Sunday, 31 July 2016

Cruising To Suriname

Image courtesy Noel Pauw - Waterland Marina Resort
Here is the Waterland Marina in Suriname on one of those lovely foggy river mornings. It's not always like this of course, and the jungle is green and growing across the river and right beside the marina site. The noise of the howler monkeys is a delightful and constant companion every morning and evening, some obviously quite close, though we never sighted them on the dock.

Image courtesy Noel Pauw - Waterland Marina Resort
We feel the Waterland Marina is the premium cruising boat location in Suriname, safe, secure and very friendly, if a little isolated. Potable water, WiFi and AC power (110v/60hz & 220v/60hz) are available on the dock. The weekly Sunday luncheon there is a spectacular social celebration of fusion food, well attended by locals and visitors.

There are other choices however, and our friends on the catamaran Ceilyhd stayed a little further downstream at the town of Domburg, where the Harbor Resort Domburg offers swing moorings on the river plus restaurant, bar, WiFi, pool and laundry at very reasonable rates. If you're happy on a mooring, then this is also a very good location, specially since the restaurant is open each day, which is not yet the case at Waterland.

Suriname is not a destination you choose for palm trees and sandy beaches. Yet this country does have beautiful places, and a colorful history, however you should visit the interior and explore the natural environment to have the best experiences.

The stand-out benefit of visiting Suriname is the generally respectful social conditions and safe surroundings. It's a kind of old-fashioned place, where people are a little shy but will happily stop and talk to you in the street. The capital Paramaribo (more info here) is a great place for provisioning, with three major western-style supermarkets offering products and produce from around the world. Paramaribo also offers a wide range of marine engineering and maintenance services.

Paramaribo River Entry
Most cruisers enter via the Paramaribo River, which is quite simple, the channel being deep and well marked - though the number of buoys differs from those shown on the charts, and our three different charting systems all disagreed on these to some extent. Large ships and tug/barge combinations ply the river entrance, with traffic controlled by the Maritime Authority of Suriname ("MAS"). Visiting yachts should call MAS as they approach the channel and request permission to enter the river. Using a rising tide it can take up to six hours to reach Domburg or Waterland, so an early morning approach is recommended. Note that the tide runs at up to 3.5 knots upstream, so pushing against the tide will slow you down considerably.

Waterland Marina, Suriname River
Both Waterland and Harbor Resort will provide all the guidance needed for the necessary immigration and customs clearances. On arrival we first visited the MAS offices to process the vessel in, then the Consular Office to obtain a visa stamp (a small fee is charged for this), then finally the Military Police office for the immigration stamp.

Outbound clearance was easier - visit the military police one day before for an exit stamp in the passports, then notify MAS of departure by VHF radio when outbound in the channel. Very simple. We recommend Suriname highly as a safe and relaxing stopover for cruising boats in the region.

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