Seriously. What’s in a Suri-name?

Posted on 31 January 2018 @ 12:57am

Seriously. What’s in a Suri-name?

Well, Paramaribo for one. Caimans for another. Palm Trees, rivers, the list goes on.

When Suriname slid surprisingly into first semester of the 2017-2018 school year, neither students nor crew knew quite what to expect. As it turns out, South America's smallest country is in the running for Semester One’s favourite port! And here’s why.


The Republic of Suriname is a former Dutch colony and after gaining its independence in 1975, remains the only sovereign nation outside Europe where Dutch is spoken by a majority of the population.

Suriname, Flower, Class Afloat

Photo credit: @megancbrady_

Its capital, Paramaribo, is the largest city in Suriname and primary business economic region of the country. Paramaribo lies 15km inland from the Atlantic Ocean on the banks of the Suriname River, providing our Oceans 11 and Marine Biology students with ample opportunity to observe and apply their knowledge of estuary ecosystems.

Similar to the rest of Suriname, Paramaribo enjoys a tropical rain forest climate and, famed for its diverse ethnic make-up, is home to approximately a quarter million people. Its historic inner city has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2002 with building architecture and street plans remaining largely intact from the 18th century. It is also home to one of the oldest synagogues in the Americas. 

Suriname Port Program: Day One

As favourable winds and strong Guyanas current pushed our crew along, the Gulden Leeuw pulled into Suriname a full two days early! As a result, students enjoyed an extra evening of shore leave before continuing onward with classes the next day. Running club couldn't have been happier (see below).

Running Club, Suriname

Photo credit: Shipboard Director, Steve

On the morning of January 11th our crew departed for their port program: a three day, two night excursion in to the heart of the Amazon Jungle.

The day started with a bus rise to Atjoni, located on the Upper Suriname River. Once in Atjoni, students boarded long motorized canoes and made haste to the Menimi Eco Lodge. The trip was adventure-filled as drivers navigated their way through the rapids, avoiding the rocks lining the river while providing tidbits about wildlife and local culture along the way.

Following a typical Surinamese lunch of rice and beans and fresh fruit, the group was divided into four groups, where they were joined by local guides to explore the jungle, learn about which vines are safe for swinging, uncover the medicinal properties of jungle plants, and identify creatures they come across along the way.

After the sun went down, some of the students decided to jump back into the canoes and join in the search for caimans! What’s a caiman? Great question. A caiman is a large aquatic reptile found in the swamps and tropical rivers that cover Central and South America. Read more about these crocodile-alligator like creatures here. Students were in awe as the canoe Captains spotted a small Caiman and everyone was able to catch a glimpse.


Day two started out with a quick swim before breakfast followed by a visit to the Gunzi Maroon Village,. “Maroons” are the direct descendants of African slaves that escaped into the jungle to find freedom. In these villages, African traditions, like the building/use of dugout canoes for transportation, are still a large part of everyday life. 

As part of our port program, students were divided once again into groups of four, rotating through activities that included: cassava bread making, hair braiding, learning how to farm their “dry rice”, and jungle exploration. 

Suriname, Class Afloat

Photo credit: Shipboard Director, Steve

After a day spent learning more about Maroons, students enjoyed a small presentation of local song and dance by village residents before heading back to lodge. 

Sunset in Suriname, Class Afloat

Photo credit: @megancbrady_

Needless to say, stolen moments spent lounging in hammocks, playing in the rapids outside the lodge or just relaxing under the rays of the Surinamese sun, were some of the most memorable. 

Suriname, Class Afloat

Photo credit: @eva_hambly

But what was it that puts Suriname in the ranks of Semester One’s top ports? Was it the lush natural beauty? The serenity of the Menimi Eco Lodge? Or the friendly Surinamese themselves who made our stay one to remember?

Whatever the secret sauce, Suriname is scheduled to make an appearance again on the 2018-2019 Class Afloat itinerary and we (already) can’t wait to go back.

Photo credit, featured image: @megancbrady_