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The original inhabitants of Suriname are the Amerindians (Arawaks) who still live in their own villages today in the interior of this country, previously known as Dutch Guyana the republic was fought over by the British and Dutch in the 17th century and remained a Dutch colony until 1975. Rather quirkily, cars drive on the left hand side just like the UK and Australia though there is no real provable story behind this oddity, it can make care rental a little more challenging for some!
After three hundred years of Dutch governance, it’s not hard to imagine why the only official language of Suriname is Dutch, the local patois is called Sranang. The country has a diverse cultural composition from its rich history and the largest cultural group are Hind formerly from India. Endentured Africans who never left Suriname are known as Maroons and live in vibrant villages around the Brokopondo Reservoir. There are also Javanese (former East India/Indonesia) , Brazilian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and Jewish communities. Each culture holds on to its religion, language, identity and uniqueness which cumulatively makes Suriname one of the most exciting countries in the world to visit. In the capital city Paramaribo, a mosque and synagogue are side by side sharing the same car park, a stark reminder in todays’ unpredictable world, that in Suriname colour, creed and ethnicity are put aside as the Surinamese go about their daily business in harmony with each other.
After a very brief civil war in the 80’s, life has settled down again and the Republic is presided over by it’s president and chief of all the armed forces President Desi Bauterse. The country is doing well by world standards and standards of living are high across the general population compared to many countries in the region.
The relatively small population of just over half a million inhabitants, live mostly in the north of the country near the coast. Apart from the Capital Paramaribo on the coast there are other larger towns, again all in the north. The country is 64,000 square miles (165,000 sq kilometers) - 80% of Suriname is densely covered tropical rainforest and largely uninhabited.
It’s mountains, rivers and rainforest provide abundant tourism opportunities for the adventure seeker and Paramaribo the capital city, is a kaliedescope of colours, cultures, flavours, classic buildings and home to the 2nd largest wooden structure in South America, the elegant St.Peter and Paul Cathedral.
Suriname is 2 – 5 degress north of the equator and temperatures do not vary much throughout the year ranging between 84 and 97 degrees F. There are two wet seasons – April to August and November to February and two dry seasons, August to November and February to April.
The country has done well from bauxite and other mineral reserves – rice, bananas and shrimps are large exports and more recently Gold has played an important economic generator.
Tourism is still an emerging economic generator and visitors mostly come from Holland and French Guyana. American, Canadian and European visitor arrival numbers remain low. What a great chance to come and see us before the rest of the world does!