English, Dutch and French speaking respectively, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana are hardly touched by tourism and inhabited by a huge variety of wildlife - including tapirs, giant river otters, monkeys, armadillos, and thousands of spectacular birds and butterflies (the Guyanese love to say they have the biggest of everything). The terrain is varied, from mountainous jungle with dramatic waterfalls to mangrove swamps and lush savanna.
Culturally, the Guianas are equally diverse: Amerindian tribes, colonial eccentrics, and the legendary descendants of African slaves - the Maroons - inhabit remote villages and settlements. Other influences include Hindustani, Javanese and Creole - inspiring some delicious fusion cuisine. The capital cities of Georgetown (built with the profits of rum and Demerara sugar), Paramaribo (a UNESCO world heritage site) and Cayenne have some fine colonial architecture. French Guiana is home to the European space centre’s primary launch site and a number of fascinating penal colonies, including the infamous Île du Diable.
Here are some of our Guianas highlights
Stay near the Amerindian (of which there are 9 different groups in Guyana) village of Surama, a hugely successful community tourism project where once can experience a real interchange of cultures between visitors and the local Makushi community.
Kaieteur Falls in Northern Guyana is one of the highest in the world with its 741 foot single drop. Contemplate nature's power whilst keeping your eyes peeled for rare golden frogs in the lush vegetation that surrounds the falls.
Karanambu is home to Diane McTurk, a world expert on the care and rehabilitation of the Giant River otter who over the years has been a surrogate mother to over forty orphaned cubs.
Maroons were African refugees who escaped slavery and formed their own isolated communities in Suriname's remote forested interior. A visit to a marron village to understand their culture is a unique experience.
It was the holiday of a lifetime. Kaieteur Falls were magnificent and our visit to the Canopy Walkway was spectacular. However, the time at Karanambu stood out - we were welcomed and treated as one of the family. Even so far from civilisation, Diane serves coffee in demi-tasse. - PC