Suriname and French Guiana: Where Few Have Traveled
By Elle Rahilly
Instead of Spain, why not Suriname for your next vacation?
While most travelers love the thrill of an adventure, few have time for the planning and research it requires. And as if braving a flight across the Atlantic isn’t daring enough, it takes serious kahunas to leap into unchartered territories like the deserts of Central Asia or dense rainforests along the Equator.
Luckily, Great Canadian Travel provides guidance and security for ambitious adventurists. Founder Max Johnson considers those at the company “travel architects”, providing thrilling and safe opportunities to clients, with connections to many hotels and companies like Aeroplan, and knowledge acquired through first-hand travel experiences.
Today the staff of 30 provides access to exclusive locations and activities in over 150 countries, like expedition cruises across the Arctic Circle, and luxury railroad travel from Russia to Polynesia.
“De Wilde Kust”
Most recently, the company has launched its first South American tour, the “Surinam and French Guyana Tour”, that takes travelers along the northeast edge of the continent, titled “de Wilde Kust”, or “Wild Coast”. This is one of the world’s least traveled places…with vast state-sized areas with no people.
Great Canadian Travel offers a 12-day independent tour of the resplendent region, where rapid rivers flow, rainforests packed with rare species waiting to be explored, and cities along the coastline are built on stilts atop dense swamplands.
During their stay in Suriname and French Guiana travelers can sample a blend of Dutch, African and Asian cultural influences while viewing some of the last remains of colonialism like the penal colony on Devil’s Island.
Central Paramaribo, Suriname.Cities Built on Colonial Stilts
Landing in the capital city Paramaribo, Suriname, travelers are instantly exposed to the influence of Dutch colonialism, evident through the historic inner city that was distinguished as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. There travelers stay at the quaint Eco Resort right in the town’s center, and are taken on a half-day tour of the city.
After three days in Paramaribo, the tour leads travelers through picturesque villages and two nature reserves with sea turtle nesting sites across the northeast of Suriname to the border town of Albina on the Maroni River. Upon crossing the river travelers will find themselves in the French commune St. Laurent du Maroni for two nights, staying at the Hotel Tentiere. Guests have the rare opportunity to visit several buildings of what used to be the administrative center of the French penal system, including prison camps, government offices, and the old penal transportation center.
Travelers can experience a mixture of indigenous and colonial towns by heading east, past the traditional town of Iracoubo, into Kourou, where the European Space Program Center is located.
Halfway through the tour travelers will spend two nights in Cayenne, the capital city of French Guiana. There guests on the tour have a full day to explore, and can stroll the commercial “Avenue Général de Gaulle” along the coastline while discovering the official buildings and many restaurants along the way.
Touring the Untamed
While the 12-day tour is structured as independent travel for guests, Great Canadian Travel provides four smaller guided tours.
On the second day in Paramaribo travelers are brought on a half-day tour around the city, taking in the rich history of the Dutch colonial trading post of 17th and 18th centuries. The city is eclectic in climate and populace, filled with canals, plantations, and about 20 different languages spoken.
The following day travelers embark on a full-day tour to the villages of maroons (retribalized escaped slaves of the 17th century), and Brownsberg Nature Reserve, submerged within a Surinamese rainforest just outside the capital city. There they can witness beautiful waterfalls, an array of bird species, and even catch a Red Howler Monkey swinging tree to tree.
Four days later the company will provide a tour by catamaran around the Iles du Salut: Royale, St. Joseph and Devil’s Island. At the last island, travelers are able to venture through the prison facilities of the distant colony where thousands of convicts were imprisoned, now both a museum and hotel.
On the ninth day, travelers depart from Cayenne to Camp Cisame, an eco-lodge accessible only by “pirogue” (a canoe common to the region). There guests can enjoy the tropical atmosphere of the rain forest either by taking a journey into the wild, or simply lying back in a cozy hammock for the evening. Meals are provided for guests during their two-day stay, and travelers can spend the following day relishing in the sweet escape from reality at the eco-lodge, returning to Cayenne just in time for a night on the town.
Travel Tools at Your Fingertips
In lieu of independent travel on the tour, Great Canadian Travel provides for each guest modes of transportation to get around Suriname and French Guiana both efficiently and in style. Each traveler is given an economy car allotted 125 miles per day, and flights between Cayenne and Paramaribo are included. With all travel taken care of, guests have one less worry distracting them from marveling in their new surroundings.
For $2,375 the Great Canadian Tour Company takes care of accommodations and a few meals, provides the tools for successful transportation, and offers three guided excursions to complement each client’s independent travel.
Also included in the $2,375 package (based on double occupancy), along with the tours, meals at Camp Cisame, rental car and airfare within the region, is lodging.
Travelers are provided with accommodations for all 11 nights of the tour, with 10 nights spent in traditional hotels and one night spent on a hammock at the scenic Camp Cisame. With each traveler’s preferences in mind, the Great Canadian Travel offers hotel upgrades in the capital cities Paramaribo (for $185) and Cayenne (upon request).
Guests on the tour are expected to purchase their own gas, personal belongings and meals (other than those provided at Camp Cisame).
Booking the Tour
Travelers can reserve a spot on the Suriname and French Guiana Tour by booking either on Great Canadian Travel’s website or by a toll-free phone call with a travel specialist at (800) 661-3830.
This trip departs on Mondays and Fridays. It operates year-round, but be aware of the drastic climate change in the region during the rainy months of January, February, and April.
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