I just completed an amazing 4 day tour around Suriname, and I’m beyond excited to share my experiences with you!
Admittedly, I didn’t know anything about Suriname before my trip… other than the language is Dutch and it’s a tropical country. I had no idea about the culture, food, lifestyle or people.
Before I begin this post, please check out the highlights of my trip on my Snapchat Story (below!)
So there I was, at Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport, eager to start my adventure with an open mind and a strong desire to learn about a new country.
I was beyond excited!
I learned a lot in the first 24 hours about Suriname that I could have imagined. So instead of giving you a long history lesson or description about Suriname, here are some basic facts that you should know:
– Suriname is the smallest country in South America at 64,000 square miles, and it bordered by French Guiana to the East, British Guyana to the West, and Brazil to the South
– It has a population of 566,000 people, most of whom live in the capital city of Paramaribo
– 90% of the landscape is covered by tropical jungle and rainforests
– The historic center of Paramaribo is considered to be one of the most culturally interesting areas in this part of South America, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
– Suriname was under Dutch rule from the 17th Century until it’s independence in 1975, and today it maintains close economic, diplomatic and cultural ties with The Netherlands
– Suriname is considered as one of the most diverse countries in the world
– There are 5 major ethnic groups: East Indian, Creole, Javanese, Maroons, Amerindians, Chinese.
During my trip, I partnered with the Suriname Tourism Foundation, who organized daily tours for me around the country. We had a jam packed schedule of activities beginning at 6am and ending in the night everyday. We stayed at the lovely Courtyard Marriott, despite the fact that I barely had time to sleep (but I’m not complaining!)
My Thoughts on Suriname
For me, the most surprising thing that I took away from my trip to Suriname is how everyone lives together so peacefully, despite a huge mix of ethnicities, religions and cultures.
Within the borders of Suriname, there are people from the descent of Africa, Indonesia, India, China, and the Amerindians. Some of the African population are descendants of the Maroons, which are the people who escaped from slavery and made settlements on their own.
It’s so neat that Paramaribo has a Mosque directly next to a Synagogue. Additionally, national holidays consist of religious days for Islam, Hindu, Christian people and celebrated by everyone in Suriname. I’ve yet to experience a country with such diversity like Suriname, living together so peacefully. It’s remarkable!
Here is a photo of the mosque next to a Synagogue (the only other cities I’ve seen this is in Tbilisi, Georgia and Jerusalem, Israel).
I also loved how tropical and green the landscape is in Suriname. The scenery looks like something straight out of a movie, with 90% of the land covered by rainforest (which also means an abundance of wildlife and fresh fruit)!
Here is a recap of our everyday trips around Suriname:
Suriname Day 1: City & Dolphin Tour
Led by Purity Tours, the walking tour of Paramaribo was a great introduction to Suriname and their culture. I learned a lot about the country’s background, history, and its independence from Holland.
Our awesome guide took us to the central market, where I witnessed the daily hustle and bustle of people selling and buying fruits, vegetables, meats, and household items. It resembled many other markets I’ve been in the Philippines, Fiji, and other tropical countries.
Then we visited some Mosques, Synagogues and Churches – which were all interesting to witness first-hand how religion keeps their traditions in Suriname.
Lastly, we walked around the Old City which is a UNESCO world heritage site in itself. Most of the buildings, dating back 300+ years, are still original and made of 100% wood!
After the city tour, we had about an hour to rest before heading out on the dolphin tour, with Celestial Beauty Tours. We took a boat out on the 480 km long Suriname River, and saw tons of cute dolphins swimming in their natural habitat. They are small guys, only 1.4 meters in length, but this specific specials of dolphins have pink stomachs!
To end the night, we went to a beautiful beach for sunset. Apparently, from March – May, this beach is filled with hundreds of sea turtles who come to lay their eggs. Looks like I have to come back to see it!
Here is a shot of the sunset from that beach.. looks like some island in the Caribbean, eh?
Suriname Day 2: Village & Swamp Tour
To start our second day, we took a taxi and then a boat across the river to a small village called Frederiksdorp. Once there, we went on a bike ride to see how the daily life unfolds, which was mostly shrimp fisherman. This trip was arranged by Access Suriname Travel.
One village guy, who has been living there for 47 years, took us in his house and told us some more history about his home. Here is a pic of the guy that took us into his house, and our tour guide who is holding a caiman (small crocodile):
I learned from him that Frederiksdorp, and the surround area, was a former slave plantation, where the Dutch people brought Indonesian and Indians to work on the plantations (only 150 years ago). To this day, the population largely consists of Indian and Indonesian people as the families have carried on through the generations.
After the bike tour, we took a boat out on the swamp where we saw tons of birds, monkeys and even caiman (like baby crocodiles!) What an amazing experience that was!
To end the night, we went out to dinner at the amazing Pasha Global Tropicana Hotel & Casino. You may be surprised to hear that there are more than 20 casinos in Suriname, and Tropicana was my favorite! Walking inside this place made me feel like I was in Vegas, and the food quality was on par with any luxury meal I’ve had around the world.
Suriname Day 3: Jungle Tour
The jungle tour was my favorite trip in Suriname. It felt like we saw “the real suriname” as we ventured off the beaten path into the deep jungle.
Celestial Tours picked us up in a pick up truck at 6AM to start the day. We drove 3 hours south to a dense jungle area called Brownsberg Nature Park.
Led by our awesome wildlife guide and snake guru, Steve-o, we Trekked deep into the jungle to get a glimpse of some birds, snakes and monkeys living in their natural habitat. We even saw a jaguar for a hot second, before he darted off in the trees!
After exploring the jungle, we got lunch with this view over the biggest lake in Suriname.
During the final hours of sunlight, we headed to another region called Jodensavanne to try to catch some more wildlife. We saw some more birds (toucans and owls!) and rabbits.
My favorite part was standing outside on the bed of the truck with the wind in our face. The luscious green landscape was so surreal that felt like I was dreaming.
That pretty much wraps up our 4 days in Suriname. I know that this was just a taste, and it’s leaving me extra hungry to come back for more. I highly recommend a visit to this up-and-coming country during your next trip to South America! It’s now easier than ever to fly to Paramaribo with the nonstop flight from Miami on Surinam Airways 🙂
Lastly, I’ll leave you with this video that my friend Dustin made around Suriname. If this doesn’t get you excited to go, then you must be living on another planet!