Project Description

WORLD HERITAGE

NATURE

CULTURE

SERVICE

Highlights: UNESCO World Heritage city / History of slavery & plantations / Mangrove fauna & fresh water dolphins / Highland rainforest flora & fauna / Waterfalls / Suriname river cruise / Maroon culture / School service project

Suriname: The Undiscovered Amazon – 8 Days

Everyone knows of the Brazilian Amazon, the largest rainforest remaining on earth, drained by a river with more fish species than the entire Atlantic Ocean and bigger in volume than the next ten largest rivers combined. But how many have heard of Suriname, South America’s smallest country, but best kept secret? The rainforests of Suriname are part of the Amazon, but unlike Brazil, it is still 90% intact. New species are being discovered in the Suriname rainforests all the time and the nation’s cultural diversity rivals the biodiversity.

In addition to many Amerindian indigenous tribes living here, the Suriname River has served as a major refuge for runaway slaves and for over 400 years has supported Maroon villages more traditional than the West African homelands their ancestors were stolen from. In many respects this could be called the African Amazon for there is no other region of the world where so many traditional African tribes carry on their time-honored traditions in a new continent.

The history of sugar, coffee and cocoa plantations in Suriname, and the need for Chinese, Indian and Javanese laborers after the abolition of slavery, led to the incredible mosaic of cultures that is a national hallmark of this former Dutch colony. Where else can you find a Jewish synagogue beside a mosque, but in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Paramaribo, the capital of Surinam?

Students fortunate enough to join this study adventure will discovery for themselves Surinam’s amazing biodiversity and unique culture of the Maroons. They will discover the world’s largest tropical hardwood city, boat with frolicking fresh water dolphins, cycle through historic plantations, boat safari for caiman by torchlight, spend two nights in a traditional Maroon village, prepare and cook cassava cakes and learn African tribal dancing and other traditions that have survived the centuries.

This trip will not be measured by the number of days, but how long it holds you in its spell.

Arrival

  • Students arriving in Paramaribo, the capital of Surinam, will be greeted on arrival at the international airport and transferred to an Eco Lodge beside the Suriname River in the historic old city.
  • After checking in to our rooms and enjoying dinner, we will have a trip orientation session to familiarize everyone with the great week ahead.

Overnight: Eco Lodge, Paramaribo

Highlights: Tour of UNESCO World Heritage City / History of Slavery & Plantations / Mangrove fauna and fresh water dolphins

  • Students can enjoy seeing many bird species while enjoying a large buffet breakfast in an open-air restaurant before we set off to explore Paramaribo on a walking tour of the historic district.
  • Paramaribo was the location of the first Dutch settlement, a trading post established in 1613. It is famed for its diverse ethnic makeup, including Creoles (African or African-European descent), Indian (East Indian descent), Maroons (descendants of escaped African slaves), Javanese (Indonesian descent), Indigenous (descendants of native population), Chinese (descendants of 19th-century contract workers), and smaller numbers of Europeans (primarily of Dutch and Portuguese descent), Lebanese and Jews.
  • Paramaribo was awarded UNESCO World Cultural Heritage status in 2003 as an exceptional example of the gradual fusion of European architecture and construction techniques with indigenous South American materials and crafts to create a new architectural idiom.
  • After strolling through the historic city, we check out of our rooms and drive a short distance to the banks of the Suriname River to continue exploring the fascinating history of this region by boat as we move on to our next destination.
  • We will visit the historic Fort New Amsterdam that sits at the confluence of the Suriname and Commewinje Rivers, a strategic location to control trade and slave rebellions in the more than 700 plantations that once dominated this area.
  • To gain a full understanding of this sad chapter in human history, we stay at historic Frederiksdorp Plantation house tonight that has been converted to a very pleasant eco resort.
  • A delicious lunch will be served on arrival at the plantation where students will have a talk and open discussion on the historic slave trade before enjoying a beautiful outdoor pool to chill out from the mid day heat.
  • At 3:00 pm we set off by boat again on a wonderful cruise to spot Pink-sided dolphins, a fresh water Amazonian species that feed and frolic where the Suriname River flows into the Atlantic.
  • Nearby we will visit rich mangrove forests and wetlands where Scarlet Ibis and other birds congregate each evening.
  • If this trip takes place in late March or early April, students can also see the world’s largest and most endangered sea turtles coming ashore on high tide to lay their eggs on nearby beaches. The massive outflow of sediment from the Amazon River discolors the waters here making them unattractive to resort developers, but that is exactly why leatherback turtles nest here in large numbers.
  • We will continue our coastal wildlife safari until sunset when we cruise back to our plantation house for a delicious dinner and a good nights sleep.

Overnight: Frederiksdorp Plantation, Commewijne River

Highlights: Reforestation of plantations / Highland Rainforest flora & fauna

  • Today we focus on wildlife starting with an early morning birding walk or bike ride around the extensive plantation grounds before breakfast.
  • Return to our lodge, we will eat a good breakfast, pack up and boat across the Commewijne River to another plantation that has been converted to a Nature Reserve.
  • Having seen how one abandoned plantation was turned into an eco resort, we can now see how Peperpot Plantation has grown back into a beautiful forest rich in species: monkeys, agoutis, and a delightful range of Amazon birds and butterflies.
  • We will have several hours to stroll through the easy pathways of the nature reserve spotting wildlife and viewing the old plantation houses, a coffee mill and the “kampong” living quarters of Javanese workers brought to Suriname to work as laborers after the abolition of slavery.
  • Driving on we stop for lunch at Bridgeport Resort where students can cool down with a swim in the Suriname River. Bridgeport offers safe swimming in the Suriname protected from pirannas and caiman by fencing.
  • Our destination today is Brownsberg National Park set at the delightfully cool elevation of 500 meters and with sweeping views over the surrounding rainforest and reservoir.
  • Brownsberg boasts all eight species of monkeys found in Suriname: Black Spider, Red Howler, Squirrel Monkey, Brown Cappuchin, Weeping Capuchin, Guyanan Saki , Brown Bearded Saki and Golden-Handed Tamarin. We should see quite a few.
  • Here in this lofty setting we will check in to park dormitories for two nights while we explore the regions unique flora and fauna, enjoy good home cooked meals and sit around a campfire at night under the stars.

Overnight: Brownsberg National Park Dormitory

Highlights: Rainforest trekking / waterfall swimming / wildlife

  • Early risers should be able to add to their wildlife inventory with a great range of birds and mammals. Agouti are commonly seen around the camp area as are the beautiful Grey-winged Trumpeter. The Red Howler Monkey can be especially vocal at dawn.
  • After enjoying a hot homemade breakfast at our dining hall, we pack a picnic lunch and set off on a trail system that leads to several refreshing waterfalls.
  • Lessons in Amazonian tropical rainforests will take place throughout the hike as we come across amazing discoveries of flora and fauna, like flared tree bases, leaf cutter ants and amazing poison arrow frogs hiding under leaves or carrying tadpoles on their backs as they move them from the micro pond of one bromeliad to another.
  • Returning to our lodge late in the day, we will enjoy a delicious dinner, a gathering around a campfire and a night safari in search of nocturnal animals.

    Overnight: Brownsberg National Park Dormitory

Highlights: Surinam River Cruise / Maroon Culture / Night Safari

  • This morning we have one last opportunity to search for the elusive sloth that lives in the rainforest canopy, but descends to the ground one a week to defecate in the same spot. We may also see toucans and the less wary Agoutis (bush rabbits).
  • Departing from Brownsberg after breakfast, we have a 1.5-hour drive by mini van to the upper Suriname River. Here we board open-air boats for a beautiful 1.5-hour trip up river.
  • This waterway is the world renowned home of the Maroons, descendants of runaway African slaves that fled up the Suriname River four centuries ago, displaced the indigenous Amerindian tribes and re-established for themselves villages much like the ones they were stolen from in Africa.
  • Anthropologists say that these Maroon villages more closely resemble traditional African villages than those in the motherland as the African continent was colonized and overrun with missionaries after most of the slave trade ended.
  • Jaw Jaw village is a typical Maroon community set on a bank above Suriname River rapids, but it differs from most in offering basic accommodation for guests. This will be our home for two nights as we immerse ourselves in a unique culture.
  • After dinner tonight we will search for caiman by torchlight.

Overnight: Jaw Jaw Village Guesthouse, Upper Surinam River

Highlights: Maroon culture / School Service Project / Maroon Dancing

  • Today is like turning back the clock in many ways as we view many West African traditions that have not changed in centuries even though the people we meet are the descendants of runaway slaves living on a new continent. There can be no greater testimony to the indomitable human spirit and quest for freedom than this.
  • Students can help prepare a traditional Maroon breakfast this morning before we walk to the nearby school for a rich cultural exchange with Maroon students.
  • During our village visits, we will learn about the important role of women in Maroon culture, discover traditional medicines and foods prepared from the surrounding rainforest, taste fresh cassava bread hot off the grill, view houses that have not changed in over 400 years and be captivated by the delightful children.
  • There’s a good chance that students we met at the school this morning will be following us around when we return to Jaw Jaw Village in the late afternoon. They will teach us how to fly fish in the river, play in the rapids and probably want to braid and bead everyone’s hair.
  • This evening after dinner we will close out our Maroon cultural immersion day with a vibrant drum and dance celebration at our lodge. Any lingering doubts that this is true African culture will be dispelled tonight.

Overnight: Jaw Jaw Village Guesthouse, Upper Suriname River

Highlights: River Trip / Wildlife viewing / Closing Ceremony

  • Today is the last full day of our amazing adventure and time to relax. After a leisurely breakfast and checking out of our lodge, we boat back down river to our waiting mini vans at the nearest road.
  • From here it’s a two-hour drive to Bergendal Lodge, the largest riverside lodge in all of Suriname with five star luxury. It will put students back in the style of comfort they are more used to.
  • We will enjoy a delicious lunch on arrival and have a free afternoon to lounge in the resort’s infinity pool, stroll through the extensive gardens to view agouti, weaverbirds and possibly toucans and macaws, or just chill out on the beautiful riverside deck and watch the setting sun work it’s magic on the landscape.
  • After a sumptuous farewell feast, we will gather on a riverside lounge for a closing candle circle to share some of our favorite memories of a trip that has held us all in its spell.

Overnight: Bergendal Riverside Resort, Lower Suriname River

Departure

  • After enjoying an early breakfast by the riverside, we pack up and drive just 30-minutes to Suriname’s International Airport for home ward connecting flights.
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