Oliver Kruess, Captain of the 148-passenger vessel said things have improved locally compared to almost 20 years ago when a National Geographic ship visited Guyana. “In the past when our ships were here and that was more than eighteen years ago, Guyana didn’t have much of an infrastructure in this place,” he told reporters.
Kruess noted that previously National Geographic’s ships had visited the Orinoco, skipped Guyana and went on to Devil’s Island in French Guiana. “In the middle it was difficult to find something because there was not much infrastructure for a ship,” he added.
The captain explained that the infrastructure now included the availability of small boats to transport tourists from the cruise-ship to places of interest. While anchored in the Essequibo River for two days, the visitors will go bird watching and on Wednesday visit the breathtaking Kaieteur Falls.
Director of Wilderness Explorers, Shaun Mc Grath said it was now easier to deal with the Port Health Authority, Customs and Immigration. “It is now way, way easier…Back in the old ways, no matter how big the ship was it was one set of documents and the documents were about thirty-five to forty pages long. Now that kind of thing has been expedited to ensure that this ship has been cleared in an hour,” he told reporters.
Wilderness Explorers is responsible for the National Geographic Explorer’s visit to Guyana and Suriname.
Most of the 110 tourists are affluent American and European retirees who are taking advantage of the pricey cruise that sources say costs at least US$35,000.
Among those aboard are National Geographic photographers and writers who document aspects of the trip. “It’s not really a scientific expedition what we do; it’s a popular scientific cruise we are doing with guests that are paying for them,” he said. Highlighted at each destination are the culture, wildlife, music and marine and general biology.
Guyana’s Tourism Minister was among those who welcomed the visitors by wishing them a “fruitful” and “amazing” stay in this eco-tourism destination. A cocktail reception showcasing Guyanese food and drinks is scheduled to be held aboard on Wednesday.
The ship carries kayaks and a fleet of Zodiac motorized landing craft as well as sophisticated video equipment that allows access to the underwater world. Public areas include a lounge and bar, a library, spa, fitness centre, sauna and a selection of dining options that offer regionally inspired cuisine of fresh, local ingredients. Services include a full-time doctor, a wellness specialist and an Internet café.