The sailor's pub on the waterfront, as we
could name Oma's (granny's) warung (we were even allowed to repair sails there), was
closed by the end of May. Oma will be 70 next month and although she is
a tough cookie, this is a good reason to do something different with
your life. We
wanted to make a great farewell party and as the Dutch are the rich people
herethey are the ones to organize a big party. We collected
400 euros and 25 kg of fish from the Dutch fish company in Domburg.
With 400 euros one can do a lot here in Suriname. We arranged for a
party tent complete with decoration, a gamelan orchestra, snacks and 125
fried fishes. Of course Oma could not be fooled and she knew something
was going on behind her back. It all turned out to be a great party, Oma
was in tears and could only stop crying when one of the street dogs bit
a balloon to pieces.
The party lasted to midnight and the story made the frontpage of the
In the meantime we also have 10 puppies. Suriname is full of street dogs
and Domburg square is crowded with them. One of the pregnant dogs (we
named her Ramona) was extremely heavy so we helped her a bit. Fish heads,
meat and real dog food so now she's got the time to care for all her
puppies, who drink in shifts. Ramona feels protected by the Dutch and
she even moved her nest (10 puppies of 5 days old) from one pub to the
other, as we moved our happy hour next door after Oma closed her shop.
Unfortunately it is some kind of a 10 little niggers story, as people
start taking the puppies to their homes only at two weeks of age.
The 10 little niggers story also applies
to the sea turtles, who beach and nest here in Surinam. Sea turtles
prefer easy accessible beaches without natural barriers such as coral
and there are only a few beaches of this type in the world; and two of
them are located in Suriname. You see the green turtle here, the warana
and the most impressive sea turtle: the leatherback, about 2 meters long
and weighing 600-1000 kgs.
Suriname's most famous nesting beach is Galibi, on the east side near
the French-Guyanese border. The indigenous are monopolizing the area and
the worst thing is that they rob the eggs out of the nests. The
Surinamese government tries to stop this, but without success.
Apparently they offer the indigenous too little as they continue their
malpractices. The eggs are expensive and one nest contains about 60 to 140
eggs. And one turtle nests three to eight times per season (February to
Apart from men, the sea turtle has many other enemies. Jaguars
hunt on the beach, and on the turtle's return into the sea the sharks
are waiting. On their first steps into the sea, the baby turtles are
confronted with an army of enemies: dogs, vultures, crabs and sharks are
all waiting because they crave a nice bite of baby turtle.
We really wanted to see turtles but Galibi was not very much to our
liking. Fortunately we discovered that the second nesting beach can be
visited as well: Matapica, 30 km away from Paramaribo and accessible by
boat through the swamps and our return trip was by… helicopter.
The route through the swamps (lots of birds) was
quite spectacular. The area looks like flooded land where you can only sail
in the smallest boats, and the skipper has to be very experienced with his
outboard engine as the propellor often touches mud. Sometimes you have to
get out and push the boat, while the mud sucks around your ankles.
And one time to our surprise the boat was sailed right onto a dyke, which
appeared to be a crossing of land like we experience in the Netherlands when
we are speed skating.
Once arrived on Matapica beach we immediately spotted baby sea turtles, who
had just come out of their egg.
And in the evening the highlight: the leatherback
doing her job.
The nesting of a sea turtle is an impressive sight. The walk from coastline
to the sandy beach is already a tough job, and then they have to dig a hole
of about 50 cm deep before she can start laying her eggs! This must be
extremely exerting, judging by the amount of groaning and moaning. After the
last egg is layed
the sea turtle covers her nest and makes a fake nest to distract robbers.
Only when this is finished, she can finally return into the sea.
At Matapica a lot of work is done by volunteers from Stinasu, the Nature
Preserving Organisation in Suriname. Supervisors check the area and every 12
hours (after the flood) the new nests are counted and marked, so they can
also update on which nests have come out. This is how we know that only one
out of thousand baby sea turtles makes it to adult. And if you keep in mind
how many eggs have to be laid to produce one baby turtle...
to see a short movie about a leatherback baby