Private Journeys

Discovering the hidden Guianas

15 days from £5,153pp

Suriname / French Guiana / Guyana

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Transfer to your hotel in Paramaribo.

You’ll be collected from the international airport and accompanied to you hotel in Suriname’s capital, Paramaribo. You’ll soon realise you have arrived somewhere very special, and very different from anywhere you may have been before in South America. More than half of Suriname's population of around a quarter of a million lives in the coastal capital, which nevertheless has a pleasant, small-town feel.

Suriname was colonised by Holland, and Dutch immigrants founded this unusual town, which expanded in the 17th and 18th centuries. As a result of its unique charms and cosmopolitan mix of cultural influences, Paramaribo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. The original and highly characteristic street plan of the historic centre remains intact, and its buildings illustrate the gradual fusion of Dutch influence with traditional indigenous techniques and materials which blend to create a new architectural style.

This tropically-infused architecture includes wooden mansions decorated with ornate balconies and a clutch of Dutch churches. Present-day culture and cuisine epitomise the cosmopolitan feel with a fusion of indigenous South American, European, African and Asian elements.

Day 2

By road and motorised canoe to your riverside lodge.

Depart Paramaribo by road for 190km and arrive at the tiny village and river port Atjoni. Motorised canoes are lined up on the beach, painted in bright primary colours, and you climb aboard one for the next stage of your adventure. A skilled crew will navigate up the rainforest-fringed upper Suriname river - which is famous for its breathtaking rapids - to the Danpaati River Lodge. Your day comes to an end back on the water with a river trip looking out for caiman sprawling on the river banks.

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Day 3

Visit indigenous village and the Maroon museum.

Today you will visit one of the 12 villages which are affiliated with Danpaati. There will be a guided tour through the village where you will be introduced to the way of life of the local population and to the traditions brought from Africa by their ancestors. After the tour, visit the Maroon museum which is dedicated to the cultural heritage of the Saramak Maroon population.

Pikinslee is located 30 minutes by boat from Danpaati; in its museum you will learn more about the history of the Maroons, their ancient traditions and crafts. In the afternoon, you will discover the secrets of the rainforest during a jungle walk.

Afterwards you might choose to enjoy a massage using a combination of traditional and Western techniques. Opportunities to explore the surrounding area are available - go fishing or take a dugout canoe around the island. After dinner there’s a performance of traditional dances presented by members of the local population.

Day 4

Return to Paramaribo by river and road. Sunset dolphin spotting tour.

This morning you still have some time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and take pictures. After saying goodbye to the staff, depart by dugout canoe from Danpaati to Atjoni. From Atjoni you continue your journey back to Paramaribo by road. At the pier at Leonsburg you’ll be collected for a sunset dolphin-spotting tour. Enjoy the cool breeze and river views while the captain scans the horizon for the dolphins. Groups of up to 20 dolphins may be seen – they can be very curious and jump and play close to the boat.

Later you are off to a former plantation to savour freshly made local snacks while enjoying the beautiful sunset. All this takes place in the relaxing atmosphere of the old plantation village at the waterfront of the Commewijne river. After the sun has set board the boat once more, and make your way back to Leonsberg, from there by road back to Paramaribo.

Day 5

Guided city tour of Paramaribo.

Today’s the day for a guided tour of the capital by car and on foot, exploring the most prominent historic locations downtown. There are 291 listed monuments in Paramaribo and only a few have been replaced by new developments. These are visibly authentic owing to the use of traditional techniques and materials in repair and rehabilitation works. Your guide will tell you about the history of Fort Zeelandia, built in 1667, the presidential palace, Independence Square among other places of interest.

After a stroll along the bank of the Suriname river and through the extensive public park known as the Garden of Palms, you will view other fascinating sites such as a mosque which sits harmoniously right next to a synagogue. Cross the Suriname river passing former colonial plantations, most of which are now abandoned.  You make a stop at Peperpot, one of the oldest plantations in Suriname which was established by the English before Suriname was conquered by the Dutch in 1667. It is preserved in its former original state, and you can still see coffee and cocoa plants as well as the  abandoned buildings. Thereafter stop at the mini-museum at a former sugar plantation, before enjoying lunch in a typical Javanese restaurant. Travel on to the confluence of the Commewijne and Suriname rivers at Nieuw Amsterdam and visit the outdoor museum in its large fortress, built to protect the crop fields which were situated along the banks of the upper parts of both rivers. After the tour you will transfer by car or bus back to Paramaribo.

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Day 6

Travel to French Guiana (Guyane) and visit the Space Centre at Kourou.

Travel eastbound along Suriname's coastal road to the border with French Guiana (Guyane). French Guiana is a department of France, so technically you have entered the EU upon landing here. And, evidence of this connection to the first world is immediately evident: 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 of choice. 

You will continue your journey to Kourou. Visit the Centre Spatiale Guyanaise (Guyana Space Centre) for a guided tour. Launch schedules are kept quiet so your schedule today may be amended at short notice. The usual tour includes a motor coach tour which criss-crosses the centre’s mammoth facility, including stops at various assembly buildings and control centres. The entire tour is offered in French, but your guide will supply translations as often as possible. 

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Day 7

Guided visit to Devil’s Island.

What is commonly referred to as Devil’s Island is really a triangle of three islands - Îles du Salut, or the Salvation Islands – 10.5km off the coast of Kourou. You set sail aboard a motorised catamaran to Île Saint-Joseph.  The islands played a central role in French history as far back as 1792 when they were a transit point for explorers, then a gateway for slaves and later for political prisoners. Saint-Joseph is home to the most striking incarceration facilities which made up this notorious penal colony where prison buildings are quite well preserved, and you can meander at will through the cell blocks, dormitory buildings, and other structures.

The sight of nature slowly but relentlessly reclaiming the land here is remarkable... you'll lose count of how many tree roots you see growing out of one cell door and curving around to enter an adjacent cell. Île Royale is the site of the oldest buildings on the islands, featuring an old church, administration buildings, officers' quarters and nowadays a good restaurant.  Île du Diable (Devil's Island) itself is inaccessible to visitors due to dangerous shoreline conditions. This is the island where the prison's best-known occupant, Alfred Dreyfus, was famously secluded.  Return to Kourou by catamaran and transfer to Cayenne.

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Day 8

By road to Guyana via French ex-penal colonies.

Head off to Saint Laurent at the border with Suriname, via a brief stop in St Joseph’s church in Iracoubo. The entire interior of the church was hand-painted by one of the convicts from a nearby penal colony.  Upon arrival you’ll have guided tour, visiting the well-preserved Transportation Centre, a facility which served as the process point for convicts being allocated to the various penal colonies in French Guiana, which you will have had a taste of yesterday. Starting in the mid 18th century the majority of French convicts were transported to French Guiana where they served their sentences. They then had to spend the same amount of time here as their sentence before gaining their freedom, in an effort to populate the colony.

Besides Dreyfus, another of the famous inmates was Papillion, whose story was made famous in a book - published in 1969 - and a Hollywood film featuring Steve McQueen. A hard-to-miss curiosity just offshore is the shipwreck of the British steamer Edith Cavel, so overgrown with trees and shrubs that it could be mistaken for a natural island. It partially sank in bad weather in 1924.

Continue by land, boat and light aircraft to Georgetown, Guyana.

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Day 9

City tour of Georgetown, its principal buildings and markets; Demerara river tour.

Chef Delven Adams will guide you around Bourda Market, the largest of the four markets in Georgetown. Adams. Inspect the grocery section in the market and meet some of the vendors. You will then visit other areas of the market bulging with fish, meat, haberdashery and tropical fruit. Head off on a tour of the city of Georgetown, capital of Guyana situated on the right bank of the Demerara river estuary and largely designed by the Dutch, laid out in a rectangular pattern with wide tree lined avenues and irrigation canals.

Most of the buildings in the city are wooden with architecture dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. There are several excellent examples of old colonial homes, such as the State House, built in 1852. Among historic sites to visit is the 1892 St. George’s Cathedral, one of the world’s tallest free standing wooden buildings; the Town Hall, a splendid example of Gothic architecture, and the Victoria Law Courts.

Dip into another market, Stabroek, which sells every conceivable item from house hold goods and gold jewellery to fresh meat and vegetables brought to town daily by river.  The prominent clock tower is a famous landmark. You will arrive at the Backyard Café for a drink or lunch prepared by Chef Delvin. 

Later, join commuters to board a river taxi. 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 and the Demerara Harbour bridge. As the sun sets over the river you may witness a flock of brilliant egrets and scarlet ibis.

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Day 10

Fly south to Kaieteur Falls in the deep interior.

There’s an optional bird-watching visit to the Botanical Gardens, which house one of the most extensive collections of tropical flora in the Caribbean while over 100 species of Guyanese wildlife can be observed at the zoo, including a wide variety of birds.Take a flight over the Demerara and Essequibo rivers and swathes of unbroken tropical rainforest to land at Kaieteur Falls, the world’s highest free-falling waterfall.

Kaieteur Falls was first spotted by a European on April 29, 1870 and is situated on a tributary of the Essequibo. The water flows over a sandstone conglomerate tableland into a deep gorge - a drop of 225m, five times the height of Niagara Falls. Kaieteur supports a unique micro environment with tank bromeliads, the largest in the world, in which the tiny golden frog spends its entire life while the rarely seen Guiana Cock- of-the-rock nests close by.  Return to Georgetown.

Seven Curry is a staple at all Indo-Guyanese weddings and religious functions.  It is served in a freshly picked lotus lily leaf with rice and seven different curries. Traditionally the curries are all vegetarian. You hold the leaf with the curries in one hand, and use your other to eat the food. You have the opportunity to savour the meal at the Backyard café (charged locally). 

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Day 11

Fly to Iwokrama, hike up Turtle mountain, go jaguar spotting.

Fly across the forest to Fair View airstrip from where you will be escorted to Iwokrama River Lodge. Having been welcomed by the staff you will depart by boat, birdwatching along the way, for a hike to Turtle mountain.  A well maintained trail winds through the forest before an exhilarating climb up the mountain to its summit at 360m. It takes a couple of hours to walk up the mountain, but the effort is more than worth it for the breathtaking views over the forest canopy when you get there and chances of spotting green aracari, white bellbird or  one of five species of eagle.  This trail is also a great place to see black spider and red howler monkeys. Alternatively, take a boat trip to Lake Stanley to search for giant river otters and black caimans.

Later, transfer by 4WD along a trail which is one of the best places to spy the elusive jaguar. The Iwokrama forest is rapidly gaining an international reputation for its healthy jaguar populations which seem not to be troubled by humans. This road is the only north – south access in Guyana and links the country to Brazil.  Even so traffic is only very occasional and wildlife is often seen along the road, such as agouti, puma, and tapir.  The journey concludes at the Atta Rainforest Lodge.

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Day 12

Explore the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway.

500m from the lodge is the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, situated at Mauisparu, near the southern boundary of the Iwokrama Reserve. The walkway has four suspension bridges leading to three platforms, the highest of which is over 30m above the ground, and these will allow you to spot canopy species which would not be visible from the forest floor.

 Apart from the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway itself you can enjoy wildlife and birdwatching walks on the trails in the area. If you are interested in botany, many of the trails have the key trees species identified. Many bird species, stunning insects, noisy amphibians, and playful primates make the surrounding forest their home and you can be fairly certain to spot some extraordinary wildlife. Deer and agouti are also regular visitors to the lodge. 

Transfer to Surama EcoLodge

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Day 13

Ascend Surama mountain; river otter-spotting canoe ride.

Rise before dawn for a walk across the savannah and then a gentle climb up Surama mountain in the cool morning air. This is the best time to observe bird life along the trail. Breakfast will be served at a lookout point which affords panoramic views across the village and savannah to the Pakaraima mountains. Return to village for lunch, after which a 5km walk across the savannah and through the rainforest takes you to Burro Burro river where you embark a canoe with your guides for an exploration to look out for giant river otters, tapirs, tyras, and spider monkeys.

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Day 14

Transfer to Rupununi airstrip, fly to Georgetown.

Take a light aircraft flight back to Georgetown, where you have the option of dining out on a traditional meal. Seven Curry is a staple at all Indo-Guyanese weddings and religious functions.  It is served in a freshly picked lotus lily leaf with rice and seven different curries. Traditionally the curries are all vegetarian. Most commonly served include pumpkin, spinach, breadnut, potato, chick peas, aubergine and dhal. You hold the leaf with the curries in one hand, and use your other to eat the food. Definitely a challenge to eat gracefully, but so much fun and delicious!! You have the opportunity to savour the meal at the Backyard café but it is optional, you will be charged locally, approx $US42 plus tips.  

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Day 15

Transfer to the airport for your international flight.

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