- Kaieteur National Park Visitor Centre, ☏ .
- Guyana National Parks Commission, ☏ .
Small groups of Amerindian tribes have been present in the area for thousands of years. The first outsider to explore the area in depth and witness the waterfalls was British-Canadian explorer Charles Barrington Brown in 1870.
Established in 1929, the national park was Guyana's first legally protected area. The boundaries of the park were expanded in 1999 to 63,000 hectares (242 sq mi) to protect the land and biodiverse wildlife against the encroachment of mining. Since the 2010s, the Guyanese government has started to boost funding towards tourist services within the park.
Kaieteur is pristine and virtually unspoilt. The jungle is dense but walking through it is doable and comfortable. It is possible to get lost though so have a compass and a guide with you. If you reach a high point or get to an aerial position, you will see the jungle below as a blanket of broccoli, an awe-inspiring sight.
Flora and fauna
The tiny golden rocket frog is endemic to the Kaieteur National Park. If you stay long enough in the park, you will hear the eerie cries of the red howler monkey and if you are lucky you will be able to see them.
The most famous birds found are Kaieteur is the Guianan cock-of-the-rock, with its bright orange plumage and unusual fan-shaped crest, and the scissors-tailed swift who nest on nearby cliffs and swoop down at incredible speed while hunting flying insects.
The largest butterfly in South America, the 20 cm (8 inch) sun butterfly, is found throughout the national park and particularly around the falls. Its wings are a colourful combination of bright orange, brown, yellow, white and black.
Other species that call the national park home include giant otters and jaguars.
Like much of the Amazon, the jungle is mostly still unexplored with scientists discovering new species in the rainforest all the time.
Kaieteur has a tropical jungle climate with maximum temperatures of 30 °C all year round. The main rainy season in interior Guyana starts from April to September. So the best to time to see the waterfalls at its widest and most majestic would be just after the rainy season ends.
The most common way of visiting the park is by flying from Ogle airport in Georgetown in a small (15 seats or less) aircraft.
Several airlines, including Trans Guyana Airways and Air Services Limited make the trip, mostly as organized day tours. These depart Georgetown around 13:00 and return around 17:00. The flight takes about an hour each way, giving visitors a few hours at the falls.
Prices are similar (around USD190 per person) for all companies and almost any hotel in Georgetown can arrange them. It is best to book a few days in advance as the airlines will only make the trip if a full planeload of visitors have been booked.
Buying a one-way ticket is difficult, as the airlines prefer all seats to be occupied on both the inbound and outbound legs. As such unless there are other passengers wishing to make a one-way journey in the opposite direction on the same day you will likely need to pay a full return fare.
Trekking fanatics can walk from Georgetown to Kaieteur, stopping at villages on the way for rest, food and supplies. This trip takes roughly a week. Costs for guided treks to the falls start at around USD600 per person depending on the size of the group.
It is possible to make the journey to Kaieteur using a mixture of chartered and public transportation, though this will almost certainly be more expensive than visiting by air.
Begin by taking a minibus to Mahdia (either #72 from Stabroek market in Georgetown or Mabura if already travelling on the Georgetown-Lethem road).
From Mahdia it's necessary to first get down to Pamela Landing on the Potaro River (no public transport. A taxi costs about G$8000).
From Pamela Landing it's necessary to go by boat for approximately five hours up the Potaro River to Tukeit in the National Park. There are two possible approaches to this:
1. Charter a small boat for the entire journey (it will be necessary to carry it around two sets of rapids at Amatuk and Waratuk). Ask around in Mahdia for someone willing to make the journey. Johnny in Mahdia is one such person and charges around G$40,000-50,000 one way for the trip including transport to Pamela Landing. He can be contacted by phone at +592 671 7541
2. Take a separate boat for each leg of the journey. It will likely be possible to arrange onward transport at both Pamela Landing and Amatuk, both of which have small permanent populations. However Waratuk sees little through traffic, so it is probably wisest to call the team at the Park Visitor Centre and arrange to be picked up by them at Waratuk. As you'll often be at the mercy of a limited number of boat operators it's possible if not likely that this option will cost more than chartering a small boat for the whole trip.
From Tukeit it is a moderately strenuous walk of 2-3 hours uphill to the airstrip and visitor centre. The trail runs through the jungle, but gets fairly regular use and is not difficult to follow. The trail becomes indistinct at the top of the plateau, but at this point you are within about ten minutes of the visitor centre and at worst it should be possible to find your way there by following the sound of the falls and keeping an eye out for signage and the radio antennas near the airstrip.
Fees and permits
There is a G$3000 per person admission fee for the park and a G$4500 per group guide fee. If you visit as part of a day tour these are included in the cost.
Once you get out of the airstrip, it is easy to hike, explore and see the sights on foot.
- 1 Kaieteur Falls. The standout natural wonder of the park. The waterfall is the largest single drop fall on the planet. Though there are taller waterfalls, there is no other that matches its combination of height and water volume, making it arguably the world's most powerful waterfall. Since tourists visit in small groups, the lookout is never crowded, allowing you to experience the spectacle in near isolation.
- 2 Menzies Landing. A small village on the edge of the park.
There are several day tours and overnight tours available. The daytime tours give you about 2 hours in the afternoon to explore and discover the surroundings.
There is a small souvenir shop at the park visitor centre selling postcards, balata (natural rubber) sculpture and a few other miscellaneous souvenirs.
The price of the food that is available at Kaieteur is treble that of the food in town. So it is best to stock up on food supplies beforehand in order to save some coin.
In the park there is a small store that sells beer and an alcoholic drink called "High Wine".
- Kaieteur National Park Guesthouses, Kaieteur Falls and Tukeit. There are two park guesthouses, one near the visitor centre, airstrip and the falls and a second several km downstream from the bottom of the falls at Tukeit. Beds are clean and include sheets and mosquito nets. Pots, pans a gas stove and drinking (rain) water are provided at both guesthouses.It is best to call the park visitor centre in advance if you wish to stay at either. G$3000 pp a night for either guesthouse (pay in advance at the National Parks office in Georgetown or at the Park Visitor Centre. G$ and USD are accepted.).
Camping is not permitted in the park.
All of the usual precautions when exploring a tropical rainforest should be followed. You are encouraged to bring a hat, comfortable and cool clothing, shoes with good traction, an umbrella or raincoat just in case it rains, insect repellent (though there are carnivorous plants within the jungle that make your life easier) and if you are light-skinned, sunscreen. As the water is not clean, it is a good idea to buy some water purification tablets which can be bought in Georgetown and nearby villages.