Story and Photos by Leroy Smith
DECEMBER 2016 would go down as the month that the Communities of Surama in Region 9 and Fairview in Region 8 received a royal visit after thirteen years. In 2003, the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles visited the communities and yesterday (Saturday December 3, 2016), his son, Prince Harry followed his footsteps.
Prince Harry and his team started their day in the Hinterland by flying into Region 9, where he was received by the leaders of Surama, who treated him to a short cultural presentation and presented him with gifts. Among the gifts was a photograph of his father, Prince Charles dancing with villagers during his 2003 visit.
The visit is being regarded as very significant for Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples as it comes in the year Guyana is observing its Golden Jubilee after gaining independence from Great Britain and the ancestors of Prince Harry, 50 years ago.
Vice President and Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs Sydney Allicock noted that “we have been discussing on our way about the development of the Indigenous Peoples and the recognition of the of the Indigenous peoples for what they have been doing over the many years of protecting the environment especially; the Eco- system and understanding the Eco-system and also how we can be supported by the promotion of Eco-tourism as we would say exploiting the natural resources without too much harm and that is being able to utilize the natural resources such as seeds, barks latex, the natural scenery, culture, the people themselves it is something that is special to Guyana and for us the Indigenous Peoples.”
He further stated that “having the Prince here would help us to be able to be recognized as a destination for visiting a place that is so ready for the business of tourism especially community- based tourism, helping our communities in being able to promote what we have and that is the understanding of the Indigenous Peoples towards having a very intact natural environment.”
The welcome the Prince received was similar to that which his father Prince Charles received thirteen years ago when he visited the same community.
“My father told me what an amazing time he had back in 2003 when he looked far much younger that he looks now and he had far more hair as well. What you guys are doing here is incredible and your leadership of bringing forward everybody else here is so important to ensure the protection of this beautiful place to be able to live here and to look after it as well,” Prince Harry said.
After meeting with the community and spending close to one hour on the ground, the Prince again took to the skies, this time landing in Region 8 where he was driven first to a school, then to the Iwokrama International Centre of which his father is a patron.
The Centre promotes the preservation, conservation and development of the Rainforest and is a not for profit organization. Developed in 1996 following an agreement between the Government of Guyana and the Commonwealth Secretariat to manage 371,000 hectares of rainforest to promote ecological, economic and social benefits to Guyana and the world by extension, the Centre is also used as a research centre.
“It is an it is an opportunity to showcase what Iwokrama is all about, this has been one of the biggest support to Indigenous Communities around Regions 8 and 9 and we have great potential and we would now have to package it in such a way that we attract the kind of tourists that would want to come to see such an environment and that is where the Prince would be playing a great role and of course after all, his father is the patron of Iwokrama so him coming is very touching to have traced in his father’s footsteps,” Vice President Allicock noted.
While at the Centre, Prince Harry received a firsthand briefing on the roles and functions of the local centre and how it has been benefiting the Indigenous communities, Guyana and the world by extension.
It was also while at the facility that he was invited down to the Iwokrama Lake where he observed a large wild Caiman in its natural habitat, something that seemed to fascinate him and his team.
“You have to look after it it’s yours to look after and its leaders like you coming through are the people who will inherit this land, so the more knowledge you have now, the better it’s going to be in the future but thank you for welcoming all of us, me, my team, the media, everybody from England,” said Prince Harry.
Continuing on his hinterland leg of the Guyana tour, His Royal Highness again took to the skies where he landed at the Kaieteur National Park. Known as the world’s largest single drop waterfall measuring some 741 feet in height, Prince Harry was again fascinated with what he saw.
The Prince was able to go beyond the designated area tourists are mandated to go as he sought to experience all there was to offer at the location.
HRH explored the Kaieteur Falls from two viewings and at one point was even seen peeking over the edge to see the water lashing against the rocks below.
“These photos hopefully will end up all over the place and will probably encourage more people to come and a lot of tourists to come and visit you all,” Prince Harry expressed.
The Prince was on a tour of the Caribbean over the last two weeks and Guyana was his final stop. Today he returns to England.