Explore Guyana, French Guiana & Suriname
This is some adventure! We will explore the remote and unusual countries of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana which have a character quite different to much of South America.
There is so much to enjoy on this adventure; Kaieteur Falls, the highest single-drop waterfall in the world, the chance of seeing rare animals such as the jaguar, giant anteater, giant river otter, tapir etc, and experience the living cultures of Amerindian and Maroon communities. We will visit the Space Centre in French Guiana and also make a deep dive into the story of Papillion on Devils Island. This really is a unique region within South America.
Day 1 – Arrival in Paramaribo, Suriname
When you arrive in Suriname we will meet you at the airport and drive you to your hotel in Paramaribo. Your hotel will be a short stroll from the historic district, bordering the Suriname River. From this base you can explore a little of the city at your leisure, taking in some sights, and trying the local cuisine. We will leave you free today to relax and recover from your long flight. If you do have something specific you would like to do or visit then let us know, or just ask at the hotel reception. We will leave you with your instructions for pickup tomorrow.
Note: You will be coming back to this hotel for one night after your jungle adventure so you don’t have to take all of your luggage with you, only what you will need.
Day 2 – Paramaribo to the Danpaati River Lodge
After breakfast, we will pick you up at your hotel for the 190 km drive out into the countryside, which will take around two and a half hours until we reach the village of Atjoni. Here the road ends and we board a motorized canoe in order to navigate upstream along the upper Suriname River, famous for its impressive rapids, to the Danpaati River Lodge.
The Danpaati River Lodge has that middle-of-nowhere feeling that is a true treat in today’s hectic world. It is a green oasis in the heart of the forest featuring breezy (thankfully!) common areas facing the river, a large pool surrounded by a yoga deck, and easy access to one of the few sections of the Suriname River where it is safe to swim. Well-appointed, A-frame style cabins await you, with amenities including fresh coffee service in the mornings and lovely views of the jungle surrounding the lodge. A late afternoon cruise along the river will be enjoyed, we will look out for Caiman lounging on the river banks but who knows what else we might spot. Your time at the lodge is full board, so no chance of going hungry, but rest assured that Caiman is not on the menu!
Day 3 – Living Culture Deep in the Jungle
Today we will visit one of the traditional villages in the area and enjoy a guided tour through the village streets and be introduced to age-old traditions brought from Africa that are still being practised today. This will include a visit to a Maroon museum which is dedicated to the cultural heritage of the Saramaka Maroon people. Pikin Slee, where the museum is located is found some 30 minutes downstream by boat from Danpaati and at the museum, you will learn a great deal about the Maroon people and their history, ancient traditions and crafts. After this experience, we return to the lodge for lunch.
In the afternoon, we will discover some of the secrets of the rainforest during a walk through the dense vegetation. Afterwards, you might wish to relax and snooze, or enjoy a massage done in a combination of traditional and Western techniques. Further exploration of the surrounding natural beauty are open to you of course; fishing or taking the dugout canoe around the island are two of the options. After dinner you may enjoy a traditional dance performance such as the Seketi, Awasa and Bandamba. These dances will be performed by local villagers and your guide will explain the cultural significance of each.
Day 4 – Back Downriver to Paramaribo.
After breakfast this morning you will have a little free time to soak in the rainforest before we head off back to “civilization”. It will be the reverse of the journey to get here, but the boats will move more quickly as we are going with the current this time. From the Atjoni road-head, we will continue our journey back to Paramaribo by van with some rest stops along the way and finding somewhere to have a bite to eat. We will deliver you back to your hotel with instructions for the following day and you can enjoy some down-time wandering and having a drink or two.
Option for today – Sunset Dolphin Cruise
The pier at Nieuw Amsterdam is where you will join the Sunset Dolphin tour. Enjoy a drink, the very welcome cool breezes and river views while the captain searches the horizon for signs of the dolphins. More often than not you will see them swim nearby in groups of up to 20 and if we are lucky they will swim very close to the boat. We will then stop along the Commewijne River at the former plantation of Johan and Margaretha where we will enjoy some freshly made local snacks like barra, baka bana or eggroll while we watch the sun disappear below the horizon. Then it’s back on board for drinks and the short navigation back to Leonsberg dock and the transfer back to your hotel.
Day 5 – Paramaribo to Kourou, French Guiana
We will make an early start today as we have an interesting overland journey in several stages and a border crossing. The first leg of our journey has us driving eastbound along Suriname’s coastal road, some 2 hours drive and 150km to the Albina border station. The formalities and passport control rarely take more than a few minutes (unlike lots of other South American crossings), and soon we will be boarding the small motorized boats that ferry people the short distance across the Maroni River.
Our local guide will be on waiting on the other side to help us navigate the usual customs and immigration formalities. Guyane Francaise is a Department of France, so technically you have entered the EU. Evidence of this connection to the “1st world” is immediately evident as every car seems to be a late-model Mercedes, Volkswagen or Peugeot, the roads are in near perfect condition, espresso coffee is on tap nearly everywhere, and the Euro is the currency.
Our land adventure will then continue for around two hours into French Guiana until we reach the Center Spatiale Guyanaise (Guyana Space Center) for a tour. Launch schedules from this base are very closely guarded secrets so our tour today could be altered on short notice. We will be driven around this huge facility enjoying stops at various points of interest including the assembly buildings, launch pads and control centres. After the tour, we will arrive at our hotel in nearby Kourou for a well-earned shower and some downtime.
Day 6 – Devil´s Island and Cayenne
About 10 km off the coast of Kourou is a triangle of islands including Devil´s Island which was made famous (or maybe infamous) by the book and movie made about Henri Charriere, aka Papillon. Today we will spend time exploring these islands and learning about their convoluted and dark histories. These islands have played a role in French history from as far back as 1792 when they were first used as a transit point for explorers, then a penal colony for political prisoners and general convicts.
Île Saint-Joseph was once known as the silent island as convicts were forbidden from speaking. Papillion is said to have spent two years in solitary confinement on this island which had the nickname ‘man eater’. Île Royale has the oldest buildings featuring an old church, administration buildings, officers’ quarters, and more recent additions of a good restaurant, café and lodging facilities. The actual Île du Diable (Devil’s Island) is inaccessible to visitors due to dangerous shoreline conditions. After a day spent out on the islands we will return to the Catamaran for the trip back to Kourou and a transfer with your luggage to Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana.
Day 7 – Return overland to Paramaribo
We will retrace our steps to the capital of Suriname today, but with some extra stops at points of interest. The first is a brief stop in St Joseph’s church, in Iracoubo. The entire interior of this church was hand-painted by one of the convicts from a nearby penal colony. When we arrive in St. Laurent will we enjoy a mini-city tour of St. Laurent du Maroni, to give the town its full name. We will visit the well-preserved Transportation Centre that once functioned to process convicts entering the various penal colonies in French Guiana.
From the mid 18th century many convicts were transported to French Guiana to serve their various convictions. After they had done so they had to double the amount of sentence time as residents in the colony, as a way of increasing the French population there. One of the most famous convicts in this facility was Papillion, whose initials can be seen carved in one of the cells. After crossing the border and arriving back in Paramaribo we will leave you at your hotel with instructions for tomorrow.
Day 8 – Flight to Georgetown, Guyana
We will pick you up from your hotel in Paramaribo and transfer you to the local airport Zorg-en-Hoop airport for the 45-minute flight to Guyana. We will be waiting for you at the Eugene F. Correia International Airport to take you to your hotel in Georgetown where you can drop off your luggage.
Our first visit today will be with our host, guide and culinary master, Chef Delven Adams as he guides us around Bourda Market, the largest of the produce markets in Georgetown. We will visit the fish market, the butcher’s area and the haberdashery section to see the wide range of things locals buy and how they buy them. A stop at the bush medicine stalls is always educational. The chef will make his purchases and then head home to start preparing for us while we continue on a tour of the historic and notable buildings in the city.
After our city tour, we will go to the Backyard Café for lunch. This, as the name suggests, is a backyard that Chef Delven has turned into a little gem of a restaurant. If you like, Chef will invite you to join him as he prepares a tasty meal prepared from the things we bought in the market earlier. We can then navigate our way through the courses of traditional food.
After lunch, we can stroll the Botanical Gardens to work off some of our lunch. This lovely place is home to an extensive collection of tropical flora, and the Zoo has become a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre that houses over one hundred different species of tropical wildlife. We will then take a drive through the heart of the city to the Stabroek Market area. Here you will join the afternoon commuters using the old ferry stelling to board the river taxis which are used to cross the Demerara River.
As you slowly cruise along the bank of the Demerara River your guide will give you a brief history of the famous buildings along the waterfront. As the sun sets over the river we will have a cold drink and snacks or cutters as we call them here in Guyana while we enjoy flocks of brilliant Scarlet Ibis and three kinds of Egrets as they fly across the sky and settle into the Mangroves for the evening. Then it’s back to your hotel.
Day 9 – Kaieteur Falls and Georgetown
Note: Flight schedules can change due to passenger demand and weather conditions, so this day is left flexible and we have the chance to fit it around the rest of your schedule if something changes at short notice.
You will be picked up and taken to the airport at a time to match the schedule that day for the one-hour flight to the landing strip at Kaieteur Falls. The views of the rainforest during the journey are stunning. Kaieteur, which was first seen by a European on April 29, 1870, has a drop of 741 feet or 5 times the height of Niagara Falls.
You will have two hours at the falls and a local guide will show you the best viewpoints. There will be very few people at the falls as numbers are carefully controlled. Kaieteur supports a unique ecosystem with Tank Bromeliads, the largest in the world, in which the tiny Golden frog spends its entire life and the rarely seen Guiana Cock-of-the-rock nesting close by. After exhausting your camera battery its back onto the plane for the trip back to Georgetown and your hotel.
Day 10 – Iwokrama River Lodge and Atta Rainforest Lodge
It is an early pickup today for your 80-minute flight over 200 km of tropical rainforest to land at Fair View Airstrip which is literally in the middle of nowhere. We will take you to the Iwokrama River Lodge a short distance away to enjoy a hike to Turtle mountain, birdwatching and mammal spotting along the way. A more leisurely activity to Stanley Lake can also be chosen for the otters and caiman found there.
We will have lunch at the lodge before jumping in the trucks and driving south, this is one of the best places to see the elusive Jaguar. No promises, but many have been lucky! This road is the only north-south access in Guyana and links the country to Brazil. Other wildlife is often seen along the road, such as Agouti, Tayra, Tapir and Black Curassow.
The Iwokrama canopy walkway is our next stop, situated near the southern boundary of the Iwokrama Reserve. The walkway has four suspension bridges leading to three platforms, the highest of which is over 30 metres above the ground, and these allow great looks at a range of canopy species, many of which you would struggle to see well from the forest floor.
We will be sleeping at the Atta Rainforest Lodge, which is found 500 metres from the base of the Canopy Walkway. Private rooms await us with ensuite bathrooms, home-cooked meals, and traditional Amerindian hospitality. The main building is open-sided with views across the gardens to the towering forest on all sides and houses the bar, dining area and kitchen. While at jungle lodges you will enjoy full-board.
Day 11 – From Atta Rainforest Lodge to Surama Eco-Lodge
Before dawn, we climb into the canopy again for the dawn chorus and you can sometimes see Red Howler and Black Spider Monkeys at this time. Then it’s back to the lodge for breakfast.
Through the rainforest we go, heading into Iwokrama Forest. Here there is a comparatively short trail to hopefully see the amazingly brilliant Guianan Cock-of-the-rock. This trail winds through pristine rainforest and your guides will explain how the local plants are used in traditional medicine. We will then continue the journey to the community of Surama. The Amerindian community of Surama is located in the heart of Guyana. The village is set in five square miles of savannah which is ringed by the forest-covered Pakaraima Mountains. Surama’s inhabitants are mainly from the Macushi tribe and still observe many of the traditional practices of their ancestors. The Surama Eco-Lodge is owned and operated by the community.
Upon arrival, you will receive a warm welcome and settle into your rooms at the lodge. A guide will take you for a short walk on trails to observe the local forest and birdlife. As the afternoon cools off your guide will take you on a tour of the village to see the local school, medical centre and church along with some of the village houses. There will be an educational walk tonight to see nocturnal wildlife and experience the buzz of the forest after dark. Make sure to bring your flashlight!
Day 12 – Activities at the Surama Eco-Lodge
We are getting up very early again to beat the heat and enjoy a hike across the savannah, then a climb up Surama Mountain for amazing views back across the village and savannah towards the Pakaraima Mountains. This is not a technical climb but can be arduous, especially after rain, and not for everyone. Your guides will happily offer alternative activities if you prefer not to do this climb.
Today we are describing some examples of active pursuits you could choose while at Surama, if you wish to decompress and just take it easy, no problem – enjoy the downtime.
After having lunch at the lodge to refuel we will make a 90-minute hike across the savannah and through the rainforest to the Burro Burro River. Your guides will then paddle you on canoes along the Burro Burro River so we can hopefully spot Giant River Otters, Tapir, Tayra, Spider Monkeys and more species. Then it’s back to the lodge for sunset and a well-earned rest.
Day 13 – Say goodbye to the Jungle and hello to Georgetown
You will have a little time this morning before we have to leave, so maybe take an early last stroll in the forest, you never know what you might see. Then it’s a reverse of the arrival journey, back along the remote dirt roads to the airstrip and a flight in a light aircraft to Georgetown, which will now feel like a metropolis! You will have the rest of the day at your leisure to wander, eat, drink and buy some souvenirs maybe?
Day 14 – Travel home or extend in South America?
There are direct flights to Panama from Georgetown so connecting with other Latin American destinations is quite easy. Panama in itself is a great destination or use it as a hub to change your environment completely with a compact trip to Machu Picchu, Peru or Patagonia in Argentina or Chile? Just let us know what you are interested in and we can deal with the logistics.