Danpaati, Suriname

Photo: Danpaati River Lodge
Photo: Danpaati River Lodge

This was supposed to be an easy trip. You flew to Suriname to see Paramaribo. The capital of South America’s smallest country is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with black-and-white Dutch colonial buildings, restored forts, and lively markets. Churches, mosques, and synagogues stand side by side here. And the people speak a crazy mix of Dutch and Sranang.

But then you started learning about the rainforest that fills 80 percent of the country, the plantations constructed along the fertile rivers, and the runaway slaves who built villages where no one could find them. You were fascinated by the Maroon people. So when given the chance to fly more than 200 miles over the expansive jungle, you quickly left Parbo behind.

After flying south, over the endless rainforest and around the tea-colored Upper Suriname River, you land at the unpaved Botopasi Airstrip. You transfer to a dugout canoe and head into the thick jungle. It looked quiet and uninhabited from above, but the reality is quite different. You’re surrounded by huge Inga trees, rubber trees, and spiky-rooted palms. You hear macaws and toucans calling to one another. Howler monkeys screech in the distance. And what sounds like a woman screaming is just a peccary running along the shore. You’re not sure whether to be relieved or terrified by the time you reach Danpaati.

Photo: Danpaati River Lodge
Photo: Danpaati River Lodge

You call it relief when you’re handed an ice-cold welcome drink at the Danpaati River Lodge and shown around the property that was built by Maroon descendants. The lounge has zebra-print chairs and an honor bar. Hammocks have river views. Your wooden, sunrise cabana has bright pops of color, a wide verandah, and even electricity.

Your relief doesn’t last long, though. Some of the planned activities make you a little nervous. You can handle a walk through the village. Women are sweeping and scrubbing, elderly people smile and wave hello, and the school kids are excited by the balloons you brought. You can handle a canoe tour, moving between tiny coves and rough rapids. You can even handle fishing for catfish right in front of the lodge.

But the jungle walk makes you a little nervous. Jaguars, tarantulas, and blue poison dart frogs roam this land. The night cruise sounds even more terrifying. You’re supposed to head out, in the dark, to find black caimans. These crocodilians—the largest predators in the rainforest—can grow up to 20 feet long. You’re supposed to search for them—at night—and then go swimming or tubing in these waters the next morning. You might have to sit this one out. You’ll be just fine sitting in the lounge, drinking a Parbo Bier, and hearing Maroon stories. That’s what brought you here in the first place anyway.

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