GUY-03: Gluck Island
Faizool Deo Guyana Chronicle agosto 2006
From a distance, it resembles most of the other islands that popped out of the mighty Essequibo River, green with towering trees which form the periphery around some inhabited communities. This one is different, though.
There is no indication that humans ever inhabited this place - there are no docks, or other man-made structure that bridges the river and land. Yet, there is life, abundant life.
There are said to be about 140 species of local and migrating birds that occupy the island (not necessary at a single time), giant river turtles, rare species of giant otters, black caimans (the smallest seen about 12 ft long), red howler monkeys, long-nosed armadillos, bountiful insect species, and exotic flora, the most pronounced being Guyana’s national pride, the Victoria Regia.
Gluck Island has been identified as a possible bird watcher’s paradise, and there is a buzz about its potential on the nature tourism scene, one that could possibly boost Guyana’s appeal on the international stage.
When I heard the possibility existed for me to make the trip, I jumped at the opportunity. I had no real experience journeying to remote territories, or any nature based area as a matter of fact, so I was curious about the wildlife.
To reach Gluck Island, Gregory, a reporter/cameraman from Channel Nine and I travelled with Torsten Striepke, International Business Advice Expert attached to the Linden Economic and Advancement Programme (LEAP) in his four-wheel drive van from Linden to Rockstone (about 19 miles away), before boarding a boat with Linden Tourism Development Association Junior Vice-President, Coretta Braithwaite and a local guide, Donald Williams.
Travelling out of Rockstone with a boat is an adventure by itself; Donald knows the route well and with Coretta managing the front of the vessel with a paddle, we are able to slowly but carefully get past the mangrove trees which crowd the waterway.
Heavy rainfall recently tortured the area and Donald feels it has created the worst flood in 25 years. This dampens the spirit of both Gregory and I, since he, armed with his video camera and me with my digital flash camera were hoping to capture some of the exotic wildlife.
As we exit the mangrove, Gluck Island comes into view, and with some seven miles in length it looks never-ending.
Enchanting flora and fauna
As our boat motor towards the northern end, an eerie feeling drifts in and even the sound from our engine is caught in this vacuum of silence that engulfs the area. But it is a tranquil silence under the midday sun: birds are flying uninhibitedly; sometimes close down to the water, as if indicating to us that this is their home, and that they are free. Some of the birds are identified as the powerful raptors of the country. Donald, our guide though is not as impressed. He has seen better than this. He tells us of the air-show which takes place in the morning, when the majority flies.
Continuing on our journey, some insects begin a colourful dance - butterflies and dragonflies flutter their tiny wings in an attempt to keep up with the boat. With the greenness of the trees and the blackness of the water, this is nothing short of an idyllic setting.
Torsten brings me back to reality when he motions for Donald to take us towards the dry land he sees through the mangrove trees. This is a challenge for Gregory and I since we are braving the water (which our guide had just told us contains some flesh-hungry creatures, the feared piranha), and the soppy mud.
But it is all worth it. I am left spellbound. The island’s beauty is becoming clearer. Huge trees stand mighty everywhere, and its leaves carpet the floor, making it perfect for trekking. There is life everywhere. We (mostly me) are scared to death when the silence turns into a humming sound, but it just a sun beetle according to Donald, begging for the sun to shine. The guide then points to hoof prints in the mud belonging to a deer and a hole in the ground which he feels was made by an anteater, both of whom could still been around.
Making our way over the ground, we are enthralled to see the variety of trees. Some of the barks, according to Donald are used to make tea, others for healing and some as poison. Upon hearing this, my hands instantly found its way into my pockets, where they stayed until we were in the boat again.
The mystery of the island continues to unfold, sounds were now coming from above, and our guide quickly points to red howler monkeys in a tree. By the time I can pick up my camera, the monkeys are gone. But are they really? We soon spot two peeping through the leaves at our boat almost questioning the rude disturbance.
We are now heading to the northern side of the island, Torsten is adamant to take this route since it is one of the places a bird watching group which not so long ago visited the island, feels an eco-lodge can be built. The area is beautiful, sparkling with a natural divinity and despite the soppiness, it is given the thumbs up by the LEAP consultant.
The Victoria Regia pond is our next stop. Mangrove trees are everywhere, and the rain has forced the pond to become one with the river, damaging the plants in the process.
Torsten sees an eco-lodge or lodges on the island as one of the possible tools to improve conservation. He feels that this island has what it takes to become a core eco-tourism destination, and hopes that its development not only lies on the public sector, but private investors as well. He wants the island to remain virtually untouched and thinks that eco-tourism is the way to go.
He feels that small groups which can be fully monitored are better suited for tours to the land, which has kept its pristine state for so long because it stayed untouched.
Gluck Island lives, but can die a quick death if it is bombarded by large parties of people. Building an eco-lodge here though will be no easy task, since some parts of the island succumb easily to flooding. It is nonetheless magnificent at present, at least for the five of us in the boat.