Iwokrama Turtle Mountain, canopy walkway – Guyana’s treasures to discover

Rangers Glenny King and Julian Brasche guided New York tourists along the wild rapids in Iwokrama reserve rainforest, Essequibo Region, Guyana
Tangerine Clarke

Iwokroma River Lodge designed with Eco-friendly cabins nestled within the landscape – a sanctuary in the Essequibo Region of Guyana, was awarded the TripAdvisor 2015 Certificate of excellence — a well-deserved honor that has added prominence to the already acclaimed unspoiled tourist destination.

Iwokrama, 1,000,000 acres of protected pristine rainforest, showcases exotic scenery, rare wildlife, and offers thrilling adventure that a swashbuckler like myself never knew existed, until I took off on an eight-hour journey along the East Bank highway, connecting the mining town of Linden, and rugged terrain, to meet the mighty Essequibo River.

After a five-minute pontoon sail, I marveled at Guyana’s hidden treasure. The rainforest, and awe-inspiring panorama, that makes this region, tranquil and beautiful.

As an avid traveler, I always go off-the-beaten path, to immerse myself in the culture, the food, and the people, like I had, in Marrakech, Morocco some years ago. While there, I enjoyed my first foray into mountain climbing — 5000ft. to the summit of the Atlas.

Like Morocco, Guyana has that wondrous draw that welcomes tourists and leave them awestruck. The natives are charming, the hospitality, stunning.

My most memorable, was conquering Turtle Mountain, a trek that lasted over two hours to reach the peak at 980ft. For me being as “fit as a fiddle,” the climb was the ultimate adventure of a lifetime.

The expedition started from Iwokrama River Lodge, via a speedboat that navigated jagged rocks, and wild rapids, on the Essequibo riverbed.

After pulling into muddy topography, with New Yorker, Kay Ramdat, and locals Dr. Raquel Thomas-Caesar and Sonia Noel, our trusted, Rangers, Glenny King and Julian Brasche, guided us along lush trails, stopping at intervals to point out the richness of the forest, and its usefulness to humankind.

With a bit of rainfall, sunrays that peeked through vegetation, and three rest stops along the way, the hike became more compelling, more treacherous. For some, like me, it might be a great feat, but for others this is not an easy hike, and is definitely not for anyone who can’t manage steep stairs. This is a trek for the strong-minded, not the faint of heart.

Getting to Turtle Mountain summit was absolutely worth the willpower. The breathtaking Pakarima Mountain range, the Essequibo River, and the billions of trees that protect Guyana’s environment, were the final prize. A must experience in one’s lifetime.

Iwokama also boasts a spectacular view of the rainforest via the protected canopy cover, a 505ft. 180-step mountain climb that showcases thick wilderness. The Canopy Walkway is a sturdy suspended iron bridge that surrounds a section of the unspoiled environment.

Local designer Sonia Noel turned the unique canopy, located beyond the immaculate grounds of Atta Rainforest Lodge, into a fashion runway. The floral print pieces blended into the landscape and highlighted Guyana’s most exotic foliage that surrounds the suspended metal bridge.

These must visit attractions, are a part of the Iwokrama International Centre, managed in a partnership with Community and Tourism Services, the indigenous Makushi community of Surama and private sector companies: Rock View Lodge and Wilderness Explorers.

To learn more, and how to visit, go www.iwokrama.org, www.iwokramalodge.com.

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