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The Rupununi Savannah is located between the Rupununi River and the border with Brazil and Venezuela. The Rupununi forms the southwestern wilderness territory of Guyana, a Caribbean country situated on the Northeastern littoral of South America. The savannah is dissected by the Kanuku Mountains. The Rupununi Savannah encompasses 5000 square miles of virtually untouched grasslands, swamplands, rain-forested mountains. The region usually floods in the wet season (May to August). Early European explorers believed that the Rupununi floodplains were the legendary Lake Parime. The area is inhabited by some 15,000 Amerindians.
The savannah is divided north from south, by the Kanuku Mountains, Guyana’s most biologically diverse region. According to Conservation International, the "area supports a large percentage of Guyana’s biodiversity", including 250 species of bird life, 18 of which are native "only to the lowland forests of the Guianas." The savannah is teeming with wildlife, including a large variety of bird species. The savannah is also home to the jaguar as well as the Harpy Eagle, the world’s most powerful bird of prey, an extremely rare and endangered species which once ranged the forests of South America and is exclusively found in the Rupununi/Kanuku mountain range.
The Rupununi is the home of the Wapishana, Macushi, Wai-Wai and Patamona peoples. A recent survey recorded a population of 14,689 Amerindians. The Wapishana live mainly in the south savannah, the Macushi in the north. Some 200 Wai-Wai live in near isolation in the remote southeastern region bordering Brazil virtually untouched by modern life.
The major occupations or industries in the Rupununi Savannah are cattle ranching for beef, Balatá bleeding to extract latex; farming peanuts, maize (corn), cassava, and vegetables; fishing and hunting; and craft work such as the manufacture of hammocks, leather articles, Nibbi furniture and beadwork).
There are Amerindian villages dotted throughout the Rupununi Savannah, as well as many ranches worked by vaqueros (cowboys), some of whom are descendants of 19th century Scottish settlers. The main town is Lethem, located beside the Takutu River, on the border with Brazil. Owing to the savanna's remoteness from the rest of the country most trade is conducted with Brazil and most people speak a little Portuguese.
The Rupununi is a paradise for the ecotourist. It is designated a "protected area" by the government of Guyana, housing some 80% of the mammals and 60% of the bird life found in Guyana’s tropical forests and savannahs. The Dadanawa Ranch in the south savannah is reported to be the largest cattle ranch in the world and welcomes visitors. The ranch specializes in catering for detailed studies of flora and fauna. The Karanabo ranch in the north savannahs provides excellent accommodation with riding, fishing, swimming, wildlife photography.
The Rupununi is easily accessible by small aircraft and helicopter flights regularly available from Guyana’s capital Georgetown on the Atlantic coast. In the dry season it is accessible by an unpaved "all weather" road using trucks or 4x4 vehicles. It takes about 48 hours of tough driving. Heavy flooding makes this drive unpredictable and dangerous in the rainy season during the months of April to June.
- The Rupununi Savannahs: An Eco-Tourist's Dream
- Charles Waterton, Wanderings in South America, Cassell & Co, Ltd: London, Paris & Melbourne. 1891.
- Humboldt, Alexander von, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America During the Years 1799-1804, (chapter 25). Henry G. Bohn, London, 1853.
- Graham Watkins, Pete Oxford, and Reneé Bish. Rupununi: Rediscovering a Lost World, Earth in Focus Editions; November 1, 2010 ISBN 0984168648.
- Rupununi people
- Odeen Ishmael. The Trail of Diplomacy: A Documentary History of the Guyana-Venezuela Border Issue, Xlibris Corporation, 2013. ISBN 1493126547
- Guyana’s Rupununi Land of Nature, Authentic Culture, and Adventure