The world renowned Kanuku Mountains in the sprawling south of Guyana is home to some of planet earth’s most prolific biodiversity, and a St. Ignatius family is determined to let as many as possible enjoy nature at its best.
Journey to Lethem, some 400 miles from Georgetown and you’ll meet Peter Joseph and his family to show you around.
Nowadays you’ll notice Peter sporting a bright green vest with his “company’s” logo printed on – Kanuku Adventure Tours. This is a one family operation and a massive undertaking at that. It involves building bridges and clearing pathways, and with major plans ahead from lodges and parking area.
Last Friday, Kanuku Adventure Tours took an estimated 100 persons to see Kumu Falls, one of the waterfalls on the foothills of the imposing Kanuku Mountains. It was a busy day for Peter.
He didn’t quite get the preparation right. You couldn’t expect him to. Building a bridge across one of the creeks is no easy task, especially for one family and with no financial backing from anywhere else.
He is just 31-years-old, but his family is very supportive. He describes his wife Clare, a secretary with the Regional Office, as his “right hand.”
What made Peter jump into this ambitious project?
He grew up in the Central Rupununi in the village of St. Ignatius, which is now perhaps the only Amerindian community with the homestead away from the vast farmlands.
After attending school in the village, he left for Georgetown to pursue training in carpentry and joinery at the Government Technical Institute.
When he returned, his family had moved to Brazil. And jobs in the field he was trained were not readily available so he tried his hands at masonry.
Once, he decided to take up a tour to Brazil with his brother, and that was all that was needed to form Kanuku Adventure Tours.
“I took a good look at the place. They have hills; we have mountains, the Kanuku Mountains,” he thought to himself and passed the idea to his brother, and the idea of an adventure company for the Kanukus was born.
Peter took up tour guiding in 2004, and participated in the first national tour guiding training conducted by the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana. A year later, he did further training and received his certificate as a trained tour guide.
Peter took his first trek into the mountains in 2007, and came to appreciate more fully all that the Kanuku offers. It is now a joy for him to be able to spot different kinds of birds and animals to visitors. Sometimes, he spends days up in the mountains with birdwatchers who come to the Kanukus.
Occasional jobs with established tour company, Wilderness Explorers, have also seen him leading tourists to Venezuela and Brazil, and Peter is tapping into that experience for his own company.
Passing through the vast savannah land dotted with giant ant hills, you approach the clearing that Peter and his family worked on to ensure that visitors can easily park their vehicles closer to the waterfalls.
He is now constructing a bridge. He remembers Minister of Tourism, Manniram Prashad, had offered to help with the construction, but when he sent in the probable cost of construction – $500,000 – he was told that it was too expensive.
It seems rather cheap, given that bridges on the coastland of this size would cost millions of dollars. He wonders if the offer for help was superficial. He has his reasons.
Once, the Ministry of Tourism also promised to help print some of the flyers Peter uses to promote his business, but this also did not materialise.
“We didn’t ask for help; we were offered help,” said Peter. Unfazed, he continues to pursue his dream, and the bridge looks like it will be completed soon.
With his wife, Clare, by his side, he is sure he will be able to make something of himself in the tourism business. Clare for one is not backing down. She has been up the mountains with tourists three times.
Peter also serves as Deputy Toshao for St. Ignatius and the two other satellite communities. With Kanuku Adventure Tours developing, Peter sees the possibility of finding jobs for the young people of the Amerindian communities who seek out a better life in neighbouring Brazil.
He is looking for young ones interested in tourism so he can train them for the job. He is big on patience and public speaking.
Peter’s immediate plans for the future include building modest lodges to accommodate visitors so he can offer a better experience.
He is careful not to disturb the natural environment, so visitors can enjoy the sights and sounds of the Kanukus.
With a clear plan in mind, the backings of his family, and solid determination to succeed, Peter could make Kanuku Adventure Tours one to reckon with in adventure tourism.
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