West Coast (Suriname)
The West Coast region of Suriname comprises the three coastal districts between Paramaribo and the western border with Guyana: Coronie, Nickerie and Saramacca. It's a region celebrated for its bird life and the Bigi Pan nature reserve can be an absolute highlight in any Suriname travels. There are a few towns and some choices as far as accommodation goes, but this is a place away from the crowds and often overlooked by visitors.
Coronie is located between the districts Saramacca and Nickerie. With just 3000 people living on an area of 3900 km² it is the least populated district of Suriname. It is very fruitful and famous for its coconut palms. Most people live on a thin strip along the coast to which the largest freshwater swamp of Suriname borders. Angling is very popular. Traveling on the Oost-westverbinding you see people who have a line out anywhere.
Nickerie is located at the mouth of the Corentyne River that forms the border between Suriname and Guyana. The district covers 5,353 km² and has about 35,000 inhabitants. The county seat is Nieuw Nickerie, located on the River Nickerie. Another place of some importance is Wageningen.
The main source of livelihood is rice cultivation and in addition fishing on the Corentyne River and Nickerie. Livestock is mainly cattle, but also sheep, goats, chickens and doksen (ducks) are cultivated. The population mainly exists of Hindus, but also Javanese, Chinese and Creoles live in the region.
The area consists of polders constructed during the Dutch colonization. The polders are protected against flooding by a seawall at the mouth of the Corentyne River in the Atlantic (zeedijk).
This district is more or less located between the rivers Saramacca in the east and Coppename in the west. Traditionally it is an area with dozens of small family farms. Saramacca is known for its birds. Ornithologists and birdwatchers from all over the world come here to see and study toucans, parrots and rock roosters.
The Northwest Suriname region is at the west of the coastal road (Oost-west verbinding) that crosses north Suriname. The 237km from Paramaribo to Nieuw Nickerie take about 4h. The road is an easy going road where slow trucks and agricultural vehicles are the biggest hurdles, ans therefore a suited route to drive yourself. Be aware of speed bumps which are signed as drempel. These can be very high to force reducing your speed to nearly null. Most bumps are constructed as twins at the entrance and exit of communities and junctions. The road is not marked with traffic lines. Gas may not be a problem as these days more and more gas stations are opened.
Wageningen is about 50 km east of Nieuw Nickerie passing endless polders with paddies. This town is not on the Oost-west verbinding but is located 3km south.
Both the state bus service and private mini-buses run between Paramaribo and Nieuw Nickerie. Inquire in advance or otherwise make sure to be at the Paramaribo "bus station area" early, as they mostly leave in the morning and return the same day. A single ticket costs around SRD20.
Coming from Guyana travellers have to cross the Corentyne River by ferry at Moleson Creek to enter the Nickerie district. The ferry costs SRD30 one-way or 50 return (GYD2000 and GYD3000 respectively) and allows 30kg (66 lb) free and charges USD1 for every kilogram over. The 30 minute trip runs twice a day. The terminal at Suriname side (South Drain) is about 30km south of Nieuw Nickerie that can be reached over a paved road since 2010.
Canawaima ferry, ☎ +597 212331 or +597 212332.
On the sea wall at Nieuw Nickerie is an alternative for pedestrians to cross the Corentyne River. This back track is illegal but is silently tolerated by both governments. Smuggling is not uncommon. It's up to you to take the risk and to agree a price with a boatswain.
Majoor Henry Fernandes Airport (IATA: ICK), also known as Nieuw Nickerie Airport and Wageningen Airstrip (IATA: AGI) both have connections with Zorg en Hoop Airport in Paramaribo. Both airstrips have asphalt surfaces.
The best way to get around on your own is by (rental) car. You need a 4WD on dirt roads and a good map to find your way. A GPS navigation system for Suriname is available.
On the shores of the Saramacca River, about 40km west of Paramaribo, is rural Groningen. It's a nice place to visit if you want to escape from busy Paramaribo. Birdwatchers come from all over the world to study and admire the surrounding Saramacca district's toucans, parrots and cocks-of-the-rock. On the somewhat pathetic independence square you will find a large number of monuments that commemorate anything and everything: Javanese farmers, Boeroes, Surinam's independence, the abolition of slavery, etc. Near to the water is the tea house, a kind of kiosk which is a popular place for a picnic. Good food can be obtained at the adjacent restaurant Café River Breeze, a Javanese warung with a stunning view over the Saramacca River. Since the opening of the Hamburg-Uitkijk bridge in 2011, it is possible to drive a pleasant circular tour; from the Oost-West Verbinding, over the Saramacca bridge, via Groningen to Hamburg-Uitkijk and then back to the Oost-West Verbinding.
- Café River Breeze, Groningen, ☎ +597 8789480, e-mail: email@example.com. This is a nice Javanese warung overlooking the Samaracca River. They serve good food
Nieuw Nickerie has about 14,000 inhabitants and that makes it the third largest settlement in Suriname! It looks like a village and in the centre is a freshwater canal full of water lilies that leads to the central Brasa square. 13:00-16:00 the town looks deserted as everything is closed, but it comes alive again until 19:00 when calm returns. So, Nieuw Nickerie is not exactly a swinging place. The main reason for tourists to visit this town is Bigi Pan although the sea wall is worth a short visit.
From Nieuw Nickerie the A.K. Doergasawstraat leads for 8km direct to De Zeedijk (the sea wall). This wall is 7.5km long and is called Klein Scheveningen (little Scheveningen) as you don't need much imagination to imagine a Dutch dike. You can find the backtrack to Guyana here where a lot of people hang around. North of the backtrack is a Hindu temple where the retired female manager changes the robes of the large number of religious sculptures on a regular base. At the end of the wall is the local open air cremation place where Hindus from all over the country cremate their deceased relatives. This is a wonderfully nice place. It is said that here you can marvel at the most beautiful sunsets of Suriname.
- Thien Thien, Westkanaalstraat, Nieuw Nickerie. Lovely Chinese food.
- Lounge café Zeedijk, Abdul Ghanieweg 74, ☎ +597 897-3035, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 16:00-02:00, closed on Monday. The lounge bar is on the second flour and has a large terrace from where you have a magnificent view on the seawall and the Atlantic ocean.
- Residence Inn, R.P. Bharosstraat 84, Nieuw Nickerie, ☎ +597 210951, e-mail: email@example.com. This hotel looks over Brasa Sq and has a terrace with a pleasant breeze. USD65 (breakfast included).
- Hotel Pak Hap, Emmastraat 9, Nieuw Nickerie, ☎ +597 212381, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mainly a business hotel. Tour reservations possible. dorm USD35, dbl USD65, Presidential Suite USD120.
- New Kow Loon, A.K. Doergasawhstraat 76 (On the corner of Oost Kanaalstraat), ☎ +597 231942, e-mail: info@newkowloonsuriname. This is a lively place on the market, combining a restaurant with a hotel. Rooms are simple but adequate and breakfast is included. The restaurant serves a broad range of Surinam dishes, from different cuisines. Dbl from USD35.
Totness is the district capital of Coronie. The name Totness as well as the names of other nearby hamlets, like Friendship, Mary's Hope and Burnside descend from English and Scots who settled here in the 19th century. It is a very laid back area with nice buildings along the main road and near the central square of Totness. If you only want to have lunch in Totnes you can go to Totness Palace, a Chinese restaurant, in the center. Along to Oost-westverbinding is opposite each other a Javanese warung and Kate's snackbar.
- Staatslogeergebouw, Johan Kraagstraat, ☎ +597 235154. This hotel is located in a beautiful old building that reopened in 2013 after a long time of renovation
a visit to this small town is not really a must do. Once this town was the centre of mechanized rice cultivation, a project of the Agricultural University of its namesake of Wageningen in the Netherlands. After independence in 1975 it collapsed and the gigantic complex with silos remains desolate. Still, a visit to this town can be pleasant as people are very friendly and hospitable. A statue of the (legendary) female slave Alida can be found on a square near the closed rice processing factory. A red spot indicates where her breast was cut off thanks to the jealous wife of a planter.
- Guesthouse Hira, Sanicalaan, Wageningen, ☎ +597 453083. 6 rooms and is a good place to get acquainted with the Surinamese culture. Excellent food. SRD100.
- Hotel de Wereld, Molenweg 9, Wageningen, ☎ +597 233149. Named after the famous hotel in Dutch Wageningen where the German capitulation was signed in 1945. It’s a motel-like hotel from the fifties. €20.
Bigi Pan Nature Reserve
Bigi Pan nature reserve is just east of Nieuw Nickerie township and is 135,000 hectares of open water, mudflats and mangrove forest. The water level is influenced by the ocean tides where salt seawater, as well as fresh inland water, alternately streams in and out. It's a great place for bird watchers with 72 bird species breeding here and dozens of visitors. With some luck, you'll spot the rare scarlet ibis. Herons, ospreys, storks, flamingos and terns feed themselves with fish, frogs, crustaceans and insects in competition with caymans. Fishing is easy here and it's not so rare that fish will jump into your boat!
- Bigi Pan Adventures (Stefanie Kramawitana), ☎ +597 878-3651, e-mail: email@example.com. You can arrange a trip anywhere. A good start in Nieuw Nickerie is the Residence hotel where the guide will pick you up and drive you to one of the spots that give access to the Jamaer canal. An 8km long boat trip along mangroves will bring you to open water where you will disembark on a house on stilts for lunch. After lunch Stefanie sails you further into the area to spot wildlife. The boat gives no shelter for the merciless sun, so prepare yourself. Mosquitoes can be a real nuisance during calm, however usually there is a pleasant breeze. As birds are shy it is advisable to bring a pair of binoculars. Daytrip from Nieuw Nickerie SRD330 p.p. (food included). For SRD350 more you can spend the night in one of the rooms in the stilt-house which have private toilets and a common shower. There are beds with mosquito nets and all rooms have a private porch. On the common porch are hammocks and sunbeds. You can enjoy your stay with fishing, swimming, sunbathing and great food. Alcoholic drinks are not included and must be paid separately.
There's no malaria in Suriname's coastal districts, but mosquitoes can be a nuisance in the whole country. Nickerie is no exception. During the day this is usually no problem but a good repellent is highly recommended. Also, protect yourself against the sun, especially on open water where a breeze can reduce your awareness of being irradiated.
On dirt roads, as well as on paved roads, big holes may become invisible after heavy rainfall. Be alert and respect speed limits.
If you're not bound to a fixed itinerary consider a trip to Guyana, which is just across the river. When you're travelling by car, you'll find the car ferry at South Drain, an otherwise unexciting town about an hour southwest of Nieuw-Nickerie and at the end of a rather bumpy road. If you're not planning to leave the country, move on to vast and wonderful Surinamese Rainforest or head back to Paramaribo. If you don't stop there but follow the "Oost-West verbinding" (the main road) all the way to it's other end, you'll find yourself in Albina in Northeast Suriname - a starting point to go turtle watching or on the French Guiana.