Guyana’s incredible natural beauty offers nature lovers a really wild adventure
While politically and culturally Guyana is a veritable Caribbean nation, Guyana is nothing like the Caribbean you often imagine. Forget the idyllic image of relaxing on a palm tree-fringed, white-sand beach and sipping on piña coladas as you while the hours away on a deck chair. That is not why you come to Guyana.
Although the somewhat muddy shoreline on the northeast coast of South America has meant it has missed out on the heavy development of paradisiacal hotel resorts you associate with much of the Caribbean region, Guyana has certain other trump cards to play. And without almost anybody noticing outside of this little-known English speaking nation, Guyana may just have one of the best hands of all.
Think untouched, unspoiled virgin Amazonian forest that consumes 80% of the country. Think unparalleled wildlife viewing opportunities. Think indomitable peaks and rushing river valleys. Now you are in Guyana.
Today the country is finally using its incredible natural assets – and the fact that is has previously avoided mass tourism development – to its advantage. Guyana’s ‘green’ credentials (thanks to the government’s efforts to protect its forests through the Low Carbon Development Strategy) and growing investment in tourism infrastructure means that it is quickly becoming a prime eco-tourism destination.
With so much of the country overtaken by untamed nature, navigating Guyana as an independent traveller can prove challenging. Most therefore opt for organised tours to witness the outstanding natural beauty and amazing biodiversity on offer.
While many also choose to spend their first day in Guyana exploring the fascinating colonial past of country that is evident in the capital city of Georgetown, first point of call for those wanting to get straight into the wild is Guyana’s most outstanding tourist attraction, the Kaieteur Falls.
Located deep in the jungle, the Kaieteur Falls is only accessible by plane. Just a one-hour flight (on the small 10-seater jets that most operators offer), Kaieteur is the world’s longest single drop waterfall by volume. The journey will offer you the perfect photo opportunity – as it glides over the formidable canyon – before it drops you at the airstrip in the national park.
A 10-minute walk through the park – where you will no doubt get the chance to witness tropical birds and frogs – leads you to the edge of the falls. Here you can hike around the basin and take in the impressive thundering water in all its glory and magnitude.
There are a host of other adventures you can embark on in Guyana. The Iwokrama Centre, for example, offers vertigo-inducing canopy walks that give a new perspective on the rainforest. A path of suspension bridges over 100 feet high take you through the forest’s mid- and upper-level canopy. If heights aren’t your thing, down in the wetlands of Guyana is the one of best places to get up close to some of the country’s astonishing array of wildlife. The area is home to jaguars, giant anteaters and the Arapaima – the world’s largest freshwater fish – to name just a few of the weird and wonderful species. The area is also famous for some of the world’s best bird watching.
Indeed aside from the stunning scenery, wildlife is perhaps the biggest feature of Guyana. From sea turtle nesting grounds along the country’s north coast to swimming with giant otters (Guyana is one of the last existing habitats for these endangered South American animals); there is seemingly a new species around every corner.
With many more people becoming aware of Guyana as word spreads about its unblemished natural beauty, managing the conservation of the country’s incredible wildlife with increasing tourism development will be a challenge ahead for the Guyanese government. However, as more and more tourists flock to Guyana, the country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy will look to ensure the country can be enjoyed in all its glory for generations to come.