Fish and Marine Life in the Iwokrama Rain Forest

Whilst the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway doesn’t have any major rivers nearby the area does have seasonal swamps and stream. But it is only a short drive to important waterways within the Iwokrama Forest and in the Rupununi Savannahs.

digitalasset0000000000002567The Iwokrama Forest and the Rupununi wetlands are home to an extremely high diversity of fish. 420 species have been identified, exceedingly high since only a small portion of the rivers have been surveyed and with further surveys up to 600 species are expected. In comparison, there are only 700 species of fish in all of North America. The Iwokrama Forest has the world’s largest recorded fish diversity, for an area its size.

One of the most significant inhabitants of Guyana’s interior waterways is the enormous Arapaima (Arapaima gigas), a highly endangered and poorly understood species that has been subject to extreme overfishing in neighboring countries. Since the 1960s, concerns have been expressed about the fate of the fish, and the need for it to be protected. During that time, it was disclosed that the arapaima, which inhabits the Rupununi River, was being ruthlessly harvested and sold across the border in Brazil, mostly by Amerindians. The NRDDB was one of eight local civil society organisations (CSOs) which were recently awarded grants for environmental and livelihood benefits to communities under the UNDP/Global Environment Facility (GEF), Small Grants Programme (SGP). The NRDDB received the sum of Gy$9.8M to strengthen the capacities of its 16 Amerindian communities to manage the arapaima fish and fisheries of the North Rupununi wetlands via capacity building, arapaima surveys, conservation education and awareness, consultations, and development of management plans.

Nearby,  a landmark “conservation concession,” has been set up by Conservation International in partnership with the government of Guyana. Instead of leasing the land to a logging company, Guyana is leasing 200,000 acres (81,000 hectares) along the Essequibo River to CI for conservation.

The concession – the world’s first – was established in Guyana’s Upper Essequibo region in July 2002. “It puts conservation on equal footing with extractive industry, so that the government and people of Guyana don’t have to choose between conservation and economic development,” says Dr. Dick Rice, CI’s chief economist and architect of the concession. “With total annual costs of less than $100,000 per year, it is a great bargain, given the importance of the area for both biodiversity and people.

“The aquatic ecosystems of the Upper Essequibo Conservation Concession (UECC) are one of the most pristine, if not the most pristine, on the planet,” concluded scientist Dr. Philip Willink, of The Field Museum in Chicago, after a 2007 survey.

Boating-on-the-Rupununi-River_2.3This abundance of healthy fresh water supports an amazing diversity of species: 1,500 plants, 200 mammals, and 500 birds are found in the vicinity – as many bird species as are found in all of North America.

The Macushi and Wapishana indigenous groups depend on the area’s natural resources, and communities near the concession – in Apoteri, Rewa, and Crashwater – helped to demarcate boundaries to ensure that the UECC would not conflict with traditional claims.

Select Species Regularly Observed Nearby

digitalasset0000000000002620Red pirhana Pygocentrus nattereri Piranha teeth are often used to make tools and weapons by the indigenous population. Piranhas are also popular as food, although if an individual piranha is caught on a hook or line, it may be attacked by other (free) piranhas.
Piranhas are commonly consumed by subsistence fishermen, and often sold for food in local markets. In recent decades, dried specimens have been marketed as tourist souvenirs.Piranhas occasionally bite and sometimes injure bathers and swimmers. A piranha bite is considered more an act of carelessness than that of misfortune, but piranhas are a considerable nuisance to commercial and sport fishers because they steal bait, mutilate catch, damage nets and other gear, and may bite when handled.
digitalasset0000000000002621Peackock bass Cichla monoculus Sport fishermen have made these cichlids prized game fish for their fighting qualities, so much so that many travel agencies now arrange fishing trips to Brazil and Florida specifically to catch peacock bass. Renowned American peacock bass fisherman and fishing author, Larry Larsen, refers to them as “freshwater bullies” due to their ferocious nature when hunting and their tendency to damage and sometimes destroy fishing gear when striking. The most common techniques for catching these cichlids are similar to those for catching largemouth bass, with the notable exception that peacock bass usually will not strike artificial worms – a widely used lure among largemouth bass fisherman. In addition, fly fishing techniques, including lures such as poppers and large streamers, are becoming increasingly popular for catching them. Despite their popularity among anglers, some naturalists have identified peacock bass as potential pests for causing ecological imbalances in some of their introduced areas.
digitalasset0000000000002567Arapaima arapaima gigas Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. 
digitalasset0000000000002568Giant river otter Pteronura brasiliensis is an Amazonian giant that can reach up to six feet (1.8 meters) long. That’s more than twice as long as a North American river otter—arguably with double the coolness. Their social calendars include grooming, hunting, resting, and communicating, which they do using nine different vocalizations—most of which are probably predator warnings or contact calls


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    The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway is situated at Mauisparu, near the southern boundary of the Iwokrama Reserve in central Guyana. We are approximately 300km (190 mi) south of Georgetown and 130km (80 mi) north of Lethem on the Brazilain border. Surama Village and Rock View Lodge are about 45 minutes away by road, and Iwokrama River Lodge is about 75 minutes away. The nearest airstrips are Annai (Rock View Lodge) and Surama, although there is an airstrip at Fair View Village adjacent to Iwokrama River Lodge. Go to our Maps page to learn more

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    Conservation International explores the Essequibo River's extreme biodiversity


    Meet Buddy, the orphaned otter from Karanambu


    The United Nations is funding the first major study of Arapaima conservation status in Guyana's Rupununi River


    Read about Arapaima research on the Rewa River (New York Times)


    Endangered marine turtle populations are increasing in Guyana, but significant concerns remain


    Atta Rainforest Lodge is at the base of the Canopy Walkway, offering comfortable private-room accommodation, delicous home-cooked meals, and traditional Amerindian hospitality. The short 20 minute walk to the walkway platforms makes it the perfect way to be in the canopy before dawn! Click here to read more about the lodge...

    Whether you're looking for a novel, nature guide, or simply an insightful introduction to the land of Guyana, these are a few great titles to start with.

    Bradt-Travel-Guide-Guyana-Paperback-P9781841623580 Essental Reading 41d-z0OG0ML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_


    The Amerindians expertise with medicinal plants is centuries old. The distance from and the scarcity of medical clinics has meant that a large proportion of medical care still relies on traditional medicines. The richness of the flora in Guyana gives the ” Medicine Man ” – half herbalist and half magician – a wealth of choice from the 294 species with recognised curative properties.

    Read about the Medicine Women of the Rupununi

    Home remedies have been around for thousands of years. Even these days about 30 per cent of prescription drugs are still synthesised from plants. In fact, the word ‘drug’ comes from an old Dutch word, drogge, which means ‘to dry’ – which is how many plant medications were prepared.

    However, it is always wise to remember, just because something is “naturally” growing from a tree, doesn’t mean it’s safe to consume.

    Our grandparents and older folks would swear of the healing properties of herbs, leaves, roots and seeds that cured diseases which they contracted. The fact that our ancestors survived proved that some of the many remedies used then, did work and have increasing practical applications today. Read More at Visit Guyana



    Guyana's tropical rainforests protected under the REDD program provide not just natural resources but an income stream to the country.

  • Community Owned Conservation Area (COCA)

    Guyana’s first Community Owned Conservation Area is now the largest protected area in the country and is managed exclusively by the Wai Wai indigenous group. This has effectively brought more than one million acres of rain-forest under sustainable management while ensuring the continued development of the group and their traditional way of life. The Wai Wais of Konashen District in the south of Guyana received title to the land in 2004 and partnered with Conservation International and the Government of Guyana to have the entire area established as a protected area.

    In 2013 we installed several camera traps in the forest surrounding the Canopy walkway and have caught some really terrific footage from these traps. Check out a few of the videos!


    The walkway is situated at Mauisparu, near the southern boundary of the Iwokrama Reserve in central Guyana. We are approximately 300km (190 mi) south of Georgetown and 130km (80 mi) north of Lethem on the Brazilain border.

    From Georgetown, there is a good all weather road running 340 km south to Lethem which passes through the Iwokrama Reserve. The walkway is a 20 minute walk, via private road, from that main north-south road. Overnight bus service (IntraServ) is no longer available, but minibus service from Georgetown and Lethem is an economical (if not terribly comfortable) option. But the quickest way to reach us is to fly into Fair View Village (near Iwokrama), Surama Village, or Annai (near Rock View Lodge) then transfer by 4X4 vehicle.

    By road, we are about 75 minutes from the Iwokrama River Lodge and Fair View airstrip, 50 minutes north of the Annai airstrip at Rock View Lodge, and about 45 minutes east of Surama Village. Our map will help you get an idea where we're located in relation to the other main attractions of the area.