai Resort White H2O
    (luxury complex)

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