Guyana is a land of mystique, shrouded in mists and myths. Inspiration for Conan Doyle's Lost World, it easily summons images of wild, primal and jungles. It is a gem that is starting to stand out among its larger South American neighbours.
Surrounded by Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname sits Guyana, a tiny country the size of the state of Idaho in the United States. Upwards of eighty percent of Guyana's total land is rainforest, upwards of ninety percent of its nearly eight hundred thousand people live in, on or around the coast, which is a relatively small strip of land.
This means the jungles of Guyana are mostly uninhabitated and undeveloped. Pristine and wild.
It should be of no surprise to find that it is also home to some of the world's largest and heaviest animals on earth. Even a few of the flora found are also in world books.
Giant River OttersCredit: Duplaix
They look like other otters, brown in colour with a sleek and serpentine shape. A little comical looking on land with their ungainly and awkward movements. In the water they are a fish seeking missile of grace and beauty. The significant difference is the giant river otter grow to an average of six feet with the largest one ever recorded being almost eight feet long.
Social, talkative and ever curious they are often referred to as water dogs. With their bark like vocalizations, whiskers and playful demeanours it is no stretch of the imagination to see why they are called that. In fact National Geographic photographers frequently comment that the otters like to tease them then swim away, barking laughter.
Guyana is one of the last bastions in South America for these wonderful creatures, which were hunted heavily and to some extent still are today.
Amazon River DolphinsCredit: kaioamazon
You may have seen these guys in photos that showed pink dolphins living in the Amazon River. They are not always carnation pink in colour, some are grey.
The largest of females grow just over eight feet though more commonly grow to over seven feet, the males max out size wise at six and half feet.
The anaconda is infamous for its size. While not the longest snake, that title belongs to the reticulated python (a cousin), it is the larger in mass and girth by more than double that of a reticulated python.
Female anacondas are the heavy weights by far, growing upwards of thirty-two feet and weighing in at five hundred and fifty pounds. Males tend to reach twenty feet and usually just over two hundred pounds.
On land they are slow moving but in water they are a force to be reckoned with known for eating prey much larger than itself including black caimen (on this list), capybara (on here too) and more.
Looking a little like a hairy hippopotamus, the four foot long, just under two feet tall and weighing an average of a hundred or so pounds is the Capybara - the world's largest (and quite possibly cutest) rodent.
A gregarious animal living in large groups, peacefully grazing selectively on the vegetation found on land and in the waters. It is the preferred meal of anaconda's, jaguars and is hunted by humans for meat, skins and it's fat.
Cautious in the wild they have shown themselves to be incredibly friendly to human and animal alike when in captivity. Can run as fast as a horse on land, be submerged for up to five minutes and in the hottests of days can be found asleep in water with only their noses sticking up.
As shown by a creative blog called 'Animals Sitting on Capybaras' it may likely be the most sat upon animal in the world too.
Goliath Bird Eating SpiderCredit: piotre naskre
A member of the tarantula family the bird eating spider, which rarely eats birds, is the world largest spider. The largest one recorded was over eleven inches, which is roughly the size of a dinner plate.
I suspect for many I set off your heebie jeebie meter. But despite its size and the fact that it is venomous it is not a threat to humans, it's bite no worse than a wasp sting. In fact it's body hair poses more risk to humans, highly irritating and can be quite troublesome if they were to get into the more sensitive mucuous membranes or eyes.
Luckily it is not kept as a pet and when threatened can make a hissing noise that is loud enough to be heard up to fifteen feet away.
Giant ArmadilloCredit: allposters
The giant armadillo is the world largest at a max of sixty inches from nose to tail and on average weighs in between one hundred and sixty to one hundred and eighty pounds.
Twice the size of the more common armadillos species they have more than eighty but less than a hundred teeth wihich is more than any other mammal. Their claws are extremely long with one bearing a sickle shape to it.
One of the most unique features of armadillos is their ability to 'roll up and away' in the face of danger. Giant armadillos can not do this and need those long claws to rapidly burrow into the ground and hunker down exposing the hardest of sections of their skin and protecting the soft parts.
This animal is hugely understudied due to rarely being seen, in fact over an eighteen year period surveys in Suriname recorded a whopping seven giant armadillos of an area of six hundred and fifty square kilometres.
Giant AnteaterCredit: Phoenix zoo
The giant anteater is the worlds largest anteater. A unique animal in appearance and behaviour. They have been gracing earth for no less than twenty-five million years.
They are surprisingly, cool. Some quick facts to show how cool. Their tongue is two feet long. They walk on their knuckles to save their claws from damage. Those claws can fight off jaguars and many other larger animals. They also possess the lowest body temperature of any mammal.
They are known as ant bears, aptly. A average length of seven feet with the muzzle elongated and a long hairy tail. They tend to weight no more than one hundred of so pounds.
Victoria RegiaCredit: columbiagov
Found only in the Amazon rainforest this water lily is the largest in the world.
Perfectly round leaves with upturned edges and a red colouration on its underside that can hold a surprising amount of weight such as a rabbit or as some older pictures show, children. The leaves can grow as large as ten feet.
The first night the lily blooms it is white in colour, on the second night it blooms pink. This lily is a part of many folklores of South America. The leaves undersides and veining inspired Paxton's Crystal Palace – a building four times the size of St. Peters in Rome.
Native to the Amazon and Essquibo basins (the Essequibo is Guyana's largest river) this fish can grow to a length of fifteen feet and weight as much as five hundred pounds. It can easily rival the monsters of the sturgeon family. They are among the largest freshwater fish in the world.
The most interesting aspect of this fish is that they are air breathers, they stay submerged for up to twenty minutes but must come to the surface to breath. Overhunted they have declined in their wild ranges, but important food source to many regions so they are also farmed.
Giant South American River TurtleCredit: charlene
Turtles are not known for being a talkative or noisy animal, but even before they come out of their eggs they are talking up a storm to each other which continues after leaving the egg.
These turtles are the largest, or some of the largest, freshwater turtles in the world growing to a size of over three feet. As adults they are entirely vegetarian, but caimen, anaconda and even river otters regularly makes meals out of these large turtles.
Harpy EagleCredit: peregrinefund
In South America the Harpy Eagle is the largest bird of prey, and is considered one of the worlds most powerful birds.
The females of this species are often twice the size of males weighing approximately twenty pounds. Length wise they are between two and three feet with a wingspan varying between six and seven feet. The Harpy's claw (foot) is the same size as a grizzly bears paw.
Rarely seen in the wild, though highly sought after by bird enthusiasts, it is a majestic animal and I don't doubt terrifying if it is flying at you.
The jaguar is an impressive large cat. The largest in North and South America it is no surprise it finds a home and a spot at the top of the food chain in the jungles of the Amazon.
It's bite is so strong that is cracks through armoured animals with ease. It is larger and stockier than other cats, but it is still very stealthy. A loner for the most part.
It is often used in symbology to indicate, power, strength or virility. Guyana's national animal and has a place on it's national coat of arms.
Spectral BatCredit: zooonline
Known by a number of other names including false vampire bat it is often confused with the Old World mega bat families. This particular species, spectral bat, is the largest carnivorous bat in the world and the largest bat that is native to the New World (North and South America).
What does it take to be the largest of your class - thirty-six inch wingspan on average, the largest was thirty-nine inches, and a body that is rarely longer than five and half inches. Unlike other vampire bats, it tends to kill it's prey such as insects, lizards and other bats or birds. A fierce hunter.
Black CaimenCredit: natgeo
Black caimen are notoriously large, growing up to fourteen feet with a few old males coming in at sixteen feet. Weights for captured caimen are as high as six hundred pounds. They can capsize boats if they so choose.
They are one of the largest predators, if not the largest predator in the Amazon basin. A fully grown caimen has few if any predators other man. A large sized anaconda can and will eat mid sized caimen.
Looking much like their cousins crocodiles and alligators they are, as their name implies, darker in colouration, in many cases nearly all black.