When planning a trip into South American jungle, your first idea will probably be Brazil or Peru. Now another country is making a bid for the hearts and minds of rainforest tourists. The former Dutch colony of Suriname, on the northeast coast of South America, is 80 per cent covered in rainforest, with most of its people on the coast and most if its forest delightfully unspoilt.
The country is best explored by boat, and while trips to the interior are often made in dugout canoes, journeys to the coastal districts along major rivers are best made in cruise boats. Giant otters can be spotted on the way, as you journey from riverside village to village.
Where you find rivers, the chances are you’ll also find fishermen, and this is certainly true of Suriname’s 3,000 km of rivers. Anglers should head for the Palumeu resort, where local Amerindians act as guides as well as teaching traditional fishing techniques. Their favourite catches include catfish, tarpon and peacock bass.
Suriname is also being pushed as a destination for keen bird watchers, with over 700 bird species recorded there. Although the rainforest is home to 19 species of parrot, a number of eagles and the country’s most famous bird, the Guianan cock-of-the-rock, bird watchers should also head for the savannah, the coast and the mangrove forests and swamps, where they’ll find further feathered abundance.
Thanks to the time it spent under Dutch control, which brought slaves from Africa, India, Indonesia and China, Suriname is a real mix of cultures, people and religions. Even now, you can see examples of Dutch colonial architecture in the streets of the capital, Paramaribo, beside mosques and synagogues.
Suriname is a true melting pot, and the mix comes into its own at mealtimes, when a choice between Indian, Creole and Chinese cuisines has to be made. The more adventurous travellers can also take advantage of the warungs – food stalls specialising in delicious Javanese fried noodle and rice dishes.