It's not exactly an identity crisis; however, Guyana is technically located on the Atlantic Ocean, and although the country is culturally linked to the Caribbean through a large population that embraces its West Indian roots, Guyana is actually a sovereign state sitting on the northern coast of South America. Nonetheless, The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Guyana is a member, significantly has its secretariat's headquarters located in Guyana's capital,
Modern Guyana is bordered by Suriname to the east; Brazil to the south and southwest; Venezuela to the west; and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. At 215,000 square kilometres (83,000 sq mi), Guyana is the third-smallest independent state on the mainland of South America after Uruguay and Suriname with a population of approximately 770,000.
Now that we have mentioned Georgetown, let's admit to Guyana's unfortunate past. In 1978, 918 members of the American cult, Peoples Temple, died here in a mass murder/suicide pact with most suicides American and more than 300 children involved. They were led by
Jim Jones and centred in Jonestown, a settlement which they had created. Jones' bodyguards had earlier attacked those landing at a remote airstrip close to Jonestown, killing five, including Leo Ryan, the only congressman ever murdered in the line of duty in US history. Fortunately, that kind of foreign influence has since abated.
Once colonized by the Netherlands, later, Guyana became a British colony and remained so for over 200 years until it achieved independence May 26, 1966. Guyana also remains the only South American nation where English is the official language. The country forms a verdant triangle between three major rivers: the
Negro. Four other large rivers cut through its coastal plain, feeding the Atlantic.
Here, there are stunningly flat-topped mountains (highest point - Mount Roraima 2,835 m), known locally as tepuis, dozens of waterfalls including one of the world's largest, and a zoologist's dream of tropical wildlife species found within rare virgin rain forests. While there are fine hotels and restaurants in the capital city of Georgetown, the quintessential Guyana holiday is typically spent in a motorized Amerindian dugout canoe while exploring the wild rivers and bunking down for the night at an eco-resort with nature close at hand.
To showcase the country's natural resources, many outfitters based in Georgetown offer tours that last from four days to two weeks. A typical itinerary includes several stops at Amerindian villages, where day-to-day life remains largely unchanged from several centuries ago. Those with less time can hire a bush pilot to take them to
Kaieteur Falls, a magnificent cascade on the Potaro River that boasts a vertical drop more than five times that of Niagara Falls and twice that of Victoria Falls with no railings, guards or urban infrastructure to get in the way.
Indranauth Haralsingth of the Guyana Tourism Authority happily says that his country will soon be a leading eco-tourism and adventure destination mainly because of its pristine nature.
Billed as the Garden City of the Caribbean, Georgetown retains the look of a Colonial-era port town with stately Victorian buildings and storefronts and even a statue of Queen Victoria. Tour the city on foot and see the Botanical Gardens featuring a pond that is a favorite hangout for numerous species of tropical waterfowl. Visit
St. George's Cathedral, reputed to be one of the tallest wooden cathedrals in the world. Hibiscus Craft Plaza is a good place to seek out Amerindian handicrafts. The National Gallery of Art is housed in the Castellalani House and the National Museum displays native flora and fauna as well as archaeological relics and native crafts. See the kokers, or floodgates, built by early Dutch settlers to keep the city from flooding. The network of canal systems is still used to keep Georgetown dry and the marshland at bay today.
Originally called Timehri International Airport in honor of the indigenous displaced peoples of Guyana (Timehri means "Rock Painting"), the airport was re-named The Cheddi Jagan International Airport (GEO), 25 miles from Georgetown with gateways and flying times as follows: Miami - 4.5 hours, New York - 5.5 hours, Toronto - 6 hours. Traveling time from the Caribbean is approximately 2 hours with the exception of Jamaica, which takes 4 hours.
The climate here is hot and humid but moderated by northeast trade winds with an average temperature range between 23.8 - 30.5 C. (75-87 degrees F.) Guyanaese food, like the entire country, is a Creole fusion. Dining involves Creole, Chinese, Indian and International dishes while the most popular drink is dark rum. Some national favorites are XM 10 Year Old, El Dorado and X-tra Mature. El Dorado offers a 15-year-old variety which has won the "Best Rum in the World" award since 1999. All are quality enough to drink neat with the 25 year-old comparing with high-quality scotch. Bottled water is readily available and highly recommended. The dress code is casual with the language spoken both English and Creole. For nightlife, there is live music, discos, bars and theatre at cultural centres. You can attend comedy nights and poetry slam sessions.
Taxis are a good way to get around in Georgetown. Fares should never be more than G$500 for travel within the city and most fares should be around G$400. All taxis license plates begin with 'H.' There are set prices for taxis for different destinations, e.g. from the airport to town costs GD$5000. When people in Guyana refer to buses, they mean minibuses. Minibuses travel throughout Guyana and are the cheapest way to travel. Minibus fares range from G$60-G$1000 (US$1 = G$200) depending on the length of the journey. For sightseeing, city tours may be arranged to visit the Botanic Gardens, Zoological Park, Stabroek Market and various architectural heritage sites with longer day trips to Kaieteur Falls and Orinduik Falls, historic Dutch forts and industrial and agricultural estates. A trip to the rain forest such as the
Iwokrama Rainforest Reserve (try the canopy walk) with its elusive wildlife is a must particularly for avid bird-watchers. Guides such as Lewis Bartholomew will also help one discover the culture of the indigenous Amerindians.
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.
Caribbean Tourism Association
Guyana officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America. Culturally Guyana is part of the Anglophone Caribbean.
Originally colonized by the Netherlands, it later became a British colony and remained so for over 200 years until it achieved independence on 26 May 1966 from the United Kingdom. On 23 February 1970, Guyana officially became a republic. In 2008, the country joined the Union of South American Nations as a founding member.
At 215,000 square kilometres (83,000 sq mi), Guyana is the third-smallest independent state on the mainland of South America after Uruguay and Suriname. Its population is approximately 770,000.