Review by

Wild Coast - Travels on South America's Untamed Edge
(Albert A. Knopf) ISBN 978-0307272539 0307272532

Follow John Gimlette on his 14-week trip along the northeast coast of South America, from Guyana (formerly British Guiana) through Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) to French Guiana (also called Guyane Francais). The travelogue author explores coastal Guiana by land, air and water (e.g., a canoe trip on Guyane's Oyapok River to Maripa Falls).

Through his fascinating and sometimes humorous travel experiences and conversations, you learn about the geography, history, wildlife and people of the Guianas. This South America travelogue is ideal for armchair travelers, Guyanese living away from their homeland (half the population of Guyana) and adventurous travelers who want to visit Suriname, Guyana and Guyane.

How big is Suriname?

The 358-page South America travel book is well-researched. John Gimlette mixes travel information with vivid descriptions and colorful quotes from the inhabitants of Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana.

For example, readers learn that Suriname is the size of Florida and Guyana has more than 1,500 rivers, yet it is not easily accessible. Gimlette describes herons as "ramrod straight in their shabby uniforms of royal blue."

City maps

Sixteen pages of captioned B&W and color photos depict subjects as diverse as the Paramaribo Snow Ball in Suriname and Guyanese people, such as Diane McTurk, who protects giant otters and Guiana wildlife.

Besides 10 illustrations, Wild Coast features a map of Guyana, showing cities, such as Georgetown, towns like Lethem, and rivers, including Rupununi. The Suriname map shows the capital of Suriname, Paramaribo, and river towns like Groot Marseille on the Cottica River.

The map of French Guiana pinpoints the cities of Cayenne and Kourou, the location of towns like Cacao and Apatou, as well as several French Guiana rivers, including L'Oyapok.

Orinoco River

The introduction to Wild Coast sets the scene for John Gimlette's trip through Guyana, Suriname and Guyane. You learn about the difficulty of traveling in Guiana, "the Land of Many Waters" between the Orinoco River and the Amazon.

You also learn about the disputed borders of the Guianas (Venezuela claims 70 per cent of Guyana), the role of sugar in Guiana's history and descriptions of Guiana in English literature.

Georgetown, Guyana

John Gimlette begins his Guiana trip in Georgetown, Guyana, where he tours the "attractions" of Georgetown, such as Pegasus Hotel, and meets "Townies" who inform him about Guyanese lifestyle.

Undaunted by the minimal tourist infrastructure of roads, restaurants and hotels in Guyana, he ventures outside the cities into jungles, swamps and grasslands to meet local people. In Surama, for example, he learns about Makushi life, including the drinking of cassiri (fermented cassava, purple potatoes and human spit).

Wild Coast - Travels on South America's Untamed Edge by John Gimlette


  • The Town of George
  • The Town of Jones
  • The Golden Rupununi
  • A Parliament of Ants
  • The Bloody Berbice
  • Good Morning, Suriname
  • Paramaribo
  • The Hinterlands
  • The Last of the Colonies: Guyane
List of Illustrations


John Gimlette is a London lawyer who has also written these travel books: At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, Panther Soup and Theatre of Fish.

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