We had intended to book a rain forest tour while here in Suriname, but it just didn't work out. Most tours must be booked for a minimum of three days. Everything must be paid in advance in cash and the sleeping accommodations are usually hammocks unless you book a jungle resort. The activities listed did not appeal to us, so we sought alternatives. A new friend we met at the American Embassy suggested a day trip to Peperpot Nature Reserve. It's just over the Suriname River Bridge about 30 minutes from Paramaribo and it seemed like a good alternative. We hired a car for the day and off we went.
Peperpot, an early 18th century coffee/cacao plantation, is being transformed into a nature reserve with walking tracks and a new discovery center. There's still construction under way … it's a work in progress. We planned on an early morning visit. Peperpot is considered a birding “hotspot”. More than 300 species of birds have been identified in the park, and morning is the best time to see them. We were told monkeys and other critters roam there as well, plus an amazing array of flora. We arrived early enough, but the admission folks didn't quite have it together and it was after 0830 before we paid our fees (SR$18/pp) and hit the trail. There were no trail maps nor other information available, but we were told the trail was 2.5km one way.
The beginning of the trail was muddy after yesterday's showers, but soon opened and dried out into sand, gravel and trampled leaves. Bamboo and palms provided lots of shade. Banana trees and old coffee (kofimama) and cacao trees, remnants of the plantation days, still intersperse with rain forest foliage.
Signs in both Dutch and English provided information about both fauna and flora in the park.
We could hear birds, lots of them, but could see none. Other than the kiskadees whose song we easily recognized, we had no idea of what birds were serenading us. When we did spot a few, they were always high in the canopy or deep in foliage preventing any clear photos. Sigh!
A worker on a moped went up and down the trail several times. Men with machetes were clearing bamboo and chatting loudly between machete thwacks. A backhoe was working on clearing a muddy area. We were hoping for quiet, but it was hard to find. We reminded ourselves … this park is a work in progress!
Insects abounded. We saw termites nests and long trails of red and leafcutter ants. Butterflies and dragonflies were in abundance, too … brilliantly colored and patient enough to pose for photos.
The trail was measured out with small signs at .5km intervals. At 2.5 km, the trail continued with no end in sight. We continued walking to 3km and 3.5km. Still no end in sight. We didn't actually know what was at the end of the trail, but we had hoped to get there. Disappointed, we finally turned around and retraced our steps. We had allotted the entire morning to Peperpot, but the late start had robbed us of an hour or more.
On our return to the entrance building, they asked if we enjoyed the plantation house. “What plantation house?”, we asked. “Oh, you didn't see it? Well, you can drive there. It's only 1 km down the dirt road.”
Hmmm … we got back in the car and started down the designated rutted, dirt road only to be further stymied by deep ditches and holes filled with water which we thought our low-slung Toyota would have problems negotiating. I nicked a photo of the plantation house off the Internet to see what we'd missed.
Though feeling a bit let down, we did, however, see wattled jacanas in the irrigation ditches alongside the road, as well as an unidentified raptor, which was some comfort. Probably common birds in the area, but uncommon to us.
We'd heard people rave about the birds and monkeys and other fauna they'd seen … like anteaters, so we were feeling that our timing was off. And we'd missed the plantation house altogether through naivete on our part and a bit of misinformation. All in all, not our best nature park experience, but the walk itself through the forest was lovely and we can see the potential for good things at Peperpot. Maybe next time?
Dutch word for the day - Drempel …. speed bump
There are many drempels on the roads in Suriname, even on “highways”. Most times they are marked, but sometimes they are not. We hit several that jarred out teeth.