Q: Why did you choose Suriname as the place to take your group of travellers in 2016?
A: I read a feature article recently about how bucket-list destinations don’t live up to the hype (or to the seductive brochure images), and Suriname is an anti-bucket list destination. It’s on nobody’s list, and that’s why I’m enticed. In Suriname there are no pyramids, ancient temples, epic canyons, iconic mountains, or even Copacabana-style beaches. However, it has some of the most remote, ancient, and pristine wilderness areas on all of Earth — inlcuding a rainforest that is furiously rich, diverse and protected in perpetuity.
Suriname is also a hotpot of cultures and religions, with Hindustani, Creole, Javanese, Chinese, Lebanese, Colombians, Brazilians, Dutch, Amerindians, and tribes of Maroons.
There are no cruise ships here. The rivers, in which live piranhas and anacondas, are explored in handmade canoes, and several species of monkey scuttle through the branches above, shared with toucans, macaws, parrots and 400 other species. The artists and weavers in the West African style-villages make art for themselves, not for the mobile rich. I think the word ‘authentic’ is bandied about in tourist collateral, but rarely has meaning. It does in this case.
Best of all, there are so few tourists, and the place seems far from the rest of the world. In Suriname, every day feels like Earth’s first morning. That’s why I want to wake up in Suriname — I want to smell the orchids, eat wild bananas, and be consumed by the pure mist of a waterfall.
Q: What do people gain from travel with you?
A: I hope they find the same joy and purpose that I do, no matter the destination. My quest is always to understand and celebrate the assets of a place or culture, and extract what lessons might be learned and applied elsewhere, from pioneering environmental practices to progressive policies to the unsung heroes who make a difference. I believe (and decades of challenges have borne me out) that the best way to preserve a wilderness or threatened culture is through visitation, as then the place and its issues become personal, an emotional attachment is knotted — a constituency is formed that will then invest time, monies and resources to save that which is meaningful. Mindful, openhearted travel really can make such a difference.