Latest update March 29th, 2023 12:59 AM
Jun 01, 2015 News
By Nicholas Peters
For many Guyanese, travelling to the infamous Kaieteur Falls is something of a distant desire. Due to distance, remoteness and infrastructure, the journey is nearly impossible if not done by air.
To that end, Air Services Limited (ASL) officially launched their Lethem to Kaieteur day tours this past weekend, not only to the benefit of Guyanese but to tap into the potential market with our Brazilian neighbour.
In an effort to expand the tourism potential of Guyana, ASL also recently launch their Georgetown to Lethem day tours, opening up those living on the coast to the beauty and thrill of the Rupununi Savannahs.
For any “Coastlander” looking to take the Lethem route to Kaieteur Falls, the journey begins with a 7:30hrs flight from the Ogle Airport, East Coast Demerara, all the way to Lethem, followed by another hour’s flight back to the falls.
As I was a first time traveler to Lethem and Kaieteur Falls, the journey proved to be a mixture of captivation, excitement and wonder, ultimately ending in exhaustion. The entire journey should take about four hours, before arriving at the Kaieteur Falls Lodge.
For those, like me, who are apprehensive about taking the land journey to the border community of Lethem, the flight provides the perfect opportunity to catch a view of Guyana’s enormity. As I made my way to Guyana’s south west, I was impressed at the transformative nature this country possesses.
The trip provided a bird’s eye view of how distinctly diverse the entire country is. From flat and congested coastlands, to the green ocean of trees in the country’s highland and mountains to finally the vast expanse of grassy Savannahs; the view from above is in itself impressive.
After landing in Lethem, I had the opportunity to stretch my legs and get a glimpse of the Rupununi community. In many ways, our Brazilian neighbour has definitely left its mark on the fledging town. You don’t have to go far to see a car with a “Boa Vista” license plate or a Digicel sign with “Recarregue Aqui” translating to “Top Up Here”.
It is therefore no surprise that ASL sees the market potential for the Kaieteur Falls day tours from Lethem. The community is the stopping point for Brazilians making their way to the capital, whether for business or vacation. As such, the trip to the country’s natural wonders is a chance to expand Guyana’s tourism sector, according to ASL Lethem Manager, Navin DeCosta.
“What we are trying to do is to offer to the Brazilian market and to the Rupununni, the Kaieteur Tours, which can be a merger between the two countries and will strengthen the relationship for Toursim,” explained DeCosta. He added that the Brazilian market can help the local economy of Lethem and the surrounding area.
Moreover, the day trips to Lethem will provide the chance to visit attractive Savannah sites like Kumu and Moca Moca Falls. According to DeCosta the day trips through the Rupununni from Ogle will cost $48,000, while the Lethem to Kaieteur tours will amount to $29.000, both including return flights.
Brazil’s interest in the Kaieteur Tours was more than noticeable, as the 12-seater aircraft heading to the falls was filled with personnel from Brazilian media and tour agencies.
While the passengers spoke in their native tongue, of what I imagined to be their expectations of Kaieteur, I once again marveled at the dramatic landscape of Guyana’s western region as we made our way northward to our destination.
Making your way through the Pakaraima Mountains allows one to understand the reason for the region’s wealth remaining undisturbed.
It was apparent that the steep terrain, thick jungle and winding rivers are mammoth challenges for even the toughest of spirits. With that in mind, you’re still able to see the scattered encampments on the forest floor of those willing to accept the challenge in search of that untouched wealth.
But as I approached the mighty Potaro River, the source of the falls, it was obvious that these few vestiges of humanity were no match for nature and soon disappeared completely.
Upon landing at the Kaieteur Llodge, the last stop before the actual falls, the rumbling power of the natural structure could clearly be heard from the moment I stepped out the aircraft.
As the region is currently in the Rainy Season, the weather created an eerily misty atmosphere, which added to the bizarre environment of the area. With the various tour guides leading the way to the waterfall, I began to understand the reason for its strange surroundings.
Kaieteur Falls is part of the Guiana Shield, a billion years old geological landform stretching from Venezuela to French Guiana, well into parts of Brazil, which has allowed for unique land formations along with a biodiversity that cannot be found anywhere else.
It took about half an hour through a forested rocky trail to get to the crown jewel of Guyana’s natural wonders, when I arrived to the top of the over 200 meter high falls I comprehended why nothing compares to its enormity.
It was a visceral experience incorporating all the senses with an extra sense that I cannot fully explain. What I can say is that it gave me perpetual goose bumps and caused a lot of whooping noise to emanate from my mouth.
The others couldn’t hear this obviously, since the falls’ rumbling was too loud, but the looks on their faces conveyed the same feeling.
I was transfixed, at the smoothly flowing dark Potaro River suddenly turned into a thunderous wall of chaos as it crashed on top its rocky base to become a mere stream. It’s enough to humble anyone.
I’ve heard people say that Canada’s Niagara doesn’t hold a torch to Kaieteur, and as a now visitor of both I have to agree. Our falls has a quality of a pristine unbothered identity which, despite all its merits, Niagara has lost to its commercial transformation.
Kaieteur Falls is the heart of this country. I found that it reflected a lot of what makes up Guyana. From its untamed diversity to its ecology’s survivalist quality and the falls’ monstrous size; Kaieteur conveys a vicious yet magnificent snapshot of country at large.
We viewed the falls from the vantage points of: Falls Top, Rainbow View and Boys Scout View. Even as a Guyanese who grew up seeing all these vantage points in photographs and paintings, it’s nothing like the terrifyingly awesome experience of Guyana’s heartbeat up close.
Brazilian travel agent Anna Freide said that this is the experience that the Boa Vista based company she works for wants to share and promote back in her country. She said that as a lover of Amazonian nature, she would recommend the trip and described the falls as “very beautiful and very fantastic”.
“I really think Brazilians would like it and enjoy it, especially because the plants and animals are native species. It is a biodiversity we do not have in Brazil,” said Freide. She hopes that in the future her travel agency can provide much deeper tours for Brazilian tourists.
By the time we were ready to leave, I boarded the aircraft with gratitude, and some reluctance. Leaving the misty mountains of the Pakaraima behind, only made me want to explore it some more. The same went for when I was leaving the Rupununi, since its natural and cultural lay out is so different from the Coastland.
But as a word of caution, watch what you drink before your flight departs, the small aircrafts don’t come with washrooms.
You sucking the dry seed of your own mangoes, while the foreigners eating sweet flesh.
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