Suriname – Never heard of it?
You’re not alone. The northwest corner of South America is the continent’s least-explored territory, a fact you’ll confront head-on when your concerned friends start asking about that trip to Africa you’re planning. The good news for the adventurous and curious traveller is that the “Wild Coast” is actually hiding – in plain sight – a treasure trove of cultural gems and vast tracts of unspoiled nature, all of which are readily accessible with a minimum of risk or hassle.
Suriname – formerly Dutch Guiana – is located on the Caribbean coast of South America between Guyana and French Guiana. It is a heavily forested country covered by large areas of biological diversity. Most of Suriname’s small population speaks Dutch and lives in the coastal area in and around the capital city. Suriname’s interior forest is occupied by very small populations of Amerindians and descendants of African slaves – the Maroons – who live scattered along its major rivers.
Paramaribo is a UNESCO World Heritage City recognized as an exceptional example of European architecture fused with indigenous South American influences. Indeed, the adventure traveller setting foot in Suriname is immediately delighted by countless fine (and occasionally crumbling) examples of that tropical Dutch colonial architecture, not to mention the spectacle of a Hindu temple, a Jewish snyogogue, a Christian church, and an ornate mosque sitting immediately adjacent to each other in the city centre. Set several days aside to explore various 17th century fortresses and colonial relics that surround “Parbo”, including Nieuw Amsterdam , Fort Zeelandia, and one of the Western Hemisphere’s first Jewish settlements, Jodensavanne.
Suriname distinguishes itself from its equally-nature-dense neighbors with a remarkable blend of cultural influences. Not only can you catch the latest Bollywood feature after an authentic Indonesian feast, Suriname offers an extremely rare opportunity to encounter Saramakan Maroons whose slave ancestors escaped into the jungles in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Although visits to Maroon villages are carefully limited to brief stays for small groups to minimize disruption, you will immediately find yourself transported to an old West Africa that no longer exists, where animist traditions, matrilineal family structures and traditional sustenance agriculture define an isolated, uniquely evolved, and vibrant outpost of the African diaspora.
Quite simply, there is no place on earth like Suriname.