Surinam : approach , formalities and adventures
parts originally written by : Rob Heijmerink and Annemarie Hoorneman on SY Zeezout https://zeezout.waarbenjij.nu , adapted to our own experiences and translated by us and republished in English as we found it extremely helpful, hopefully this will help others as well that are not fluent in Dutch
Approach to Surinam.
When you plan to visit Surinam it is advisable to take the current into consideration. If you crossed the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands or Cape Verdes , as we did , you have the current with you for the entire crossing, but when approaching the South American continent the current changes. Along the coast of French Guyana, Surinam and Guyana there is a flow in the west-northwest direction, which can be up to 2 knots. There is, however, an area between the current on the Atlantic Ocean and the Coastal Current, where the current is opposite and can also be quite strong. This counterflow is between 6 and 8 degrees north and between 46 and 51 degrees west. The color of the water changes strongly when you approach the continent, more than 100 miles off the coast it changes from clear blue to green, still clear water. But about 20 miles from the coast the water becomes very brown; you almost sail in a kind of mudflow that has its origin in the Amazon river.
Approximately 7.5 miles offshore is the approach buoy, the LS. This buoy lies in a shallow sea of about 6 meters deep and this area is fished with stakes and nets so its advisable to keep a good lookout especially during the dark hours, but the bouyed channel is typically free of fishing activity
Nevertheless, it is still advisable to arrive during daylight hours , if at all possible in the morning so you can navigate the river during daylight as well,
The best time to be at the LS bouy is about 1 hour after ‘low water Suriname river’, and then sail with the current along the river (note: Low water ‘Parimaribo’ is 2.5 hours later compared to the LS buoy.) tidal current can be as strong as 4 knots and best be with you !
From the LS buoy, a marked channel runs to the south, which then deflects to the southeast. The bouys are quite a distance apart, but with good visibility this is not a problem. Note: keep green on port when you come from the sea, we are dealing here with the IALA-B bouy system.
If you arrive at the wrong time as far as tide is concerned, then you can anchor at Visserskampen / Vissersdorp Pomona and wait for the tide to turn in your favour. This is also a good option as a stopover when you leave Surinam.
If you need Diesel , it can be obtained at the fishing village of ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’ and this might be a good choice as further down the river there are no fuel stations and fuel will have to be hand carried in from a roadside fuel station when you’re in either Domburg or Waterland.
The buoyed channel on the river is well laid out and easy to navigate, when you arrive at Paramaribo you call the MAS (Maritime Authority Suriname) on channel 12 or 16, report in with them and let them know where you are going , typically Domburg or Waterland.
Marina’s and anchor bouys
In front of Paramaribo itself anchoring is possible in an emergency but not desirable. The best options are to continue to Domburg, about 10 miles further upstream to ‘Domburg Yachting‘ where you can anchor or lie on a mooring. Another 5 miles further upstream from Domburg you will reach the ‘Waterland marina‘, where there is a small marina with water and electricity on finger pontoons.
Domburg Yachting (position 05o42’N- 55o05’W) mooring field with a dozen moorings and dinghy dock. The moorings are managed by Netty, for further information see: www.marinasuriname.com.
Costs: 10 euros for a mooring and 8 euros for anchoring per day, excluding tax. And toilets, showers, a small swimming pool and wifi, which are included in the mooring / anchoring fee. A washing machine is available as well costs 20 SRD per wash (about 2 euros). On the property is River Breeze bar / restaurant, and a gathering place for sailors , during the weekend the neighbouring Domburg square is busy with a lot of local restaurants .
Marina & Resort Waterland Suriname is a small marina with space for 12 yachts and catamarans (VHF 12) on finger pontoons . Position 05o.39′.30N / 055o.03′.49W. Electricity , water and wifi on the pontoons, and by November 2019 showers washing machine etc should be finished and available on shore (check with the Marina if these are available if this is important to you) . Charges: 1.50 US dollars per meter / day excluding tax, including electricity, water and wifi. Noel (the manager) is not only a sailor himself , having crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 2018 , but is extremely helpful and knowledgeable and helped us on several occasions incl getting our diesel generator rewound and fixed . I believe Noel could assist with most technical issues but check with him if you need anything done , as said before he is extremely helpful
It is a beautifully designed resort with bar / restaurant and a number of 4/6-person lodges on the site. Resort is gated and secluded in beautiful natural surroundings, a great place to leave the boat for a longer period of time (discounts for long stays available) , to receive people and very suitable when sailing with children.
I would advise to check availability and make a reservation prior to arriving for both Domburg and Waterland as both are quite small .
After arrival, you have to check in to three authorities, namely:
▪ MAS (maritime authority Suriame).
▪ Immigration, purchase visa.
▪ Military police.
The three authorities are in different locations in Paramaribo and are difficult to find. Ask at the River Breeze restaurant (Domburg) or Noel in Marina Resort Waterland for a taxi driver or call Rishi, +597 862 0048 , who likes to drive to the authorities and helps you with clearing. Rishi can also provide rental cars for about 10-12.5 euro per day
A visa for Surinam costs 35 euro but sadly the local SRD is not accepted and it must be paid in either Euro’s or USD’s. The visa itself is valid for three months, but you must report to the immigration police every month to get your monthly extension. If you want to stay longer than three months you can drive to French Guyana, check out and check in again for the next three months.
Renting a car is not expensive at 10-12.5 euro’s a day, but remember that Surinam is driving on the left. If you are in Suriname for longer than 14 days, you must apply for a driving permit, at 150 SRD. Not having this local driving license will be fined considerably and the application takes at least a week. Its better and easier to get an international drivers license from your home country, this may benefit you in other countries as well.
Checking out of Surinam is easy and can be done a day before you leave. No need to visit all the departments again just stop by the military police to get your exit stamp.
Suriname is outside and below the ‘Hurricane belt ‘. The climate is tropical, but this is mitigated by the tradewinds. This keeps it relatively cool, the temperature is around 31 degrees and the wind above land is between 5 and 10 knots. Suriname has two rainy seasons, a short one and a long one. In the dry season you can certainly expect a good shower, handy to refill the tanks. In the rainy season there is a lot of water, up to 400 mm per month!
Short rainy season: December and January
Short dry season: February to mid-April
Long rainy season: mid-April to mid-July
Long dry season: mid-July to November
The value of the Surinamese dollar in late 2018 / early 2019 was about 8 SRD for 1 euro, but is subject to strong fluctuations. You can not withdraw money in all ATM’s, this is bank and bank card dependent as is the maximum amount to be withdrawn. Paying with your bank or credit card can be done in some shops but ask before you buy ! Most shops are strictly ‘cash only’ Eating and drinking is cheap in Suriname; we paid on average 20 SRD for a complete meal and 20 SRD for a liter ‘Djogo’ of Parbo beer. We did not use any taxi’s as we rented a car , but taxi’s are fairly cheap as well (Domburg to Paramaribo around 80 SRD)
This city is worth several visits. There are still many wooden colonial houses, although most of them are in poor condition, which is actually very sad. Yet the city is fascinating for those interested in architecture and History . A visit to fort ‘Zeelandia’ is interesting from a historical point of view. In the fort there is an exhibition about the history of Suriname. There are two tours on Sunday, at 10.30 and 12.00. In recent history, the fort played an important role as well, since this is where ‘The December Murders’ took place in 1982. The wooden cathedral is very special, it is only open in the morning or on Sundays during the services. There are several museums that are worth a visit.
The fact that the Jewish synagogue stands next to a huge mosque says something about how people deal with each other, we experienced no racial or religious tension.
Everywhere you will find shops and small eateries, local food consists of spicy (or not so spicy) Indonesian food , Roti’s in a lot of different variations (chicken , duck , lamb etc) and western food.
For provisioning you can go to the ‘Tulip’ supermarket at Tourtonnelaan 131. or to a Choi Supermarket. These 2 are the most ‘western’ supermarkets with all familiar foods and brands from Europe, USA and Japan. There are of course many other supermarkets mostly run by Chinese, but at the Tulip and Choi’s you will find a large assortment of Western (Dutch) American and Japanese products. Still nice to be able to buy real Dutch cheese again !!.
Paramaribo has a lot to offer and you can find everythng you need , but you may have to ask around and search. We had our apple macbook repaired there as well.
There are many possibilities to make trips in the unspoilt Jungle . Walks on foot, descend the river with a dug-out canoe, spend the night in jungle lodges, fly by small plane over the vast rainforest, visit indigenous Indian tribes, swim in waterfalls, fish on piranhas, spot wildlife, jeep the rainforest in a jeep Almost everything is possible. The easiest way is to book this kind of trips through a travel agency. In Paramaribo you will find travel agency ‘Zus en Zo’, a nice organization with a complete range of trips. Harbor resort Domburg and Marina resort Waterland can provide you with many good tips. This best trip we made was a 3.5 drive to Atjoni ,
then get into a pirogue that brought us to the end of the navigable river in an exhilarating 4 hour boat trip along the river with its many rapids where we stayed a few nights in a cabin with the indigenous “Marron” people in the village of Bene Kondre.
We made prior arrangements with ‘Boatman Chris’ who brought us to the village in his Pirogue and who made the arrangements with the owner of the cottage in Bene Kondre where we stayed .
More on this in another post on our website . Not everything we saw was positive as we were also confronted with the large logging concessions, the damage to the environment caused by gold mining, unsuccessful development projects and poaching. Difficult problems for a country where the government is not too strong.
(on the below portion we have no first hand experience but copied and translated from the Dutch online sailing magazine ‘Zilt’ from the summer 2018 edition and originally written by : Rob Heijmerink and Annemarie Hoorneman on SY Zeezout https://zeezout.waarbenjij.nu )
COMMEWINE AND COTTICA
Exploring the rivers is worthwhile. The Suriname river blocked upstream due to a fixed bridge. The Commewijne river, on the other hand, is navigable up to 88 miles inland. This river goes after about 20 miles in the Cottica river and the Upper Commewijne. They are all deep, 10 to 20 meters, but are subject to large tidal currents, which run for about 7 hours and 5 hours. Only the very beginning of the Commewijne has a limited depth, 2.60 m at low water level, with a tide difference of 2.50 meters this should not be a problem.
In the first 15 miles you sail past the former lowland plantations on the north bank. These are worth a visit. They were founded by the Dutch with real dikes, sluices and drainage channels.
You can anchor well for the Plantation ‘Johan and Margaretha’ where there is now a small village with about 350 inhabitants. You can make an adventurous canoe trip to the ocean coast in the north. You leave at five o’clock in the afternoon and first sail through a still dry plantation, then through a once again plantation, after which the landscape turns into imposing vast marshes of incredible beauty. The skill and speed with which the canoe is sent through the marsh is a sensation in itself! The marshes extend to the ocean, allowing you to spot turtles on the beach in the evening. The retreat happens in the dark, hard through the swamp. Ask in the local store for this trip, they also cook a nice roti for you that you can take with you to eat on the beach. Next to ‘Johan and Margaretha’ is the plantation ‘Frederiksdorp’ restored to a beautiful resort, with a good restaurant, tasty wine and an overnight stay. Bicycles can also be rented here for a trip through the former plantations.
Further upstream you get more and more into the uninhabited world, when the river splits into Upper Commewijne and Cottica you find yourself
already in the middle of the tropical rainforest. Here you will also find a first good anchorage in the very first part of the Upper Commewijne, at the dead loop ‘Little Poland’. Explore this area with the dinghy and with a bit of luck spot your giant otters, anacondas, caimans, monkeys and birds. The Commewijne / Cottica river was navigated by large ships, but the speed dropped sharply after the bauxite activities ceased. Still, it is advisable not to anchor in the middle of this river but in a side arm. Other anchor possibilities can be found in the beginning of the Perica river, near the 1st, 2nd and 3rd islands and at ‘Koopmanskreek’. A little further is the village of Wanhatti. You can also sail all the way to Moengo, the former bauxite harbor, 88 miles from Paramaribo.
We have been on the river for three days and have not seen a boat. 36 hours of tropical rainfall, 100 mm in 24 hours; the rainforest at its best!
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