My son made me watch a wildlife programme (Animal Crime Scene - David Attenborough, BBC1) last night, which - although I found the 'detective' style a bit irritating - was a fascinating reconstruction of the death of a 3-toed sloth in the rainforest. Whodunnit? Which likely predator was the likely killer? The Caiman, the Jaguar, the Harpy Eagle, etc There were some extraordinary animals.
This morning as I was working on some new lists (travel lists) for the Guyanas (Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana) I suddenly found myself looking at all the same amazing animals. And some others.
What is my absolute favourite animal? The 'must see' exhibit every time we go to our local zoo (London Zoo)...? The giant anteater. Where does it live? The Guyanas.
Guyana in particular - a country I've not been to, not sent anyone (journalists) to, and not given much thought to in the past - has now fired my imagination...
- The only English-speaking (and cricket-playing) country in South America.
- With stunning landscapes, rainforests and waterfalls - the Kaiteur Falls are five times the height of Niagra Falls and twice as high as Victoria Falls. The Essequibo river has over 300 islands in it, some as big as the island of Barbados.
- And wildlife to die for: Tapirs, Ocelots, Jaguar (25% of visitors get to spot one of these elusive creatures), Giant River Otters, Spider Monkeys, 2 & 3-toed Sloths, Giant Anteater (yippee!), Giant Armadillo, Golden Frog (secretes a poison 160,000 times more powerful than cocaine), Black Caiman, Arapaima (the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world, up to 10 ft.) and Harpy Eagle (one of the largest of the eagles, half the length of a man, aka "the flying wolf"!).
- Even Georgetown, which I had thought might be a fairly grim place, turns out to have loads of flowering trees and shrubs, some fine 19th century buildings, lots of pretty white-painted wooden houses on stilts, the tallest wooden building in the world (the Anglican cathedral), elegant (Victorian) botanical gardens, the 'finest cricket ground in the tropics', and the world's longest floating bridge (1.25 miles across the Demerara River).
Best of all: It is, as they say in the brochures, "unspoilt by mass tourism".
Not for long. If word gets out, I predict Guyana could be the hot new ticket for adventurous British holiday-makers before too long.
A few years ago the hot-spot in Latin America was Costa Rica. I think Belize (one of my favourite destinations) is still under-recognised and may yet 'take-off'. Guyana won't be far behind.