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Coq of the Rock: Trailblazing the Guianas

Days 1-2

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

Day time flight to Rio de Janeiro, the most romantic, intriguing and beautiful city on the continent. Sumptuous apartments overlook the sparkling bays against the backdrop of half-built slum dwellings, favelas, which cling precariously to the hillsides. Rio has an awesome bay-side location among near-vertical granite mountains.

Here, tropical foliage swoops down to white-to-toffee coloured sandy beaches in turn battered by the huge waves of Atlantic surf. The drive into the city gives a fleeting glimpse of the docks and commercial centre as you head towards the magnificent stretch of sand at Copacabana; your hotel is a couple of blocks inland from the beach.

On your full day there is a tour to familiarise yourself with this most iconic of cities. As part of this, you'll board a steep rack-and-pinion railway which glides up through tropical Tijuca National Park, the largest urban forest in the world dripping with fruit and flowers, to reach the summit of Corcovado Mountain. Here the famous 40m art deco Christ the Redeemer statue soars above the city, arms outspread benevolently. On a clear day, the views over the city and out across the ocean and outlying islands are stupendous.

We also include a trip to Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain). Ride the cable-car up the twin granite mountains protruding from the ocean and enjoy the magnificent views back over the beaches, Botafogo Bay with its bobbing yachts and into the mountains beyond. There’s a lovely (and safe) nature walk round the foot of the mountain, or you could pop for a beer into the nearby villagey quarter of Urca, leafy home of artists and TV stars.

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Botafogo Bay

Day 3

Fly to northern Brazilian city of Boa Vista.

Today we fly to the northern city of Boa Vista (due to current flight schedules this may involves changes). There's a frontier-town feel to Boa Vista, and its population has grown from 55,000 inhabitants in 1975 to a quarter of a million today. Spend the night in Boa Vista.

Day 4

Drive to the Guyana border and continue to Atta.
Cock of the Rock

Depart by bus for Guyana, crossing the newly-constructed (2009) Takutu River Bridge. Brazil drives on the right and Guyana on the left, and there's a nifty little crossover bridge to cope with this idiosyncrasy.

Continue north into the Iwokrama, with stops in the forest along the way. Jaguars, jaguarundi, tayras, as well as striking bird life, including the coq of the rock, and the harpy eagle, are often seen among the trees. Spend the night at the Atta Camp, a block of eight small cabins. From here there is access to a fantastic canopy walkway, built out from a steep escarpment, which gives access to the creatures of the forest.

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Cock of the Rock

Days 5-6

Drive to Annai and the Rockview Lodge.
Walk way, Iwokrama

Travel along an unpaved roads to Annai, which lies on the edge of the transition zone between the savannah and the Iwokrama forest reserve. This small village is a mixture of brick and wattle-and-daub cottages, all thatched with palm fronds. There are no roads or even tracks, just grassy thoroughfares between cottages, shops, school and church. They speak English here, as elsewhere in Guyana, and people are friendly and welcoming. 2 nights' accommodation is in Rock View, a comfortable lodge, from which you can enjoy the beauty of the savannah, and explore the beguiling settlement.

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Walk way, Iwokrama

Day 7

By light aircraft to Georgetown.

Fly north to the capital Georgetown.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Guyanas swapped hands between the European sea powers. The city still shows an interesting amalgam of cultural heritage, its population mostly a mixture of African and Asian descent, commingled with wai-wai Amerindians from the south. Its architecture too is a fusion of Dutch and colonial Brazilian, with the latter predominant.

There's plenty to see here: riverside Stabroek market is fun, bustling and chaotic; there are manatees and lots of birds in the botanical gardens; and the legendary Bourda Cricket Ground.

Days 8-9

Optional flight over Kaieteur Falls; explore Georgetown.
The 3 nights spent in the capital allow for an optional excursion to Kaieteur Falls. It takes about an hour - the first 10mins over cultivated areas, and thereafter tropical forest - to fly to the small airstrip at the top of the falls. The pilot usually does a fly-past first, to give some perspective on the Potaro river and the canyon below the falls. There's no tourist infrastructure, just a tiny settlement of 3 huts, one of which serves as an airport lounge.

On arrival there is an easy walk and then a scramble in a loop through the rocky forest, past copses of giant bromeliads - home to microscopic frogs - to a number of viewpoints. The first, at around 200m from the cataracts, gives a face-on view of a prodigious quantity of water, which is stained chestnut brown with tannins. At the third viewpoint you are literally on the edge of the falls, on a rock platform less than a metre away from the torrent as it plunges 226m into the canyon. Most people inch towards the rock's lip on their bellies. Some prefer to stand well back.

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Day 10

By bus and ferry to Paramaribo, Suriname.
Departing Georgetown by minibus along a coastal road wending eastwards towards the Corentyne river, which forms the frontier between Suriname and Guyana; a region of sugarcane and rice plantations, threaded by canals (built by the Dutch to drain the low-lying land, and to access the cane for market).

Cross the estuary by ferry and continue by road, hugging the coast to Paramaribo. Suriname was Dutch territory, and modern-day Paramaribo has inherited not only the language, and the attractive clapboard architecture, but also its melting pot of cultures. Thousands of indentured labourers were shipped in from the Dutch East Indies to work the plantations, and they brought their Indonesian cuisine with them, as well as their religion: mosques are a common sight, and the largest in Paramaribo is right next to the synagogue.

Days 11-12

Excursion of Suriname and Crommewijne river.
Paramaribo houses

There is an included excursion on the Suriname and Crommewijne river. You will spot local seabirds en route to visit one of the former plantations and the open air museum at New Amsterdam, which will give you a fascinating insight into Suriname's former colonial history. Spend the rest of the time at leisure.

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Paramaribo houses

Day 13

Bus and boat to Kourou, in French Guiana.
Depart by bus towards Albina, and another river border, the Caroni. From here shuttle canoes make the short trip across to St Laurent, in French Guiana, once the receiving station for new inmates bound for the notoriously brutal penal colony maintained by France until the mid-20th century. Continue on a smart paved road to Kourou.

Guiana is a département of France. They send deputies to parliament, the currency is the euro, its citizens are members of the EU and enjoy the full protection of the French labour law. It's expensive: lots of things are imported from France. Kourou is home to many of France's top scientists and astrophysicists, because this is the base of the Ariane space rocket programme.

Day 14

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

Full-day excursion to the former penal colony on the Iles du Salut. The archipelago lies about an hour out into the Caribbean and consists of 3 islands: Ile Royale, Ile St Joseph and Devil's Island. The cells, guards' quarters and administration blocks on Ile Royale have been converted into accommodation and dining facilities, and there's an excellent small museum that recounts the history of the place, and the privations that both the convicts and the guards had to endure. There's a small church, the remains of a hospital, and a cemetery with memorials to the prison staff. 

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Iles du Salut

Day 15

Excursion to the Centre Spatial; drive to Cayenne.
Space station

A morning excursion to the Centre Spatial, where there is a fascinating museum, and there may be an opportunity for a tour of the space centre itself. Depart by road for Cayenne, French Guiana's main city. It's a hotchpotch of building styles, some glorious belle époque, others more modern and on the shabby side. This is a pleasant place to spend some time; sipping a cold drink in one of the bars in the Place des Palmistes, you could almost be on the Riviera. The busy market is worth a visit, and there is a footpath up to the remains of the old fort that overlooks the town.

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Space station

Day 16

Depart for international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day, Thursday.
Please note

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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Start Date

8 Oct 2019

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23 Oct 2019

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