South American Adventure: Traveling To Guyana

A tourist's guide to enjoying a fabulous adventure in South America's hidden gem of Guyana.

Guyana: Where the Rainforest meets the Amazon

In a world of discovered treasures, Guyana remains an relatively unexplored paradise. A land filled with jungles, rivers and mountains still uncharted by man. Areas still only seen and touched, not yet captured on maps. Nested on the northern coast of South America, the Republic of Guyana is a place where the ocelots and jaguars roam and where travelers can enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Ancient History

On his third trip to America in 1948, Christopher Columbus first spotted the land now known as Guyana. However, during that same year it was the Dutch who became the first Europeans to establish colonies there. At that time Guyana was inhabited by the Arawak and Carib tribes. Having been struggled over for hundreds of years, in 1831 the British officially take control of the land, turning it into the single British colony called British Guiana.

Modern History

Not until May 26, 1966 did Guyana finally stake its independence from the United Kingdom to eventually become a republic in 1970. Guyana remains a member of the Commonwealth.

An unfortunate event in Guyana’s modern history is the Jim Jones cult massacre. In a settlement known as Jonestown, nearly one thousand people died in the mass murder/suicide of the followers of Jim Jones in 1978.

Terrain: Guyana “The Land of Many Waters”

Situated on the northeast cost of South America, Guyana offers a variety of scenic views. The country contains jungles, 4 mountain ranges and a coast stretching nearly 300 miles. It faces the Atlantic Ocean to its north, the country of Suriname to its east, bordered by Brazil to both its south and southeast, and by Venezuela to its northwest. Guyana is a land 85,000 square miles in size, about the size of Idaho or the United Kingdom.

Guyana is the home to nearly 300 waterfalls, including one of the highest waterfalls in the world. Kaieteur Falls is over 700 feet high, five times the height of Niagara Falls.

Wildlife: Where The Wild Things Are

It should be no surprise that a country encompassing such a range of terrain is also home to a wide variety of animals and plants. Guyana has over 700 different species of birds including the largest eagle in the world, the harpy eagle. From otters and dolphins to wild cats and dogs, Guyana contains more types of animals than you’ll find at some zoos.

Environmental Threats

Because of such human activities as mining and logging, there are at least 30 animals native to Guyana considered to be endangered. The harpy eagle, leatherback turtle, giant otter and jaguar are all on the list. Local animals such as the Amazon River Dolphin, the Savannah Dog and several varieties of manatee are vulnerable of becoming endangered.

Weather

Vacationers will experience a true tropical vacation in Guyana. The country has low lying coastlands that are soothed by the northeast trade winds, creating a pleasant climate all year round. The coastlands enjoy temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s. Interior Guyana can see greater variations, experiencing temperatures ranging between 60 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

This land is blessed to be shielded from the major storms that wreck havoc throughout the United States. Guyana does not get tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes or volcanoes. The country does experience two rainy seasons, a long summer one from April to August and a shorter winter one from November to January. While the coast will usually get about 90 inches of rain and the savannahs get merely 60 inches in a given year, the rain forests will get as much as 140 inches of rain.

Politics

Guyana is a country of about 750,000 people, with more than a fourth of its residents living in the main city of Georgetown. Georgetown is Guyana’s capital and chief port, located near the Demerara River.

Guyana is known for having a very multi-ethnic population. East Indians make up about half the population. Other inhabitants include Chinese, European (mostly Portuguese) and Amerindians. Many of the current population’s ancestors were indentured servants from these other countries.

Guyana is ruled by an elected President and National Assembly, which currently has members representing four different political parties. A Prime Minister acts as the main assistant to the Guyana president.

Cuisine

Just as the people and wildlife of Guyana are so diverse, so is its cuisine. You’ll taste the influences of the countries that helped make up it population: Chinese, African, Indian, Caribbean. Perhaps you’ll enjoy a spicy stew cooked in cassava juice or Mauby, a chilled dish made from the bark of a local carob tree. You may be fortunate to end your meal with a piece of Black Cake. This tasty dessert is made by soaking dried fruits in rum for several weeks and then mixing it with caramel and fresh cherries.

Tourism

Getting around Guyana is very easy for any traveler. The country accommodates the tourist population with taxis constantly roving the country, especially in Georgetown and other urban areas. Guyana can also be traveled by water. Thanks to its many waterways tourists can explore the beautiful country via ferries, river boats and river taxis that can be charted. There are hundreds of miles of navigational waters, including the three major rivers of Berbice, Essequibo and Demerara.

Fly in and out of Guyana by way of its international airport named after one of its former presidents, Cheddi Jagan. It’s situated in a town called Timehri which is just 25 miles south of Georgetown.

Another reason why Guyana is a great pick for American and English travelers is the fact that English is the country’s official language.

Travelers to Guyana won’t want to miss the sights in its capital. Georgetown is the proud home of such landmarks as the Stabroek Market and the Anglican cathedral of St. George, which is believed to be the tallest wooden building in the entire world.

While visiting the beautiful city of Georgetown, do not miss an opportunity to see the Botanic Gardens. This recreational park was started back in 1878 by a gardener who worked on it for three decades. The gardens house a wide variety of flora including palms, tropical flowers and the Victoria Regia Lilly, Guyana’s national flower.

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