Our Story, By Us
< Current local time in Suriname – Paramaribo
PARAMARIBO–Insel Air has signed a codeshare agreement with national Airline Surinam Airways. The agreement, signed since July this year, goes into effect on November 18th, Suriname Airways said in a press release.
Code share agreements are not uncommon in the aviation business, allowing for airlines to share the same flight. They arrangement between Inse Airl and Suriname Airways afford passengers more destinations and provide alternatives in case of flight delays or cancellations. “The responsibility for the passenger is automatically guaranteed,” the release said.
PARAMARIBO/WILLEMSTAD–Curacao based airline Dutch Antilles Express launched Suriname flights on November 19th. Services on the 1,700-kilometre route will depart with daily frequencies and will be operated using one of the airline’s three F100s. Competition on the route comes from another Curaçao-based carrier, Insel Air, which serves the route with thrice-weekly flights.
The DAE flight departs from Curacao with a Fokker 100 flight 901 at 11:30 am and arrives at 3:30 pm local time. The aircraft returns from Paramaribo with flight 902 at 4:30 pm and arrives in Curacao at 6:30 pm local time.
Nelson Ramiz, owner of DAE, said this service brings changes into the “Suriname product” because of the schedule. “They are more humane”, he said. DAE arrives in Suriname at an early time and returns to Curacao the same day before night time.
Ramiz said that there are direct connections with other DAE flights from the so called “Curacao Hub” to destinations like Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo, Aruba, Bonaire and Miami. In 2013 there will be connections to Bogota and Sint Maarten. DAE’s flight to Miami leaves Curaçao at 8:50 PM and connects perfectly with the flight from and to Paramaribo.
PARAMARIBO–Less than a year after a tourist card was introduced, this document that was supposed to ease travel to Suriname has earned the country over 1 million euros. Over 70,000 cards and long term visas have been sold to visitors from The Netherlands since the card was launched on 25 November last year.
Visitors can purchase the tourist card at a special counter at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, upon arrival in Suriname at the Johan Adolf Pengel Airport, or at the Surinamese embassies and consulates abroad. A short term document that expires after 90 days, the card officially did away with the visa restrictions for Dutch tourists; it costs 20 euros or US$ 25 and most likely worked well to help increase the number of visitors from The Netherlands, Suriname’s largest source market.
PARAMARIBO, Suriname–It seems there are no more obstacles for national carrier Suriname Airways SLM to resume its Paramaribo-Cayenne service. Clyde Cairo, SLM’s deputy director announced last Sunday that the French Government has granted the airline rights to begin flights to French Guiana at the end of October.
SLM’s return to French Guiana is at the request of authorities in Suriname’s eastern neighbor. The airline’s license was revoked a few years ago, in favor of French airline Air Caraïbes, the Guadeloupe based commuter airline that serves French Caribbean territories. With Air Caraïbes now facing financial woes however, French Guiana could be left without an air-bridge.
Authorities invited SLM back, as not having proper air service could be a deterrent for international companies considering investments in the recent oil finds off their country’s coast. The airline agreed to return, under the condition that the French Government in Paris sign an aviation agreement with Suriname.
SLM will loop its French Guiana flights through Belem, a popular tourism destination in Brazil, which it already flies to. Cairo said that the Belem route is profitable, and SLM intends to spread its wings further on to Fortaleza and eventually Sao Paulo.
He announced that the airline is continuing its talks with China Southern Airlines and Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong which would enable seamless travel from China to Paramaribo. SLM also intends to expands of its Mid-Atlantic route to Europe next year.
Suriname Airways already flies to western neighbor Guyana, Curacao, Aruba, Trinidad, Miami in the US and the Netherlands; a resumption of the French Guyana service would make the company the major carrier of the Guyana’s. The Government-owned company has a fleet of three aircraft: an Airbus A340-300 and two Boeing 737-300.
AMSTERDAM–It’s not just Suriname’s ambassadors who represent the country well. Some of its representatives are private citizens who, laden with passion and love for country, may well even give the official, Government appointed ones a run for their salary. Stephen Brug proved last week that even without growing up in Suriname and without Surinamese nationality, he can speak for the country.
Brug, born from Surinamese parents and raised in the Netherlands, a few years ago started “Exotische Reizen Suriname”, a modest tour operating company that organizes tailormade vacation packages to Suriname. Most of his clientele are Dutchmen looking for a not-so-customary vacation that still fits their needs to a T. Over the past two weeks he embarked on a tour of the Netherlands, promoting his services in Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
While a cold spring breeze made the usually pleasant Tennis Park Kattenlaan in Amsterdam into an unappealing place, the inside of its cafe was dressed warm and “Suriname” for the occasion last week Thursday; a huge Suriname flag was draped from the ceiling and the walls were plastered with alluring posters, pangi, koto and angisa, traditional Afro Surinamese clothing; to the side there was table with vegetables and produce. Waiters served a tasty roti and during the intermission foamy Parbo Bier.
PARAMARIBO–The Foundation Suriname Lepidoptera Institute SSLI has made an urgent call to authorities to stop gold explorations in the butterfly rich nature park Browns Berg. The call comes just a few months before the foundation launches the first book about Surinamese butterflies. “We’re horrified by how the Browns Berg nature park has been ravaged by gold miners. We have been researching butterflies in the park for over six years and cannot stomach that STINASU (Foundation Nature Management Suriname) hasn’t taken action against this destruction of nature in this protected area,” Foundation President Borger Beckles states.
Brownsberg nature reserve is located in District Brokopondo, at a two-hour drive southward from Paramaribo. In its center is a 400 meter peak, which gives a magnificent view over the Brokopondo Lake. The lodges on top of the hill are popular with vacationers, who undertake nature walks to the refrigerating Irene and Leo waterfalls. The area is rich with wildlife and amazon vegetation, but hunting, poaching and collecting the abundance of medicinal plants is forbidden. STINASU is charged with the monitoring of this 12,200 ha protected area, but with Suriname’s hinterland under the spell of a destructive gold rush, small miners have apparently found their way into the reserve as well.
Beckles notes that the park has always been considered perfect for enjoying butterflies and other nature elements in Suriname. The destructive gold mining activities put all this in danger, he says. “At least 700 day butterflies dwell at Brownsweg, that’s about half of the species that exist in Suriname. Only about 200 of the butterflies at Browns Berg have been scientifically identified,” Beckles explains, adding that there are about 5,000 to 8,000 night butterflies that haven’t even been identified yet.
Among the day butterflies he lists several that are rare. Heraclides garleppi lecerfi, a species that is protected by the IUCN and only lives on the Guiana Shield, Telenassa fontus fontus is consided a living fossile, closely related to the ancestor of about 80 butterflies that only exist in South America, and Eueides lampeto brownbergensis, a rare passion flower butterfly that only exists in Suriname (and possibly French Guiana) and was named after Browns Berg. “SSLI recently mentioned this butterfly in the Journal of the Lepidopterist Society,” Beckles said.
He said that despite the destruction being caused by the gold miners, his Foundation would continue undeterred with its research. The book “Butterflies of Suriname, a Natural History” is expected off the presses in July this year. The colorful, English publication with jawdropping beautiful nature pictures of Suriname will set standards in publishing Suriname’s nature; many of the pictures were shot by Beckles, himself an avid nature photographer. It will be sold locally and internationally on amazon.com.
AMSTERDAM–Amsterdam and Rotterdam come abuzz with the beat of the Suriname jungle when “Exotische Reizen Suriname” holds presentations about its tours this week and next week.
“The presentations are for people who are planning a trip to Suriname, whether as tourist, for business, internship, networking, in a group or individually. This presentation will help them get more information on Suriname, to know what a jungle trip is, so they can plan their trip, experience the country in all its pureness, visit the small villages, tour the jungle or marvel at the simplicity of the market, far away from mass tourism,” says Stephen Brug of Exotische Reizen Suriname. “The presentations will take the audience on a trip to Suriname even before they embark on their actual journey.” The Rotterdam presentation will be held this Thursday at Bird Restaurant & Jazzpodium. The Amsterdam presentation next week Thursday at Tennispark Kattenlaan.
Exotische Reizen Suriname is a small tour operator with some 15 years of specialization in tailormade Suriname jungle trips. Brug, born in Suriname but raised in The Netherlands with Surinamese traditions is the driving force behind the organization, passionate about his country and knowledgeable about its jungle.
NIEUW NICKERIE–Often all it takes is a taste to make up your mind about a place. Like when you’re transiting through an airport and know immediately that this is a place you would like to visit again … or not. I had dreams of visiting Bigi Pan as a boy and finally got a taste of this enchanting watery nature reserve in 2005. Last Wednesday, exactly seven years later, I revisited it and found that it still tastes like more! Tour guide Stephanie and her husband Amat are in the process of making more! possible.
I was playing host to a visiting friend and thought that a good opportunity to undertake the three hour dash to District Nickerie, drive around for a while and go back to Bigi Pan. I stopped to marvel at the red ibises frolicking alongside the eroding coastline of District Coronie. In Nieuw Nickerie we grabbed a roti doksa and then bought and sliced up a pineapple at a fruit stand, where we got charmed up by Rocky, a tame sagoewenki, the bitesized black and yellow monkey of South Suriname. From here we rushed to Longmay where Stephanie awaited to take us on her tour.
Since I last visited in 2005, Bigi Pan has become an even more popular tourist attraction, and it’s understandable; this is wondrous marine land at just a few kilometers east of the bustling capital of the rice distrct, inhabited by an abundance of wildlife. Here fish literally leap into your boat as you pass them by. All it takes to truly experience Bigi Pan’s magnificence is a knowledgeable tour guide.
PARAMARIBO–That tour company METS Travel & Tours in Suriname (METS) stayed afloat and cruising for fifty years now, is, to its Managing Director Armand Bhagwandas more than just a feat that should be celebrated elaborately. “Our anniversary shows that Suriname has something to offer,” he said. Celebrating its company’s 50th year on January 13th, METS embarks on a year of activities to spur awareness locally and internationally about its products. Bhagwandas mentioned open houses, special package deals at METS resorts, and educational activities. At the same time the company also gets ready to develop a new set of products to meet market demand. Construction of the airport hotel near Colakreek and diversification of the markets, including further development of the cruise market are high on the agenda.
AT THE CRADLE
Whether consciously is not sure, but when METS was established on January 13th 1962, this company probably stood at the cradle of what today is the buzz term “eco-tourism”. Back then it resorted under the then Ministry of Economic Affairs, with a policy aimed at developing tourism and as its primary task managing the various Government lodges where civil servants were housed when on assignment in the hinterland. “There actually is not much known about what the company did till 1985, but that there was a tourism vision behind it, is clear. This was around the same time Hotel Torarica and Surinam Airways were established,” Bhagwandas relates.
Back then a young re-migrant who had studied at the Hotel School in The Netherlands, Bhagwandas was hired in the eighties at the Ministry as Head of Tourism. METS, which had slumbered on for years, was reactivated in 1985 and started offering tours to the lodges at Blakawatra and Stoelmanseiland.
PARAMARIBO–It’s always busy at the small terminal of commuter airline GumAir at Doekhieweg with passengers checking in and arriving, and the constant road of small aircraft arriving and departing at Zorg and Hoop airfield in the background. “Don’t get annoyed by the noise. Accept it; it goes like this all day,” warned Dean Gummels. GumAir’s friendly Commercial Executive has already accepted the frenzy; in fact, he says, at 40, the company is ready to accept whatever growth business still has in store.
Dean is from the second generation of Gummels to roll into Suriname’s aviation industry, within his family’s company. GumAir was started 40 years ago by six brothers who saw market opportunity in internal charter flights. When they realized that there was business in flights between Paramaribo and District Nickerie, they expanded their company “Sky Farmers” that had blended aviation and farming in the rice district. “Sky Farmers purchased passenger aircraft and Gum Air was born,” says Gummels. The company grew and eventually, when national airline Surinam Airways ceased its internal operations in 2003, Gum Air really took to the sky. Today the company is the oldest and largest privately owned local airline, with 11 aircraft. “We own four, five passenger Cessna 206, one 8 passenger Islander, three 12 passenger Cessna Caravans and three twin otters that can carry 19 passengers each,” Gummels says.
The company flies daily to seven villages in the hinterland and since 2009, also to Ogle Airport in Georgetown, Guyana. GumAir plays an important role in the transport of the villagers, but its importance in the industries that are developing the interior cannot be understated. “We get a lot of charters from Iamgold, Newmont, and companies like Nana Resources that are active in gold mining. And we do a lot of charters for tourism operators and medical missions, as well as NGO’s like Conservation International and the Amazon Conservation Team. We do business with many organizations that carry out projects in the inlands,” says Gummels.