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Explorations is proud to offer this outstanding exploratory adventure that highlights some of the very best that Suriname has to offer the natural history traveler. Approximately 80% of Suriname is covered by dense tropical rainforest, more than in all of Central America. It is one of the least disturbed and least explored countries on the planet and is host to an abundant diversity of flora and fauna. Species such as blue poison dart frog and the cock-of-the rock have attracted scientists from all over the world. Formerly named Dutch Guyana, Suriname was one of the first countries in South America to establish a nature reserve system. To help us explore this rich natural history, in addition to resident naturalists, your escorts include Gary Michael, Curator of Birds at the Louisville Zoo and travel writer Carolyn Proctor, a former Peace Corp volunteer in Suriname and producer of Wild Birds of Paramaribo and Monkeys of Suriname.
Set in a natural tropical wilderness with a fascinating cultural history, Suriname is a splendid combination of the Caribbean and South America. Influenced by numerous cultures (African, Amerindian, Asian, Jewish and Dutch), it is located 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. The land is 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 tour operators and hotels catering mostly to the Dutch. The bustling capital and port of Paramaribo stands guard over the Suriname River and its striking architecture reminds us of its Dutch colonial past. Setting out to explore the natural beauty of the interior, you encounter the extraordinary natural heritage of Suriname spreading out like a tropical carpet.
Suriname is still sparsely populated with only an estimated 450,000 inhabitants, of which 95% live along the Atlantic Ocean coastal zone. Nearly two-third of all Surinamese live in and around the capital, Paramaribo. Suriname's principal export and source of foreign investment is bauxite, accounting for 70 percent of Suriname's exports an 10 percent of GDP. In the years to come, gold will be the second most important export product. Besides bauxite, Suriname's main source of income is derived from export of rice, bananas and shrimp. Suriname is a member of the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Caribbean Community, the Association of Caribbean States and a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Nations. Dutch is the official language, but English, Hindi, Javanese, Chinese, and Sranang Tongo are widely spoken. The local dialect of Sranang Tongo (Surinamese, sometimes called Taki-Taki) is the native language of Creoles and much of the younger population.
Over the course of three centuries, the Dutch transformed Suriname by means of African slaves and later indentured labor from British India, Indonesia, China, Madeira and Syria into one of the most ethnically complex societies in the world. Suriname is composed of no less than eight distinct groups: East Indians (36%); Creoles (31%); Indonesians, principally Javanese (15%); Maroons (10%); Amerindians (2.5%); Chinese (2%); Burus, descendents from Europeans (1.5%), and others, mainly Sephardic Jews, Syrians and Lebanese. All ethnic groups mentioned have managed to preserve much of their culture and religions. Even after gaining independence from the Netherlands in 1975, Suriname maintains strong ties with the Netherlands. The major reason for this is that approximately 300,000 to 350,000 Dutch from Surinamese origin live in the Netherlands. This is almost the same number of inhabitants Suriname has. The Dutch and Surinamese airlines (KLM and SLM), with three always fully-booked (747) flights a week, are the major reason for the preservation of family ties.
Since Suriname gained self-rule in 1948 and until 1996 ethnicity has been the defining element of Surinamese politics. Political parties were organized on an ethnic basis and group interests prevailed over national interests. The major parties in Suriname politics were top-down, elite controlled organizations whose leaders provided for their constituencies through patronage, nepotism and the dispensation of favors through the party hierarchy. Racial outburst never took place, since parties always agreed to share power. Governments were always multi-ethnic and multiparty elite cartels. After the 1996 elections the leaders of the traditional coalition parties failed in their attempts to make alliances with smaller parties, in order to achieve a parliamentary majority. This paved the way for the nontraditional parties to come to power in a coalition that included defectors from the traditional parties. A narrow majority of the People Assembly chose Drs. J. A. Wijdenbosch as the nation's president. The president inherited great economic and social problems, and the heightened expectations of the poor, the young, and the jungle dwellers that supported his party in the 1996 elections. Elected in 2000, the current president Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan continues the country's history of democracy.
Day 1, Monday, October 11th: USA - Paramaribo
Reception upon arrival in Paramaribo and transfer to the Eco-Resort Inn, a unique hotel with peaceful surroundings on the Suriname river. The Eco-Resort Inn, a former plantation house, has 72 comfortable rooms, with air conditioning, mini bar and cable TV, riverview terrace, garden, meeting room, food & beverage service, laundry service, and hotel shop. All facilities of the adjacent Hotel Torarica, such as swimming pool with large terrace, sauna, jacuzzi, tennis courts, volleyball field, fitness room, health bar, aerobics center, can be used free of charge.
Day 2: Paramaribo - Brownsberg Nature Park
Half a day tour of the bustling port capital city of Paramaribo and visit to the Paramaribo Zoo. With time permitting, also visits to the Fort Zeelandia museum, and the Palm Gardens. Then transfer by bus (2 - 3 hours) to Brownsburg Nature Park, situated 90 miles south. The park headquarters and tourist bungalow/lodges are situated on the cool, 1500 ft. high Mazaroni Plateau. At several places on the plateau are beautiful views over the Brokopondo Reservoir. Trails lead to creeks, waterfalls and lookouts, giving spectacular panoramic views of the rainforest interior. Except for the park staff, there is no permanent habitation in the park itself. Brownsberg is known for its rich flora, fauna and birdlife. Overnight in bungalows located on the plateau, overlooking the man-made reservoir Van Blommenstein Stumeer. (B/L/D)
Day 3: Brownsberg Nature Park - Paramaribo
A day to hike the reserve. Brownsberg is a paradise for birdwatchers. Of the 650 birds known in Suriname, more than 200 can be found here. Some of the birds are rarely seen because they live high in the forest canopy, although their songs and whistling are heard regularly. Irenevallen, a 10m high waterfall is about an hour's walk from park headquarters. It is wonderful to stand under this natural shower. Witikreek is a secluded rushing stream at the foot of the Brownsberg Plateau. You can walk to it in about a two-hour downhill hike. Once there you can swim, nap in a hammock, and have a picnic. In the afternoon, we return to Paramaribo and overnight at the Eco-Resort Inn. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Raleighvallen Nature Reserve
This nature reserve, situated along the Coppename River has an area of 193,000 acres and is a gateway to the Central Suriname Nature Reserve. We travel there by private charter airplane (less than an hour). The reserve headquarters and the tourist lodges are located on Fungu Island in the middle of the Coppename River, where you will stay for the next 3 nights at the TAMANUA / GONINI / LOLOPASI eco-lodges. (Note: The accommodations may be bunk style.) After arrival, you may visit the Manarivallen, where you can take a refreshing bath. After dinner, the guide informs you about the Central Suriname Nature Reserve and the maroon culture. The days here are filled with jungle hikes, mountain hikes, bird watching and boating trips.
On Fungu Island you can go swimming in the cool waters of the Coppename River, take short hikes on the island and in the late afternoon do some bird watching. In the surrounding area of the island there are several waterfalls which can be enjoyed. In the late afternoon you can take boat rides around the island which offers sightings of different bird species and of course the serene, untouched tropical rainforest. (B/L/D)
Day 5: Raleighvallen
All day for exploring. Raleighvallen (Raleigh Falls), an extensive set of rapids near Fungu Island. The reserve is internationally known as a bird and monkey paradise. Raleighvallen hosts all the eight monkey species of Suriname, including the Red Howler and the Black Spider Monkey. You may also see toucans, macaws and parrots and many of the 400 other species. Hanging from the tree branches on and around Fungu Island you'll notice the nearly meter long, pendulum-shaped nests of the weaver birds (oropendulas) which are large, colonial nesting birds with yellow outer feathers.
Another interesting feature is the Voltzberg which rises about 375 ft. above the forest canopy. This granite sugarloaf mountain can be reached on foot in about three hours by jungle trail from Fungu Island. The surrounding slopes and granite plateaus are veritable natural rock gardens of rare orchids, cacti and bromeliads. The reserve is also the home of the spectacular and rare cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola). There is also the possibility of encountering deer, tortoises, tinamous, and several species of monkey on the 7 km (one-way) hike to the mountain. The trail is good but the damp climate of the rainforest, and the steep climb up the Volzberg, make it a strenuous trip, especially for the out-of-shape hiker.
A typical excursion may be: Early in the morning, you depart equipped with a lunchbox and flask, to the Voltzberg. The hike takes about 3 hours. Along the way, you can enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna. Rest in the base camp at the foot of the mountain. The trip continues with climbing the top of the mountain, from where you have a magnificent view over the forest canopy. After lunch you hike back to the riverside where you can take a relaxing bath in the Anjumaravallen. Dinner is served in the lodge. (B/L/D)
Day 6: Raleighvallen
All day for exploring and relaxing. A typical day may be: In the morning, you take an educational hike to the Moedervallen for swimming at the Lolopasi beach. In the afternoon, you hike around Fungu island with the guides teaching you more about the flora and fauna. Those that desire may even want to bring fishing equipment. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Raleighvallen - Paramaribo
Free time in the early morning to explore, relax or swim. Late morning, the return flight departs to Paramaribo. The bus transports you back from the Zorg & Hoop airfield to the Eco-Resort Inn for the overnight. If time permits, you can explore the city and visit the RediTex native arts and crafts gallery. (B) Note that lunch and dinner is not included this day to provide more personal choices.
Day 8: Paramaribo - Commewijne Plantation
On this day tour, you travel along the Commewijne river with its various old Dutch colonial plantations. You may visit the Nieuw Amsterdam museum; Marienburg, the oldest sugarcane plantation in Suriname; Rust en Werk; the Thilapia fishery and Agricultural projects in Alkmaar, Katwijk and surroundings. You may watch fishermen in the area pull in their shrimping nets and visit the fish-smokery. The region has important sand beaches for nesting sea turtles, including the Giant Leatherback. Mudflats, lagoons and other types of wetlands make the Suriname coast an internationally significant breeding area for waterfowl. Herons, the Scarlet Ibis, and even such North American migrating waterbirds as the endangered Knot, use this part of the Suriname coast as their staging and overwintering area. A farewell dinner is planned for the evening. (B/L/D)
Day 9, Tuesday, October 19th: Paramaribo - USA
Transfer from the Eco-Resort to the Pengel international airport at Zanderij for return flight. The drive from Paramaribo to Zanderij takes about an hour. (B)
Brownsberg Nature Park
Owned by the Foundation for Nature Conservation in Suriname (Stinasu) on a long-term lease, the park lies west of the Brokopondo Reservoir. In 1969, STINASU obtained part of the Brownsberg Plateau to manage as a nature park. Due to the rich ecosystems and accessibility, this Nature Park has served as a center for nature education, public awareness, and for nature tourism, since establishment in 1969.
More than 1,450 plant specimens have been collected in this park with 183 identified as rare. Of the fish fauna, Corydoras punctatus is only known from the Suriname River Basin and therefore endemic to Suriname. Many zoologists have also worked in the park because of the monkey species. Surrounded by a pristine rainforest, the park headquarters, lodges and bungalows are situated on the cool 1500 ft. high Mazaroni plateau, overlooking Brokopondo Reservoir. Trails lead to creeks, waterfalls and to lookouts giving panoramic views of the interior. Chance sightings of deer, agoutis, peccaries and tairas and a rich bird population including the large grey-winged trumpeter, the black curassow make this a rewarding trip.
Central Suriname Nature Reserve, Raleighvallen / Voltzberg
Raleighvallen lies along the Coppename River, in the center of the country. It was established in 1961 and enlarged in 1986, making it the "gateway" to the Central Suriname Nature Reserve, a 149,000 acre Nature Reserve, established in 1998.
The vegetation on granite outcroppings (inselbergs) in this reserve, notably the impressive 240m high, dome-shaped Voltzberg and the 360m high Van Stockemberg, is unique. These inselbergs have a rare ecosystem, called "muri-muri" (rock-savanna). Five endemic plant species occur on the granite dome Voltzberg, and two in the forest of the reserve. Due to the presence of several very different ecosystems in this reserve, the plant diversity is high. Nearly 1,000 Pteridophyta and Spermatophyta have been collected. Sixty plant species turned out to be rare. This reserve is an excellent area for nature tourism because of the accessibility, the natural beauty of the Coppename River, the variety of ecosystems and the abundance of birds. Scientific research has been intensive in the recent past, especially on larger animals, (caimans, Cock-of-the-Rock, Monkeys).
Raleighvallen is also home to every primate species specific to Suriname. They include the Black Saki, Pale-headed Saki, Red Howler Monkey, Brown Capuchin, Squirrel Monkey, Black Spider Monkey, Weeper Capuchin and Red Handed Tamarin. Because of its rich birdlife, Fungu Island is known to birdwatchers as "the biggest bird bonanza of South America...."
One of the main features of the Raleighvallen complex is the Voltzberg. From its summit there is a magnificent 360 degree vista of the surrounding forest canopy, and of hills rarely visited deeper in the interior, home to the spectacular and rare Cock-of-the-Rock.
$2195 in Double Occupancy, "Land Only", starting and ending in Paramaribo, Suriname.
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