Though Suriname came to be the real star of our recent trip to South America, we actually started our trip in the country of Guyana, just to the west of Suriname. We were there as flights were more convenient to Georgetown than to Paramaribo from Miami – and as an excuse to check another country off our list. There isn’t much information on traveling in Guyana in the blogosphere, but the one place we knew we needed to visit in the country was Kaieteur Falls – the highest single drop waterfall in the world.
The falls were first discovered by non indigenous peoples in 1970, when a British surveyor and geologist assigned to the territory stumbled across it on a routine interior scouting mission. Since then, the falls have been featured in several mainstream media, from the Werner Herzog film, “The White Diamond,” to the less intellectually stimulating Animal Planet program, “River Monsters.” To be completely fair, I was more familiar with the latter prior to our visit.
Kaieteur Falls is the most frequently visited tourist destination in Guyana. Though the name, Kaieteur Falls, is actually redundant: Kaieteur actually means Kai Falls, a point made on several non consecutive occasions by our Amerindian guide, Max, during our tour of the area.
Our tour started at Georgetown’s domestic airport at Ogle. David and I opted for the absolute cheapest available tour – four hours with Guyana’s Air Services Limited, at $130USD per person. There are other options available which combine Kaieteur with other sights in the Guyanese interior, specifically Orinduik Falls on the Brazilian border, or Roraima, at the meeting point of Guyana, Venezuela, and Brazil. As we’d had some rather expensive senior dog related incidents leading up to our trip, Kaieteur was all we opted to see. Adding others on to our tour would have easily doubled the price.
Along with us on our “budget” tour were several interesting folks: an American finishing a global tour of the “Top Ten Waterfalls” (I’d be keen to see the metrics in judging the top ten, to be honest), a mother and son in Guyana on a lark, and another pair venturing further inland once arriving at Kaieteur.
The ride on the tiny plane only took about 45 minutes before arriving at the Kaieteur airstrip, and afforded some magnificent views over the pristine Guyanese rainforest, albeit punctuated by illegal gold and bauxite mines. Once landed, we were met by Max, our Amerindian guide, who started us on our brief hike to the best viewpoints of the falls.
First stop was the Boy Scout view – perfect for my Eagle Scout husband. At the viewpoint we were shown some of the endemic flora and fauna of the area. Most impressive were the Giant Tank Bromeliad and the Golden Poison Dart Frog, which spends its entire life cycle in the water pools between the bromeliad’s leaves. The view of the falls wasn’t too bad, either.
From there, we ventured to the Rainbow Lookout – I mean, seriously, could they have come up with better names for me and my gay boy scout husband? The views of the falls were incredible. Some in our group opted to lay down and dangle their cameras over the edge to get the best shot possible. I personally was content anxiously tip toeing fifteen feet away from the precipice.
We hung out for a bit, admiring the view, before a horde of other tourists arrived with their equally annoying camera habits. Our time expired, we trundled back to the Kaieteur Lodge, eating mediocre mandated snacks by Air Services Limited. We were then shuttled onto our tiny plane, which circled the falls a few times to give us tour goers some additional photo ops, before heading back to Georgetown.
Kaieteur Falls is certainly an amazing destination. It is also certainly the most mainstream destination in the entire nation of Guyana – the folks on our tour, for the most part, had no interest in exploring Georgetown or other parts of the country. Most were in Guyana to see the falls and leave without learning anything substantive about the nation, its history, or its culture.
If you find yourself in Guyana, go to Kaieteur Falls – its sheer size is amazing, and you won’t be disappointed by the views. But also don’t go to Guyana JUST to see the falls. Instead, let Kaieteur be a reason to get you to the country, and the entire region. You’ll find that Kaieteur may only whet your appetite for this, the wild coast of South America.
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