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Coq of the Rock: Trailblazing the Guianas

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This is a trip which emphatically goes off the beaten track, taking in some of the rarely-visited highlights of Suriname and the Guianas. You won’t find a group tour like this offered by anyone else: the logistics of researching and organising such a trip are daunting but as South America experts we relished the challenge. You'll scramble through dense jungle; surround yourself with wildlife in a rainforest canopy and drive through sweeping savannah punctuated by ancient sandstone plateaux.

You’ll stay in sweltering frontier settlements; visit the French space station and an old penal colony; take boat rides down jungle-fringed rivers and lap up the atmosphere of colonial towns and brash, bold capital cities. You'll have to be prepared for delays, for things not going quite to plan, but you'll be rewarded by an unforgettable trip.

Holiday itinerary

Days 1-2

Fly to Rio de Janeiro on a daytime flight. Spend a day exploring this epic city.

Day 3

Fly to northern Brazilian city of Boa Vista.

Day 4

Drive to the Guyana border and continue to Atta.

Days 5-6

Drive to Annai and the Rockview Lodge.

Day 7

By light aircraft to Georgetown.

Days 8-9

Optional flight over Kaieteur Falls; explore Georgetown.

Day 10

By bus and ferry to Paramaribo, Suriname.

Days 11-12

Excursion of Suriname and Crommewijne river.

Day 13

Bus and boat to Kourou, in French Guiana.

Day 14

Excursion to Iles du Salut, and the erstwhile penal colony.

Day 15

Excursion to the Centre Spatial; drive to Cayenne.

Day 16

Depart for international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day, Thursday.

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Places visited on this holiday

Coq of the Rock: Trailblazing the Guianas

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Rio de Janeiro
Corcovado Rio de Janeiro Brazil
Of the world’s great iconic cities, Rio is the most captivating. Romantic and laid back but oozing energy and optimism, it needs a few days to explore and time to sit back and share the outdoor life of its welcoming inhabitants.

With streets, beaches and parks spruced up for the World Cup and Olympic Games, now is the best time to go. The busy colonial centre is transformed, with literary cafés spilling out on to car-free lanes, the National Theatre all a-glitter, and boutique hotels nestle in arty Santa Teresa.

The lagoon behind Ipanema beach is circled by a pretty path and cycle route and the Botanical Gardens have undergone a luscious makeover. Vibrant street art, beach football, spontaneous musical events and cool bars all add to a joyous experience for visitors.
What's the best time to visit Rio de Janeiro?

Rio is an all-year destination, at its hottest Jan-Mar (humid with tropical showers, occasionally over 40°C during the day). It can be cool and drizzly Jul-Aug but the sun is never far away. Late Dec-Feb (and  to a lesser extent Jul) are local holiday times and can be very busy.

How do I get local currency in Rio de Janeiro?

Brazilian Real.

Notes can be withdrawn from the ATMs at the airport and in town. Banco do Brasil, Bradesco and HSBC accept UK credit or debit cards. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. ATMs close at 10pm. Currency also obtainable in banks and money exchanges.

What's the time difference between Rio de Janeiro and UK?

GMT -3 hours. There is daylight saving from Oct- end Feb (approx) when clocks are put forward one hour.

What places combine well with Rio de Janeiro?

Beach time in Búzios (136 km by road) or Ilha Grande on the Costa Verde (136 km); Paratí, quaint and arty colonial port surrounded by rainforested hills (236 km); Petropolis, former summer seat of the Emperor, in the tropical mountains behind Rio, (68 km, 1.5 hours by road);  Ouro Preto, exquisite colonial city in the mountains of Minas Gerais (280 km); Iguazú Falls (2 hours approx by air); Salvador da Bahía in the northeast (2 hours by air).

What's the flight time between Rio de Janeiro and UK?

Average flight time to Rio is 11 hours. Two airlines offer direct flights. There are flights with European connections to many other major cities.

What are the festivals, cultural and sport events in Rio de Janeiro?

Reveillon: New Year’s Eve, 2 million white-clad Cariocas descend on Copacabana beach to celebrate the Festa de Iemanjá, launching candlelit boats on the Ocean. Fireworks and music accompany the fun. 

Carnival: 5 days in Feb/Mar, variable. Apart from the world famous parades in the purpose-built sambadrome there are street processions, live bands, costume balls, over-indulgence and general frivolity.

Football World Cup: 12 Jun-13 Jul 2014. Cities all over Brazil are hosting games but the Maracanã in Rio has been refurbished for the occasion and will leave the legacy of a spruced up stadium where visitors can enjoy regular games, usually on Sunday afternoons. 

Olympic Games:  5 - 21 Aug 2016. Rio is being given a face-lift for the event, if you visit before the games you’ll benefit from greater security, repaved promenades, streamlined transport links (they hope!), brand new restaurants and open air cafés and even Wifi on Copacabana beach.
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Angel Falls and the Gran Sabana
Angel Falls Venequela
The ancient, sheer-walled table-mountain tepuys of the Gran Sabana are known as the ‘Lost World’ with a nod to Arthur Conan Doyle’s adventure story. In the yawning landscape of the savannah grasslands below the tepuys there are many streams and waterfalls, but the best known cascade is the Angel Falls, plunging nearly a kilometre over a vertical cliff in a single veil of spray.

In this wilderness, prospectors gather to mine the mineral-rich veins of rock. But for the visitor it is the horizon-bending landscape of sun-swept grasslands, waterfalls and black lagoons fringed with pink sands which supplies the treasure.
When to go

The dry season in the Gran Sabana extends from Dec or Jan toApr or May, when Angel Falls can slow to a trickle. The waterfall is much more voluminous and dramatic in the rainy season, especially Aug-Sep, but as it is cloudier you run the risk of not seeing it from the air. However this is a good time to make a canoe trip to the foot of the falls.  It’s best to climb Roraima in the dry season but it can rain on the top at any time.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency
Bolívar Fuerte. Banks will offer advances on a credit card.  Money exchange offices and many hotels will gladly buy US dollars cash (very few accept euros or sterling and the rate will be poor). Obtain your local currency before heading to the Gran Sabana, although the general store in Canaima will often buy US dollars in exchange for Bolívares. 
Time difference

GMT -5.5 hours (yes, really).

Combines with
A visit to the llanos, wildlife wetlands northwest of the Gran Sabana, the country’s other vast wilderness; the Orinoco Delta to visit the Warao indians.
Getting there
There are regular short domestic flights between Caracas and  Canaima for visits to the Angel Falls. Roraima is accessed by jeep from Santa Elena, on the border with Brazil (flights from Caracas to Ciudad Bolivar then by road or light aircraft).
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Guyana
Guyana isn't Latin: it sits alone on the continent of South America as an ex-British colony, sharing a Caribbean flavour where English is the first language and cricket the national sport. Culturally it's a remarkable and unique melting pot of Afro-Caribbean, Amerindian, European, Brazilian and Asian influences: in the capital, Georgetown, a Hindu temple may sit happily next to a jerk-chicken fast food outlet while reggae music thunders from the bar across the road.

The country is composed of vast areas covered by virgin rainforest, savannah and ancient tablelands over one of which spill the stunning Kaieteur Falls. Deep in the almost untrodden interior there is magnificent jungle scenery and a plethora of wildlife unrivalled on the continent. Jaguars, giant otters, tapirs and over 800 bird species roam undisturbed.

This is true wilderness. It isn’t easy to get around. The Caribbean coastline is a steamy, stretch of muddy mangrove forest, through which a paved coast road runs eastwards from Georgetown towards Suriname; there are just a few dirt roads heading inland. Travel is by river, dirt road or by light plane.
When is the best time to go to Guyana?
The climate in Guyana is typically hot with average daily temperatures of 27oC and it stays warm throughout the night. The north of the country experiences two wet seasons – May-Jun and Dec-Feb. The south and the Rupununi has only one wet season, May-Aug. The best months to visit for wildlife viewing and exploring the interior are Feb-Apr and Oct-Dec.
What's the official language of Guyana?

English.

What's the official currency in Guyana?
Guyanese dollar. Notes can be withdrawn from ATM at the Scotia bank in Georgetown (protect your PIN number) using a UK credit or debit card. Some other banks will offer advances on a credit card.  Otherwise you can change cash at hotels and money exchanges. Never change money on the street. Guyana is largely a cash economy though credit cards are accepted in some establishments used by tourists.
What's the time difference between GMT and Guyana?

GMT -4 hours.

Which countries combine well with Guyana?
A visit to the two other Guianas, which sit east of Guyana along the coast: Suriname, colonised by the Dutch, and Guyane, still a French overseas département. It’s not easy to do independently: we recommend you join our annual small group guided tour, named Coq of the Rock.
What are the cultural events in Guyana?
The religious festivals of all the main religions represented by the population are celebrated, Christian Christmas and Easter; Hindu Diwali; Muslim Eid al-Adha and Amerindian Mashramani.
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The people of Suriname
Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America but what it lacks in size it makes up in ethnic diversity: its friendly inhabitants are composed of Dutch and British colonialists, Amerindians, Chinese, Indians and Maroons, and any combination of them. The country can be divided into two main regions - the northern lowland coastal area where most of the population lives and the dense tropical rainforest and sparsely inhabited savannah which covers the rest of the country. 

The inland forest is occupied by very small communities of Amerindians and descendants of African slaves - the Maroons – who escaped into the jungle in the 17th and 18th centuries live scattered along the banks of its major rivers.  The Dutch colonial centre of Paramaribo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The city is also a melting pot of religious cultures including Jews who moved here from Jodensavanne - home of the oldest synagogue in the Americas. The wilderness interior is pretty impenetrable and is accessed by river, forest road or light aircraft. The biggest attraction of the country for visitors is its unique ethnic and social fabric. 


Do I need a yellow fever vaccination for Suriname?

The Ministry of Health in Suriname advises passengers travelling to Suriname to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever. This is also valid for travellers departing from Suriname towards countries in the Caribbean region. You will be required to present your ’International Certificate of Vaccination’ booklet, which will be checked before departure. You may be denied entree to any country if you fail to present this document. You should be vaccinated at least 10 days before departure.

When's the best time to go to Suriname?
Suriname has a tropical humid climate. There are a short rainy seasons Dec-Jan and Apr-Jul. The most pleasant times to visit are the dry seasons Feb-Apr and Aug-Nov. Throughout the year the average daily temperature varies between 21 and 32°C. Suriname lies outside the hurricane zone and the most extreme weather condition is the "sibibusi" (forest broom), a torrential rain shower which passes quickly.
What's the official language in Suriname?

Dutch, English and Sranan Tongo, originally the language of the creoles.

What's the official currency in Suriname?

Suriname guilder.  Currently, only one bank, the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (RBTT) has ATMs which accept foreign ATM Visa cards. You can exchange currency at banks, hotels, and official exchange houses; in no circumstances change money on the street. Only a few tourist-inclined establishments accept credit cards.

Time difference

GMT -4 hours  

Combines with

A visit to the two other Guianas, which sit alongside Suriname on the coast: Guyana, the former British Guiana and Guyane, still a French overseas département. It’s not easy to do independently: we recommend you join our annual small group guided tour, named Coq of the Rock.

Getting there
Average flight time to Paramaribo is 12 hrs. There are no direct flights from the UK to Suriname; popular routes involve a change of ‘plane in Amsterdam. 
Key events

The religious festivals of all the main religions represented by the population are celebrated, Christian Christmas and Easter; Hindu Diwali; Muslim Eid al-Adha and Amerindian Mashramani.
Suriname Jazz Festival, Paramaribo; Oct.
Surifesta, Paramaribo; mid Dec-Jan. A festival of shows, street parties, parades and flower markets.

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French Guiana
Guyane (French Guiana) is not an independent nation; it’s an overseas department of France and therefore part of the EU. The country is a melting pot of ethnic diversity – creole and immigrants make up 80% of a population which also includes metropolitan French, Amerindians and Maroons - the descendants of escaped slaves.

Geographically, the country is a tangle of rainforest with an incredible biodiversity. The mangrove swamps of Kaw are one of Guyane’s most accessible wildlife areas.

However, Guyane is most famous for the former penal colony immortalised in the film Papillon. The abandoned penal colonies are now historical monuments in themselves, and visitors are drawn to the Îles de Salut including Devil’s Island. The main island, Île Royale, offers an evocative insight into the conditions the prisoners faced, since many of the cells can still be visited.

Guyane seldom hits the news - except when there is activity at the European Space Station at Kourou. The space station visitors' centre is open except when the next launch of the Ariane rocket is imminent.
When's the best time to visit French Guiana?

Temperatures are tropical and consistent, averaging 27°C throughout the year, although it can be cooler at night in the highlands than on the coast. The rainy season is Nov-Jul with substantial rainfall beginning in May.

What's the official language of French Guiana?

French

How do I get hold of Euros in French Guyana?

Euro. Rates are better if you buy the currency in the UK but € notes can be withdrawn from ATMs in Cayenne using a UK credit or debit card. Some banks will offer advances on credit cards, which are widely accepted. ATMs outside Cayenne are intermittently out of action.

What's the time difference between GMT and French Guiana?

GMT -4 hours

Which other countries combine well with french Guiana?

A visit to the two other Guianas, which sit west of  Guyane alongthe coast: Suriname, colonised by the Dutch; and Guyana, the former British Guiana. It’s not easy to do independently: we recommend you join our annual small group guided tour, named Coq of the Rock.

What are the festivals, cultural and sporting events in French Guiana?
Carnival, Cayenne, Feb/Mar. This is very animated and involves Caribbean-influenced parades and parties. Each day has its own theme and costumes are elaborate. Originally a creole festival, it now welcomes participants from Brazil and Haiti.
Abolition of Slavery Day, Guyane, 10 Jun.
National holidays are the same as in France.

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There are a very limited number of rooms available in some locations, so passengers paying single supplement may occasionally have to share a room with another passenger of the same gender.

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