Guyana has a wide range of
attractions, many of which are eco-tourism attractions, centered around
Easter weekend in Guyana can be
spent in various ways. Activities this year ranged from going to church on Good Friday to
Phagwa on the Saturday, Lethem Rodeo and the Bartica Regatta and on Easter Monday family
pick nicks and Easter Kite Flying at the Seawall. Usually the Annual Easter Bunny Parade
and the Easter Bonnet Competition add to the fun in Georgetown. The ones who really wanted
to have a taste of adventure and excitement this year headed, by road or by plane, for
Lethem, the small town in the Rupununi Savannah on the South West border with Brazil.
To reach the Rupununi
Savannah you have to pass through the Iwokrama Rainforest, a 360,000 hectare protected area in
the Upper Essequibo Region, used for the promotion of sustainable rainforest management
and for research which should bring ecological, economic and social benefits for the
indigenous peoples, the people of Guyana and the world in general.
The Rupununi Savannah is located in the southern part of Guyana, some
360 miles from the capital town, Georgetown, and extends into neighbouring Brazil. It is
understood that this area is considered the largest open range savannah in the world. It
lies between the tropical rainforest of Guyana and the Amazon Jungle in Brazil. The
savannah is divided by the Kanuku Mountains into North and South Rupununi. The area is
known for its mountains, fresh water systems, various Amerindian villages, large rustic
cattle ranches and majestic termite mounds which can be as tall as six feet.
How to get to Lethem?
You can get from Georgetown to Lethem by air plane or by road. Local
airline operators like Trans Guyana Airways and Roraima Airways operate a flight schedule
between the Ogle airport on the East Coast and the Lethem airstrip. Air travel between
Ogle and Lethem is approximately two hours.
By road, either private transportation or the bus service
Georgetown-Lethem, it takes between fourteen to sixteen hours. Stops along the way include
Mabura Hill, the Kurupukari pontoon crossing, the Iwokrama Rainforest with its Canopy
Walkway and Annai.
Lethem is located in Region Nine at the bank of the Takutu River that
borders Guyana from Brazil. With a population of approximately 2500 people, main
activities in this area are cattle rearing, farming and trade with Brazil. The indigenous
population comprise mainly of Makushi and Wapishana tribes.
Lethem is the largest town and the administrative centre of the
Rupununi Region and includes a hospital, a police station, an army camp, a
telecommunication station, schools, guesthouses, restaurants and stores.
The Lethem Rodeo
The Lethem Rodeo or Rupununi Rodeo is held each year in the Easter
weekend by the ranches in the area. It is said that the rodeo was introduced by an
American from Dakota by the name of Ben Hart in the late nineteenth century. His idea of
entertaining guests was then picked up by the local ranchers and became an annual
tradition in the Rupununi.
This sports event, which is now developing to a popular cultural
festival, attracts many visitors and participants from every where, from the coastland as
far as Berbice and from neighbouring Brazil. In addition, the rodeo has growing support,
not only from the local ranches, but also from the private sector in Georgetown. All of
this has strengthened the wish to give the Lethem or Rupununi Rodeo more regional and
The fun kicks off on the Saturday and continues to
Easter Monday with day time activities like wild bull riding, horse racing, wild cow
milking, wild horse riding, a female barrel race, steer roping, etc. The evening programme
presents festivities in the form of a cultural fair with food, games, music and the lively
so-called "Faha" dance, which is a pair dance and, is said, to have its origin
in the popular Northeast Brazilian "Forró" dance.
The front entrance of the Triple R rodeo ground
gives access to the vendors and fair games section with various stalls exhibiting their
items ranging from the popular cowboy head gear and leather works to various dishes and
drinks including the favourite BBQ chicken and Brazilian style beef and pork. At the back
of the ground the local Amerindian people have set up their camps from wood and tarpaulin
or just use their horse carts.
The rodeo ground is then further divided into a
wooden fenced arena and the various compartments housing the wild horses, cows and bulls.
One side of the arena is reserved for the officials and special guests platform and a
public grandstand, while from the other side the Rodeo Judging Committee as well as other
spectators can have a closer view of the proceedings in the arena.
In the wild cow milking competition the challenge for
competitors is in roping the wild animal and trying to milk them. If this would be a daily
routine in dairy production, our population would have a diet very low in lactose. One of
the major attractions is bareback bronco in which Guyanese as well as Brazilian
competitors, including one female vaquero, challenge each others skills in the riding
and break-in of wild horses. The winning vaquero is the one who manages to stay the
longest time on the back of the untamed bucking horse. The same principle applies for the
wild bull riding, which looks like a far more dangerous event not only in terms of the
bulls temper but also for its weight.
The barrel race is another attraction in which local amazons can
demonstrate their riding skills. The winner is the one who can finish the track within the
shortest possible time. Auntie Pat, one of the few amazons in the rodeo and the eldest
among the competitors, proved to be still the best.
Easter Rodeo is the busiest time of the year in Lethem and it is
recommended to make reservations for accommodation months in advance. Apart from hotel
accommodation, campers may find a spot to set up their tents in the backyard of the
The name Guyana
is an Amerindian word meaning "Land
of Many Waters" and this is so because of the many rivers which
flow through the country with 49 major rivers. Anyone travelling from the
airport to the capital, Georgetown, will see glimpses of the Demerara River
along the way and marvel at its size. However the mightiest of Guyana's
rivers is the Essequibo and it is worth taking some time during a visit to
Guyana to see this world giant of a river.
The Essequibo River is South America's third-largest with a mouth that is 20
miles wide. It rises in the Kamoa Mountains on the Brazilian border and
flows north for over 600 miles, through the entire length of Guyana, to
enter the Atlantic Ocean through a large estuary that is filled with
islands. The Essequibo River is fed by many tributaries, including the
Rupununi, the Potaro, the Mazaruni, the Siparuni,
the Kiyuwini, and the Cuyuni. There are 365 islands located on
the Essequibo River and for over 20 miles (32km) from its mouth, the river's
channel is divided by the large flat and fertile islands of Leguan
(approximately 18 square miles), Wakenaam (approximately 17 square
miles), and Hogg Island (about 22 square miles). There is even the
town of Bartica located on an island in the river, 50 miles from the river's
mouth. The tide rises and falls in this river every 12 hours with the
difference between high and low tide being an average of 10 feet.
Parika, a river town about one hour's drive from Georgetown, is probably the
easiest place to see the Essequibo River. The sheer width of the river and
the strength of the current has thus far stopped the creation of a bridge
across the Essequibo River and so to cross the river one has to board a
ferry. At Parika there is a wharf, known in Guyana as a "Stelling" because
of the earlier Dutch influence, where the ferry loads. The Dutch were the
early settlers of Guyana with a colony in 1581 and controlled the country
until the British took the region from the Dutch in 1796. When standing at
the Stelling at Parika the size of the river can be seen and even then it
can be difficult to comprehend for those not accustomed to huge rivers for
what is often assumed to be the other bank of the river is an island in the
middle of the river.
For those looking for a faster trip across the river, at Parika, one can pay
the fare and ride in a water taxi. These taxis, which come in both an open
air and covered version, take an hour to cross the river with their powerful
200 horse power engines. At Parika one can also get a water taxi down to the
town of Bartica located on an island in the river. Parika is always an
exciting place with its bustling open air market, immediately before the
Stelling, selling all types of items for the persons who live across and
along the banks of the river.
Guyana Creek Bathing
Many Caribbean individuals think that because Guyana does not have the clear
blue ocean that Guyanese do not have the opportunity to go to sandy beaches
to lime and picnic. The Guyanese however have a well kept secret, in that
they have hundreds of sandy beaches with palm trees and refreshing cool
water and every weekend they flock to these places. Where are these secret
places, well in Guyana it is known as creek bathing.
Guyana is known as the Land of Many Waters because of the many rivers that
flow through the country. While some of the rivers are huge such as the
Essequibo and the Demerara, many others are smaller in size. In
fact because of the large number of rivers and their varying sizes the
Guyanese have a variety of names that describe the size of a river and one
of these is a "creek". In Guyana, a creek is usually a tributary of a larger
One aspect about creek bathing in Guyana is the black water. Most Guyanese
insist that bathing in black water is the best as it is very invigorating
and refreshes and tones the skin. The term black water arises because on
approaching many creeks the water appears very black and to the uninitiated
this can be somewhat unsettling. In fact the black appearance is simply the
reflection of vegetable matter at the bottom and the water is actually very
clear. If one scoops the water into your hand to realize its clarity.
One of the areas where creek bathing is especially popular is along the
Linden Highway, which runs from Soesdyke to the town of Linden, one of the
centers of Guyana's bauxite industry. In this area the soil is very sandy
with the type of white, dazzling sand that one usually associates with a sea
side beach. In fact some Caribbean islands import this sand from Guyana and
use it to cover their sea side beaches. Along this highway several creeks
run through the area and so along the Linden Highway are several resorts
that have been built on the banks of the creeks in the area. Many are along
the roadside while in other cases one simply sees a sign along the highway
and you have to drive some distance in to reach the creek. Many of these
resorts simply offer some benabs for shade and the creek for bathing, while
others have more facilities with possibly an area for ball games, toilets,
an area to purchase drinks and locations for cooking.
The grandest of all creek bathing in Guyana is found at Splashmins Resort.
Splashmins is on the Linden Soesdyke Highway and is 45 minutes drive from
Georgetown and 15 minutes from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The
Resort is on the banks of a black water lake with a one mile long man made
sand beach and features a Water Park with peddle boats, kayaks and floats.
It has facilities for cricket, football and basketball. You can have an
overnight stay at the Hotel or camp in the camping grounds. There is an
orchard with 1,500 species of fruit trees where you can relax in hammocks or
you can explore the nature trails or bar-b-que outdoors.
While Linden Highway has many areas for creek bathing, in fact all of Guyana
has locations where people have their favorite creeks.
Often when one meets a Guyanese and talks to them about large rivers such as
the Mississippi, they laugh and say "that is just a stream". Anyone who goes
to Guyana quickly understands why someone who has lived in Guyana laughs at
the size of rivers in other parts of the world. There are 49 rivers in
Guyana but the big four are the Demerara, Berbice, Essequibo, and Courentyne
The Demerara River is usually the first of the big four that one encounters
when you travel to Guyana by air as the road from the airport to the
capital, Georgetown, runs alongside the river at various points. As a
result of the Demerara River the surrounding area came to be called Demerara
and in turn many world famous products from that region had the name
Demerara attached to them such as Demerara Sugar, Demerara Rum and Demerara
Windows. The river begins in the Maccari Mountains and flows north for 230
miles to enter the Atlantic Ocean at Georgetown. Several tributaries flow
into the Demerara contributing to its mighty flow and these include the
Kamuni, the Kuliserabo, Madewini, Moblissa, and the Kara-Kara rivers. The
Demerara is navigable for ocean-going vessels for approximately 60 miles
upriver from the mouth to the bauxite town of Linden and 15 to 20 miles from
the mouth, are the islands, Inver, Borselem, and Biesen.
In the past one needed a ferry to cross the Demerara but now there is a
floating pontoon bridge across, and you simply pay a toll to cross.
One aspect of the Demerara River is that when viewed in the Georgetown area
the river presents a brown muddy appearance. That muddy appearance is the
result of the sediment that is transported in the flow of the many
tributaries that join the Demerara. As you travel upstream of the river, the
brown appearance decreases so that in the town of Linden the Demerara is
clear water, so clear that little boys swim in it.
Another of Guyana's rivers that previously required a ferry in order to
cross is the Berbice River. In the past if one wanted to drive from
Georgetown to New Amsterdam, which is on the east bank of the Berbice River,
the journey could take up to 6 hours because of the need to arrive early to
be assured to get a ticket on the ferry at the town of Rosignol and then the
time for the ferry to cross. Now the entire trip takes 2 hours because of
the bridge across the Berbice River. The 1.5 kilometre structure, opened in
December 2008 is the sixth longest floating bridge in the world. The Berbice
River rises in the highlands of the Rupununi region near the Brazilian
border. It flows northward for 370 miles (595 km) through dense forests to
the coastal plain to enter the Atlantic ocean. From the ocean, vessels can
travel for up to 100 miles (160 km) up the Berbice River until they
encounter a series of rapids. The tide from the ocean can travel between 160
and 320 km from the sea up the river.
The world giant of Guyana's rivers is the Essequibo River. This is South
America's third-largest river that flows north for over 600 miles, through
the entire length of Guyana and enters the Atlantic Ocean through a river
mouth that is 20 miles wide. Along the length of the Essequibo there are
islands, in all 365 islands and some are larger than Barbados. Our other
article, Essequibo River, gives more
information on this huge river.
The last of Guyana's big four rivers is the Corentyne River. The river's
source is located in the Acari Mountains which form the border between
Guyana and Brazil and the river flows northwards to the Atlantic Ocean for
475 miles, being joined along the way by the Nickerie River which flows from
Suriname. The Corentyne River is the boundary between Guyana and Suriname
with the border being on the Guyanese side of the river, so in in legal
terms the Corentyne is really a Surinamese river but it bounds Guyana. There
is no bridge across this river and so to cross the river/border one has to
take a ferry on the Guyana side at Moleson Creek over to Suriname at South
Drain also called Zuiddrain. Seagoing vessels can travel for 45 miles up the
Courantyne River until they encounter rapids at Orealla. In all there are
five waterfalls and many rapids on the Courantyne River.
Much of Guyana’s coastal plan is below sea level.
To prevent flooding the early Dutch settlers of Guyana used the knowledge
they acquired in their homeland in dealing with flooding and low lying land
to construct a sea wall. The construction started in 1855 after parts of
Georgetown were flooded that year. Construction of the wall continued until
1892. This sea wall now extends for 280 miles and is a favorite place to
hang out plus jogging in the early morning and evenings and for kite flying.
On afternoons many vendors frequent the sea wall to sell a range of treats.
UMANA YANA means, “meeting place” in Wai-Wai, one
of the Amerindian languages. It was erected for the Nonaligned Foreign
Ministers Conference held in Guyana in August 1972. It was constructed by a
team of Wai-Wai Amerindian, one of the nine indigenous tribes of Guyana. The
height of the building is 50ft and occupies an area of 5300sq.ft. The roof
is thatched with dried leaves of the Troolie palm and held together with
mukru, turu and nibbi reeds. The posts are made of allaba, a native
hardwood. Traditionally no nails were use in the construction of such a
building. In 1992 the Umana Yana collapsed and was repaired by another
tribe. The four tall Greenheart poles in front of the Umana Yana constitute
the Liberation Monument to the African freedom fighters, and were erected in
the Benab’s ground when the United Nations Commission of Namibia met in
Georgetown in 1974.
Monument Of The Non-Aligned Movement
The four busts on the concrete plinth represent
the four founders of the movement Naseer, Nkrumah, Nehru and Tito. There are
made of bronze and the other of a plastic material. Just in front of the
monument is a pool from which rise four jasper rocks. These were taken from
the Ireng River in the interior of our country. This area of the city is
called the Company Path Gardens.
The Red House is located on High Street and was
originally a plantation owner’s residence. In the 1950’s it was acquired by
the Government and became Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s residence from 1953-1957. Dr
Jagan was the Premier of British Guyana from 1961 to 1964 and the president
of Guyana from 1992-1997. He was also opposition leader for 28 years. The
house has been totally refurbished and is now the Cheddi Jagan Research
Anglican Bishop’s House
Known also as Austin House and previously
Kingston House, this building is named after Guyana’s first Anglican Bishop,
William Percy Austin. The building is the residence of the Bishop of Guyana.
This fine timber building dates back to the late 1842. It is situated at the
corner of High Street and Barracks Street.
Prime Minister’s Residence
This residence was built for a Mr. Sandbach and
later acquired by the Booker conglomerate which dominated the sugar industry
in Guyana. In the 1960's it was acquired by the British Government as the
residence of the British High Commissioner. In1987 it was acquired by the
Guyana Government to be the residence of the Prime Minister. It is said that
in its early day the tower of the residence was used to give notice of ships
approaching the Georgetown Harbour. Legend has it that the Directors of
Booker would watch the ships come in from the window, and that Captains,
aware of this, would ensure that the port side of their ships were always
The building on New Market Street known as State
House goes back to 1858. It was previously the residence of the Governor
General and is now the Official residence for the President of Guyana.
The Walter Roth Museum Of Anthropology
The Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology is
situated on Main Street and is next to the State House. This museum contains
artifacts of Guyana’s nine indigenous tribes and is a center for research
into Guyana’s Amerindian peoples. The museum is named after Dr Walter Roth
who was a British doctor and geologist who came to Guyana in 1909.
The Cenotaph, Or War Memorial
At the junction of Main and Church Street is the
Georgetown War Memorial. This marble monument is about 4.5m tall and is a
memorial to those who died in the first and second World Wars.
The National Library (Carnegie Building)
Located at the corner of Main and Church Streets
the National Library was previously called the Georgetown Public Free
Library, and is sometimes called the Carnegie Building. Construction of the
library was funded by the American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who funded
the building of libraries in many parts of the world. It was opened in1909.
St. George’s Cathedral
St George’ Cathedral located on Church Street is said to be one of the
tallest wooden churches in the world, at a height of 43.5 metres (143 ft).
St George's Cathedral was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield. The foundation
stone was laid on 21st November 1889 and the church was opened on 24th
August 1892 with overall construction completed in 1899.
The High Court is between Brickdam and Croal
Streets and is sometimes called the Victoria Courts because of the statue of
Queen Victoria that stands at the front of the courts. When Guyana became
independent the statue was removed from the Court grounds and placed in the
Botanical Gardens but in 1984 during the visit of Queen Elizabeth it was
returned to the court. The building was constructed in 1887 and has an open
verandah that flanks its eleven courtrooms on both sides. The registries of
the Supreme Court occupy the ground floor.
The 1763 monument is located in the Square of the
Revolution in Brickdam. The statue is in honor of a slave rebellion in 1763
led by an African slave named Cuffy also called Kofi. The rebellion started
in upper Canje River, on February 1763 and moved into Berbice. Kofi
was a house slave at Lilienburg, a plantation on the Canje River and joined
the rebellion. Kofi was soon accepted by the rebels as their leader and
declared himself Governor of Berbice. On 2 April 1763 Cuffy wrote to the
Dutch Governor, Van Hoogenheim, seeking to end the the war and proposed a
partition of Berbice with the whites occupying the coastal areas and the
blacks the interior. When he did not get a response, Cuffy ordered his
forces to attack the whites on 13 May 1763, but suffered many losses. The
defeat resulted in disagreements among the members of the rebellion and
civil war developed with a faction being led by a slave called Akara. When
Akara won, Cuffy committed suicide.
St. Andrew’s Kirk
One of the oldest Churches in Georgetown,
St.Andrews Kirk. Designed by Joseph Hadfield, work began on its foundations
in1811 and was not completed until 1818. Where we are standing here stood
the first building in Georgetown the Brandwagt or signal station. Georgetown
was originally known by the French as La Nouville Ville and by the Dutch as
Stabroek. The two guns in the grounds are from the Crimean War. It was in
these grounds in 1966 that the Duke of Kent o behalf of Queen Elizabeth 2nd
handed over Guyana to govern itself.
Half of Stabroek Market is built on land, which
has been re-claimed from the river. There has been a public market in this
area since 1792, but the present building dates from 1842, it was expanded
in 1881. The Stabroek Market was built of cast iron and shipped over from
Holland where it was made. The structure was originally intended for
Georgetown’s train station. During Colonial times, the ‘powers that be’ and
elite forbid their children from visiting the market for fear of them being
indoctrinated with ideas from the lower classes. Nowadays Stabroek is a hub
of activity where almost anything can be bought.
This red and white striped 103 foot high brick
structure was built by the Dutch in 1817 to guide ships into the Demerrara
River from the Atlantic Ocean. It was rebuilt in 1830. The original 1817
lighthouse had been a wooden structure but was converted to brick in 1830.
The foundation for the lighthouse sits on 49 Greenheart piles. The
lighthouse is located on Water Street.
Guyana is an ethnically diverse country with a population that is drawn from European, East Indian, African,
Chinese ancestry along with a large population of indigenous Amerindian
people. As diverse as Guyana's population is, the country's religious
diversity is even greater with the 2000 census showing Hindus being 28
percent, Muslims being 7 percent, 2 percent being Rastafarians or Bahai and
57% percent being Christian. Within the Christian grouping there is a wide
range of denominations estimated to be about 50 including Roman Catholics,
Anglicans, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists, Presbyterians,
Baptists, Jehovah's Witness, Moravians, Ethiopian Orthodox, Nazarenes,
Congregationalists, Jordanites and the Hallelujah Church, which combines
Christian beliefs with Amerindian traditions. This diversity in religious
beliefs is evident in the many churches that are seen throughout Guyana and
in Georgetown, they are literally everywhere. Some of the churches are
concrete structures but many are wooden buildings that are beautiful
architectural creations, that are definitely places to visit.
One of the most outstanding of Guyana's churches is the Anglican St George's
Cathedral on Church Street in Georgetown. This National Monument is said to
be one of the tallest wooden churches in the world, at a height of 43.5
metres (143 ft). St George's Cathedral was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield
whose original design was of a building made of stone but the church
rejected the design because of the weight and the expense. Sir Arthur's
subsequent design was of a wooden building and to this day the church
remains as a completely wooden structure. One of the requirements of the
church committee was that the building use local Guyanese hard wood and so
the building is constructed mainly of Guyanese Greenheart timber with the
ceiling being imported North American pitchpine. The foundation stone was
laid on 21st November 1889 and the church was opened on 24th August 1892
with overall construction completed in 1899. St George's Cathedral was built
in the Gothic style of architecture with Gothic arches, clustered columns
and flying buttresses.
Another of the magnificent churches found in Georgetown is Brickdam
Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. This Roman
Catholic Cathedral, constructed of reinforced concrete, is 200 feet long and
1,000 feet wide and was opened in 1921. The original church on this site
started in 1825 and was known as Christ Church and then renamed in 1847 as
the Church of the Resurrection. This original church was built in a Gothic
style with Greenheart and Crabwood. Unfortunately on 7th March 1913, the
church was destroyed by fire. The foundation stone for the new Cathedral was
laid in 1915 with the building being designed in the Romanesque style of
architecture. Construction actually started in 1921 and lasted 10 years.
Within the building is a marble altar that was a gift from Pope Pius XI in
1930, a marble pulpit that is a memorial to the Fogarty family and a metal
shrine to the Virgin Mary that survived the 1913 fire.
The oldest church building in Guyana is St Andrews Kirk whose foundation
stone was laid in 1811. Situated near the Parliament building in Brickdam on
the Avenue of the Republic, this church was started by the Dutch Reformed
congregation. The Dutch Reformed Church however could not raise the money
required for its construction and so it was acquired by the Scottish
Presbyterian church on the condition that the Dutch would be allowed to
continue to worship there. St Andrews Kirk opened for service on 28th
February 1818 and in addition to being the oldest church building it also
has the distinction of being the first European church in Guyana that
allowed slaves to enter and worship.
To learn more about Guyana, see our other Guyana Pages
To learn about the other islands in the Caribbean, visit our Island Adventures Page