Diana Plater dis­cov­ers a taste of the Caribbean in the lit­tle-known South Amer­i­can na­tions of Suri­name and Guyana.

Signature Travel & Lifestyle - - Destination South America -

We’re float­ing in the moon’s reflection in the Up­per Suri­name River as the Milky Way streaks across the night sky, hop­ing a black caiman won’t nib­ble our toes.

Artist and tourism de­vel­oper Si­rano Zal­man is re­gal­ing us with sto­ries about what the Amerindian peo­ple thought were mis­chievous mer­maids or river nymphs – per­haps mis­tak­ing the an­cient rep­tiles for them.

Zal­man, the CEO of Dan­paati River Lodge, where we are stay­ing, ex­plains pet­ro­glyphs, ar­rows and axes show Amerindi­ans once lived here, but in the 18th cen­tury the Ma­roons – es­caped African slaves – worked their way 200 kilo­me­tres south from the cap­i­tal, Para­maribo, and sur­round­ing plan­ta­tions. They grad­u­ally mis­placed the Amerindi­ans af­ter learn­ing how to sur­vive here, in­clud­ing how to grow and har­vest their sta­ple crop, cas­sava, and the use of medic­i­nal plants.

We are in “the in­te­rior” of lit­tle-known Suri­name, a for­mer Dutch colony, at the north of South Amer­ica, which feels more like the Caribbean. It’s bor­dered to the west by Guyana and the east by French Guiana. The three coun­tries lie on the ge­o­log­i­cal zone known as the Guiana Shield, where one of the world’s four re­main­ing large tracts of rel­a­tively undis­turbed trop­i­cal rain­for­est meets the Ama­zon Basin. Be­cause of this it’s one of the re­gions of high­est bio­di­ver­sity in the world.

A stroll along the Waterkant We’ve swum in nat­u­ral Jacuzzis, shot the rapids and floated down the river in life jack­ets. One night the women wear­ing their tra­di­tional pangis – ap­pliquéd cot­ton wrap skirts – dance and sing saucy songs for us. Here tourists can also fish, ca­noe, do yoga, laze in ham­mocks, have a tra­di­tional mas­sage or visit the vil­lages.

Back in UNESCO World Her­itage­listed Para­maribo we stroll around the Waterkant (Wa­ter­front) filled with stately, white, tim­ber Dutch colo­nial build­ings. I feel as if I’m on the set of

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