This district of 2,353sq. km. lies to the east of the urban district of Paramaribo and has a population of 32,000. To reach Commewijne from Paramaribo you take the 55-meters high Wijdenbosch bridge over the Suriname river. Over the bridge you will find big, colourful Hindu statues that sort of welcome you to the other side of the river.
The road runs through Meerzorg, which has grown into a suburb of the capital.
Take the first exit at the roundabout and you’re heading for the regional capital, Nieuw Amsterdam. This administrative center takes its name from the old fort at the confluence of the Suriname and Commewijne rivers. It’s a historic place, a kind of open-air museum.
Farming, horticulture, cattle and fishing have been important sources of income here since colonial times, while more recently tourism has also become significant.
At a leisurely pace on a bicycle you can explore the old plantations and historic places, and cycling gives you the opportunity to meet the local people, who are always happy to chat.
They’ll give you friendly, simple explanations and advice. You’ll also come across places that you wouldn’t find in a car. Cycling along quiet creeks and hidden villages you see much more and you’ll go home with more authentic and memorable photos. This is definitely the best way to get to know the plantations.
Vissersdorp, not far from the city, is a cozy little place. A few well-maintained houses, screened to keep the insects out, good food, a swimming pool, hammocks and a garden full of fruit trees. It’s a fine location in the heart of nature, alive with songbirds and brightly coloured parrots. Stand and admire a spider’s web glittering with droplets of dew. This is natural art, the wonders of creation. It might put you in the mood for a very different kind of excursion: maybe a boat trip to watch the dolphins.
Follow the main road, heading east, and you can stop off at Tamanredjo, where there are treats for anyone who’s a bit hungry. The Javanese kitchen, with its tasty light meals and snacks, is popular with the locals too.
Further along, turn right after 23.5m and through a gap in the woods you will find yourself welcomed into De Plantage resort. Eight comfortable, clean and tidy bungalows, a swimming pool and a cozy, high quality restaurant serving great coffee.
The surrounding woodlands have been transformed into a friendly park with lots of different species of birds. You can also hear and see various kinds of apes. Nature-lovers come here from all over. Wandering around the park is a charming experience and can be full of surprises. Coming across a sloth, who never seems to be in a hurry, is truly something else.
As you follow the Commewijne River it takes you past derelict plantations which nature’s undergrowth has almost completely reclaimed. It is hard to imagine that the Commewijne and its tributaries once carried sugar, coffee, cocoa and cotton to the European markets.
The tree plantations provided timber for building and other wood products.
What a sight it must have been: the impressive owner’s house, the stately palms
and other vegetation, the sluices (locks) to keep the water there so boats could be loaded and unloaded, the storage buildings. Plantation after plantation: a feast for the eyes.
At Friederiksdorp the distinctive plantation architecture remains. The intrepid entrepreneur Sirano Zaalman and his staff are dedicated to turning this place into a touristic gem. It’s an appealing resort that convinces you Suriname is a tropical paradise with a wealth of fascinating natural attributes. From this pleasure ground you can get to know more of this friendly district, it’s well worth the effort.
Onwards to the Matapica region in the north, and the seashore. This is marshy but fertile terrain where the crops are the main attraction, which is why the planters loved it. Warappakreek is a man-made canal. dug out by slaves, that stretches down to the sea. The silt made it hard to navigate, but it was recently dredged, so visitors can take a trip on the closed canal and get a better view of this glorious area.
These are impressive surroundings with ruins and relics that recall its illustrious past. Sluices, the remains of a sugar factory, old bottles, graves, abandoned steam engines and more. The rambling vegetation gives you an idea of the determination that must have been needed to set up a plantation here.
For us it is now mainly a stunningly natural place. The mangrove, which prevents erosion, helps protect the land. There are countless birds, fish and other creatures of the marsh. Both the Warappa and Matapica beaches are inviting. They change steadily and regularly through the power of the sea, which alternately gives and takes away.
Back to Bakkie, also known as Reijnsdorp, where a courageous lady and her partner run a resort and it is through their efforts alone that this has become an area of interest to the tourist. It’s a pleasant journey back in time. A restaurant, a museum, a souvenir shop and some holiday homes: a little boost for the quiet but always lively plantation.
A visit to Alliance, now a citrus plantation, is not to be missed. An imposing owner’s house, lovely plants, sluices and canals in good condition give you a little glimpse of how agriculture was around here in the old days.
Commewijne has the potential to grow into a vibrant holiday destination. For historical and nature tourism it is outstanding.