The finite nature of natural resources and the inability of the ecosystem to support man’s unscrupulous activities has led to the implementation of protected areas. These are the places on earth that remain in their natural state with little or no human activity. Iwokrama International Centre is the local establishment in Guyana that manages 371,000 hectares of the Iwokrama rainforest.
A product of a joint venture in 1996 between the Government of Guyana and Commonwealth, the centre facilitates research into sustainable development of the forest while simultaneously contributing economically to the surrounding human environs in the North Rupununi. The Georgetown-Lethem road traverses the Forest about 45 miles from its northeastern and southern boundaries. To the north is the Siparuni River while the Burro-Burro River traverses the forest. Westerly is the Pakaraimas Mountain range and easterly are highlands through Central-East Guyana and Suriname. To the south lies the Rupununi savannas and the savannas of South Western Suriname.
The pinnacle of this forest is the Iwokrama Mountains which stands at 3300ft high putting the towering trees to shame. It once provided a “place of refuge” for the Makushi people, from whence the name is derived.
This pristine forest it is one of the last four in the world (Congo, New Guinea, and Amazonia being the others),it represents an important transition zone between geo-biological communities and the undisturbed natural habitat for approximately 200 mammal species, 500 bird species, over 150 species of amphibians and reptiles, over 400 species of fish (Donnelly et al. 2000; Engstrom et al. 2000; Watkins 1999) and over 1500 species of plants (Clarke 2001).
It is the place where many endangered species like the giant anteater and other species endemic to the area can be found. This spectacle is a demonstration of life in Eden days and shows the equilibrium that exist between varying life forms along the food chain. It’s a place where the evolutionists can argue his theory after viewing the behavior of certain species, or where the creationists is further convinced of the presence of a higher being. It is perfect harmony of human activity with the flora and fauna, and the ability to use the forest in its natural state and yet survive. In this setting man does not see himself as a ruler, or a conqueror of other living creatures but as an integral part of the ecological life cycle. One that fits into the equation of the Chinese yin and yang.
There are a number of places to rest ones head, be it the Atta rainforest lodge, the Rockview lodge, The Iwokrama International Centre Field Research Station or other resorts such as Karanambu Resort and Cattle Ranch that are easily reachable from Rock View. Some Amerindian villages also have locations where persons that choose to cut cost can stay. The Lodges may be reached from Georgetown and Brasil (Boa Vista and Bon Fin).
There are about fourteen villages of the indigenous Makushi people, one of the nine (9) Amerindian tribes found in Guyana. A very hospitable people that are mostly trilingual, speaking Portuguese, English and their tribal language. Agricultural activity is minimal, mostly based on cassava a root grown by the tribe to make farina, cassava bread, cassereep (the main ingredient in the pepper pot, one of Guyana’s cherished dishes). The Iwokrama canopy walkway about 45 minutes’ drive from Rock View allows visitors to have a direct observation of the forest canopy. And there is no need for fear since all visitors are accompanied by trained guides.
Missing this opportunity of a lifetime is like rejecting that inner calling to experience livelihood before civilization. A way of life that cannot be quantified in writing or pictures, it is a must live experience to bring you in touch with that side of you that you never knew existed, it is the cradle of civilization. Iwokrama is without exception for everyone, from the simplest of minds found in a babe to the complex scientist wanting to name a specie, it is definitely the place to be.
Author Randell Collins