Article & Photos By Candace Phillips
Memories are the best souvenirs. My treasure trove is filled with such keepsakes which I have gathered from my travels throughout Guyana. Like any good collector, every now and then, I like to take mine out, hold it in my hands, close my eyes and let my mind take me on a meandering journey.
Over diverse landscapes and waterways, it comes to a stop over a warm memory which finds me sitting in a boat, attempting to perfect the artistry of quick movements that would lead me to my first catch. For a novice at fishing, these moments were filled with anticipation and a few silent wishes for good luck. .
The soft welcoming light of the evening envelopes the boat which sits silently on the Waini River, each of its occupants preoccupied with the task at hand. Their eyes are vigilant while their extended rods seek to entice life below the surface with the wiggle of the attached bait as its lure. The slightest nibble could mean the luck of a catch if one moves with great agility.
This is my memory of shrimp fishing in Warapoka, Region 1. It remains one of my most loved mementos.
I had developed a curiosity about this activity having heard Aunty Geraldine tell of her feats of catching five hundred shrimp in an hour; it sounded easy and I knew I had to try it! Aunty Geraldine is one of the elders of the village who lives alongside the Waini River and is known for her shrimp catching skills. Her haul of shrimp is used for her family’s subsistence and also sold to villagers.
While we were enthusiastic about filling our bucket with shrimp, we did not count on the patience it required. After what seemed like a considerable time with no luck, a conversation swirled to focus on life in this Warrau community made up of approximately six hundred people.
Warapoka is located in the Moruca Sub-district with some of its residents living along the Waini while others live inward of the Warapoka Creek. Villagers speak a mix of Warrau, their Indigenous language, and english. It is predominantly a farming community. However, the village sees tourism as a form of alternative livelihood while promoting its natural heritage, conservation, reigniting their culture and encouraging the involvement of women and youths.
“You have to move your hand quickly, don’t make the shrimp eat out your bait,” instructs aunty Geraldine. She mentions that the darkness which now surrounds is the ideal setting for me to be lucky.
The lightning movements at my bait alert me to the presence of aquatic life. Hopefully, I pulled my rod up at every point when it seemed I might have a prize at the end of the line. There were moments of emptiness until there was a shrimp! With excitement, I proclaimed that I had one in the books. By the activity’s end, I had caught eight shrimp. As I headed back to the village, I catalogued this experience and vowed that next time, there would be more captures in my bucket.
While I have shared my most treasured memory, shrimp fishing is not the only activity one can experience on a trip to Warapoka. Your customisable itinerary can include various activities which capture the natural environment, way of life and culture of the village.
What else is there to experience?
Villagers always speak with pride and excitement when they relate recent sightings of the Harpy Eagle near the village. The Eagle is regarded as a highlight and a symbol of their tourism product. A morning or afternoon’s hike will lead you to the viewing point of the largest raptor in Guyana with opportunities for spotting wildlife or other birdlife such as the Tufted Coquette hummingbird which frequents the area.
A village tour traces the path which links you to the personalities and culture of the people which will undoubtedly enrich your experience. One of your first stops is at the home of Aunty Irene whose story telling will link the present day of the village to the past when her ancestors lived there. While there, she will invite you to join her in a small craft making session to form your connection with Indigenous peoples use of natural materials from the forest.
Depending on seasonality, you can experience the processing of coffee beans and sampling a cup of freshly brewed coffee with coconut milk used as its creamer.
Take a relaxing walk along the forested areas to the Alaka Shell Mound. The shell mound serves as evidence of snail shells accumulated over many years. The guided walk to the area which ends at the Alaka Creek provides many chances for storytelling and learning about the trees and plants as you walk along.
An early morning trip on the Waini River to Luri Creek unlocks the cool and serenity of the morning. Once there, tarpon fish is the main attraction. Display your fishing skills or be taught the technique by your guide who shows you two forms of fishing: using a fishing rod and a traditional method using a fishing line and lead.
Travelling to Warapoka
To create your memories, travel to the village can be done in two ways: via boat or air transfer.
Journeying to this village can be done overland from Georgetown with connecting boat transfers at Parika and Charity then onto Santa Rosa. From Santa Rosa, through the 99 turns of the river, one will arrive at the village after ninety minutes.
Alternatively, flights to Bimichi Airstrip, Moruca from Eugene Correia International Airport operate thrice weekly and offer a quicker travel route. From the airstrip, take a vehicle to Kumaka waterfront where a boat transfer completes the journey to the village. .
In 2021, the village commissioned their guest house “Horo Hanoco” (rock dwelling place). It has two self-contained rooms and four rooms with a shared bathroom. The building is outfitted with photovoltaic and water systems and internet connectivity.
Warapoka has implemented the Hygiene and Sanitation protocol of the Guyana Tourism Authority and has received Conditional Approval signaling their efforts to implement systems to safeguard the health and safety of travellers to the village and community members.
Why must you visit?
The appeal of Warapoka lies in its value as a Scientific, Academic, Volunteer and Educational destination appealing to travellers who seek opportunities to connect with nature, culture and villagers thereby making a positive impact on the community.
Simply being there allows you to immerse yourself and understand the Warrau way of life while contributing to the village’s vision for the promotion of community based tourism. The hospitality, quality of experiences, culinary delights and your attentive hosts will make your visit to this village meaningful.
My mind zips back to the present and I carefully tuck my souvenir of memories away.
Take the trip. Warapoka is awaiting you.