Situated on the north-east coast of South America between French Guiana and Guyana and north of Brazil lays Suriname. Formerly it was called Dutch Guyana. The name was derived from the Amerindian word Guyana that means ‘land of many streams’.
The 164,000km2 country is a part of the larger Amazon region. The landscape comprises untouched and dense tropical forests, alternated by rapidly flowing freshwater rivers with breath taking rapids and waterfalls. The seemingly dried out brown and white sand savannas are the epitome of biological diversity. Above the almost impenetrable mountainous highlands stands the 1280m Juliana peak on top of the Wilhemina Mountain.
Near the border of Brazil, hidden in the forest, the mysterious Werephia petro glyphs give a detailed account of the history and life of the Amerindians, the first inhabitants of Suriname.
Suriname was a colony of Portugal, Spain, France, England and Holland. The melting pot Suriname is now an independent republic. The remnants of their presence are mainly seen in the capital Paramaribo. The historic wooden or red brick buildings, and street and neighborhood names, still display some details of every recorded period in our history. No wonder that the center of Paramaribo has a prominent place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Amidst this unparalleled natural and historic display, live approximately 500,000 people of almost every nation on earth. Most of them live in the coastal area that stretches almost 400km along the Atlantic Ocean. The ethnic diversity is the cultural phenomenon of this society. During the ‘old year’s celebration’ a very large street party on December 31st, that is now an acclaimed international festivity, differences are set aside, and all are just Surinamers.
The Surinamese cuisine is as diverse as its people. Indian, African, Indonesian and European dishes are just some of the choices one needs to make while visiting a restaurant. And yes of course, American and fast food and Dutch french-fries with mayonnaise are also present. Food is indeed a very important part of Suriname.
Dance to the swinging beats of Surinamese, Caribbean, Latin-American and European music.
So come to Suriname, because it is not just a place to see, but to experience.
Suriname – landscape
For the nature lover Suriname with its dense forests and fast flowing rivers is the place to be. Suriname is a part of the wider Amazon region and that means an exceptionally high biodiversity. If you are on a Blue Wings Airlines flight, it will seem as if you are flying over broccoli. But underneath that green cover is a vibrant nature. Suriname is divided in the young coastal plain, the old coastal plain and southwards, the hills and highlands with mountains.
The hours of traveling on laterite roads, boats or flying with Blue Wing Airlines, only cause nature to captivate you more. Once the noise of the engines has stopped, you can hear in the silence of the Surinamese nature many impressive sounds from all kinds of animals.
The young coastal plain is leveled and has highly fertile soil due to the perpetual mud deposits brought by the Guyana current that commences in the Amazon River in Brazil. Therefore most plantations were established in this area, during the colonial period. Nowadays many crops are still cultivated, not on plantations, but on privately owned horticultural and agricultural land. Rice, bananas, vegetables, fruits and cut flowers are just a small reflection of the many crops.
Due to urbanization in this area, much of the fertile agricultural soil is converted into prime real estate and infrastructure. This is needed for the development of people in Suriname.
The levels of old coastal plain are graced with small hills. White and brown sand savannas are prime locations for recreation and economic activities. Popular recreation spots are Colakreek and Zanderij 1. Drinking water supply for the districts Para, Wanica and Paramaribo comes from savannas of this region.
Hunting and fishing are good in the hilly landscapes, but only with a valid permit from the Nature Conservation Division in Suriname. Primary and secondary forests as well and freshwater creeks offer the perfect setting for an adventure or relaxation.
The Voltzberg and Kasikasima Mountains are two of the granite outcrops that the amateur or professional mountain climber must visit. The bird watcher and tourist alike will enjoy the mating dance of the cock of the rock (Rupicola rupicola), if you can sit still for a while. From there on you make a steep climb to the top of the Voltzberg. There you overlook kilometers of green mass.
Standing on the 500m high plateau of the Kasikasima the high speed wind cools you down after hours of climbing of narrow winding mountain passes. In the distance you see the enormous peaks of the Tumuchumac Mountains the southern border with Brazil.
Fortunately Suriname is spared from violent volcanoes, uncontrolled tornados or extreme droughts. Well there is the rainy season that brings out the child in most of us. We play in the rain. Why, because we do not get sick from the rain in Suriname.
For the outdoor enthusiast is Suriname is the ideal back drop.
People – Multicutural
Everyone feels at home in the Surinamese melting pot. One of the lines of our anthem says: ‘regardless of how we came here, we are committed to this land’, and it sets the tone for our society. The Amerindians were the first inhabitants the European conquerors met as they set their feet ashore. From time forward integration started. Spanish and Portuguese family names testify to this.
The Dutch farmers first settled in 1845. However enthusiastic they were, many died and eventually the Dutch government declared the initial attempt to settle a failure. A part of the farmers returned to Holland. A small portion remained and settled in southwest Paramaribo on land that the government granted them. The group expanded and in time had success in all kinds of businesses. The various street names, neighborhoods and the monument to commemorate their settlement in Saramacca, remind us of those times.
However bad slavery was, it was also the cause for the coming of Africans to Suriname. While enduring hardship and torment they had to produce for the European rulers. A significant number of slaves fled to the forests and lived there as free people. They, the Maroons, preserved their culture and languages, while integrating back into mainstream society in the last century.
After the abolition of slavery in July 1863, the freed people were ordered to work on the plantations for 10 more years for minimum wages. The government sanctioned punishments were no longer allowed. After this period they left the plantations and went to Paramaribo in search of a better life. They settled in a range of neighborhoods and sent their children to school. In Creola the street names give a synopsis of some of the families of those days. Through studies many have been able to and still play a leading role in Suriname.
In 1873 the first boat, the Lallaroohk, came to Suriname with immigrants from India. The indentured laborers had to work on plantations in Saramacca. At the turn of the 20th century their children were allowed access to elementary schools. Fuelled by their desire for development they emerged from their humble beginnings and succeeded in life in this country. Now they are a leading group in a range of economic sectors in Suriname.
The first Javanese set foot ashore in Suriname on august 9th 1890, after a long and arduous travel from Indonesia. As their predecessors, life on the plantations in Commewijne was hard. Minimum pay was their only consolation. After their contracts ended some chose to go back to Indonesia, while others remained. The urge for progress drove them to integrate and full fill leading positions at all levels in Suriname.
The date was October 20th the year 1853, when the first group of 14 Chinese laborers arrived in Suriname. After a year of work on the sugar estates of Catharina Sophia in Saramacca, only three were convinced by the government to stay and work as interpreters. In the years that followed many more came and established themselves as retailers. These small shops are now traded for large supermarkets. The immigration of Chinese to this tropical country is an on-going process even up to this day.
The population comprises many more such Lebanese, Jews, Germans, Brazilians, and others, all with their cultures and languages. Dutch is the official language, but Sranan Tongo (Surinamese) is the national language that binds us all.
There is a clear diversity of cultures, and national holidays that come forth out of that. These days are widely celebrated.
And that is our Surinamese culture.
Suriname is a part of the Guianas. The Guianas are estimated to possess between 7,000 and 10,000 species of flowering plants of which over 40% are endemic. The region’s diverse habitats are home to more than 700 species of birds, 190 species of mammals, 150 species of reptiles, 100 species of amphibians and 300 species of freshwater fishes. These include the giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), the largest freshwater fish in South America, the arapaima (Arapaima gigas), the largest crocodilian in the New World, the endangered black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), manatee (Trichechus manatus), the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the tapir (Tapirus terrestris) referred to locally as “bush cow”.
Among the mammal species found in the region, several are listed as Vulnerable under IUCN criteria. Furthermore, four of the seven sea turtles species included on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals nest on the region’s beaches, and forage in its jurisdictional waters. They are the giant leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), green (Chelonia mydas), olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata).