Surama Eco-Lodge an example of community tourism

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Surama Eco-Lodge in Region Nine has been recording a steady increase in visitors year on year, says Senior Councillor, Jacklyn Allicock.

Allicock told the Department of Public Information (DPI) that while business was slow during the May/June period, it did well in terms of revenue generation for the first quarter of 2018.

Allicock explained that there was an increase in the number of local and overseas students visiting the lodge to conduct research and other activities. This, she said, assisted in offsetting the lodge’s expenses. “We have the university from abroad and some Guyanese students who come to the lodge every year. And we have seen an increase in the number of students especially the local ones. They are mostly biology students. We are back in business right now, we already have bookings for August to December.”

Allicock said that over the years the village has become self-sufficient, preparing local traditional foods to its visitors from the food they grow. The village has a garden and is producing chicken, beef and pork. When there is not enough food to supply the tourism business and the residents, they purchase from the nearby villages including Wowetta, Rupertee and Annai.

A short history of Surama

Surama is an indigenous village located in the North Rupununi, with a population of approximately 304 people. The village is primarily inhabited by Makushi people.

Surama Village Senior Councillor, Jacklyn Allicock.

The area of land, in which Surama is located, has been inhabited sporadically for many years. An established cattle-trail ran through the area in the early twentieth century, and Surama was an important stopping-point on that trail. As the cattle-trail dwindled, however, so did the number of inhabitants in the area, and by the 1970s Surama was completely deserted. The modern village of Surama was founded in the 1970s by two brothers, Fred and Theo Allicock.

Following the construction of the Linden-Lethem road in the mid to late 1970s, Surama and surrounding areas became more accessible to the general public. In 1996, Surama received its first tourists and the money they gave the community to pay for their stay funded the construction of the community’s first guest-lodge.

Today, the village is leading in community-based, eco-tourism in Guyana. In 2011, Eco-Lodge was listed by the National Geographic as one of the “best hotels in Colombia, Guyana and Venezuela”; and in the same year it was the joint winner of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation Excellence in Sustainable Tourism Award, along with Harrison’s Cave in Barbados.

Up until the mid-1990s, Surama’s economy relied primarily on subsistence agriculture, with a minority of male villagers taking paid jobs as loggers or gold-miners in the North-West or across the border in Brazil. Following the increasing success with eco-tourism, Surama Eco-Tourism now provides approximately 60% of Surama’s income, with 75% of households deriving income from the tourist trade.

Within the range of the Surama Village, healthy populations of giant river otters, jaguar, giant anaconda, tapir, capybara and four species of monkey can be found. Surama has one of the pre-eminent bird guides in all Guyana. Over 500 species of birds, 72 adjacent species endemics to the Guiana Shield, are found in the forest to Surama Village Eco-Lodge.

By: Synieka Thorne.