By Donald Greig, MD Bradt Travel Guides
Independent since 1966, Guyana was part of the British psyche for a century and a half, but in the years since, though it remains the only country in South America where English is the official language, its presence has faded from the national consciousness. However, recently a degree of recognition has returned with leading experts such as David Attenborough broadcasting loudly the importance of Guyana’s vast swathes of untouched rainforest and staggering array of wildlife. I visited this one-time outpost of sugar and cotton in May on a trip designed to coincide with the development of the second edition of Kirk Smock’s excellent guide to Guyana. It’s fair to say I haven’t been so inspired by an adventure/wildlife destination since first visiting Tanzania over 20 years ago. The sense of discovery at that time – when my guide and I camped at the bottom of the Ngorongoro Crater, alone save for the wildlife – is something I found again in this little-visited corner of South America.
Guyana typifies for me the sort of emerging destination that Bradt has supported in its guidebooks since Hilary Bradt founded the company almost 40 years ago. Eco-tourism – real eco-tourism, of the sort where local people own, staff and reap the benefits from the village lodges, is developing here at a pace which is as sustainable as it is engaging. And the wildlife is world-class: in one week we spotted capybara, black caiman (the world’s largest alligator), giant anteater and jaguar, as well as around 60 of Guyana’s 800 bird species, including harpy eagle and the startlingly orange cock-of-the-rock, Guyana’s national bird.
Since returning I have been asked frequently ‘Would you go back?’, perhaps the most telling of all verdicts for any destination. The answer? You bet.
Bradt’s second edition Guyana guide is due out in August; for more details click here
100 Alien Invaders, by Gill Williams. Publication August 2011
No, not little green men, though it’s true some invaders are both little and green, rather an exploration of non-native species and the dramatic, often unforeseen, effects they can have on delicate indigenous eco-systems. So great is the problem that a consensus amongst conservation groups considers the impact of non-native species to be the third greatest threat to the planet’s ecology after habitat destruction and overpopulation. In a specific example the RSPB states that ‘invasive non-native species have been involved in the extinction of 68 out of the 135 bird species lost in the wild globally over the last 500 years.’ In Europe, controlling non-native species has become a political priority and draft EU legislation is scheduled for debate in 2012. Spread sometimes as stowaways, sometimes by misguided attempts at biological control, non-native species exist outside the natural checks and balances built through millennia of evolution. Some aliens, such as killer bees and cane toads, are obvious terrors, others like harlequin ladybirds and water hyacinth pose a more insidious threat. 100 Alien Invaders is the result of exhaustive research by author Gill Williams and brings together some of the planet’s most destructive species in a hard back exposé that may change forever the way you look at house sparrows and hedgehogs… More…
Cameroon, edition 3 by Ben West. Publication July
Nestled between Chad, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Gabon, Congo and Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon occupies a colourful West African neighbourhood leading some to call it ‘the melting pot of Africa’. Details of city life in Youndé and Doula have been fully updated, along with descriptions of colourful local culture, from markets to makossa music. For trekkers, if tackling the highest mountain in West Africa appeals, Bradt’s guide points the way for an ascent of Mount Cameroon’s sulphurous 4,095m summit. Elsewhere, chapters feature Cameroon’s wildlife-rich rain forests, home to over a thousand native species, including critically endangered lowland gorillas. Finally, highly pertinent health and security advice, often much overstated for life in the rubberised easy-wipe reality of Western Europe, is presented rationally and clearly. This new edition, still the only dedicated English language travel guide, remains essential reading for all those visiting Cameroon. More…
Cape Verde, edition 5 by Aisling Irwin and Column Wilson. Publication Out Now!
The peak of the property boom fuelled by pre financial crisis holiday home purchases has definitely passed. However, the Cape Verde archipelago, loosely moored off the coast of West Africa, still holds an intriguing allure for travellers. Whale-watching, diving, surfing and windsurfing are all explored in the fifth edition of Bradt’s guide, along with birdwatching and hiking amongst the islands’ volcanic peaks. Updated insights into the Cape Verde music scene sit easily with a handy Crioulo primer, and in the event that the islands really get under your skin, a step-by-step guide to buying a house… More…
Georgia, edition 4 by Tim Burford. Publication Out Now!
Georgia is one of those countries evoking strong sentiments amongst those who have visited. Almost without exception these feelings centre on heart-warming tales of generous hospitality, excellent food, fine wine and excellent brandy. Historically, life in the Caucasus has always been a difficult balancing act, the wind of change that ushered the collapse of the Soviet Union just making the wobbles more visible. This was self evident in 2008 when Georgia’s ongoing tensions with Russia surrounding the breakaway regions of South Ossetia in the north and Abkhazia in the west exploded into outright war. Author Tim Burford’s concise chapter on Georgian history succinctly places the country’s current geopolitical situation in context. From the nouveau riche resorts of the Black Sea coast, and cafés and culture of Tbilisi, to the well-versed Khevsureti inhabitants of pagan villages near the Chechen border, and wilderness hikes in the High Caucasus, edition four of Georgia succeeds in being both the definitive country guide and a good read to boot. More…
Southern Africa Wildlife, edition 2 by Mike Unwin. Publication July
Naturalist Mike Unwin’s updated second edition of Southern African Wildlife, like its subject, disregards political boundaries and offers an overview of the best wildlife areas encompassed in a broad region south of the Zambezi and Kunene rivers: Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, southern Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. All major animal groups and their behavioural characteristics are covered, together with a synopsis of key wildlife sites and the diverse habitats within the southern African region. Over 320 colour photographs and numerous original line drawings make Southern African Wildlife a real pleasure to leaf through, and provide an enduring souvenir for a memorable trip. More…
Bradt Travel Guides founder Hilary Bradt features at length in a BBC Fast Track documentary (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/fast_track/default.stm) describing her unconventional entrée into travel publishing, the subsequent evolution of Bradt Travel Guides, and Hilary’s quiet retirement in Devon with a cup of tea and a packet of Rich Tea biscuits… That last bit was of course a little wide of the mark. Hilary’s 70th birthday may be approaching but 10th July sees here running the Asics British 10K London Run 2011 in aid of Money for Madagascar (those interested in donating may do so at http://www.justgiving.com/Hilary-Bradt). As Hilary herself says, ‘I’m 70 this year and goodness knows how much longer I will be able to wobble around the streets of London in their annual 10K race in July; to add to the masochism I’m also signed up for the Great South Run (10 miles, October). But if Money for Madagascar benefits then it’s all worth while. If you know me, you’ll know what Madagascar means to me, and even the smallest donation will make a difference.’