Guyana is truly a wild frontier – a land of few roads, pristine forest and ecotourism opportunities aplenty. The coastal region is dominated by a mixture of coconut palms, calypso music, Dutch drainage systems, Hindu temples, rice and Demerara sugar. Leaving the sea behind, it is a land of waterfalls and rainforest, giving way to wildlife-rich savannas and isolated ranches.
The capital, Georgetown, is known as the Garden City of the Caribbean, despite being theoretically on the Atlantic. Built on a grid plan, the city has wide tree-lined avenue and canals following the layout of the old sugar estates. White-painted wooden 19th-century houses are raised on stilts, and flowering trees fill the streets. In the evening the sea wall is crowded with strollers and at Easter it is a mass of colourful kites.
The thinly populated interior is almost untouched and rivers are often the only way to get around. Highlights include Kaieteur Falls – almost five times the height of Niagara, with a single sheer drop of 226m – and Orinduik Falls, where the river pours over steps and terraces of jasper. Here, the backdrop of the grass-covered Pakaraima Mountains stretches westwards to the highest peak in Guyana – Mount Roraima – shared with Venezuela and Brazil.
To the north, Shell Beach is on a vast stretch of Atlantic coastline: 145km of protected nesting ground for leatherback, green, hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles. The remaining coast consists of mangrove swamps full of ibis, parrot, toucans, iguanas and, occasionally, river dolphins.