From populational diversity, to ecotourism, to Guyana’s gold and oil industries, we look at 10 little-known facts about the South American country.
1. Guyana is known as the Land of Many Waters.
The coastline of Georgetown, Guyana’s capital, abuts the Caribbean. Guyana boasts countless waterfalls and almost 50 rivers. The country’s indigenous peoples travel mostly by boat or canoe. They do so carefully, however, as its waterways are home to the black caiman, Guyana’s native crocodilians.
2. Approximately 70 percent of Guyana is uninhabited.
With the vast majority of the country swathed in dense, impenetrable rainforest, most Guyanese people reside in Georgetown. Much of the country has changed little since Raleigh chanced upon Guyana while searching for the fabled El Dorado in the late 1500s.
3. Guyana is the only South American country to adopt English as a first language.
English, Guyana’s official language, is spoken widely across the country today. Since many Venezuelans and Cubans now live in Guyana, Spanish is frequently spoken, particularly in Region 1 and Georgetown. Portuguese is also becoming an increasingly popular second language, particularly in the southern borderlands with Brazil.
Guyanese Creole, a fusion of Creole, English, and East Indian and African dialects, is widely spoken throughout the country today. In addition, several other Amerindian languages such as Akawaio, Macushi, Wai-Wai, Arawak, and Wapisha are also spoken by the country’s minorities.
4. The world’s largest single-drop waterfall by volume is located in Guyana.
Located in Kaieteur National Park, Kaieteur Falls is situated on the Potaro River, lying within a section of Amazon rainforest, in Guyana’s Potaro-Siparuni region. Discovered by British explorer, Charles Barrington Brown, in 1870, Kaieteur Falls is one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls.
Kaieteur Falls measures 226 meters high from the cliff to the first break. It is approximately four times the height of Niagara Falls and twice the height of Victoria Falls.
5. Guyana is home to one of the largest goldmines in the world.
The Aurora gold mine is Guyana’s largest gold mine—and arguably the biggest gold mine in the world. Located in north-west Guyana in the Mazaruni region, experts estimate that the mine has reserves of around 6.54 million ounces of gold. The mine is operated and owned by Guyana Goldfields, a Canadian gold mining company. In 2017 alone, it produced 160,000 ounces of gold.
6. Guyana is an oil-rich nation.
Oil companies such as Shell, Mobil, and Total have explored the Guyana Basin in search of oil since the 1940s. In Guyana today, the petroleum industry is a major contributor to the national GDP.
In 2008, Repsol, CGX, Century Guyana Ltd, and ExxonMobil undertook extensive exploration work in waters off Guyana. In May 2015, ExxonMobil drew international attention when it announced its discovery of 90 meters of oil-bearing sandstone reserves 200 kilometers off the coast of Guyana. Analysts estimate that up to $40 billion in crude oil, equating to 700 million barrels, could lie within Guyanese waters.
7. Ecotourism draws visitors to Guyana from across the globe.
In 2019, Guyana drew international attention as South America’s best kept secret when it was named Best Ecotourism Destination at the Sustainable Top 100 Destination Awards. Hosted by ITB Berlin on March 7, 2019, the awards recognized Guyana out of more than 100 sustainability success stories from regions such as the Galapagos Islands, Tmatboey in Cambodia, and Mexico’s Sierra Gorda.
8. Guyana is home to nine distinct indigenous peoples.
The term “indigenous people” is used to describe the country’s Amerindian population. Guyana used to be home to a vast number of different Amerindian tribes, including the Pianoghottos, Amaripas, Drios, Tarumas, Maopityans, and Maiongkongs. Today, nine indigenous tribes remain, namely the Carib, Warrau, Wai-Wai, Patamuna, Wapishanas, Macushi, Arawak, Arekuna, and Akawaio.
9. The population of Guyana is incredibly diverse.
Guyana is a relatively small, multiracial country. Of its population of approximately 773,000 people, 43.5 percent are East Indian, 30.2 percent are black, 16.7 percent are mixed race, and 9.1 percent are Amerindian.
10. GBTI is Guyana’s longest-serving bank.
GBTI, or the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry Limited, has enjoyed a highly successful history in Guyana over the last 180 years. It was established as the first Commercial Bank in British Guiana in May 1836. The financial institution continued under the operation of Barclays Bank Plc until 1987. At that time, the Government of Guyana acquired Barclays’ interest, renaming it the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry Limited.
The bank merged with the Republic Bank (Guyana) Ltd in January 1990. The following year, the bank was privatized. Today, GBTI has more than 1,800 shareholders, the largest being Secure International Finance Company Inc, holding 61 percent of GBTI shares.
Today, GBTI offers a comprehensive range of banking services for both individual and corporate customers. From personal savings, to agricultural loans, to debit and credit card facilities, GBTI strives to provide a wide variety of financial products to meet the individual needs of all of its clients.