By Kurt Campbell
For almost 60 years, Ramesh Shibsahai resided at Little Baiboo, Mahaica on the East Coast of Demerara; he has an established career as a cash crop farmer and has built a solid foundation for himself and family.
The Mahaica River runs through his backyard and he remembers his boyhood days, rich of recreational swimming and fishing. Beyond that, the river meant little to him although offering a passage of transportation for others.
But as he would find out years later, the river and the animals that survive in and around it were in fact gems that citizens and tourists from across the world would travel miles and long hours to see and indulge.
And while he stays true to farming, which is now challenged by labour shortage and unpredictable weather patterns, Shibsahai has found new joys in the very river expeditions he did as a boy.
In fact, he has unlocked the tourism potential of the Mahaica River and is making big bucks from it.
“I think I will stick to tourism. It has a lot of potential,” he told the News Room recently.
“No, no, no, I will not give up my farming,” he hastily adds with a smile on his face.
Just over 10 years ago, Shibsahai said he was first approached by persons who wanted him to take them up the river to see Guyana’s national bird – the Canje Pheasant otherwise known as the Hoatzin.
The specie is plenty among the narrow vegetation that lines the river banks.
It didn’t stop there, more people came. They wanted to fish also and requests then poured in for overnight stays.
And from first having a small deck and paddle boat, Shibsahai responded to the request and built a larger deck, spaces for accommodation and invested in larger, more sophisticated boats.
His wife, who supported him during the years of his farming ambitions, was beside him on the new journey, preparing local delicacies for patrons.
But there was one problem.
Shibsahai came to the realisation that there was also a quest for information, both from himself and those who came to visit.
He knew a lot, especially in the local context of what was told to him, but not enough. And so, with help from the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), the farmer turned tourism ambassador, began learning the scientific names for the species of birds, fishes and their history.
According to him, there are some 150 bird species in the area.
But the experience goes beyond that, the unpolluted waterway that stretches for miles at a time offers a dreamlike getaway, the perfect relaxation for those who spend much of their time in busy urban areas.
“Every week people come and I want more to come,” Shibsahai said as he also noted plans for expansion.
He boasted too of his wife’s ‘choka’ made from fish caught in the Mahaica River and hand-clapped roti. Persons can also expect delicacies like duck curry and sauteed sea bob scrimp.
“Come and explore Mahaica River Tour!” he encourages.
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