GUYANA, SURI­NAME AND FRENCH GUIANA

Friday - - Travel -

Hardly any­one in South Amer­ica has been – join the ex­clu­sive travel club

The undis­cov­ered coun­tries of the Amer­i­cas, the three “Guianas” are small na­tions tucked in to a cor­ner be­tween Venezuela and Brazil, with Caribbean coasts to the north, and the south­ern swathes de­lim­ited by the Guiana Shield, some­times dubbed “the green­house of the world” for its un­spoilt, species-rich jun­gles.

Guyana, for­merly a Bri­tish colony, has a rough and ready cap­i­tal, Ge­orge­town, and some of the best jun­gle re­treats in the re­gion in the Atta Rain­for­est Lodge and Iwokrama River Lodge. With Venezuela off-lim­its due to in­sta­bil­ity, wa­ter­fall-bag­gers should visit the Kai­eteur Falls – the world’s tallest sin­gle-drop fall, in its name­sake na­tional park.

Suri­name was re­tained by the Nether­lands in ex­change for Bri­tain tak­ing con­trol of New Am­s­ter­dam – aka Man­hat­tan – back in 1667. OK, Bri­tain won that one. But, while the green­ery on the US islet has been razed to the ground, Suri­name is a tan­ta­lis­ingly wild and beau­ti­ful land. Cap­i­tal Para­maribo is im­mac­u­lately pre­served, with Unesco-listed Dutch colo­nial, mainly wooden, civic build­ings, hip cof­fee shops and a lovely river­side din­ing area. In­land is a vast jun­gle and labyrinthine net­work of rivers.

The most be­guil­ing of the three is prob­a­bly Guyane/French Guiana, a French Over­seas De­part­ment, with a size­able For­eign Le­gion (who do their jun­gle train­ing here) and the Guiana Space Cen­tre north-west of Kourou.

Cayenne, the cap­i­tal, is a ro­man­tic lit­tle city. The real high­lights of French Guiana, though, take the form of “dark tourism”: the at­mo­spheric ru­ins of Saint-Lau­rent-du-Ma­roni, the ar­rival port for pris­on­ers, and the grimly thrilling pe­nal colony of the Iles du Sa­lut, the most fa­mous of which is Devil’s Is­land.

Don’t miss: Cayenne, Devil’s Is­land (in French Guiana); jun­gle stays and wildlife sa­faris (in Guyana); Para­maribo (in Suri­name).

How to do it: Ex­plore’s (ex­plore.co.uk) new 12-day Back­wa­ters of Guyana Ex­pe­di­tion in­cludes a seven-day jour­ney pad­dling dugout ca­noes on Guyana’s Burro Burro river, spot­ting macaws, ot­ters, tapir and agouti, and sleep­ing in ham­mocks in the jun­gle.

Steppes Travel (steppes­travel.com) of­fers a 15-day itin­er­ary tak­ing in Guyana, French Guiana and Suri­name. This trip takes in the wildlife, Amerindian cul­ture and colo­nial his­tory of the three Guianas and a visit to the space cen­tre.

TOP: Devil’s Is­land in French Guiana. ABOVE: If you are lucky you could catch a car­ni­val at Ge­orge­town. LEFT: The canopy walk­way at Atta Rain­for­est Lodge - one of the best jun­gle re­treats in Guyana

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