About Jonny Scott Blair

Jonny Scott Blair

Jonny Blair is a self confessed traveling nomad. He sees every day as an adventure. Since leaving behind his home town of Bangor in Northern Ireland ten years ago he has traveled to all seven continents, working his way through various jobs and funding it all with hard work and an appetite for travel. His website Don’t Stop Living, a lifestyle of travel' contains over 1,000 stories and tips from his journeys round the globe. He wants to show others how easy it is to travel the world, give them some ideas and encourage them to do the same but most of all he aims to constantly live a lifestyle of travel. He is currently based in Hong Kong and on Twitter @jonnyblair.


Latest Posts by Jonny Scott Blair

Exploring a Sugar Cane Trail in Suriname

July 17, 2014 by  

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The former Dutch colony of Suriname is famous for its sugar cane plantations although today, it’s sadly its a thing of the past. The glory days of sugar cane plantations may have gone in Suriname, but you can still do a Sugar Trail Tour and I’d recommend it.

On a sugar cane trail in Suriname

Cheers! Enjoying Surinamese Rum on the boat back to Paramaribo on the Sugar Trail.

Base yourself in Paramaribo to get the tour booked, which is the capital city and where all the main tour companies are based. One tour operator is Waterproof Suriname who are experts in organising tours around Suriname and the Sugar Cane Trail.

Waterproof Tours, Suriname.

The tour starts with “Hammock” street, the sunken German war ship in the Suriname River and lots of details about Surinamese history. In our minibus, we cross the bridge over to New Amsterdam and on route to the plantations at Concordia. Upon arrival at the village on the other side of a bridge, it’s morning coffee and biscuits time.

Coffee time before heading to Concordia Plantations.

Coffee time before heading to Concordia Plantations.

A cool map Njoek showed us of the Sugar Cane Plantations in Suriname.
We all board a speedboat to take us along the Commewijne River, which is a really relaxing journey.  Njoek our guide gives us more anecdotes and stories along the way as we arrive in a custom made jetty in the middle of the jungle….the Concordia Plantations.

Arrival in the jungle at Concordia Plantation.

We take a fascinating walk through the jungle at the Concordia Plantations. After the sugar cane industry died in Suriname, this place is no longer in use, the glory days were from the late 1880s to the latter part of the 20th Century. My first quick tip is to make sure you bring your insect repellent – we sprayed a lot on but still picked up some bites – spiders, mosquitoes and ants are quite common in this part of the jungle.

Touring the Concordia Plantations in Suriname.

First of all we are shown some trees which bear fruit. Then we hear some howler monkeys, but we do not see them. There are lots of unusual plants and trees as well as some remains of old mills and engines that were used in the harvesting and refining process for sugar cane.

An abandoned engine.

An abandoned engine.

Ruins of the old mills in the jungle.

A frog at Concordia.

A frog at Concordia.

A spider at Concordia.

A spider at Concordia.

We board the boat back from Concordia and are given some of the local snack Borrell Chips to share on the journey. We see some odd looking animals at the base before getting the minibus to Tamanredjo, where there was also a baby jaguar.

An unusual animal we saw at Concordia.

Then, we drove to Tamanredjo where we stop on the main road for lunch. The restaurant for lunch is a typical Javanese style cuisine – roots from Indonesia of course. We have a choice of lunch and we choose a tofu, chicken and vegetable meal plus a chicken and rice meal.

Lunch at Warung Toucha restaurant in Tamanredjo.

Lunch at Warung Toucha restaurant in Tamanredjo.

Lunch at Warung Toucha restaurant in Tamanredjo.
We have a short drive through the countryside to arrive at the village of Marienburg. On route again Njoek gives us lots of information about the area, the sugar plantations and the housing style and current vegetation and agriculture. Most houses along the way grow their own vegetables and fruit.

A house on the way to Marienburg.

 

Marienburg is almost like a custom built village just for the sugar cane plantations.  In front of the train which once transported sugar on Suriname’s only railway.

Touring the old factory in Marienburg

 

We have a quick stop in New Amsterdam and see a war memorial by the river before it’s time for the grand finale – a boat trip back to Paramaribo.

Memorial in Chinese at New Amsterdam harbour.

Then, you board a boat back across the Suriname River to Paramaribo.

Boarding the party boat back to Paramaribo!

Boarding the party boat back to Paramaribo!

Guyana: The Spectacular Kaieteur Falls, the Highest Waterfall in the World

July 4, 2014 by  

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kaieteur falls guyana tour

Guyana may not be high on your hit list (be honest with yourself – you prefer the appeal of Brazil or even Peru, as I once did). But please forget all that and head to the three Guyanas.

That said, Guyana was still my last port of call on the continent, as we crossed the border from Suriname and suddenly I was able to speak English and explore a country I knew little about except the British colonialization. Guyana houses the highest waterfall in the world and a whole lot more.

guyana waterfalls amazing

Dagron Tours is a great choice to show you what Guyana has to offer. Their office is also very handily situated on Middle Street in Georgetown, directly opposite Rima Guesthouse, where we stayed. They have a few different options for touring the Amazon part of Guyana and indeed the Kaieteur Falls or  just pop into the office when you arrive in Georgetown. Prices are around $200 US for the Kaieteur Falls tour. You can pay in local currency, US Dollars , Euros and Visa.

dagron tours kaieteur

Dagron Tours
91 Middle Street
Georgetown , Guyana
Tel: 592-223-7921/227-1174
Fax: 592-227-1166

You need your passports for check in and the bags will be weighed and bear in mind that you will not be issued with an actual physical ticket. The planes are tiny and they know who is on them.

Flying out of Ogle International Airport in Georgetown bound for Kaieteur.

The internal flight takes approximately one hour and was smooth and scenic, where you’ll see beautiful endless Amazon rainforest – trees everywhere and rivers flowing. As you fly over Kaieteur Falls, the pilot will fly down near the falls so you can get your first glimpses of it.  Have your cameras ready for photos and videos as the view of Kaieteur Falls is just magnificent.

kaieteur falls from the air

flying over kaieteur falls

View of Kaieteur Falls from the flight

Arrival at Kaieteur National Park: tmall landing strip in the middle of Kaieteur National Park is next to a big hut, which acts as a souvenir shop, place to stay and washrooms. It’s a wooden base in the middle of the jungle.

best kaieteur falls tour

Arrival in Kaieteur Falls

We have our lunch here – bottle of water, spicy sandwich and a jam sandwich and soon we are off on the walk to explore this part of the Amazon and more importantly the Kaieteur Falls!

Nature at Kaieteur National Park: the terrain we walk on is all natural, apart from the custom built steps.

The terrain on the walk to Kaieteur Falls

We are told that there isn’t really a threat of insect bites here and that insect repellent is completely unnecessary!

The start of the walk is also where the end of the overland walk veers off.

We are also shown the point where the overland walk arrives at the Kaieteur Airfield. We saw trees which contains frogs inside water within it, which help deter mosquitos. We also spotted some white necked swifts and some centipedes.

A centipede at Kaieteur Falls

The first of our four viewing points for the Kaieteur Falls is Johnson’s viewing point and it’s a short, easy walk to get to it.

A smaller waterfall near Kaieteur

A Kaieteur Rainbow.

kaieteur falls backpacking

Kaieteur falls

On arrival at Johnson’s Viewing Point we catch our first proper glimpse of Kaieteur Falls and it is memorable. Everybody in our group grabs the photo opportunity naturally, unaware there are three more even better view points to come! A

Boy Scouts Viewing Point: In the 1930′s, the boy scouts once built a shelter here nearby the viewing point, with a hiking challenge required in order to earn a badge of honour.

The remains of the Boy Scouts shelter.

The walk from the remains of the shelter down the the viewing point is just a few minutes. Then we are feasted with the Boy Scouts viewing point, which is closer and bigger than Johnsons.

backpacking guyana waterfalls

Looking back and another rainbow.

Rainbow Viewing Point: the third viewing point is stunning until we reach the final viewing point, which is mind blowing.

guyana waterfalls rainbow

We are lucky on the day as the sun is shining and a rainbow is clear for most of the walk, and we grab plenty of rainbow photos. Oddly the view of the rainbow was better from the Johnsons and Boy Scouts lookout points than the actual Rainbow named one!

The Top of Kaieteur Falls is epic and a moment of awe, where the river just drops and the falls begins. The endless gushing waters we see here are a sight to behold.

kaieteur falls guyana

Kaieteur Falls tour with Dagron Tours Guyana.

The burning question is how high is it? Obviously depending on the amount of water, the climate at that time etc. the exact height varies. Most sources site it as 226 metres in height.

height of kaieteur falls

It also has just one single drop – it is a standalone waterfall and for this reason it is believed to be the highest standalone waterfall in the world.

What does the name Kaieteur Falls mean? There is an ancient story about a family who pushed one of their members on a boat over the edge of the waterfall, in local dialect “Kaieteur” means “old man falls”. It is also possibly named after a chief called Kai.

Staying Overnight at Kaieteur Falls: some people go overland which takes a few days, and some pencil in the luxury of spending a night here, within a few hundred metres of the Kaieteur Falls. The price of a bed for the night in the lodge is 3,000 Guyana Dollars, which is only $15 US.

Experiencing Turtle Watching in Cayenne, French Guyana

July 3, 2014 by  

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The beach near the Novotel in Cayenne where we saw the turtles.

One of my most memorable experiences from my 3 days in Cayenne in French Guyana was turtle watching at Novotel Beach. This was a real surprise for us. We knew turtle watching and viewing was something you could do in French Guyana, but what we didn’t know was how random and spontaneous and lucky we would get. It can be done at night and in early morning. By day, you won’t see a single turtle here.

turtle watching novotel beach cayenne

Watching turtles at Novotel Beach, Cayenne, French Guyana.

We hired a car in French Guyana which made it easy to get around. For the basis of this post I will refer to the beach as the Novotel Beach which is just down from the Cayenne Novotel.

The entrance to the Novotel Hotel in Cayenne, on down the road to the right of this photo is the beach for turtle viewing.

The entrance to the Novotel Hotel in Cayenne, on down the road to the right of this photo is the beach for turtle viewing.

If you don’t have your own transport, it will be tricky so I’d recommend getting a car to travel along the main road between Cayenne and Remire-Montjoly.

The location of the Novotel in Cayenne, French Guyana.

The location of the Novotel in Cayenne, French Guyana.

Follow the main road out of Cayenne which heads east towards Remire-Montjoly. At some point you will see a sign on the left hand side for Novotel. This is the turn off you take and less than a kilometre down this road is the beach where you can see turtles. The beach will have signs up on the way in and a small car park, and on the left lots of turtle related murals.

The entrance down to the Novotel Beach, Cayenne, French Guyana.

The best time for turtle watching is between April and June but July is also quite good. Be sure to research in advance.  Night is the only time they come out and they stay out of the water for about two hours. 

The Information Boards: on the way to the beach you will see lots of information boards about turtles, which will tell you about the different types of turtles.

Information boards on the turtles at Novotel Beach, Cayenne, French Guyana.

Information boards on the turtles at Novotel Beach, Cayenne, French Guyana.

Information boards on the turtles at Novotel Beach, Cayenne, French Guyana.

The Murals: on the right hand side as you walk to the beach there are a load of cool murals all featuring images of turtles and this is sponsored by a group called KWATA which protects the turtles.

The murals by the beach sponsored by KWATA.

The Beach: obviously this is a tropical paradise so the beach itself is worth checking out to go in for a dip and relax. There are not really any ice cream or drink vendors which proves how untouristy it really is. It’s a great spot to relax.

Relaxing by the palm trees on the golden sands of the Novotel beach, French Guyana.

Turtle Watching: Essentially, turtle watching by night is the highlight. We turned up just after 8.30 pm and got to see small baby turtles and a mother nesting her eggs. The eggs need to be in sand in a hole. There were a few turtle experts that came along to explain the process to us.

The mother turtle nesting on the beach.

The mother turtle nesting on the beach.

A baby turtle on the beach.

A baby turtle on the beach.

On the beach with a turtle by my feet.

On the beach with a turtle by my feet.

We were lucky to catch both the mother and the baby turtles. It was quite a sight I have to say and really really worth it. Flash lights are not supposed to be used hence the lack of actual photos – go there and see it with your own eyes. The guides will give you stickers which read “Turtle Safe” to put over your torches to prevent the flashlight shocking the turtles. Protect the animals remember.

The turtle safe sticker to put on your torch.

The turtle safe sticker to put on your torch.

Sunrise and Sunset: we ran across people who were heading to the beach to watch sunrise and sunset. Sunrises in the east of course so sunrise is best.

Early morning on the beach near the Novotel.

Early morning on the beach near the Novotel.

There are numerous tour companies throughout Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana that organize turtle tours and turtle viewing.

Fajalobi Apartments in Paramaribo Suriname

July 1, 2014 by  

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We recently discovered pure luxury and relaxation at an apartment complex run by Etienne’s Unique (EU) Apartments in Paramaribo in Suriname.

Our apartment for a night in Paramaribo.

Having crossed the border from St. Laurent du Maroni (French Guyana) to Albina in Suriname, we arrived in the capital city, Paramaribo – a city I first visited in 2011. This time, we were here for a couple of tours, some relaxation and a l’il luxury so I could kick back and get some work done.

Fajalobi translates as “Hot Love” in English and it is one of a few apartments in a secure complex in the city of Paramaribo. Fajalobi is the name of the apartment which is part of a complex run by Etienne’s Unique. The apartments are situated in a lush area further away from the city centre yet still close to supermarkets, restaurant and bars.

What’s nice about the apartment complex is that you have your independence, and a full kitchen so you can opt to cook at home if you’d like, making it easier to relax, kick back, read a book and slow down. Each apartment in Etienne’s Unique is outfitted with its own fast wifi, which not all hotels have reliably in this area. The location is also incredibly quiet.  Situated on Nadiastraat in Paramaribo, it is far from the city centre so you will not be awakened by noises or crowds.

Nadiastraat - a quiet street

Watching the World Cup in Fajalobi.

Security — your own keys, locks and even an outer gate and barbed wire on the fence make this a secure and safe place to stay. You can book in advance through their website or simply call them and make a reservation.

Details:

Etienne’s Unique EU Apartments:

The apartment complex is situated at No. 40 Nadiastraat in the Uitvlugt district of Paramaribo.
Telephone (597) 822 – 6200 / 498278
http://www.eu-apartments-suriname.com and http://www.guesthouse-amice.com/contact.php
 

 

The Cosy Rima Guesthouse in Georgetown Guyana

June 4, 2014 by  

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Welcome to the interesting and off the beaten path Guyana. We based ourselves in the centrally located Rima Guesthouse and loved it. As well as touring Georgetown, Sloth Island, Parika and Bartica we also visited the nearby Kaieteur Falls.

Backpacking in Georgetown Guyana

Rima Guesthouse is very centrally located in Georgetown along Middle Street. With a bar immediately opposite the guesthouse, it is also close walking distance to the St. George’s Cathedral, Dagron Tours (30 seconds), Fogartys (8 mins), City Hall (12 mins) and Stabroek Market (16 mins).  The wifi is reliable and the incredibly warm staff make you feel at home. Run by a local family, there’s a cosy lounge where you can relax or take in a cup of coffee.

Kitchen in Rima Guesthouse

Georgetown has a reputation for crime, and the staff were really great about telling us where not to go in the city.

The cosy lounge at Rima Guesthouse in Georgetown Guyana

DETAILS:

Rima Guesthouse

92 Middle Street
North Cummingsburg
Georgetown
Guyana
E-mail: rima@networksgy.com
Phone: 592-225-7401 or 592-226-7106

 

Where To Go & What To Do in Botswana’s Gaborone

May 31, 2014 by  

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Most travelers heading to Botswana want to see zebras, which is Botswana’s national symbol. Away from the famous Okavango Delta and the deserts of Botswana, sits a charming and prosperous capital city by the name of Gaborone.  

After a bus from Pretoria and crossing into Botswana from South Africa  at Tlokweng, I based myself in Gaborone for a few days. Gaborone has international bus routes to South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Walking up to the parliament in Botswana's capital

1. Botswanese Parliament: In an area known as the government enclave, sits the elaborate Botswanese Parliament. It sits in a leafy area and the colours of the Botswanese flag adorn even the roadside pillars.

gaborone botswana backpacking

Outside the Botswanese Parliament in Gaborone

There are statues in the parks and boulevards and some visitor information. The first President of the nation Sir Seretse Khama sits proudly in the path that leads to the parliament.

backpacking botswana

Sir Seretse Khama statue in Gaborone, Botswana.

2. Debswana Diamonds: Botswana is famous for diamonds. Indeed three of my mates from Gaborone work in the diamond industry. Tours are available at the Diamond Trading company.

Diamonds in Botswana: My friends Louis and Fingile outside Debswana's offices

Botswana is world leader in diamond mining. The economy in Botswana is strong because of this, the fluency of English speaking is also fantastic, Setswana and English are both widely spoken.

diamonds gaborone backpacker

Diamonds in Gaborone, Botswana

3. Botswana National Football Stadium: When I was in Gaborone, Botswana had just qualified for their first ever African Cup of Nations.

botswana football stadium

Nicknamed the zebras, football is the national sport and a trip to the national football stadium was one of my targets when I backpacked in Gaborone. It was actually closed for renovations. Botswana have never made it to the World Cup, but remember there are over 50 countries in Africa and only 5 places up for grabs so it’s competitive.

4. The Mall: Rather than an elaborate shopping mall, Gaborone’s “The Mall” is an outdoor precinct with everything you expect from an African market. Fruit, football shirts, ball point pens and meat.

mall gaborone

The Mall in Gaborone is well worth a stroll.

gaborone mall

5. Hanging With The Locals: Perhaps the biggest surprise from my time in Botswana was how much the locals love dancing, drinking and partying. A

party botswana gaborone

 

Meet Sark, The Fourth Smallest of the Channel Islands

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Welcome to the island of Sark, the fourth smallest of the Channel Islands. The island nestles in the English Channel just off the Normandy coast.  Part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, but with its own parliament and laws, Sark is unique: British but somewhere completely different.

Sark is approached by boat. The visitors’ first sight of the island is the towering cliffs topped by steeply sloping common land, called cotils, covered in bluebells, thrift and daisies in the spring, then turning green, and finally bronze in the Autumn.  Seabirds wheel over the bays, and sometimes in late spring boat passengers are able to see puffins bobbing about on the surface of the sea. Dolphins may also make the occasional appearance.

Visitors disembarking on the Sark quay can choose either to walk up the harbour hill footpath which will then bring them in turn almost immediately to the village, with its selection of quaint shops and cafes, or those who do not want to walk up can take a seat on the “toast-rack”, the tractor-drawn bus.  Once at the top of harbour hill, visitors who are staying on Sark may stroll to their hotel, guest house or self-catering cottage, or collect a hired bike. Alternatively, they might embark on a sight-seeing tour by horse and carriage .  Luggage is taken directly to the accommodation by one of the island carters.

There are no cars on Sark, only tractors, bikes or horses and carriages. The pace of life is leisurely and relaxed. The island provides a haven away from the noisy, everyday world; the perfect place to get away from it all. The views from the coastal headlands are magnificent.  The variety of flowers, butterflies and birds attract naturalists. Fishermen can enjoy peaceful days on the rocks, and divers make the most of the clear waters teaming with a variety of marine life. However,  many visitors just visit Sark for its tranquility, spending their days swimming or walking the many coastal pathways, lush with wild-flowers and insects.

Armed with a picnic and a bike the day is open to endless possibilities for exploration.  Will it be south first, over the narrow Coupee to Little Sark and Port Gorey, or perhaps north with walks over the Eperquerie Common and a visit to the beautiful Seigneurie Gardens? Or maybe west, to visit the ‘Window in the Rock’ or the Gouliot headland. Wherever you choose to wander you are never too far from a scenic picnic spot, or fine cuisine and refreshments at one of Sark’s hotels, restaurants or cafés.

Then at night, Sark becomes a haven for star-gazers. The unpolluted velvety night sky, with thousands of bright stars visible with the naked eye, draws visitors during the winter months. In January 2011 Sark gained the distinction of being awarded International Dark-Sky Association recognition for its exceptional quality of unpolluted darkness, and became the world’s first Dark Sky Island.

 

sark channel islands

Sark is a magical dream like island. No public transport. No major advertising. No worries or stress. Sark is one of the few remaining places in the world where cars are banned from roads and only tractors and horse drawn vehicles are allowed. The population of Sark is less than 600 and it has its own flag and government.

The Official Sark Flag.

Sark was Europe’s last Feudal State – changing to a new system in 2008. In 2011 Sark became the world’s first Dark Sky Community – there are no public lights here – after dark – not a lampost in sight! It is a place I completely recommend visiting. Please. Please. Please. Get out to Sark and see it!

On the carriage on the back of a tractor – cars are banned and the only motorised transport on the island are tractors.

Sark was an easy backpacking option for me as I once worked on the Cross Channel Ferries that served Jersey and Guernsey. I managed to tour 4 of the Channel Islands at the time, and my favourite was Sark (the other was Herm – I still haven’t been to Alderney). Here I share my top 15 things to do in Sark.

backpacking sark

1. The “Tractor Entrance”
After getting the boat to Sark from St. Peter Port Guernsey, you arrive at the bottom of a hill. Motorised and public transport is banned on Sark, except for tractors. There are no cars allowed and bicycles and horse and cart are the norm. But have you ever got on a tractor after immigration? Prices are in British pounds here and it will cost you a quid.

sark in the channel islands

The tractor that I got on arrival into Sark, Channel Islands.

2. Bicycle Tour
So you’ve been on the tractor, well the only other transport options are bicycles or horse and cart. I recommend hiring a bike to tour the island since it the easiest way to get about and you can cover the whole island in a day.

sark  bicycle backpacking

Touring Sark on a bicycle – best way to get around.

3. The World’s Smallest Prison
For such a small island, Sark punches above its weight with these records it holds…the smallest prison has TWO cells in it. Rarely is there a criminal to put in them.

smallest prison sark

Outside the world’s smallest prison, Sark.

4. The “Stadium” of the World’s Worst International Football Team
Sark are not affiliated with FIFA of course but they have fielded an international football team before. They played in the Island Games, only once in 2003 when it was held in Guernsey and Alderney.

The Sark international team lost all four matches by at least 15 goals, having the unenviable and ridiculous record of scoring ZERO (0) goals and conceding SEVENTY (70) goals from just four matches. The island made games history by becoming the first team ever to fail to score a goal. They haven’t played a match since. I

5. Little Sark
While Sark is an island, it does have two parts to it – the big part of Sark (simply called Sark or Great Sark) and Little Sark – a smaller part and without question, you should aim to visit both parts of the island.

sark little

6. La Coupee

To visit both parts you walk along the stretch called La Coupee. I seem to remember that bicycles are banned on Little Sark, so you have to leave your bike by the entrance and walk across to Little Sark.

la coupee sark

La Coupee – the walk across to Little Sark.

7. La Seigneurie
La Seigneurie is the “parliament palace and gardens” if you like! It’s actually open to the public to walk around, with tours on Wednesdays though you can’t go into the living quarters of the Seigneur (currently John Michael Beaumont).

sark gardens

La Seigneurie Gardens in Sark

8. The Little Shop
Sark doesn’t really do commercialism and the Little Shop is definitely one of my favourites from my travels! This is a quirky wee shop selling Sark only souvenirs. It’s one of a kind from around the world, loaded with Sark flags, maps, postcards etc.

sark souvenirs little shop

Sark Souvenirs in the Little Shop.

sark little shop

The Little Shop in Sark.

9. St. Peter’s Church
The Church on Sark is open and very similar to any English country style Church: an old gate, bricks, decent design, and an Anglican church.

anglican church sark

Inside the Church in Sark.

10. Sark School
Sark has only one school and it is for children up to the age of 15. Beyond that age, kids have to go to Guernsey, or further afield. Some GCSEs are available in Sark however, but only since 2006 onwards.

sark school

I visited the school in Sark.

11. The Beach

Being an island, Sark has cliffs, rocks and beach all around it. To get to the beaches, you’ll need to veer down some of the steep paths but it’s worth it. In summer months, views are amazing and is a great spot to relax.

sark beach

One of the beaches on Sark.

12. Sark War Memorial
During the Second World War Sark was actually occupied by the Germans for a long time. However, people of Sark fought against Germany for Britain in both major World Wars.

sark war memorial

War Memorial in Sark.

13. Isle of Sark Visitor Centre
OK so Sark doesn’t attract a load of tourists, especially not in Winter months, but there is a visitor centre which is manned.

14. The Avenue (Sark’s Capital)
Once you have arrived by tractor, the street in front of you is “where it’s at”, known as The Avenue, this street is basically Sark’s “capital”. You will find a NatWest bank, a bike hire place, the Little Shop, tea houses etc. all along this main street.

The main street on Sark - The Avenue.

The main street on Sark – The Avenue.

The main street on Sark - The Avenue.

The main street on Sark – The Avenue.

15. The Bel Air Inn (Pub) - How cool is it to have a beer in such a remote tranquil island? I didn’t have a care in the world when I had a Guinness on Sark. There are actually a few bars and drinking dens but I opted for the Bel Air Inn.

Beer Garden at the Bel Air Inn, Sark.

Beer Garden at the Bel Air Inn, Sark (above). Out of all the places I have been on my travels, Sark still remains a highly magical part of my journeys and I absolutely encourage the trip.

 

 

 

Top Things to See & Do in Paramaribo Suriname

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paramaribo suriname backpacker

I have wanted to visit Suriname for awhile, so I made it a priority, knocking off days on my Colombia and Venezuela trip to do so. Suriname is a former Dutch Colony in South America with a very interesting history. The Dutch once swapped New York for this place with the British — had something to do with sugarcanes. What this means is, that when you go backpacking in Suriname, you’ll have almost the whole country to yourself.

Before you go to Paramaribo, you’ll need to get your Suriname Visa which you can get in Caracas if you’re en route. Below are some top things to see and do in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname.

Downtown Paramaribo - a really cool capital city to check out.

Downtown Paramaribo

1. Waterkaant - Waterkaant is a must of course – it’s a UNESCO World Heritage listed street. You would swear that you are in the Netherlands since the Dutch influence is evident.

Waterkaant in Paramaribo, Suriname.

Waterkaant in Paramaribo, Suriname.

2. Onafhankelijkheidsplein - A tongue twister if ever there was one. Get your gob round this one: Onafhankelijkheidsplein!

independence square paramaribo

Onafhankelijkheidsplein, Independence Square in Paramaribo, Suriname.

Onafhankelijkheidsplein is the main square in downtown Paramaribo. The Dutch influence won’t wear off I assure you, but if you want to know, translated into English this means “Independence Square”.

independence square paramaribo

Onafhankelijkheidsplein – Independence Square in Paramaribo, Suriname.

It’s a grassy area which (as you face the river) has the Waterkaant to the right, the Presidential Palace to the left, Fort Zeelandia ahead and a statue of Pengel, the former Prime Minister and a popular figure. On Sunday mornings the square becomes part of a Tweetyfest! A local bird singing competition.

Flags of the world at Independence Square, Paramaribo, Suriname.

Flags of the world at Independence Square, Paramaribo, Suriname.

3. Presidential Palace - Suriname is a relatively “new country” well it was formed in the 1970s, but the parliament building sits proudly in Onafhankelijkheidsplein. This is apparently only open to the public on the 25th November. It’s an elaborate white building with a Suriname flag flying in front of it.

4. Arya Dewaker Hindu Temple - Suriname is an eclectic mix of religions. There isn’t another country in the world quite like it (yes not even Singapore). The religious buildings sit side by side throughout the city.

Hindu Temple in Paramaribo, Suriname.

A Hindu Temple in Paramaribo, Suriname.

5. Mosque Keizerstraat - Religion will feature in four separate elegant buildings in my Paramaribo top 10 and rightly so. I loved free spirited Paramaribo. Anything goes here. As the Lonely Planet once wrote (something similar) laid back Amsterdam meets the Wild West on a hill where Palestinians and Israelis live and eat side by side in harmony. On Keizerstraat sits the massive Mosque Keizerstraat the National Mosque of the country. In South America you’d do well to find better Mosques than this one. Somewhat epic.

mosque in paramaribo suriname

Keizerstraat Mosque – surely one of the finest in South America.

6. Neveh Shalom Synagogue - I’m not sure if this is a world’s first or only or not, but it sure as hell sends out a positive message to the rest of the planet. DIRECTLY next door to the Mosque. Yes – Synagogue and Mosque side by side. Say a prayer for Palestine and Israel as you dander nonchalantly past.

paramaribo suriname

Standing in the middle – between the Synagogue and Mosque in Paramaribo, Suriname.

7. St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral - This elegant Catholic Cathedral provides Paramaribites with their Roman Catholic fix, while at the same time it is the largest wooden structure in the Western Hemisphere!

paramaribo suriname

The Largest Wooden Building in the World? This is the yellow and blue St. Peter and St. Paul’s Cathedral in Paramaribo, Suriname.

cathedral paramaribo

Inside the wooden Cathedral in Paramaribo, Suriname.

8. National Assembly - Also situated off Independence Square is the National Assembly building.

suriname paramaribo

The National Assembly in Paramaribo, Suriname.

10. Stichting Surinaams Museum - Down by the waterfront, to the west side is a small museum. This is a good place to check out relics remaining from the colonial times and some local art and exhibitions.

museum paramaribo

The Suriname Museum

11. Fort Zeelandia - Fort Zeelandia is a typical Dutch Fort and though it’s not too touristy or popular it does give you a good idea of the Dutch influence here.

zeelandia paramaribo suriname

Fort Zeelandia down by the seafront in Paramaribo, Suriname.

12. The Palmentuin - I was actually warned that this leafy area near the parliament is where all the tramps, druggies and suspicious characters hang out.

palmentuin paramaribo, suriname

The Palmentuin – looks leafy and a nice spot for a walk but it can be dangerous.

13. Royal Torarica Hotel - Take in a beer or a meal here.

posh hotel paramaribo

Visit one of the posh hotels for a quick beer!

14. Waag (Weighing House) - A bit of a sad history here at the Waag. Here, they used to weigh slaves and the best ones would make it and be exploited and over worked. The lighter ones would end up mal nourished. Rumour has it that this building is ironically now a restaurant and it’s located on the Waterkaant.

waag weighing house paramaribo

Den Waag – the Weighing House.

15. Commewijne River - Escaping the madness (!) of central Paramaribo isn’t too hard. Buses and mini buses janut all around town and you can take a boat trip on the Commewijne River. Most people use it as a gateway to the Nature Reserve and Sugar Cane tours which are outside of Paramaribo itself.

river in suriname

The Commewijne River in Paramaribo Suriname.

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