First Nations Vacations
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YOUNG AMERICAN RESEARCHERS HAD ECO-ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME IN GUYANA'S INTERIOR

(Michael is the long haired one and David is the short-haired one)

On May 18th 2012 Americans Michael Drake (discoverer of a new nematode species that infects Bufo marinus Toads in Grenada) and David Galluzzi (co-discoverer of the 'Pink Snow Mold' fungus in Mississippi, USA) arrived in Guyana for a one week combined adventure, culture and nature tour with the Makushi tribe in the North Rupununi of region 9. Their booking was made with First Nations Vacations (www.guidedculturaltours.com) - which was the first Amerindian owned, operated and internet marketed guided tour operation in the Caribbean region; and which has been tirelessly promoting Guyana's interior as an Eco-adventurers' paradise since the mid 1990's - with many satisfied visitors singing their praises around the world.

The intrepid young Americans had perused all the options available to them in Guyana but did not want a run-of-the-mill experience whereby they did and saw things that many others before them had already done and seen, and that is where First Nations Vacations stood out from the rest of the proverbial 'Guyana tourism' players. Without a doubt First Nations Vacations is the smallest of all outfits promoting Guyana, but they have established a reputation for themselves as being specialists in offering tailor-made off-the-beaten track 'adventures' NOT 'vacations'. They boast (and live up to) a claim that 'every tour is unique and each visitor is guaranteed to go somewhere that no outsider has ever been before', they have access to hundreds of square miles of unspoilt areas in the Pakaraima mountains that only a handful of local tribal hunters have ever ventured into themselves, with many waterfalls, caves, mountain pools, and wildlife rich areas can still be found - if one is fit and fearless enough to seek them!

As David and Michael said in their own words "We heard about the other 3 popular options in the North Rupununi, one place is an Amerindian Village but with little close-contact wildlife opportunities and well traversed with nothing new geographically speaking to offer, another place advertises tons of wildlife and a huge rainforest but most folks do not get the up-close and personal experience with wildlife there that we wanted; also it is a likewise well traversed destination and offers no cultural aspect; and the third place we looked into had a little cultural aspect with only one prominent wildlife species feature - and a reputation for having it's workers go out on the savanna and rope a Giant anteater, then lay in wait until the ranch vehicle approaches before releasing the animal and slipping away so that the driver can pretend that they just spotted a 'naturally wandering Giant Anteater'.....so we did not want to experience ANY of that. What we wanted was to see animals in their natural undisturbed habitats, Amerindians in their own villages living normal daily lives not performing for visitors, and mountains, rivers, streams, valleys, waterfalls etc, that no other non-indigenous person has ever seen - and that is EXACTLY what First Nations Vacations promised AND delivered for us. It was a truly great experience - and one that we can both tell and re-tell to our friends today - and children and grandchildren in the future.

Michael was the first outsider to explore a bat inhabited cave near a cataract waterfall, David was the first to climb two rock faces barehanded, and they were BOTH the first outsiders to see and climb 'waterfall mountain' (so named because from it's base to it's summit it has multiple straight drop and cataract waterfalls and cold-water rock bathing pools. Additionally their guides Tapok, Stobi and Sado guided them to have close encounters with a Giant Anteater, Red Howler Monkeys, a Tree Porcupine, Parrots, a Jaguarundi, and over a dozen species of snakes including Boa constrictors, a Rattlesnake, and a rare Mussurana. Michael and David slept in hammocks under a traditional leaf-roofed Benab in one Amerindian village, and also camped out in a Jaguar frequented rainforest next to a claw marked tree - where they bathed in a river inhabited by Black Caiman, Stingrays and Electric Eels. They also did day & night overland hikes, mountain climbing, mountain bike riding, and horseback riding - even getting to drive a herd of cattle (another first for both men); and ALL in just one week!

The two American visitors (from the state of Tennessee) also impressed the local Makushi tribesmen and women that met and befriended them, and were a model for the kind of Eco-Tourist that all visitors should try to emulate, they were brave, had good appetites and were eager to eat local foods, fruits and homemade juices, they were respectful of the 'no-Alcohol in the community policy' of the local Chief, and happy to share their scientific knowledge freely with young and old alike in the Makushi tribe; they also had an excellent sense of humor that everyone who interacted with them over the course of their 7 days on tour in Guyana thoroughly enjoyed.

It can be argued that Guyana has among the most exciting Eco-Tourism prospects in the entire world, and the sooner the global traveling community realizes this the better it will be for the country and people of Guyana.

Damon Gerard Corrie

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