SURINAME, French Guiana and Guyana feature on few South American bucket lists — but they really should, and especially so this year.
Found in the continent’s north-east, the two countries and one French territory do diversity like nowhere else. The reasons to go range from big cats and isolated Amerindian villages to spaceports and the Devil’s Island penal colony — a stay at which inspired author Henri Charrière’s classic book Papillon. Later turned into a film starring Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen (the recent remake features Bohemian Rhapsody star Rami Malek), the autobiographical novel turns 50 this year.
That’s all the excuse KE Adventure Travel needs for a new guided group tour of South America’s three least-visited lands. Its 14-night trip begins in Suriname, where you’ll bed down in an Amazon ecolodge, meet the descendants of escaped slaves and take a dolphin-watching cruise.
Then comes French Guiana and a visit to the European Space Agency’s primary launch facility at Kourou. A tour of Devil’s Island follows, its prison buildings now in ruins.
Guyana, formerly a British colony, comes last. There are only four pristine rainforests left on the planet and here awaits that quartet’s least-known member: Iwokrama.
‘Living here is one of the planet’s healthiest jaguar populations,’ says KE’s Tom Sargeant. ‘Iwokrama’s rivers also teem with wildlife, and you’ll spot caiman, giant river otters, spider monkeys and toucans while exploring by boat and dugout canoe.’
The Guyana section delivers a chef-led tour of capital Georgetown’s food markets, plus Sargeant’s highlight: a flight to Kaieteur Falls.
‘Thundering over the edge of a high jungle plateau, this is the world’s largest single-drop waterfall,’ he says. ‘Due to its far-flung location, it’s very possible our groups will have Kaieteur entirely to themselves.’
Sargeant advises that travel across the Guianas requires an adventurous spirit.
‘Relying on such elements as remote jungle airstrips and unpaved roads means things won’t always operate like clockwork,’ he adds. ‘But that’s half the fun.’
■ The tour departs on March 28, September 26 and November 7. The starting price of £5,475pp includes return flights from the UK, all transfers, activities, entry fees, guiding, B&B and 15 other meals. keadventure.com