Neatly tucked away in the center of the Guyana Shield Region and on the northern edge
of the Amazon Region lies Suriname - an independent nation since November 1975 and the
only Dutch-speaking country on the South-American continent. With almost 90% of the
original forest cover still intact and a population of barely 500,000 persons, Suriname
has one of the highest forest covers of any nation in the world and the lowest population
density. The vast forests stretching in all directions from the popular tourist vantage
point of Voltzberg in the Central Suriname Nature Reserve lie undisturbed as over 70% of
the population inhabits the coastal strip along the Atlantic Ocean.
Suriname is in many ways unique compared to the other countries on the South-American
continent, but the fact that it is the only former Dutch colony, makes it a linguistic
maverick on this Latin-speaking continent. Linguistic maverick in many senses, although
the official language is still Dutch, the lingua franca is an English-based Creole locally
known as Sranan. As a result of its plantation history, people from all over the globe
were brought to Suriname either voluntarily as contract laborers, or involuntarily as
slaves, followed in the more recent past by voluntary immigrants from Latin-America as
well as Asia and Africa. The resulting population mix has culturally retained its language
of origin, so that next to Dutch you can as easily hear Chinese, Javanese, Hindi - as well
as the creolized Hindi version called Sarnami - Arabic, English, Portuguese and Spanish.
Its uniqueness is even more exemplified by the Indigenous tribes and Maroons that still
live in the hinterland and rural areas of Suriname - adding 10 more languages (both
Indigenous and Maroon) to the linguistic mosaic.
The diversity in languages is also reflected in the diversity of the resulting
population and its culture. No kitchen is as varied on the South American continent as the
Surinamese kitchen. Not only will you find excellent Chinese restaurants in Suriname, you
will also find Afro-Creole dishes, spicy Indian food and the rich Javanese kitchen,
climaxing in a fusion kitchen that is unequalled in South America. Also in Suriname's
religious life we find a rich diversity. The traditional religious beliefs of the
Indigenous and Maroon peoples co-exist with Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism,
Buddhism and Shintoism. This is not only the country with the largest Muslim population in
South America, it is also the only country where the biggest Mosque stands side-by-side
with the biggest Synagogue.
The natural diversity has been well accounted for in this small nation. For many years
Suriname carried the flag of Nature Conservation on the South-American continent. It took
its first steps to legally protect nature as early as 1948, followed by the establishment
of actual nature reserves in 1961. In 1998 it regained its leading position with the
establishment of the first mega-protected area in the center of the country. This opened
the path for the establishment of the first wilderness area in the region - 1.6 million ha
of uninhabited forest under the name Central Suriname Nature Reserve. The area is so
exceptional in beauty and untouched tropical Amazonian rain forest that in 2000 it was
placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. With over 10% of the total land area protected
in nature reserves, the country legally maintains the "traditional" rights and
interests of peoples living in tribal communities in or around protected areas in newly to
be established nature reserves.
Maverick in many ways, another thing that sets Suriname apart is the absence of a
comprehensive road infrastructure; a blessing in disguise. This leaves remote and faraway
places safe from negative human influences. Tourism, and particularly responsible tourism
that safeguards the integrity of the ecosystem and the culture of the local people is
growing in Suriname. In addition to the locations where the tourist can enjoy nature and
culture, Suriname offers holidays to such pristine and untouched areas: places that can
only be reached by chartered airplane or by making long boat trips. What is more
important, Suriname still has all options open to devise a strategy to develop its natural
resources in a sustainable manner.
In addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the interior, Suriname's old inner
city was also placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2002. Paramaribo is described by
the World Heritage committee as: "A former Dutch colonial town from the 17th and 18th
centuries planted on the northern coast of tropical South America. The original and highly
characteristic street plan of the historic center remains intact. Its buildings illustrate
the gradual fusion of Dutch architectural influence with traditional local techniques and
One of the Suriname's new tourism products is the rock-carving site at Werehpai in the
southern part. Joint research by the Smithsonian Institution and the Suriname Museum has
shown that this is the only site in the whole of the Amazon region where more than 300
carvings have been found in one location . These carvings date as far back as 5000 BC.
The Guyana Shield which underlies all of northeastern South America, is approximately
2,500,000 km2, and covers a broad area between the Atlantic Ocean and the Orinoco and
Amazon rivers. The shield - between 3.6 and 0.8 billion years - is one of the oldest and
most stable geological formations in the world. As a result of erosion over a very long
period, soils are nutrient-poor and, in some locations, unweathered granite has become
exposed, hills of granite, also known as inselbergs (German for 'island mountain'). From
the top of the Voltzberg inselberg in the Central Suriname Nature Reserve the tourist can
take in a breath-taking 360º panoramic view of untouched Amazonian rainforest's
stretching to the horizon and beyond.
The Central Suriname Nature Reserve contains a high
diversity of plant life and animals typical of the region, including the jaguar, giant
armadillo, giant river otter, tapir, sloths, eight species of primates and 400 bird
species. The reserve houses the best accessible lek for the Guiana Cock-of-the-Rock in
South America, where tourists can easily see the birds without causing too much
disturbance. This display ground is home to at least 30 males who in the months of January
and February actively dance to impress the dull-brown female birds.
About the Author
Monique Pool is a writer,environmental activist, marine dolphin researcher and cultural
consultant living in Paramaribo,Suriname. Through her companies SEAS ,The Waterford Press
and The Green Heritage Foundation she aims to provide the highest quality services in the
field of environment and natural resources to ensure that all Surinamers to take wise,
balanced decisions about the sustainable development of Suriname's natural resources and
Suriname, set in a natural tropical wilderness, is a splendid
combination of the Caribbean and South America, with fascinating reminders of a sometimes
In the northeast of the South American continent, bounded by Guyana on the west and French
Guyane on the east and Brazil to the south.
Influenced by numerous cultures African, Amerindian, Asian, Jewish and Dutch the country
reflects this diversity harmoniously in its day to day life.
Dominated by mighty rivers which provide essential highways into the rainforest and
jungles of the interior, which remain virtually untouched by man, Suriname is waiting to
be explored. There is little tourism infrastructure in Suriname except for a few well
organized tour operators.
The bustling capital and port of Paramaribo, stands guard over the Suriname River. The
striking architecture reminds us of its Dutch colonial past.
Setting out to explore the natural beauty of the interior by boat or light aircraft, you
encounter the extraordinary natural heritage of Suriname spreading out like a tropical
Spot the occasional wild cat roaming in the rainforest and hear the unearthly cry of
howler monkeys echoing through the trees, see giant tarantula spider webs and huge termite
nests. For the more adventurous head to the swamps where crocodiles, piranhas, anacondas
and boa constrictors go about their business.
Another dont miss for nature lovers is the Galibi Nature Reserve where you can experience
four sea turtle species nesting on its beaches between February and July.
The Brownsberg Nature Park is located in the Brokopondo District approximately 80 miles
south of Paramaribo. The Brownsberg National Park is the northern outpost for several
plant and animal species. Covered by geotropically rainforest consisting of hundreds of
different species most of which are commercially valuable. The park has three major
Vegetation types. The hydrophytes vegetation grows in creek valleys at the base of the
mountain. The vegetation is found on the slopes and is characterized by the number of
different tree species including the Groenheart, Ingipipa, Cedar and Purpleheart.
The Galibi Nature Reserve is situated in the North East Corner of Suriname, at the Mouth
of the Marowijne River bordering French Guyana. 4000 hectares in size, 13 km long and 1 km
wide the reserve is know for being the most important nesting beach for the oliver riley
turtle in the western Atlantic region. The reserve was established in March 1969 to
protect the nesting beaches of sea turtles. It is the only beach where mass nesting
aggregations of the olive riley are known to have occurred in the Atlantic region.
The Galibi Reserve and nearby Amerindian villages are only accessible by boat, about 1
hour from Albino. The local villagers are allowed to use the reserve for fishing, hunting,
plant collecting and small scale agricultural activities.
This is a bustling city laying on banks the Suriname River. Fabulous colonial buildings
including the Presidential Palace remind visitors of its Dutch heritage. Behind the Palace
is the Placentia.
Also visit St.Peter and Paul Cathedral, which is reputed to be the largest wooden building
in the Americas.
Some of South Americas finest examples of Hindu temples, mosques and synagogues can also
be found in the city.
Finally, the central market with its array of local fruits and vegetables is a must see.