Suriname

SURINAME 2017

Suriname is known for its pristine rainforest, exotic plants and animals, wild rapids, large rivers and stunning mountainous areas in the southern part of the country. Dark creeks run through the savannas where white sandy grounds contrast intensely with green trees while palms and huge forest giants in different sorts and colors decorate the magical panorama of the jungle. Approximately 94.7%  of Suriname is covered by dense tropical rainforest harboring numerous species of exotic animals and plants while storing vital amounts of carbon and generating fresh air for the entire planet. Suriname is one of the greenest countries on earth with Dutch colonial architecture and a melting-pot culture. The magnificent Amazon rainforest in the southern part of Suriname with its boisterous rivers, imposing waterfalls and an unprecedented flora and wild life, is barely trodden and not yet discovered by mass tourism. Suriname, the smallest country in South America. Population just 560000 most of whom live on the Norh coast and in Paramaribo the capital of Suriname. Suriname was a colony of the Netherlands until 1975. Suriname is a largely unknown country among most people around the world.

 

BORDER to PARIMARIBO

The GOOD NEWS, the photo camera has been repaired in Paramaribo and we are up and running again, the BAD NEWS is, the Samsung S7 Edge is not.

We have arrived in Suriname; many of my Australian friends had never heard of Suriname.
From Albina, in French Guiana, we followed the East West Road. This road links Albina with Paramaribo to Nieuw Nickerie (border Guyana). Having seen the leatherback turtles in French Guiana we did not visit Galibi, famous also for the leatherback turtle laying their eggs on the beaches between April and July.

Our first stop was Domburg located on the Suriname River around 13 km south of Paramaribo where via IOverlander we found the Domburg Marina. The marina caters for the local Dutch population and the ocean sailors on around the world trips. For us it became 7 days of relaxation and visiting the sites around Paramaribo and the repair of our camera.

Paramaribo is full of surprises, it is small, some buildings might appear to be out of place in this drowsy tropical South American capital, sometimes it looks more like the West Indie islands of Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire. This may lie in Suriname’s colonial history. Disappointing is the fact that many very nice buildings are not maintained. Parts of the inner city of Paramaribo became UNESCO World Heritage listed in 2002. These include Fort Zeelandia, a 17th and 18th century cluster of buildings on the Suriname River that was the disembarkation point for arriving colonials. More recently it came in the news due to the “December Killings” on December 7, 8 and 9 in 1982. 15 prominent young Suriname men who had criticized the military dictatorship were arrested on December 7 and taken to Fort Zeelandia where they were tortured and shot dead. The victims were lawyers, journalists, businessmen, soldiers, and university teachers. This has led to an international protest by many western countries & human rights organizations and Holland froze all development aid to Suriname.

While having our base at Domburg Marina we met Rob and Edith, both are spending 50% of the year in Suriname and 50% in Holland. We need to thank them for all the trips they did with us and the suggestions they made. The Suriname River side is not very suitable for recreational swimming. Close to Paramaribo a few resorts have sand spread on the bank in different places along the river, such as White Beach and Overbridge. To protect swimmers from piranha’s nets are drawn.
It was time to leave Domburg and to Explore the southern part of Suriname.

 

SOUTHERN SURINAME

Like French Guiana this is an area of natural beauty. Lots of cultural influences and authentic villages. Over 85% of Suriname is pristine rainforest and home to Amerindians, Marroons, Creoles, Javanese, Chinese, East Indians, Brazilians and Dutch. 5 days floating around on the Suriname river was amazing. The Suriname River is fed by two rivers, the Gran Rio and the Pikin Rio. The Suriname River is home to about 15,000 Saramaccan Marroons. The Marroons are descendants of runaway slaves who fled into the forests of Suriname from the second half of the 17th century. Because of their isolated habitat they have retained much of their original African life style. In Atjoni the bitumen road stops. Most locals and tourists come here to proceed by boat further south to as far as Kajana, about 100km downstream. Along the way there are many villages where you could stay overnight, explore the village and go to the next village the following day (Lodge Hopping). You don’t have to plan your trip before and just go, look around, ask, negotiate. This is the cheapest way to travel. The price depends on where you’re heading and the choice of your boat. We worked out around 80 SRD per hour travelling. For us the only disappointing part was the lack of coloured birdlife like we saw in French Guiana. Three explanations were given to us 1. It is the end of the wet season, not many birds around. 2.Birds are hunted and eaten by the locals. 3. Birds are hunted and sold on international markets. Let’s hope it is the end of the wet season. By the way, I was never interested in bird life but the variety of colours they display as we saw in French Guiana was just incredible. We stopped off at Anaula Nature resort for a few nights, located on the banks of an idyllic island in the Upper Suriname River, near the Ferulassi rapids. We got acquainted with the unique Marroon culture, virgin Amazon rainforest, turbulent rapids, and unique flora and fauna. On the last evening, we enjoyed the cultural show featuring traditional songs and dances of the Saramacca tribe. Our last stop before returning to Paramaribo was Lake Brokopondo, official name Prof. Dr. Ir. W.J. van Blommesteinmeer. This is a reservoir that was created after the construction of the Afobakadam in 1964.

The former hill tops have become islands and nowadays these have lodges and are tourist destinations. With an area of 135 thousand hectares it is among the largest reservoirs in the world. Bare treetops still protrude above the water surface. From our bush camp at the lookout we had a perfect view of the lake. It was time to go back to the Domburg marina for some more R&R, truck cleaning and service, change the tyres and enjoy the swimming pool before heading towards the west of Suriname.

 

PARIMARIBO TO GUYANA BORDER

After a lot of R & R and meeting heaps of friendly people it was time to leave Paramaribo. (Domburg Marina). It was time to start exploring Western Suriname. First stop Lelydorp and the Butterfly farm. The park was average but the tour was great and we learned that butterflies are being exported all over the world from this farm. We continued via Groningen, Wageningen and we arrived late afternoon in Nikerie. Nickerie lies at the mouth of the Corentyne River that forms the border between Suriname and Guyana. The main source of income in this area is rice cultivation and fishing. Our main reason for being here is the Bigi Pan Nature reserve. The western region of Suriname has three coastal districts between Paramaribo and the border with Guyana: Coronie, Nickerie and Saramacca. It’s a region full of bird life and the Bigi Pan nature reserve is one of the highlights in Suriname for bird lovers and those who loved to be eaten alive by mozzies! This wetland area of 250000 hectares has according to locals 122 types of birds. Many can be seen all year round. The area consists of open water, mud flats and mangroves. The water level is influenced by the ocean tides where salt seawater, as well as fresh inland water, alternately stream in and out. The boat gives no shelter for the merciless sun, and with 35 degrees and high humidity it was hot. Tomorrow our Suriname adventure will come to an end. For us Suriname was a highlight and we are at a loss to understand why so few overlanders visit the 3 former Guyana’s: French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana. All 3 are dynamic countries with many cultures from ancient tribes. 85% of the 3 countries is pristine rain forest. Our highlight in Suriname was without a doubt the 6 days we spent on the Suriname river, floating along lush rainforest, many icy cold creeks with cola coloured water and the sula’s to cool down and swim in (small rapids in the river). The people living on the river have a very close bond with nature.

They also are well aware of the use of medicinal plants and herbs to heal many illnesses and other disorders. Their knowledge and implementation of thousands of plants used in traditional medicine are unrivalled. We loved the people and we hope the future of Suriname will improve as the country faces some serious political and economic challenges. Since independence from the Netherlands in 1975 Suriname has endured coups and a civil war. Former military strongman Desi Bouterse dominates politics but things are not improving.