Guyana, officially the "Co-operative Republic of Guyana" and previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean.
Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and, for over 200 years, the British. It is the only state of the Commonwealth of Nations on mainland South America, and the only one on that subcontinent where English is the official language. It is one of the few Caribbean countries that is not an island. It is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which has its secretariat headquarters in Guyana's capital, Georgetown.
Guyana achieved independence from the United Kingdom on 26 May 1966, and became a republic on 23 February 1970. In 2008, the country joined the Union of South American Nations as a founding member.
The country can be divided into five natural regions; a narrow and fertile marshy plain along the Atlantic coast (low coastal plain) where most of the population lives; a white sand belt more inland (hilly sand and clay region), containing most of Guyana's mineral deposits; the dense rain forests (Forested Highland Region) in the southern part of the country; the desert savannah in the southern west; and the smallest interior lowlands (interior savannah) consisting mostly of mountains that gradually rise to the Brazilian border.
Some of Guyana's highest mountains are Mount Ayanganna (2042m), Monte Caburaí (1465m) and Mount Roraima (2810m – the highest mountain in Guyana) on the Brazil-Guyana-Venezuela tripoint border, part of the Pakaraima range. Mount Roraima and Guyana's table-top mountains (tepuis) are said to have been the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel "The Lost World". There are also many volcanic escarpments and waterfalls, including Kaieteur Falls. North of the Rupununi River lies the Rupununi savannah, south of which lie the Kanuku Mountains.
The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, though moderated by northeast trade winds along the coast. There are two rainy seasons, the first from May to mid-August, the second from mid-November to mid-January.
Guyana has one of the largest unspoiled rainforests in South America, some parts of which are almost inaccessible by humans. The rich natural history of Guyana was described by early explorers Sir Walter Raleigh and Charles Waterton and later by naturalists Sir David Attenborough and Gerald Durrell. In 2008, the BBC ran a three-part programme called "Lost Land of the Jaguar" which highlighted the huge diversity of wildlife, including undiscovered species and rare species such as the giant otter and harpy eagle.