Rampant Biodiversity and Border Tensions
Situated on the northeastern shoulder of South America and having more in common with the Caribbean Islands than its continental neighbors (Suriname, Brazil, and Venezuela), Guyana remains a mystery to many due to its relative inaccessibility - which makes it also a haven for birdwatchers eager to enjoy rare glimpses of more than 1,600 bird species. Originally inhabited by Caribs and Arawaks, Guyana became a disputed territory among the Dutch, French, and English in an imperial land grab. During the Napoleonic wars, Britain took over the Dutch colonies of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo, which became British Guiana in 1831. Guyana gained full independence from Britain in 1966, and much of its politics has been drawn along racial lines between the Afro-Guyanese (descendants of African slaves) and Indo-Guyanese (descendants of indentured labor from India). The total population of the country is roughly 750,000, most of whom live along the coast and in the capital, Georgetown. NGOs constantly seek to protect Guyana's rainforests, which are some of the most pristine, untouched, and bio-diverse in the world. The forests are dissected by numerous rivers which are occasionally interrupted with sites like the world's tallest single-drop waterfall, Kaieteur. Mount Roraima is situated on the tri-frontier between Venezuela and Brazil and is ideal for hiking expeditions. Guyana recently hosted part of the Cricket World Cup but is remembered all too tragically for the Jonestown massacre in 1978 where a cult led by Jim Jones conducted a terrifying murder-suicide which left 909 dead.