Guyana’s rainforest: rumble in the jungle

Guyana’s rainforest buzzes with the cries of piha birds, howler monkeys and macaws. Sarah Barrell treks to their exotic beat.

To be woken by a wolf whistle is a novelty not many enjoy, but there it was, rousing us from sleep with a flirty insistence. Later, as the sun climbed to warm the top of the jungle canopy, the whistle of the screaming piha bird, the Amazon’s signature alarm call, was drowned out by the ominous rising, rolling roar of the red howler monkey, chasing us across the peaty rainforest floor like a haunting. By noon the ear-splitting screech of scarlet macaws could be heard overhead and, following a deafening downpour of rain, a bell-bird announced the sunshine with the oddly incongruous whine of a garden strimmer.

Noise pollution may have become an irritating part of modern life but in the rainforest and savannah of the Rupununi, a remote region in southern Guyana, it’s a case of sound and fury signifying, well, everything. What time it is, when the rains will come, when they will end, and when the sun will make the ground steam and mists rise into the trees with such primordial potent that each morning, you swear, must surely be the first on earth.

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