Official name: Cooperative Republic of Guyana
Area: 214,970 square kilometers (83,000 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mt. Roraima (2,835 meters/9,302 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Western
Time zone: 8 A.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 436 kilometers (271 miles) from east to west; 807 kilometers (501 miles) from north to south
Land boundaries: 2,462 kilometers (1,530 miles) total boundary length; Brazil 1,119 kilometers (695 miles)
Coastline: 285 miles (459 kilometers)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Guyana is a small independent republic located on the northeastern coast of South America, between Suriname and Venezuela. A former British colony, it is the only member of the British Commonwealth—and the only English-speaking country—in South America. With an area of 214,970 square kilometers (83,000 square miles), Guyana is almost as large as the state of Idaho.
Native animals include the anteater, the tapir, and the anaconda. Endangered species include the jaguar, black cayman, and giant otter. As the rainforest environments around the world are destroyed, Guyana is one of the few places where the world's largest eagle, the harpy, still has a native habitat.
Guyana has no territories or dependencies.
Guyana has a hot, humid subtropical climate moderated by trade winds off the Atlantic. There is little temperature variation between seasons. Temperatures rarely rise above 32°C (90°F) or fall below 21°C (70 °F). The average annual temperature in the capital city of Georgetown is 27°C (81°F). Average annual rainfall ranges from about 165 centimeters (65 inches) in the savannah regions to 229 centimeters (90 inches) on the coast and in elevated parts of the interior. The coastal areas have two rainy seasons—one between November and January and the other between May and July—while the savannah has only one, between April and August.
Guyana has four major types of terrain. A narrow but densely populated strip of plains extends the full length of the coast. Beyond the coastal plain lies a hilly, forested interior that covers most of the country. The interior also includes two major savannah regions, and highlands that rise in the south and west. The country has rich deposits of bauxite and manganese. Discovery of gold and diamond deposits likely will lead to development of greater mining.
The northern coast of Guyana borders the southeastern North Atlantic Ocean.
Silt carried on the rivers that drain into the Atlantic Ocean keeps the water off Guyana a brown churning mass of sandbars and mud. Mud flats continue up to 24 kilometers (15 miles) offshore before navigation is considered free. Guyana's seacoast, much of which lies below sea level, is in danger of being submerged if the ocean levels rise due to global warming.
The deep indentation at the mouth of the Essequibo River divides Guyana's coast into two nearly equal sections. The one to the west is smooth, while the one to the east is more indented, especially at the mouths of the Essequibo and Courentyne Rivers.
There are no notable inland lakes in Guyana.
Guyana has four major rivers—the Courantyne, Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo—which flow northward and empty into the Atlantic. The longest and widest is the Essequibo, which has its source in Brazil, as does the Courantyne, whose course forms Guyana's border with Suriname. The Potaro, Mazaruni, and Cuyuni rivers, all tributaries of the Essequibo, drain the northwestern part of the country. The Rupununi River flows through the savannah land in the southwest that bears its name. Kaieteur Falls, in the Pakaraima Mountains, is the world's seventh most forceful waterfall. Kaieteur is only one of many waterfalls in Guyana, including several other large ones.
There are no desert regions in Guyana.
Guyana's name comes from an Amerindian word meaning "Land of Many Waters."
The narrow coastal plain varies in width from 16 to 65 kilometers (10 to 40 miles). It is cut off from the forested interior zone by a barrier of swamps. Poor drainage has also created swampland along Guyana's rivers. Guyana has two savannah regions. The largest is the Rupununi in the extreme southwestern part of the country. The Rupununi features broad areas of grassland dotted with large termite mounds. Visitors to the Rupununi region must get a permit from the government. A second area, the "intermediate savannah," lies about 96 kilometers (60 miles) inland from the mouth of the Berbice River. Guyana's hilly zanderij ("white-sand") area extends down the center of the country in a band that widens in the southeast and covers over three-fourths of the country. The hills, whose elevations range from 15 meters (50 feet) to 120 meters (400 feet), gradually rise from west to east.
The Pakaraima Mountains rise from the Kaieteurian Plateau in the western part of the country. Their peaks rise to over 2,743 meters (9,000 feet) near Venezuela and Brazil and include the country's highest point, Mount Roraima. Farther south the Kanuku Mountains extend from east to west in the southwestern part of Guyana. Reaching heights of 914 meters (3,000 feet), they cut the Rupununi savannah region into two sections. The Acarai Mountains rise to elevations of over 610 meters (2,000 feet) in the southeast.
There are no notable canyons or caves in Guyana.
The Kaieteurian Plateau, which, together with the Pakaraima range, dominates west-central Guyana, is generally less than 610 meters (2,000 feet) in elevation. This ancient crystalline plateau was once below sea level.
The coast is protected by 225 kilometers (140 miles) of seawall and an extensive system of drainage canals to keep it from flooding at high tide, as much of it lies below sea level. The swamps of the coastal plain are prevented from intruding into the croplands farther inland by a series of "back-dams."
As of late 2002, plans for the Amaila Falls Hydroelectricity Project were progressing. The dam is being planned at the place where the Amaila and Kuribrong Rivers join, about 250 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Georgetown and about 195 kilometers (120 miles) north of Kaieteur Falls.
Kourou, located at 5°14" N latitude on the northeast coast of Guyana, is perfectly situated to serve as a rocket launch site. The European Space Agency (ESA) has been launching rockets from the rocket launch site at Kourou since 1977.
Adamson, Alan H. Sugar Without Slaves: The Political Economy of British Guiana. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1972.
Burnett, D. Graham . Masters of All They Surveyed: Exploration, Geography, and a British El Dorado. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Spinner, Thomas J. A Political and Social History of Guyana, 1945-1983 . Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1984.
Guyana News and Information. http://www.guyana.org/ (accessed April 4, 2003).
Tourism Association of Guyana. http://www.geographia.com/guyana/ (accessed April 4, 2003).