Guyana is located in northeastern South America with an Atlantic coastline, much of which is below sea level at high tide. Sometimes classified as part of the Caribbean region, Guyana can be divided into geographic zones, including a coastal plain, a white sand belt, and interior highlands.
The Natural Landscape of Guyana
Guyana, formerly British Guiana, is located in northeastern South America with an Atlantic coastline of approximately 459 km (285 mi). Its national borders are with Suriname in the east, Venezuela in the west, and Brazil in the west and south. It is the third-smallest country on the South American continent, with an area of 214,970 sq km (83,000 sq mi).
Guyana is part of the Caribbean South America subregion, along with the other Caribbean Sea boundary nations and territories of South America: Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, and French Guiana.
Guyana boasts some of the most pristine and diverse ecosystems in the world. Its rich biodiversity results from its tropical climate, varied landscapes, and relatively low population density.
The heart of Guyana's biodiversity lies in its expansive rainforests, mainly interior regions. These lush rainforests are part of the Guiana Shield, one of the oldest geological formations. They are home to an astounding array of plant and animal species.
According to the Global Biodiversity Index, Guyana ranks 37th in the world in terms of biodiversity, providing habitat for approximately 793 bird species, 135 amphibian species, 996 fish species, 236 mammal species, 175 reptile species, and 6,500 vascular plant species.
Guyana has established numerous protected areas to conserve its diverse ecosystems. These include national parks, wildlife reserves, and community-owned conservation areas.
Notable examples include:
Iwokrama Forest Reserve: Located in the heart of Guyana's rainforest, this reserve is dedicated to sustainable forest management, research, and wildlife conservation.
Kanuku Mountains: This protected area in southern Guyana contains critical habitats for biodiversity and is home to various endangered species.
Guyana faces challenges in conservation, including deforestation driven by logging and mining, infrastructure development, illegal wildlife trade, and climate change impacts such as sea-level rise and changing rainfall patterns.
Guyana has a tropical climate, with warm temperatures and high humidity year-round. The average temperature is 27°C (81°F), and the average humidity is 85%. Seasonal temperature variations are slight, particularly along the coast. Rainfall is generally high, with the heaviest in the north and the lightest in the south and interior.
There are two distinct seasons in Guyana: the wet season and the dry season. The wet season runs from December to July and is characterized by heavy rainfall. The average rainfall during the wet season is over 3,000 mm (118 in). The dry season runs from August to November, with less rain and lower humidity. However, even during the dry season, Guyana still has some rainfall.
The climate in Guyana varies slightly depending on the region. The coastal areas are generally warmer and more humid than the interior regions. The mountains in the country's south are also cooler and less humid.
Map depicting the countries on the continent of South America
Natural Geography of Guyana
Guyana can be divided into three main geographic regions or zones:
The coastal plain
The white sand belt
The interior highlands
The coastal plain extends along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Extending only 5 - 6 km (3 - 4 mi) on average and 16 km (10 mi) at its widest, this narrow plain is home to more than 90% of the country's population.
A 450 km (280 mi) seawall runs along most of Guyana's coastline, much of which is below sea level at high tide. The seawall was constructed to protect settlements in the coastal areas, including the capital city of Georgetown.
Much of the area has been reclaimed from the sea utilizing canals and dikes. Because much of the coastal plain floods at high tide, efforts to dam and drain this area have gone on since the 18th century.
The plain predominantly consists of alluvial mud swept out to sea by the Amazon River in the south, carried north by the ocean currents, and deposited on the shore. This mud overlays the white sands and clays deposited by erosion activity of the interior bedrock carried toward the ocean by Guyana's rivers.
The coast has no well-defined shoreline or sandy beaches. Instead, Seaward from the vegetation line is a region of mud flats, shallow water, and sandbars. These shallow waters can impede shipping as vessels often need to partially unload their cargo to reach the Georgetown and New Amsterdam docks.
Guyana shaded relief map
White Sand Belt
Inland from the coastal plain is an area of low sandy hills interspersed with rocky outcroppings. A line of swamps forms a barrier between these interior hills and the coastal plain. This region features undulating land that gradually rises from hills that average heights of 15 m (50 ft) in the east, nearest the coast, to 120 m (400 ft) in the west.
This white sand belt supports a dense hardwood forest. However, this sandy area cannot support crops. Without the forest, erosion would be rapid and severe. Most of Guyana's bauxite, gold, and diamond reserves are found in this region.
A small savanna region in the east lies about 100 km (60 mi) from the coast and is surrounded by a low plateau partly overlaid by the white sands belt. The table forms most of the country's center and is penetrated by igneous rock intrusions that cause the numerous rapids of Guyana's rivers.
The interior highlands are the largest of Guyana's geographical regions. The region consists of plateaus, flat-topped mountains, and savannahs extending from the white sand belt to the country's southern borders.
Much of this region consists of grassland. The largest expanse of grassland is the Rupununi Savannah in southern Guyana, extending into Venezuela and Brazil. The Pacaraima Mountains (or Pakaraima Mountains), along with Mount Roraima on the Brazil-Guyana-Venezuela tripoint border, dominate the western part of the interior highlands.
Some of Guyana's highest peaks are:
Mount Ayanganna (2,042 m or 6,699 ft)
Monte Caburaí (1,465 m or 4,806 ft)
Mount Roraima (2,772 m or 9,094 ft)
Relief map of Guyana
There are many islands in Guyana, most of which are located in the Essequibo River, Guyana's longest. The river has over 365 islands.
Some of the notable islands of Guayana include:
Hogg Island: Hogg Island is the largest island in Guyana and is not part of the Essequibo River system. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean, about 30 km (19 mi) off the coast of Guyana. The island is home to about 1,000 people.
Fort Island: Fort Island is located in the Demerara River, about 10 km (6 mi) from Georgetown. The island is home to a fort that was built in the 1700s.
Wakenaam Island: Wakenaam Island is the largest island in the Essequibo River. It is 100 km (62 mi) long and 30 km (19 mi) wide. The island is home to about 2,000 people.
Leguan Island: Leguan Island is the second-largest island in the Essequibo River. It is 70 km (43 mi) long and 20 km (12 mi) wide. The island is home to about 1,000 people.
Bartica Island: Bartica Island is located at the mouth of the Essequibo River. It is 5 km (3 mi) long and 2 km (1.2 mi) wide. The island is home to about 5,000 people.
Trinidad Island: Trinidad Island is located in the Essequibo River, about 50 km (31 mi) downstream from Bartica. The island is home to about 100 people.
Apai Island: Apai Island is located in the Essequibo River, about 100 km (62 mi) downstream from Wakenaam Island. The island is home to about 50 people.
Kaituma Island: Kaituma Island is located in the Essequibo River, about 150 km (93 mi) downstream from Wakenaam Island. The island is home to about 20 people.
Waini Island: Waini Island is located in the Essequibo River, about 200 km (124 mi) downstream from Wakenaam Island. The island is home to about ten people.
Bodies of Water
Guyana is home to a diverse range of bodies of water that play a crucial role in shaping its landscape, ecosystems, and economy.
From large rivers and extensive estuaries to coastal lagoons and offshore zones, Guyana's bodies of water provide a wealth of natural resources, support a wide array of wildlife, and offer numerous opportunities for recreation and livelihoods.
See more: Water Bodies of Guyana
Guyana has been divided administratively into ten regions and 27 neighborhood councils.
See more: Cultural Landscape of Guyana
CIA map of Guyana
Guyana can be divided into four natural regions:
Narrow and fertile marshy plain along the Atlantic coast (low coastal plain) where most of the population lives
The white sand belt further inland (hilly sand and clay region), containing most of Guyana's mineral deposits
Dense rainforests (forested highland region) in the middle of the country
Grassy flat savanna in the south and the more extensive interior highlands (interior savanna) consisting primarily of mountains that gradually rise to the Brazilian border
The following is a list of terrestrial ecoregions in Guyana, as defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Guyana is in the Neotropical realm. Ecoregions are classified by biome type - the major global plant communities determined by rainfall and climate.
Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands
Vegetation map of Guyana