The bus driver shouted it three times as the big cat ran across the dirt road from one tree line of the jungle to the other. I caught a good glimpse of it. I didn’t think it looked like a jaguar. It reminded me more of a mountain lion from back in North America. It looked like a brown, overgrown house cat. This made me question whether the animal was actually a jaguar or not. In Guyana, they refer to jaguars as “tigers” all of the time. My students confused me thoroughly at the beginning of the year when they insisted that this country has tigers. I assured them that it didn’t, but they continued to fight me on the matter. Indeed, they just happen to refer to jaguars as tigers here. Perhaps there’s a little confusion in the mind of the bus driver as to what a jaguar actually is. There are large signs in Georgetown and Lethem that read “Jaguars and All Other Cats Are Protected by Law in Guyana”. This leads me to believe that we just happened to drive by a different kind of large cat and the driver decided to call it a jaguar. Once the animal was gone, had run back into the forest, he began to talk about how he sees them all of the time, three in the last two weeks.
Seeing a jaguar is like the ultimate prize when coming to Guyana. You can pay a few hundred dollars to fly to Kaieteur and you can venture as deep into the jungle as your heart desires and likely will see an array of sloth, toucans, and parrots, but a jaguar is a rare sighting. This is why I’m kind of disappointed to admit that our bus likely didn’t happen upon one. I’m sure it was an equally cool kind of cat with, simply, a less desirable coat on, but still, it was no jaguar. That being said though, the journey through the jungle, which I’ll write more about later, was filled with a variety of other animals, along with beautiful scenery. This country is something right out of the movies when it comes to natural beauty.