Travel the Guianas with Ker & Downey. On the top shoulder of South America rests the three countries of the Guiana Shield: Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana. All three countries are located along the Caribbean coast and all are part of the Guiana Shield, a 1.7 billion-year-old Precambrian geological formation and one of the highest biodiverse regions in the world. Indeed, the shield boasts 1,400 vertebrate species and 1,680 bird species and is overlain by the largest expanse of undisturbed tropical rain forest in the world.
Despite this shared commonality, each country in the Guianas has its own distinct cultural heritage. This is because each has been colonized by a different European nation.
Travel the Guianas includes Guyana, the “Land of Many Waters,” which is culturally connected to the Caribbean. However, its capital city, Georgetown, boasts a collection of impressive British colonial architecture like St. George’s Cathedral, one of the world’s tallest free standing wood buildings.
Another landmark of Guyana? Its natural wonders. Even in the city of Georgetown there are opportunities for birding in the Botanical Gardens and feeding endangered West Indian manatees in the National Park. Then there is Kaieteur Falls, the world’s highest free-falling waterfall. Indeed, the waters of Kaieteur drop 741 feet, or five times the height of Niagara Falls. Finally, there is the rainforest. The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway offers plenty of wildlife encounters. Local residents include primates, giant river otters, giant anteaters, black caiman, agouti, tapir, black curassow, the elusive jaguar, and an abundance of bird life. While here, also spend time learning about the cultures of the region with visits to local Amerindian communities.
French Guiana, or “Guyane” as it is frequently (and confusingly) called locally, is a Department of France. Therefore, visiting French Guiana means you are also visiting the European Union. And it shows: late-model Mercedes or Volkswagon line the paved roads, coffee shops offer endless supplies of espresso, and residents use the Euro as currency. The history of French Guiana, however, is filled with stories of prisoners and possibility. Wonder at the Space Center and relive the story of Papillion at Devil’s Island.
Finally, travel the Guianas to Suriname. This country, like its sisters, also features vast swaths of tropical rainforests where locals such as the Maroon people reside. In the cities, marvel at the Dutch colonial architecture. The capital city of Paramaribo, for example, boasts UNESCO World Heritage status. Highlights include the former Fort Zeelandia, the 17th century trading post, as well as Saint Peter and Paul Basilica and the Presidential Palace. Nearby in the Commewijne district, former colonial plantations turned living jungles offer a glimpse into the past and a chance for more wildlife and cultural encounters.