For the areas around Paramaribo such as Weg naar Zee, Chocopot and Peperpot (GPS for all locations on eBird) , we rented an apartment in town where we made our own breakfast and got takeaway from a Warung or Roti shop for dinner. We had a fridge to keep drinks cold and a kettle for making instant coffee in the morning. We found the set-up ideal. Numerous apartments can be found by checking out booking.com, etc. We drove around in a small Toyota from Ross Rental Cars.
Peperpot (pronounced ‘paper pot’) (5.800440, -55.118730)
Park at the GPS above and not the google maps pin. This location is really fun to bird independently. It has a ton of nice birds and we saw different things each time we visited including Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Royal Flycatcher, Black-spotted Barbet, Blood-colored Woodpecker, Arrowhead Piculet and even a Sungrebe. Staff here told us they plan to build a bird-watching tower in the future and they also want to add a canoe trip from the nearby plantation/new hotel. While we were there they built and flooded the canal.
The center doesn’t open up until around 8 but you can go in anyway at 6 or earlier and simply pay on your way out. We also asked for permission to go in at night with flashlights at the staff center. The people behind the desk might not say yes to this, as they are probably junior staff, but we happened upon the manager. She said it was essential to warn the night guard who might otherwise mistake you for poachers. Staying until after sunset we saw Giant Potoo at dusk and then later found a nocturnally feeding Linnaeus’s Two-toed Sloth, in addition to lots of bats. We tried unsuccessfully for owls but reckon it might have been too early at 7:30 pm. That and we got hungry…
Fred Pansa is a talented young bird guide. He has loads of energy and is very enthusiastic about birds, mammals, butterflies, snakes, frogs… basically everything. The main business that supports Fred’s Place/Zintete Lodge is a steady stream of mostly Dutch tourists that do a two-day trip to the Fredberg, a small rocky “mountain/hill” that rises above the rainforest. On top of this ridge he has built a camp where you can watch the sunrise, sunset, the stars etc. and stay in hammocks. The hike is about 4 km uphill one-way. It is not necessary to stay at the Fredberg to see birds, but we did the hike and it was a fun experience and we picked up a few extra-special birds along the way.
Otherwise, visiting birders stay at Zintete Lodge along the banks of a beautiful river (which was quite low on water during our stay). This is a great place to bathe after a morning in the jungle. Meals are served at the common area and are tasty.
The BBC and Fred have now built several hides for COTR and Golden-headed Manakin. The sites used by the BBC over a three-week period of filming at Fredberg are awesome for getting beautiful photos of the lekking COTRs. During our stay, we walked tirelessly through the forest encountering tons of beautiful birds thanks to Fred’s enthusiasm and skill. We unfortunately did not chance across an ant swarm despite Fred’s best efforts, which means we dipped on most-wanted Rufous-throated and White-plumed Antbirds.
In hindsight, I don’t know if I would sacrifice the trip up the Fredberg to spend an additional day looking for an ant swarm. But I do know that I would have preferred to accomplish both. That being said, finding a swarm is not always easy nor guaranteed. Staying and birding with Fred is cheap/not cheap depending on your perspective, expectations, and the size of your group. It represents good value for money considering what you see and how much fun it is to bird with Fred. No matter how you slice it, however, visiting Fred’s Place is much more economical than a trip to the interior by flight.
To read other birder’s accounts of Brownsberg you would think that the birds were simply falling out of the trees they are so numerous. That was not our experience in the open areas around camp where the trees were neither fruiting nor flowering. We are told this makes all the difference. Therefore, we did not encounter Sharpbill, which was a bit of a letdown. Every morning and afternoon during our stay was foggy or rainy. This also likely made things a bit difficult.
However, we did have a very vociferous and loudly calling White Bellbird. Unfortunately, however, Rick tore his meniscus a month before the trip and his knee was knackered after ascending the Fredberg. It was all that Manuela could do to prevent Rick from descending into the thick brush and down the ridge to try to find the bird in the trees below. You win some you lose some. The bird, likely a male, called for over one hour and was certainly behind the tree we were looking at but refused to come closer.
A word about Brownsberg accommodation: The lodges here have got character and if properly looked after they would be real gems. Unfortunately, however, the staff seemed to have slipped into a bit of a malaise. Accommodation prices have now doubled since the Bradt Guide to Suriname was published in 2014. We took a room at the Tapir lodge (which we otherwise had to ourselves during the week) and it cost 300 instead of 150 SRD. Because we had no car, we were reluctant not to get a room with a lock on it for our expensive birding equipment. It is certainly possible to just hang a hammock here.
White-Sands Savannah Area (Airport and Environs)
Colakreek (google maps pin accurate) was very busy with birds both times we visited as the trees were in full flower. That being said it was tons of fun to bird because the trees were flowering. To bird inside the grounds, stop off at the desk and pay the entrance fee. You will have to pay for your car as well. The trees inside the gates are teeming with birds especially at dawn and dusk. Birding the road in was also rewarding.
To look for Pale-bellied Mourner, try at 5.342136, -55.094292, walk down the dirt trail 50 meters and head inside the bushes and play the song. According to Fred it is usually here.
We looked around the airport (5.446737, -55.202002) for Burrowing Owl and Crested Bob White, but no luck. Perhaps we weren’t in the right area? We did see lots of Eastern and Red-breasted Meadowlarks and plenty of open-field species. At Palulu Camping there is a regular White Bellbird from June to August roughly. Tawny-bellied Screech and Crested Owl woke us up both nights we stayed at Palulu. The campground has enormous potential and is highly recommended.
For the trail at Powakka, drive to 5.427116, -55.068099. Park your car a along the road.
20 Oct: Arrived with KLM from Munich via Amsterdam at 15:00. We got a SIM card for internet/GPS/eBird while we waited for our luggage to arrive. Please note that it takes absolutely ages to get your tourist card, then visa, then luggage. It was well after 17:30 before we got out. Not wanting to drive at night on the left without daylight, we quickly picked up a rental car from Ross Rental Cars Suriname and drove to Paramaribo. The trip took about 1:20 minutes and we stopped off to get money and supplies along the way.
21-25 Oct: Birding at Weg naar Zee, Chocopot and Peperpot. Stayed in an apartment for 4 nights in Paramaribo before staying 2 nights at Palulu Camping near the airport (Zanderij). We used Palulu Camping as a as base to bird the White-Sand Savannah area independently. We used eBird to find locations in addition to info from the Birds of Suriname bird book. From here we visited Powaka, Colakreek, the airport area and even did some birding around Palulu Camping (enormous potential).
26 Oct: Dropped off the car at the airport at 9:00 and we were picked up by Fred. We birded a bit along the way and arrived at Zinete Lodge/Fred’s Place. After lunch we birded all afternoon and went looking for owls.
27-31 Oct: We birded the entire area around Fred’s place. We also hiked to the Fredberg and stayed overnight on Monday afternoon, 29 Oct. At the top of the Fredberg the stars are amazing. It is a great place to have a scope with toucans and macaws flying by. Blackish Nightjar is common. You can sleep in a hammock, though we opted to bring our own tent.
31 Oct – 3 Nov: Brownsberg. Dropped off by Fred at the top at around 3 pm on 31st. Got one of the rooms at the Tapir lodge. We birded the area on foot concentrating on the main trails and open areas near the lodge. White Bellbird was found at the end of Mazaroni Trail to the lookout area.
Staff arranged to take us to Fargo’s Place. From here, staff at Palulu Camping arranged for a taxi to back to their campground.
3-4 Nov: Stayed at Palulu Camping again on the evening of November 3. Can’t say enough good things about this place and their staff. We highly recommend basing yourself here to explore the White-Sand Savannah area. Donovan is an amazing cook. We got the evening KLM flight on Sunday to Amsterdam and then Munich.