ATJONI (POKIGRON), SURINAME
Pokigron is often referred to as Atjoni which is the nearby quay, and literally the end of the road. Villages to the South of Pokigron can only be accessed by boat. Pokigron is a town in Suriname located on Brokopondo Reservoir. The port of Atjoni lies at an important point midstream on the Suriname River and at times, almost 100 boats can be seen gathered here. The river is the only way to go from Atjoni to Guyana through the interior, and boats take the place of cars and trucks, carrying people and goods. With all the roughly 30-ft. canoe-like boats lined up at the port, it is a memorable sight.
CAYENNE, FRENCH GUIANA
Cayenne is the capital of French Guiana, on the northeast coast of South America. Its 17th-century old town district blends influence from France, the Caribbean and Brazil. Tropical-coloured Creole-style houses sit beside hilltop ruins of the French colonial Fort Cépérou, which overlooks the Cayenne River. Shops and cafes can be found on the main commercial thoroughfare, Avenue du Général de Gaulle. Cayenne has a familiar name as South and Central America is the birthplace of the Cayenne peppe, perhaps the spiciest pepper known to the world. It is named after the French Guianan capital. Wandering the old town with a guide is a good history fix and much of what you’ll see is inspired by France, the Caribbean, and beyond. There is plenty to see and do here - the ruins of the Fort Cépérou, the city’s yellow cathedral, and discover the volcanic origins of the high point, La Pointe Buzaré.
Georgetown is Guyana’s capital, on South America’s North Atlantic coast. The city is culturally connected to the English-speaking Caribbean region and home to British colonial architecture, including the tall, Gothic-style St. George's Anglican Cathedral. A clock tower rises above Stabroek Market, popular for local goods. The Guyana National Museum traces the country's history, while the Bourda hosts cricket matches. Standing proudly where the mighty Demerara River pours into the Atlantic, Georgetown is by far Guyana's biggest city and a place all visitors will spend at least some of their time. With its dilapidated architecture, unkempt parks and vibrant street life, Georgetown has a laid-back feel and considerable charm.
GUIANA SPACE CENTRE (CSG), FRENCH GUIANA
In 1964 Kourou was chosen to be the site of the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) because it is close to the equator, is away from tropical storm tracks and earthquake zones, and had a low population density. The launch site is the only one in the world this close to the equator (within five degrees), where the earth's spin is significantly faster than further north or south; this means that the site benefits from the 'slingshot effect,' which boosts propulsion and makes launches up to 17% more energy efficient than those at sites further away from the equator. Since 1980 two-thirds of the world's commercial satellites have been launched from French Guiana. The centre is run by Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES; www.cnes.fr) in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA; www.esa.int) and Arianespace (www.arianespace.com).
ILE DU SALUT (SALVATION ISLANDS), FRENCH GUIANA
Located some 10 miles (8 nautical miles) off the coast of Kourou, the Ile Royale, Ile St-Joseph and Ile du Diable (Devil Island) form an archipelago that once was one of the most infamous penal colonies in the world. Numerous penitentiary buildings are still to be seen on the Ile Royale, offering striking landmarks of a prison system that lasted until 1946. You can visit the late 19th-century convicts’ hospital, the “death-row” quarters, the church and its presbytery, the madhouse and the lighthouse. Some of the buildings (including houses formerly used by guards) have been restored to their original aspect and the former guards’ mess is actually a restaurant where you can have lunch while scanning a fine distant view of Devil Island. The îles du Salut owe their name to the survivors of an expedition who were able to take refuge on those lands devoid of mosquitoes and with a pleasant climate.
KAIETUR FALLS, GUYANA
Kaieteur Falls is the world's largest single drop waterfall by the volume of water flowing over it. Located on the Potaro River in the Kaieteur National Park, it sits in a section of the Amazon rainforest included in the Potaro-Siparuni region of Guyana. Roughly four times taller than Niagara Falls, this single drop waterfall is a dramatic facet of the Potaro River – a wide, coffee coloured flow that runs for 140 miles (225 kilometres). Flights over the region take in the river’s cursive scrawl, as well as lush rainforest and wide pasture. The falls are of deep significance to the local Patamona community. According to legend, their chief Kai sacrificed himself by paddling over the falls to appease the spirit Makonaima. In doing so he saved his tribe from the vengeful Caribs. Kaietuer means the ‘falls of Kai’in local dialect and were only discovered in 1870.
KOUROU, FRENCH GUIANA
On a small peninsula overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the massive Kourou River,Kourou is a town and district on the Atlantic coast of French Guiana, a South American overseas department of France. Northwest of the town, the Guiana Space Centre (Centre Spatial Guyanais – CSG), a European Space Agency spaceport, has a rocket launch site and space museum and is where two-thirds of the world's commercial satellites are launched. Boats go from the town to the nearby ÎIes du Salut (Salvation Islands), former prison islands with restored buildings. The Kalapa Centre d’archéologie amérindienne shows pre-Columbian rock art.
MARONI RIVER, SURINAME AND FRENCH GUIANA
The Maroni or Marowijne is a river in South America that forms the border between French Guiana and Suriname. It rises on the northern slopes of the Tumuc-Humuc Mountains, near the Brazilian border, and descends generally northward through dense tropical rain forests, to enter the Atlantic Ocean at Point Galibi, Suriname, about 19 miles (30 km) below the river ports of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, French Guiana, and Albina, Suriname. Its upper course is known as the Litani in Suriname, or Itany in French Guiana; its middle course, along which there is placer gold mining, is called the Lawa, or Aoua. Along some 320 miles, this Amazonian river is the royal way to discover fluvial Guiana. Creating the border with Surinam, it provides a lifeline of exchanges for riverside populations such as Wayana Indians and Bushinengues.
Paramaribo is the capital city of Suriname on the banks of the Suriname River. It is known for ornate wooden Dutch colonial buildings in its centre. On the banks of the river, the 17th-century Fort Zeelandia houses the Surinaams Museum, with exhibits on the region's history. Nearby, the wood-and-stone Presidential Palace faces Independence Square and is backed by the Garden of Palms, a public park. Paramaribo is the most vivacious and striking capital in the Guianas. Black-and-white colonial Dutch buildings line grassy squares, wafts of spices escape from Indian roti shops and mingle with the chaos of the city's market, while Maroon artists sell colourful paintings outside sombre Dutch forts. The friendly, multilingual residents of the Surinamese capital, who call the city 'Parbo,' are proud of their staggering ethnic diversity and the fact that they live in a city where mosques, synagogues, churches and Hindu temples are happy neighbours. The historical inner city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a veritable treasure trove of traditional colonial architecture, and makes a great place to relax between jaunts to Suriname's rainforest.
SAAMAKA, SURINAME AND FRENCH GUIANA
The Saramaka, Saamaka or Saramacca are one of six Maroon peoples in the Republic of Suriname and one of the Maroon peoples in French Guiana. The Republic of Suriname, a former Dutch colony in northeastern South America, has the highest proportion of rainforest within its national territory, and the most forest per person, of any country in the world. Saramaccan is a creole language spoken by about 58,000 ethnic African people near the Saramacca and upper Suriname River, as well as in the capital Paramaribo, in Surname (formerly also known as Dutch Guiana), 25,000 in French Guiana, and 8,000 in the Netherlands.
ST LAURENT DU MARONI, FRENCH GUIANA
Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni is a town in French Guiana, an overseas department of France in South America. It's on the Maroni River bordering Suriname and known as a former penal colony. The 1858 Camp de la Transportation has cells and a museum. Henri Charrière, author of “Papillon,” was reputedly an inmate. The administrative centre of the prison, known as Petit Paris, is notable for its colonial buildings. The prison, or ‘camp de la transportation’, as the terminology went, was the principal arrival point for most convicts who were processed here and then assigned to other parts of the penal colony, in particular the Iles du Salut, with the infamous Devil’s Island. With a population of nearly 41,000, the city has a large area (more than 4,800 sq km), bordering the Maroni River, which is a border with Suriname.
Guiana, Suriname and French Guiana, known as The Guianas, occupy the least-explored region of South America, a northwest corner that is home to a melting pot of cultures and vast unspoiled tracts of nature.
Guyana - Although on the South American mainland, Guyana is typically considered part of the Caribbean region, with strong ties to its culture, history and politics. And if you’re seeking nature and adventure, this is the place to be. Thickly forested, boasting wildlife from jaguars to sea turtles to gigantic anteaters, plus four awe-inspiring mountain ranges, Guyana is an ecotourism gem. From the precipice of table-top Mount Roraima to the colonial capital of Georgetown, there’s much to enjoy. Top attractions include Georgetown, Kaieteur National Park, Shell Beach and Iwokrama Forest.
Suriname – Abundantly welcoming, with sumptuous cuisine, beautiful architecture, ethnic diversity celebrating original customs and untamed wilderness, Suriname may be South America’s smallest country, but it’s certainly one alluring little package. Come for the unique cultural blend, stay for the stunning geography – from the countless rivers to the sky-soaring trees to the wide savannas. Top attrcations include Paramaribo, the Galibi Coppename Nature Reserve, Central Suriname Nature Reserve and the Commewijne River.
French Guiana - Characterized by dense jungle and unfettered wilderness, French Guiana couldn’t be farther removed from Paris chic and haute couture. This overseas department of France is known primarily for its 17th-century Fort Cépérou ruins, vibrant Creole architecture, the street markets of Cayenne and the Atlantic coast beaches. Despite its brutal history (tropical diseases, prisons, slavery and more, especially between the 1850s and 1950s), today French Guiana is a beautiful and welcoming destination on the South American coastline. Nature lovers will find a huge array of plant and animal life (some of the world’s most diverse) throughout the miles of forests and rivers. If you travel the Maroni River, which forms the border between French Guiana and Suriname, there is opportunity to discover the Amazon forest and learn the life of the river people. The French Guiana Space Centre at Kourou is a European Space Agency (ESA) spaceport with a rocket launch site and space museum.
When to Visit
Guyana - The best time to visit Guyana is dependent on the rain pattern, which varies by region. Visit the northwest February to March, Georgetown and the central region September to October and February to March, the east September to November and the southwest savannah October to March. For simplicity’s sake, if you’re looking for generally the best time to visit any region, choose February or March.
Suriname - Visitors will find little variation in Suriname temperatures throughout the year. The warmest time to visit is August to October (with the very highest temps in late September, around 93°F). The first dry season of February and March is an optimal time to visit; the second dry season is August to November. The two rainy seasons are December and January and April to August.
French Guiana - As expected for an equatorial country, French Guiana has a tropical climate much of the year, with humidity levels around 70 percent. July to November can be somewhat drier, while the two rainy seasons are November to February and April to June.
Guyana - The Guyanese dollar is the official national currency and used only in Guyana. 1 Dollar is divided into 100 cents. The Guyanese dollar (G$) is stable and pegged to the US dollar, which is widely accepted. Not all ATMs accept foreign cards; credit cards are rarely accepted outside the better hotels in Georgetown. Cash can be exchanged at banks, but cambios (foreign-exchange offices) offer better rates and less red tape. Sometimes hotels change cash for a small commission.
Suriname - Although the official unit of currency is the Surinamese dollar (SR$), some businesses quote prices in euros or US dollars. Most banks will accept major foreign currencies, but you may run into difficulty trying to change Guyanese dollars and Brazilian reals. Republic Bank ATMs are the most reliable at accepting foreign cards and you can get credit-card advances at some banks and hotels. Most hotels, better restaurants and travel agencies (but hardly anywhere else) accept credit cards, usually for a fee. Bargaining is not customary at shops in Suriname but may be undertaken at markets and street stalls.
French Guiana - French Guiana uses the euro. The only ‘cambios’ for currency exchange are in Cayenne, but ATMs are found in most of the midsized to large towns. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Visas and Vaccinations
You must have all visas (and vaccination) certificates that are necessary to enter or pass through The Guianas.
Visa requirements are subject to change so please check with a Visa Service Company in the country in which you are located, or you can check details online instantly with companies such as CIBT Visas (https://cibtvisas.co.uk/. Visas can be obtained through the relevant embassy or consulate.
General Note: Some countries refuse admission to travellers not meeting their accepted standards of dress or appearance (even if they hold a visa). Entry may also be refused to certain countries if your passport bears stamps or visas (valid or expired) for Israel.
A useful general health advice website for travellers is http://www.who.int/ith/en/ and there are also advice sites in individual countries.
Please note it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct, current visa and vaccination information and that you act on it.