The word “atta”, in the Makushi language, means “hammock,” and it is from a hammock dwelling that the Atta Rainforest Lodge, the winner of the Resort of the Year Award at the recently held Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana’s (THAG) 26th Annual President’s Awards, came.
Geographically, Atta is situated approximately 500 metres from the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway and it is completely surrounded by tropical rainforest, which offers a complete immersion in the rainforest experience.
Operations Manager Khemraj Bahadur, during a recent interview with Stabroek News, explained that before it became known as the “Cara Lodge of the interior,” the Atta Rainforest Lodge was but a mere construction camp for engineers who were at the time working on the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway.
It was explained that once the walkway opened, it was almost immediately realised that sunrise and sunset times offered the best viewing opportunities from the location and as a result, the idea was born to establish guest facilities at the base of the walkway.
“In 2004, we had constructed the hammock camps after people came for day visits, we saw an interest by people to overnight there and we decided to enhance the accommodation facilities. We constructed two buildings and we currently have eight rooms,” Bahadur shared.
Bahadur related the first permanent structures were intended to provide basic shelter for slung hammocks, but in 2009, the first hammock building was elongated and enclosed to provide four private rooms. A second twin building was constructed not long after and in 2012, private bathrooms were added to the guest rooms. However, the central open-sky restroom facility at the centre of the lodge’s grounds has been retained for day visitors. He noted that the open-sky restroom has found favour with many guests, who enjoy showering under the stars in the rainforest.
The Lodge and Walkway are operated by Community and Tourism Services (CATS), which is a partnership between Iwokrama, Wilderness Explorers, Rock View Lodge, and the Amerindian village of Surama.
The main objective of CATS is to cultivate and model excellent business practices and to share this practical and highly-translatable expertise with the indigenous people of the North Rupununi.
Bahadur and Company Secretary Monica McGrath, during the interview, said that the Atta Lodge has substantially contributed to raising the standard of hospitality in Guyana’s rainforest lodges, promoting a sustainable model of tourism development that is beneficial to the local indigenous community, and providing thousands of visitors with memorable and authentic experiences of Guyana’s natural and cultural richness.
Setting Atta apart from its competitors, is the fact that the lodge is the only one located within the rainforest.
“Some of what we offer to our guests are bird watching opportunities and dining under the stars. We are also home to the Black Powis and Red Bacra Deer, both of whom have become a part of our family at Atta over the years,” Monica McGrath shared.
Her husband, Shaun McGrath, who also joined the interview, contended that “there is nothing like Atta.”
“If you want to see the Rupununi at its best in terms of what it’s like to spend a night in the rainforest, the only place you can do it is at Atta; there is none more special in Guyana to spend the night in the rainforest than at Atta. It’s a very special environment,” he said.
At present, the lodge and walkway are staffed with Makushi people who are known to immerse visitors in the vibrant, interactive, and authentic rainforest experience. Stabroek News was told that it is the inherited knowledge of the Makushi that forms the basis for visitors’ exposure to the cultural heritage that permeates a “pristine natural setting.” In exchange, the Atta Lodge provides employment to villagers who would otherwise have to leave their community for employment.
According to Monica McGrath, another interesting feature of the lodge is the fact that in 2017, it was converted to a solar-powered resort, making it Guyana’s only 100% solar-powered lodge.
“We basically converted to solar because we wanted to go green and then the generators keeps a noise which affected the silence of the forest. We have a back-up generator should the solar go down but we try not to use them often,” Bahadur added.
Commenting on the response over the years, Monica said, “It’s been overwhelming and I guess that’s why we got the award; we have taken all the guests’ comments and introduced new things. We think out of the box.”
Regarding future plans for Atta, Shaun McGrath said, “Atta has progressed so greatly over the last few years. A lot of time and money has been invested and my personal gamble is that they may open a similar lodge in the not so distant future.”
“Our part at Atta is getting Atta ready not for today or tomorrow but getting it ready for 18 months or two years down the road when there is going to be more people,” he added.
In the immediate future however, efforts will be made to reintroduce hammock accommodations for budget travelers and also to place some focus on building their own transportation services to allow convenience and comfort to guests.
Stabroek News understands that they would have already acquired one 14-seater bus and depending on how that works, they will move to add a second bus.
For more information on the Atta Rainforest Lodge, visit their website at https://attarainforestlodge.com/