Karanambu – home to over 700 species of fish and 600 bird species

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
A boat ride in the Karanambu River

By: Andrew Carmichael 

In Guyana, there is one place where you can find over 700 species of fish and 600 species of birds. Karanambu, located in the North Rupununi, Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo), is a protected area and home to most of Guyana’s bird species and a lot of wildlife.

The North Rupununi District is known for its mixture of forest, savannah, and wetlands ecosystems and is considered one of the most diverse areas in South America.

The Karanambu area is 117 square miles. It has a lodge that allows visitors to experience a wide variety of plants. It is operated by Melanie Mc Turk and offers nature and eco-tourism tours and can cater to up to 18 persons.

This is where the first privately protected area in Guyana is.

There are five habitats within the Karanambu area – river, flood forest, true savannah, swamps, and ponds and lakes. Each of which is unique in terms of the wildlife found there.

“And because of that range of habitat, it is an incredibly diverse area. So, many of Guyana’s giants live here at Karanambu. We are a critical breathing ground for things like jaguars, tapirs, and other large mammals. We are also a very important spawning ground in the wet season for fish. Here in the Rupununi, fish is not just about tourism; fish is about livelihood because much of the region gets its protein from fish,” Mc Turk said.

Special events include a bird festival between October and November at which information on conservation and habitat detection is disseminated. Annually, there is also an open day during Easter Weekend.

Mc Turk noted that expeditions across the savannahs are also organised for tourists.

“Looking for birds, looking for anteaters – this is one of the more popular excursions. On the rivers you can look for Giant Otters, you can look for caimans, snakes and Karanambu’s bird list is almost 600 species strong. So, almost a third of the birds accounted for in Guyana; which is 900 right now, can be found here at Karanambu.”

Mc Turk added that the area is also a wonderful place for tourists to go fishing.

“Because of the fact that the water is shared between the Amazon River system and the Guyana river system; this actually occurs here at Karanambu where the two waters meet and mix, this is considered to be one of the most aquatically diverse systems in the world,” Mc Turk explained while noting that over 700 species of fish are found at Karanambu.

Asked whether the caimans and jaguars that are found there make the area dangerous, Mc Turk replied in the negative.

“A lot of people forget that wild animals are more afraid of humans than humans are of wild animals. Given the choice, most wild animals will avoid us. This is one of the challenges in offering nature-based and wildlife tourism because it means that you have to meet nature on its own terms. That means getting there when it is active, also creating a level of trust so that animals aren’t afraid of you and will allow you to approach them,” the tour operator explained.

The lodge is very remotely located in the North Rupununi – 69 kilometres from the town of Lethem. Aircraft can land but there are not many people who live in Karanambu. Access is mainly by road.

Most people use 4×4 vehicles and minibuses to get around. Mc Turk said they like to think of the lodge as being a snapshot in time. As a result, a lot of the features at the lodge reflect the 1920s and the way life was in those days.

The roofs of buildings at the resort are made of palm branches while there is a modern flair to the walls of the buildings in that they are made of clay bricks.

These, Mc Turk explained, are made by the Indigenous people and baked in handmade ovens until they are ready for usage. This, she pointed out, gives the unique multicolour to each block.