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The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway is a series of swaying suspension bridges and sturdy platforms located a stomach-turning 100ft above the forest floor. It’s up here, in the rainforest canopy, where much of the wildlife spend their time. If you can get over the dizzying heights and force yourself across the wobbly bridges, you’re rewarded with a (literal) bird’s eye view of the birds (and monkeys if you’re lucky) of the forest.
It’s not uncommon for people to visit the Canopy Walkway as an afternoon from from Iwokrama River Lodge, however Atta Lodge is located a short 20 min (30min with kids!) walk away. Spending the night at Atta allows for the opportunity to visit at both sunrise AND sunset, (and you don’t have to drive back on the red-dirt road in the dark!).
Since we were planning on continuing South from Iwokrama River Lodge, it made more sense for us to spend the night at Atta Lodge. With fresh memories from our (very) long over-night bus ride from Georgetown to Iwokrama, we were happy to break up the drive. The fact that it allowed us to visit the Canopy Walkway not once, but twice, was an added bonus!
Iwokrama River Lodge to Atta Lodge Guyana
The drive from Iwokrama River Lodge (IRL) took an hour and a half. The drive in the Land Cruiser was significantly more comfortable compared to the mini-bus. This is likely because the 4×4 went at a more consistent speed, but also because it drove a bit slower (which was obvious when a mini-bus went speeding past us!). We stopped a couple times along the way on various “bridges” to look for anaconada, but we were unlucky.
Owen, our guide from IRL came along for the ride to “transfer” us to our Atta Lodge guide, Kendrick. I found this a bit silly, especially as it meant the 4 of us were crammed in the back seat as opposed to each sitting comfortably in our own seats (with our own seatbelts!). Apparently it’s just what they do to ensure we’re properly taken care of (I guess!).
We were shown to our room to discover it only had one double bed. Clearly the 4 of us couldn’t (wouldn’t) sleep well in one double bed! Luckily, we were the only guests that night, so they made up a second room for the girls to sleep in. The girls were thrilled to be on their own, and we were happy to have a bit of space for the night! We dropped our bags in the rooms and went to the dining area for coffee (tea) and find out our schedule.
Atta Rainforest Lodge
Atta Lodge had a much different feel from IRL. It’s significantly more compact with noticeably less staff. There are 2 buildings, each with 4 guestrooms, and the main dining area. The staff quarters are also quite a bit smaller, consisting of 2 small buildings a short distance from the dining room.
The buildings are surrounding by flowers which attract an array of butterflies and hummingbirds. Black Curassows frequently visit the yard, and we even spotted a small deer early in the morning. While the accommodations at IRL were nicer, and we loved the deck overlooking the river, Atta felt more like we were part of nature.
The girls felt it too. When we were leaving Kacela asked if we could stay longer next time, because she liked the gardens with the pretty butterflies. We were also fortunate to be the only visitors at Atta Lodge Guyana that night, which added to the serene feeling.
Shortly after our coffee break we went on a short walk through the trails around the lodge. We didn’t spot a lot of wildlife, but we did see a few great birds including the Black-Faced Hawk on our first forest walk, and an Amazonian Parrot and Scarlet Macaws on our evening walk on the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway. We also saw another red-rumped agouti on the path just as we were leaving the lodge on the way to the canopy walkway in the evening. It quickly became the girl’s favourite animal because it’s “so little and cute”!
Walking The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway
The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway is pretty spectacular. It was built in 2003 by a cooperation between a Canadian conservation group and the local Amerindian community. It was put up in a mere month, and done in a way that doesn’t harm the trees…incredible!
There are 4 bridges, 2 short and 2 long (the longest is 154m) connecting 3 platforms. The second platform, which is the furthest into the forest, is the best place to spot birds and monkeys. As always, this is nature and the birds and animals are wild…so you never know what you’re going to get.
The girls initially liked walking on the bridges, but once we got to the second platform Kacela all of a sudden decided she was scared of heights! It took a bit of talking her down, but eventually she relaxed and decided she was okay. The girls played with the laser pointer (supposed to be for the guide to show us any birds or animals he spotted) and pretended they were ants, then red-rumped agouti while chasing each other around the platform.
Even with all the noise we managed to spot an Amazonian parrot just above us in the trees. We also saw a family of yellow army ants that seem to live on the platform (the girls were quite curious as to how they got there!). Standing up on the platform at the top of the canopy was pretty cool. After walking along the forest floor for so long, it was fascinating to be above it.
Our guide, Kendrick, was excellent. He joked with the girls and was incredibly knowledgeable about the flora and fauna. He taught us the difference between lesser and greater bullet ants. This helped perpetuate the girl’s obsession with ants, arising from their immense fear of them!
Lesser Bullet Ants are shinier and have a darker, more gun-metal like appearance with smaller heads. Greater Bullet Ants have larger heads, more matte appearance, and their back-end has a brownish hue. A sting from the Lesser Ant lasts for about 6hours, and the Great Ant lasts 24hrs. This little piece of information became the basis for classifying the “harmfulness” of the creatures in the forest – the amount of time a sting would hurt!
(A Greater Bullet Ant!)
Kendrick also taught us the difference between a millipede and a centipede. Millipedes curl up into a ball when they’re threatened and are the ones the girls love watching on the trails. Centipedes sting and it hurts for 6 hrs (putting them on-par with the Lesser Bullet Ant). But…if their sting wasn’t bad enough already they also stick their pokey feet to grab hold of you before using their back end to sting. Not only do you have to pull the stinger out, but you have to carefully extract the centipede foot by foot and ensure none of them break off in your skin.
Why were we walking in the jungle, surrounded by deadly stinging creepy crawlies?
After our evening canopy walk we were walking down the trail on the way back to the lodge and he suddenly stopped, looked at the girls and said, “I don’t know if we’re on the right trail, I think I’m lost”. Calais looked a wee bit unsure and started darting her eyes back and forth. Kacela gave him a funny look then told him that we were indeed on the correct trail because she’d left a mark along the trail earlier with the stick and she could see the mark. If I get lost in the forest, I know which kid I want with me!
A Night At Atta Rainforest Lodge
Since we were the only guests, our night was serene and peaceful (in a middle-of-the-rainforest kind of way). Chatting with Kendrick over a delicious dinner we learned that he grew up in an Amerindian village in NW Guyana that would take 48hrs to drive to, with a BIG 4×4, and is accessible that way during the dry season only! It’s possible to fly as well, but it sure puts “remote-living” into perspective.
At that point he’d been a guide for just over 3 years, and he rarely went home. Prior to his job at Atta Lodge he was part of a 2-year government program that trains Amerindians to become guides in the various Protected Areas around the country. It was interesting to learn about the program, and great to know that the government is doing something to protect (portions of) the Amazonian rainforest and create jobs and opportunities for the Amerindians living there.
The more I learned about Guyana’s eco-tourism and Community Based Tourism initiatives, the more I fell in love with the country!
As I lay in bed that night, listening to the sounds of the forest around me, I was struck by how lucky I was to be able to experience this. I wondered if tourism will ever pick up in Guyana, and what that will mean to the country. Will they be able to maintain their conservation efforts with the pressures of tourism (and over-tourism)?
I finally decided I needed to turn off my brain, and shut out the jungle. Putting my ear-plugs in I rolled over and drifted off into a hot but happy sleep.
Sunrise On The Canopy Walkway
As I emerged from our room the sky was just starting to lighten. A deer grazed quietly along the edge of the forest, and the flowers were still tightly shut against the chill of the night air. I was torn between the desire to crawl back into bed to curl up like the flowers, and the promise of a brief morning hour without the constant beads of sweat covering my body. The assurance of hot tea in the dining room was the deciding factor that propelled me forward, away from the comfort of bed.
The forest sounded different in the morning, and was significantly quieter compared to the night before. The trees were cloaked in a fluctuating blanket of fog that hug in the air and provided the live-giving moisture to the epiphytes decorating the canopy’s branches. In places it looked in places like the trees were growing out of the fog, and had a calm, otherworldly quality to it.
As beautiful as the fog was, the humidity also tends to decrease the animal’s activity! The only things we saw were a small woodpecker and a pair of Black Curassow. According to Kendrick, February is the best month for animal spotting…so next time we come we’ll be sure to come in February!
Up Next: Surama Village
Breakfast was waiting for us when we returned to the Lodge. We had time to enjoy some well-deserved food and then it was time to pack up. Our driver from Surama Village arrived shortly after breakfast to deliver us to our next stop.
Know Before You Go To Atta Rainforest Lodge Guyana
Atta lodge was initially created to be a hammock camp (Atta means hammock in one of the local languages) but was eventually converted to beds when they realized people would generally rather sleep in beds than hammocks! Each of the 8 rooms has a double bed with a large mosquito net and an attached bathroom.
The bathroom was outside with the toilet & sink covered and the shower uncovered. I love an outdoor shower, especially in the middle of the rainforest!
There is a generator on site, but it’s only used for laundry. The remainder of the electricity comes from solar power, and it was sufficient to do everything we needed. The rooms all have a fan that easily runs off the solar power and was a welcome respite from the sticky heat when going to bed at night.
Wifi is available at the main lodge (for a fee). We didn’t need it so I’m not sure the cost or speed! I believe it was around $5US/hr, and can almost guarantee it’s not very fast.
Meals were basic but delicious, with a good mix of local foods and “international” options. Most of the meals were carb-heavy but we still saw a few veggies and had some type of salad with each meal.
Water was only available in small plastic bottles, so we chose to “press” our own water (with our Grayl water filter) rather than waste all that plastic! There was even ice a cooler that we were able to put our water bottle into so we could enjoy cool water when we got back from our sweaty forest walks.
The cooler also meant there was ice! I was pretty excited about the prospect of a cold rum and coke in the evening, so after dinner Randy and I ordered 2 drinks (with ice). We got our rum and ice, but the cooler was so cold that the coke was frozen. By the time the coke thawed the ice had melted. It wasn’t exactly how I’d envisioned it, but it was still colder than room temperature so I guess it was a win!
What To Expect From Your Guide
Our guide (Kendrick) was incredibly knowledgeable and comfortable chatting with us, he was also great with the girls. Of all the guides we had in Guyana he was definitely the most experienced. The trails around the lodge were raked by the guides to ensure we could quietly walk in the forest, and this little attention to detail was just one of the many things that made me enjoy Atta Lodge slightly more than Iwokrama River Lodge.
What To Pack For Atta Lodge and the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway
- Grayl Water Filter
- Insulated Water Bottle (like a Swell or Klean Kanteen)
- Bug spray, like this DEET-free option containing Picaridin (just as effective)
- Sturdy shoes for hiking (these Keens Terradora)
What Does It Cost & How To Book
We booked through Iwokrama River Lodge so I didn’t get a price breakdown for each activity. It was easy to book via IRL and eliminated multiple overseas money transfers as we just paid once. An alternative is to book through Wilderness Explorers. They’re part of a Community And Tourism Services (CATS) which is a joint-venture between Rockview Lodge, Iwokrama River Lodge, Surama and Wilderness Explorers. Together they jointly manage the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway and Atta Rainforest Lodge.
It cost us $630US all inclusive (accommodation, 3 meals, and 3 guided walks), for 2 adults and 2 children ages 9 & 7. This didn’t including transportation.
Transportation: $140US for a 4×4 Land Cruiser from IRL to Atta Lodge.
Tips For Visiting Iwokrama Canopy Walkway and Atta Lodge With Kids
Both our kids loved Atta Lodge. The setting was peaceful and the abundant presence of birds in the gardens made it a “win” in their minds. They were both sad to only stay one night, and left talking about coming back for longer next time.
- Visit as part of a multi-day stay in Guyana’s interior, starting at Iwokrama River Lodge and continuing on to one of the Community Based Tourism lodges in the Rupununi (such as Surama, Rewa or Karanambu).
- Consider spending a bit more money and book 4×4 transportation between lodges. This gives you the ability to travel on your own schedule and is significantly more comfortable than catching the mini-buses. (It’s more expensive though, so be sure to budget for it!)
- Talk to your kids about the Canopy Walkway ahead of time so they know what to expect. It’s super cool, but can be a bit un-nerving when you first step onto the suspension bridge or the platforms.
- Bring binoculars! This is something we (sadly) didn’t do. I had them out to pack and left them behind at the last minute…then regretted it constantly!
- Ensure you’re booking 2 rooms (or enough to fit everyone comfortably) when you book! Each room only has a double bed, so for a family of 4 (or more) you’ll definitely need 2 rooms.
- If your kids are picky eaters consider bringing some snacks along with you. The food was great, but the options are limited. (There’s also very little refrigeration available so ensure your snacks are non-perishable!)