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BLACK CAIMAN World's largest freshwater alligator species can exceed 15ft; 40 per cent of which is its tail. January - March 2009 lime 37 ARAPAIMA World's largest freshwater scaled fi sh can reach 3m and upwards of 440lbs. LL PETE OXFORD/ NATUREPL. COM PETE OXFORD/ NATUREPL. COM

ISLAND PROFILE 32 lime January - March 2009 visitors can swim with the otters and hand feed them piranha. Karanambu also offers a good chance to spot two of Guyana's stranger creatures: giant anteaters and capybara. With a long nose, bushy tail, length of three feet and a shuffl ing gait exaggerated by the fact they walk on their knuckles, giant anteaters are unmistakable when seen. Regularly spotted along the river, the world's largest rodent, capybara, has a stocky body with a large square head, webbed feet and arched, rounded rump. Karanambu is also home to a healthy population of Guyana's national fl ower, the Victoria amazonica. The largest of the giant water lilies, the fl owers' stalks can reach lengths of 7- 8m with leaves that can grow up to 3m in diameter and support the weight of a baby. At dusk the lily's fl ower slowly opens to a brilliant white bloom before increasing their temperature and emitting a strong odor to attract a beetle that pollinates them. Two days later the fl ower blooms again, vibrant pink in colour. Not far from Karanambu on the Rupununi River are Yupukari Village and Caiman House. A highlight of a visit here is the ' Creatures of the Night Tour', which begins just after darkness settles on the river and many creatures emerge, FURTHER READING: To learn more about this fascinating country, it's worth checking out Kirk Smock's Bradt Guide to Guyana Christopher Columbus fi rst sighted Guyana in 1498, but it was the Dutch who fi rst established colonies, in 1616. The Essequibo River is the world's third widest river after the Amazon ( Brazil) and the Orinoco ( Venezuela). It is 21 miles wide at the mouth. Other major rivers are the Demerara and Berbice. Guyana has four distinctive geographical zones: the coastal belt, the forested area, the savannah zone and the sandy zone. More than 80 per cent of the land mass is still covered in pristine forest, and only 2.5 per cent is cultivated. such as black caiman, spectacled caiman, tree boas, iguanas, frogs, bats, nightjars, possums, tree dwelling rodents and capybara. Sleeping monkeys and birds are also often seen. Visitors can also participate in ongoing black caiman research overseen by the community. Guests can observe caiman – the world's largest alligator, which reaches lengths exceeding 15ft – being captured, and then assist in data collection – weighing, measuring, sexing, tagging – once the caiman is pulled to shore and secured. It may be your only chance to handle one. At Dadanawa Ranch, a multi- textured cattle ranch that was once the largest in the world, expert guides lead guests in search of anacondas, big cats, giant river turtle, goliath DID YOU KNOW? bird- eating tarantulas, and the endangered red siskin bird. If the wildlife isn't exciting enough, head out with the vaqueros to round up more tame beasts – cattle. This is only a taste of what a visit to Guyana can entail. Guyana has a tourism offering that is, unfortunately, increasingly rare in today's world, and it is the reason to look beyond the beaches of the typical Caribbean vacation. Pygmy anteater ALAN ROOT/ PHOTOLIBRARY PETE OXFORD/ NATUREPL. COM Tree porcupine