Rediscover the wild west in Guyana!
One of Fronteering's lead aims is to find you volunteer abroad destinations and experiences that are more unique and extraordinary than anything else on earth. We cater for the pioneer, the adventurer and the explorer, for all those out there who want to get far away from the predictable tourist trail, to be surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and be part of real life first hand.
I'm writing this blog from a most spectacular and truly extraordinary tucked-away world, the ancient tropical savannahs of Guyana. Its almost impossible to do justice to this wilderness in writing, but I am going to try. And I'm going to tell you why we have have found an experience for you that is too good to miss!
While many people haven't heard of Guyana before, those who have instantly think of the Amazon rainforest. Indeed 80% of the country is covered in pristine virgin rainforest and is one of only four areas of its kind left in the world. This alone makes Guyana an incredible destination for the adventurous and for nature lovers; it truly is off the beaten path.
However, overlooked by most, is another awe inspiring expanse to the south west of Guyana, where the tangle of dense green foliage gives way to the spectacular Rupununi Savannahs. It is here that we would like to take you.
This untouched landscape is home to a surprising variety of habitats and wildlife. The 5,000 square miles of open grassland also encompasses dramatic rainforest-covered mountains, endless twisting palm-lined rivers and creeks as well as bio-diverse wetlands. The mountains and 'bush islands' are home to 70% of Guyana's known mammal species and the rivers and wetlands provide miles of perfect habitat for hundreds of bird species, amphibians and of course the rare and prehistoric black caiman. On the grasslands themselves it is possible to spot the bizarre giant anteater. A creature larger than a person covered in spiny hair, with long claws and a two foot long tongue.
The Rupununi incorporates an estimated 5% of the country's human population which may be as surprising as the area itself. Here many of Guyana's indigenous Amerindian population still live in their sprawling palm thatched villages. Interestingly some of these Amerindian families have european decent reaching back to settlers as early as the 17th century, and it was these settlers that introduced a living that revolves around cattle ranching.
I'm not exaggerating when I say you need to imagine the old west to picture what life is like here; the gnarly leather-skinned cowboys on their sure-footed horses, the vast skies and drying winds over cacti-covered rocks, the rusted metal and worn leatherwork, the crack of a bullwhip in the dusty corral, even the cattle rustling and the shots of liquer. Incredibly this world is still alive and more real than ever in a breathtaking part of the world you never knew existed.
There are still many of these cattle ranches of varying sizes tucked away on the plains, and with so much competition from Brazil in recent years some have begun to turn to tourism for financial support and to preserve their centuries old way of life. But they need help to create the infrastructure that will support guests, and this is where you come in...
You have the opportunity to learn to be a true vaquero (cowboy) and not just that, but to be taught by the most experienced ranchers in the world from their own home. While living in a stunning remote setting with the family, you would take part in daily life at the ranch while also working on projects to help them develop their ranch for visitors. This might include building a washroom, digging a new vegetable garden or mending a fence. Your day could also be spent fishing for dinner in the creek, riding out to find the cattle or helping to rope and brand calves in the corral. Days are long and hard work, but the creek and the hammock provide plenty of relaxation and the mind-blowingly starry sky rewards you at the end of a satisfying day.
As you can imagine horse riding is big part of life on the savannahs. If your passion is horses then I can guarantee from first hand experience that this is somewhere you simply must come. However an ability to ride certainly isn't essential; what better place to learn than on these incredible dependable creatures alongside true horsemen, all you need is a love of animals and the outdoors and a willingness to get stuck in.
So if your curiosity has been sparked through what I have said here, make sure you go to our Ranch Project pages where you can find out more detail on how to volunteer. Alternatively if you would like to ask any questions about this destination feel free to get in touch with me, your Guyana representative, through the Meet the Team page.