Jonestown, Shell Beach being examined as tourism destinations

GTA Senior Product Development Officer Clyde Edwards

The Jonestown site in Port Kaituma along with Shell Beach in Mabaruma could become the two newest tourism destinations in Region One (Barima-Waini) as the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) and tour operators are exploring the potential that exists in these areas.
This was revealed by Clyde Edwards, a senior product development officer at the GTA during a recent interview with Guyana Times.
Edwards explained that there was a special focus now on expanding tourism in Region One, where only a single ‘developed tourism destination’ exists at Warapoka in the Moruca sub-district. Warapoka is a popular birding destination and is home to a well-known Harpy Eagle nesting site.
Efforts are now underway to develop Santa Rosa as a tourist hotspot and only recently, the community launched its canoeing and biking experiences as it seeks to unlock its tourism potential.

A 2011 view of the entrance of Jonestown, Guyana, where 909 cult members died by forced cyanide poisoning in 1978 (Business Insider photo)

Noting that the goal is to establish a Region One tourism circuit, the GTA representative revealed that efforts are being made to develop other activities for tourists visiting Barima-Waini .
“Travelling in Guyana is very expensive and visitors wouldn’t want to spend thousands of dollars just to go to Warapoka and there is nowhere else to visit,” Edwards outlined.
As such, the GTA is currently assessing the Shell Beach area, which is a popular nesting site for four of the eight sea turtle species – the Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Olive Ridley turtles. However, given the area’s major problem with erosion, the GTA has to determine if it has potential to be properly developed to host tourists. Shell Beach was designated a protected area with the passage of the Protected Areas Act of 2011.
Another area in the region which is being explored is Jonestown, which was a remote settlement established by the Peoples Temple, a US-based cult under the leadership of Jim Jones. Jonestown became internationally infamous when, on November 18, 1978, a total of 909 persons died after drinking cyanide-laced punch, with some being forced to do so against their will, in an event termed “revolutionary suicide” by Jones.
Reports suggest that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play cult leader Jones in an upcoming film. Additionally, Leonardo DiCaprio is set to play the cult leader in a new biopic about the controversial figure’s life.
“We have plans to go there (Jonestown) with tour operator Wanderlust Adventures. They are interested in developing Jonestown, but this destination is yet to be assessed at this point in time,” the GTA official shared.
Another goal, Edwards explained, is to have Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) tourism experiences merged with those being established in Region One.
“There is a tour operator called Touring Guyana and they are interested in connecting Region Two to Region One…to start from Adel’s Resort and you come all the way to Waramuri, which is a community with one of the largest shell mounds in Guyana…then go to Santa Rosa where you can participate either in swimming or canoeing or cycling experiences and continue to other communities. But this is yet to be assessed,” the GTA representative disclosed.
He explained that the goal is to have a circuit similar to what tourists experience on their journey to Lethem in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo).
“You would start at Iwokrama, then you stop at Atta Lodge and you go to Surama then to Rock View and Karinambo, Caiman House to Waikin Ranch, Manari Ranch and you end in Lethem,” he noted.

Developing a product
Last year, the GTA, along with various stakeholders, introduced over one dozen new tourism products/experiences.
Edwards explained that developing a product varies from community to community, but generally, the process takes a lot of work.
“For example, we’ve been working with Warapoka for the past five years before they reached the stage of visitor-ready. The reason why it took a very long time…is because first we contacted the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs to see if they have any funds available for tourism development, because we do not fund any capital works … from there, we wrote to the communities itself and we have initial meetings with the Village Council and the community members as well.
“So after we have meeting with the Village Council and community members, we then do site assessment or product assessment, so this is where officers are in the field…we also do assessment of guest houses/accommodations…we also assess if there is anybody in the community that prepares various types of meals for guests.”
From these assessments, the GTA would determine what intervention is needed. Intervention often entails training in the area of first aid, delivering quality service, meal preparations, and tour guide training, among others.