Giant river otters, Karanambu, Guyana, Wilderness ExplorersGiant river otters spotted at Karanambu © Courtesy of Wilderness Explorers

Karanambu is one of Guyana’s true tourism highlights. It’s a place steeped in local history, extremely rich in nature and very much in tune with the local surroundings. In more recent years it has become widely known for owner Diane McTurk’s work rehabilitating wild, orphaned giant river otters. Her unique passion has caught the attention of many film crews, including those from the BBC and National Geographic, and provides an interesting backdrop to any visit to Karanambu. Actually, it was a need to fund Diane’s ever-expanding work that gave rise to Karanambu Lodge being opened as an eco-tourism destination. However what was once the driving force and backbone of tourism at Karanambu is now only a fraction of the whole, as Karanambu’s sights have expanded.

In 1997, the Karanambu Trust was formed and a private Protected Area was established for the conservation and protection of Karanambu’s 324km2 of unique habitats, and endless flora and fauna. Over the years, Diane McTurk tirelessly rehabilitated more than 40 giant river otters, or ‘water dogs’ as they are known in Guyana, which attracted many film-makers, journalists and visitors to her lodge. Sadly, she passed away in 2016 at the age of 84 but her family continue to manage the lodge and carry on the great work that she did as a conservationist and pioneer of ecotourism in the Rupununi. To celebrate her remarkable life, in December 2016, the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana, the Guyana Tourism Authority, the National Trust and the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs created the Diane McTurk Scholarship for a student from the hinterland to attend the University of Guyana to obtain a degree in tourism and environmental studies.

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