Suriname: a lost South American paradise
Brownsberg Nature Park is teeming with wildlife!
Taking a mere three hour drive from Paramaribo, and you’ve already given yourself a chance at spotting elusive Amazonian Wildlife without having to spend the mounds of cash necessary for visiting one of the remote jungle lodges tucked away deep in the heart of the basin. However incredible the lodge experience may be, for some backpackers that ‘level’ of service is simply out of our budgets. Yet, we still want the chance to spot some of the magnificent creatures the lodges boast about in their brochures… enter Brownsberg, Suriname.
The Brownsberg Wilderness Reserve sits atop a small hill (hence the name in Dutch) overlooking a lake. That sentence would sound normal under any other circumstance except for the fact that the ‘lake’ is a giant manmade reservoir and rain forest graveyard.
30 years ago the Suriname government decided to dam the Brokopondo River and create the Brokopondo Lake. The Reservoir covers 1,500 sq km, which is equivalent to 1% of the Suriname’s total surface area! It is a literal rainforest graveyard and still has trees sticking out from where it wasn’t deep enough to cover their once lofty canopies. Through creation of the reservoir thousands of animals were forcefully re located and hundreds of Amerindian first nations families lost their homes. It must have been a very tough decision for the government to make. The dam was officially finished in 1964.
With this relocation, nearby Brownsberg Nature Park and Wilderness Reserve was flooded with wildlife and still plays host to a number of those relocated to this day. It is a prime location for monkeys, jaguars, snakes, insects of all types, spiders, birds, tapirs, ant eaters, etc. etc. you get the idea, jungle wildlife. All of these creatures are possible to spot in a relatively small area, plus Brownsberg plays host to two waterfalls that are each worth the short hike in. All around it is a great little hidden gem and easy to get to without having to spend a fortune.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
There are two main ways of getting to Brownsberg: Suriname public transport or private tour.
The Public transport you can get from Paramaribo (small buses depart from a street corner near Central Market, ask your accomm) every hour or so depending on demand. The buses will also not leave until they are full and safety does not take priority. The small bus/van will then drop you off two hours later at the beginning of a dirt road with a sign that says Brownsberg 13km (see photos). From here you can walk or hitchhike. There are often vehicles passing and they are almost all going to Brownsberg, so hitching is not a bad option and should get you there relatively quickly. Same goes for the return trip. You can hail any of the small buses/vans once back on the main road on the return trip. All are going to Paramaribo.
The Private trip (tour) is really the way to go. The transport is a guarantee for the entire length and they leave on time from Paramaribo, which is a huge asset in planning your day. Ask your accomm for more details. The trip should take just under three hours from Paramaribo.
View Where Sidewalks End in a larger map
Do – Activities & Attractions
Stay – Accommodation
There are two options for sleeping once at the top of the hill. One is the legendary hammock (which I recommend), while the other is booking one of the beds in a small cabin. This needs to be done in advance and usually through one of the Suriname tour operators in Paramaribo. There are a ton of these operators, all offering the same two day/one night trips to Brownsberg, Suriname.
I travelled on solo with my hammock and was able to get a spot, plus park entrance for 70 Suriname Dollars (about 22 USD) which I thought was fine enough, plus I didn’t really have any other option at the time. The facilities are fine with a resto on site (owned by Rocky, ask by name), a small kitchen in the hammocks hangar, and good bathrooms with cold showers. There is easily space for 20 hammocks with another 15 beds for those who would rather sleep indoors.
Eat – Restaurants
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
I would suggest at least two days one night. The day trip from Brownsberg is a lot of time driving and not a lot of time experiencing the location. The sunset and sunrise over the lake are both def worth the overnight.
From Paramaribo in private transport it should take you three hours. Public plus hitchhiking (or walking) the last 13km could range from 3 to 7 hours depending on your luck.
Safety – Possible risks
Brownsberg is incredibly safe, but always remain cautious of your belongings and always keep money passport, camera and whatever else you hold dear, near or on your body. This should be a common rule of thumb no matter where you go in the world!
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
The entrance is a standard fee for 20 Surinamese Dollars (6usd), the beers at Rocky’s are 30. Ha! I paid an additional 50 for my hammock space and 50 for the one way transfer from Paramaribo, I then hitchkied back saving me the return transport cost. However, most people visit Brownberg in a set day or two day trip from Paramaribo. These range from 200-300 Surinamese depending who you book with, how many people there are, and when you are going.
I would actually suggest doing it this way unless you are on a super tight budget. This is because the 13km road leading up the hill can be killer if you don’t have transport and a lot of the time it is in pretty rough shape (4×4 needed). See Reality Check.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Reality Check – Be Aware
Brownsberg Nature Park is a popular day trip tour from Paramaribo, but really it deserves at least two days. It may be a good idea to book the transport with a private tour operator, then once at site hike on your own and sling up the hammock at the accomm provided. Also keep in mind the history of the location and why Brownsberg is as good of a wildlife viewing location in Suriname as it is. A lot of the time the Brokopondo Lake/Reservoir is just as interesting of a trip and most tour operators offer a island village visit along with Brownsberg as a set tour option.
Do your research in Paramaribo and decide which is the best route for you. Keep in mind Suriname is not cheap and the set tours are going to cost you, but they take out a lot of the hassle involved in sorting your own transport, same old for most tours in most countries, you get the idea.
It is an awesome location and definitely worth the trip. Enjoy!!
JOIN US! WSE Travel Packages
This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!
Follow this link for our ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Tours – packages that are highly personalized and tailored at your request.
Have you ever gone out of your way to find somewhere that was truly off the beaten path in search of something completely unique and protected? Where was it and what did you find there?
Please feel free to share your stories and thoughts in the comment section below!