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Useful pilotage and local info. notes for a visit to Domburg and a trip up-river

By SY Moon Rebel — last modified Sep 22, 2017 10:21 AM

Published: 2013-04-04 00:00:00
Countries: Suriname

Yacht Moon Rebel visited French Guiana prior to Suriname in February 2013. See their report here.

Suriname – A visit to Domburg & a trip up-river in Feb/March 2013

Suriname River Entry:

We arrived at the Fairway buoy (positioned as charted) at about one hour after Low Water Paramaribo on a neap tide and found there was lots of water (5m+ often 9-10m) and a 1.5 – 2 knot fair current all the way up to Domburg; but it’s obviously shallow in some places just beyond the channel.

Before visiting, we’d read several Noonsite reports describing the channel as being ‘well-marked’, but when we arrived in overcast/squally conditions we found the lateral buoys very difficult to see – the buoys are 1+ miles apart out in the bay and as they are all green buoys, they disappear/blend-in with the background greenery of the shoreline beyond; fortunately they are positioned pretty well ‘as-charted’:

From the Fairway Buoy, through buoys 2, 4, 6 & 8 was on a track of about 180 degrees. When you reach Buoy 8, the next ‘obvious’ mark is a tower/lighthouse? Further south – do NOT head that way! From Buoy-8 turn to 150 degrees to find Buoy-10, then buoy 10 through buoys 12, 14, 16 and on to the Red-can buoy R1 at the junction of the Suriname & Commewijne Rivers was on about 120 degrees. After rounding Buoy R1, pass close west of the cardinal mark; from here to up Paramaribo the buoys were all red, un-numbered and some were not easy to see - but if you keep to the west-side of the river (approx. 200m from the side), you will always have enough water – the commercial ships run up this side.

At Paramaribo we just stuck to the middle of the river and went through the main span of the road-bridge; thereafter the deep water/commercial channel was on the east side of the river, but there’s still ample water up the middle. About 2 miles before reaching Domburg, the deep water/commercial channel moved across to the centre of the river and goes through the only red/green buoyed ‘gate’ that we saw all the way; after that we again stuck to the middle of the river until moving back to the west side at Domburg to anchor.

We followed the advice in the previous report from ‘Wild Fox’ about tide times/currents and they worked for us; we got up to Domburg easily on one tide. I guess you could anchor at Paramaribo itself, but certainly it was much windier there than at Domburg and there are lots more movements by ferries/commercial vessels to disturb you. The strongest tidal currents we encountered were at the junction of the Suriname & Commewijne Rivers and around the bridge area in Paramaribo; at spring tides these were reaching 3.5 knots in both places.

Commewijne River Entrance:

The water is shallow and the tides can run strongly (3+ knots) at the confluence of the Commewijne and Suriname Rivers and as you’ll also probably want to be there near low water to carry the tide up one river or the other too, go carefully. The buoyage was slightly different from that shown our chart: ‘Suriname-Mundung’ Nr. 541. – The Green buoy C2 was as charted, but at the position where the red buoy ‘C1’ was shown on the chart, there is now a second green buoy, with red ‘C1’ having been moved fairly close to the position that red ‘C3’ is charted at; that’s all the buoyage we saw, C3 has now gone. Based on four passages through this section, we found the deepest water: Get to a position about 200m N of the West-Cardinal Buoy off Nieuw Amsterdam, then follow a course of about 090 degrees, this will take you parallel to, but well south of the two green buoys mentioned above; continue on that line until you see the fish-traps/withies ahead of you, then swing north so that you pass them about 200m to starboard, before swinging back to the east to pass about 100m N of red buoy C1. On This line you should get 3.5m + tide, whereas if you run close along the line of the two green-buoys, you’ll only be seeing 1.8-2.0m + tide. Beyond Buoy C1 ample depth was never a problem.

Checking-In:

We tried calling MAS on the VHF as we approached Paramaribo, but we got no reply so we just motored up to Domburg and anchored. We went by bus a few days later to check-in. It is still a bit of a pain, but we were told that it is: “much better now than it was - and cheaper too”. We were advised by several people that: ‘You only have to check-in within seven days of your arrival, so if you plan to stay for less than one week, you don’t need to bother’. You no longer need/get (for British anyway) a Visa, the Immigration office issues a ‘Tourist Card’ instead.

Go early in the morning and you will probably manage everything done in one morning; the offices open at about 09:00 and close for the day at about 14:00 or 15:00.

As noted previously, the first people to visit are the Foreign Police at the Immigration Office (Public Works Building) on ‘Lachmon Straat’. If you come in by bus from Domburg, you can save yourself ½ hour: When the bus from Domburg (SU$2.50) approaches the suburbs of Paramaribo, it turns off the main road and snakes around various industrial/residential suburbs; keep watching for a big, ornate, green & white mosque, appearing in front of you as the bus is making a right-turn, I didn’t notice what it was actually called but believe me, you will recognise it when you see it. Get off the bus there and turn to your left (away from where the bus is now pointing/heading) and walk 150m to the end of the street and then turn right, walk a further 200m and you will arrive at a roundabout; turn left and stop walking. You are now on ‘Lachmonstraat’ and you can flag-down and catch a number 8 bus (SU$1.25) which will continue in the same direction for a further 3 or 4km. You will pass a huge cemetery on the left side and eventually reach a second roundabout; the Public Works Building is on the left side of Lachmon Straat, immediately after this roundabout. Walk around the right-hand end of the building and along it to the very last doorway before the corner; it will appear very busy, but don’t panic! Squeeze through the crowds and go through the entrance door; everyone will be trying to get attention at the counter on the right-hand side, but if you look the other way, there is a short corridor, going off to the left-side. At the end of this corridor is the beautifully quiet and air-conditioned office that you need. The Officer there stamped 3 copies of our crew-list (I’m not sure why/if you need so many nowadays?) checked them against our passports (ALL crew still need to go there) kept one copy and sent us on our way.

From here you walk (200m) back to the roundabout and stand on the far side of the road which goes to the right (outside ‘Benny’s’ Store, beside the petrol station) where you flag-down and catch a number 8 or 9 bus into the centre of Paramaribo (SU$1.25). Take this bus right to the end of its route; near the end of its journey, the bus will be on ‘Maagden Straat’, before turning right onto ‘Schoenbakker Straat’ and stopping. When you get off the bus, walk back to ‘Maagden Straat’ (100m), turn right and follow it to the very end – perhaps 6-800m in total; you will pass lots of gold/jewellery shops, a statue of Mahatma Ghandi and after a further 150m or so on the left/north side, a parking place with a few buses – make a mental note, as this is where and THE ONLY PLACE (you can’t flag them down along the route) that you catch the bus back to Domburg.

The Immigration/Visa office is a further 4-500m east from here: After the Domburg Bus-Park, turn right onto ‘Keizer Straat’ then left onto ‘Watermolen Straat’, walk along here and you will pass the ‘Roopram’ Roti Restaurant (we can recommend it) on your left and after perhaps another 100m you will reach the junction with ‘Lim A Po Straat’. The Visa Office is on the corner of these two streets (right-side) and you enter by the doorway on the ‘Watermolen’ side of the building. Inside go to the office on the left-side, where the nice lady took our passports, the two-copies of the crew list and €20 for each person (you can also pay in US$ -$25) in cash.

We’re told that normally, you must return later the same day, or the following next day to collect your passports? But ours were returned after only 10 minutes, with a blank ‘tourist card’ inside, the two crew-lists and an instruction to: ‘Go next to the Military Police’. Say ‘yes/OK’ but DO NOT go there.

Instead, return to Schoenbakker Straat, catch a number 8 bus back to the Foreign Police, return to the same office as before and here they will stamp both your passport and the Tourist Card; we were given permission to stay one month. If you wish to extend your stay in Suriname, the Officer told us we should do so at the main desk in the Foreign Police Office – we never tried, but it looked chaotic! If, as we did, you leave within the month, you return to the quiet-office in the Foreign Police Office where the Officer puts an exit-stamp on your passport and two remaining Crew Lists and keeps the Tourist Card; that’s it, no need to visit anyone else – as advised by an earlier report; when asked, we told the officer we were ‘going tomorrow’.

Getting from Domburg to Paramaribo:

There are regular buses from Domburg to Paramaribo but only on Mon-Fri from 05:00 to 08:45 and then back again between 14:30 and 16:30, outside these times and at weekends/holidays, there are a few buses, but don’t rely on finding one, they may be an hour or more apart. There is no set time-table for the buses; they just depart when they are full. In Domburg you catch the buses from the small square, just behind the dinghy landing.

IMPORTANT Note: If a bus arrives from the Paramaribo direction going the other way, get onto it and tell the driver that you want Paramaribo; the bus will drive around the countryside for perhaps 20-30 minutes, before returning through Domburg and then going on to Paramaribo. If you just wait in Domburg for it to come back, it may well be full when it returns and you then won’t be able to get on! The fare from Domburg to Paramaribo (with or without the countryside tour) is SU$ 2.45

Domburg Mooring:

There are only 2 or 3 buoys here now – occupied and maintained by long-term residents, but we found good holding in 9m + tide off the N side of the river, just upstream of the dinghy/ferry landing. Tides ran quickly through here, though probably only 2.5 knots maximum; certainly less strongly than in the Mahury and Kourou rivers in French Guiana. Try to get well to the Domburg side and use an anchor light/ball as there are a lot of water-taxis/barges/coasters going up and down the river, though the bigger stuff tends to run close to the east side, across the river from Domburg.

There are only a couple of long-term, Netherland-flagged yachts here now, but they were certainly friendly and helpful; apparently there are a couple more moored-up/living at the new ‘marina’ further up the river. Whilst we have no first-hand information about the marina, we did see it on a short trip up-river; it’s a solid looking single pontoon with finger berths about 7M beyond Domburg on the west/starboard side of the river. Costs/facilities (3rd-hand info) are about €1 per metre/day, including water, electric and Wi-Fi to the berths; buses don’t run this way though, so without transport you will need to use taxis to get to/from there to anywhere else.

Domburg Ashore:

Sunday afternoons: are a pain in the arse! Hundreds of locals descend on Domburg’s main square to picnic, socialise and watch the ‘show’ on the river; these are no problem at all and very open/friendly/welcoming. The ‘show’ on the river however can be a bit annoying: All the local wet-bikers and a few speedboats too, arrive and then spend the afternoon demonstrating how daring and skilful they are by zooming around the anchorage; anchored boats are a favoured ‘turning-points’ and if they can manage to spray the anchored boat with their wake too, that’s considered to be even better! It’s no use complaining and getting upset, the wet-bikers are not picking-on you especially, it’s just the accepted local way/tradition; either ignore it, or join the spectators on-shore; though pick a quiet moment to go ashore, as ‘buzzing’ passing dinghies is another favourite game. Be positive about the experience, when you eventually return to home waters, you will now be able to appreciate just how quiet and considerate your local wet-bikers are!

Facilities: Much as previously reported, there is a fuel station 100m from the main square in the Paramaribo direction and an ATM machine just beyond it. The Internet café is 50m from the main square in the opposite direction; you can also get a WiFi access code (SU$10/5hours), which works fine in the square, but will only reach the boat if you’re anchored fairly close to the village. There are several fruit/vegetable stalls and bars/cafes in the main square, though we never did work out when all their open and closing times were. There are also three or four mini-markets scattered around – prices/stocks are similar in all, we thought the best was the one at the fuel station, but not by much, so try them all.  We also found a good bakery, but that’s a further 1.5km along the Paramaribo road, beyond the fuel station. When around the square, keep an eye out for a skinny Indian guy called ‘Birri’; he’s often around trying to sell bags of fruit; I don’t know where he gets them from, but they’re invariably good and very reasonably priced.

As noted by others, if you ask politely, you can get water by jerry-can from the fishing-quay/boatyard about 400m downriver from the anchorage.

Gas can be obtained from ‘Mr Ben, the Gas-Man’, who rumour has it can & will refill just about any sort of bottle that you’ve got. He refilled two 3kg Camping gas ones for us for SU$37.50 (about €9) each, the norm is to drop them off at his house and then collect them following day, it’s best to go there 0800-1200 or 1600-1900.

How to find Mr Ben: From the dinghy-park, walk across the square to the main road and turn left (away from Paramaribo) after about 100m the road curves to the right (it’s called ‘Sir Winston Churchill Weg’) follow this road for about 1.5km (it’s along the bus-route, so you may get lucky) until you reach a turning to the left named: ‘La Rencontre Straat 5E’ – there’s a green sign directing you to ‘The Surinat Leisure Resort’ at the junction. Walk down La Rencontre 5E for about 1/2km and Mr Ben’s house & business is on your right; there’s a small pinkish/orange sign advertising gas bottles in the gateway.

Car Hire – Note, this is second-hand information, as we didn’t actually hire a car ourselves, but the source was accurate with everything else: Cars can be hired in Domburg itself from a Mr Rishi, but he only has two or three cars, so you may not get one on the exact day you want. The cost is €12.50/day and you will also have to leave a €2-300 deposit with him too. You can phone Mr Rishi on 0862-0048 or 0370-332; either he or his wife Marieka will answer, both speak Dutch and excellent English. Alternatively, you can go to their house and enquire: Walk out along Sir Winston Churchill Weg (as for getting gas) but turn left one street earlier onto ‘La Recontre Straat 4E’, Mr Rishi’s house is the second one on the right-hand side.

A Trip Up-River:

Stock-up before you go, as supplies are very limited up the rivers. We used a copy of Dutch Hydrographic Chart 2219 – ‘Commewijne – En Cottica Rivier tot Moengo’ which despite being very old proved accurate; we travelled up the Commewijne & Cottica Rivers as far as Barbakoeba Creek, about 60M upriver, with several side-trips en-route. Once you’ve carefully negotiated the confluence of the Suriname & Commewijne Rivers (details earlier) it’s very easy and you’re more likely to have difficulty in finding somewhere shallow enough to anchor, rather than with running aground.

We felt the more ‘interesting’ section started after we got into the Cottica River and the ‘highlights’ for us were taking Moon Rebel up into the Perica River and making side-trips by dinghy (use the oars not an outboard, or you’ll see/hear nothing) up any small side-creek that takes your fancy.

The main hazards to watch out for were the occasional floating log/tree, overhanging tree branches in the side rivers, an electric cable which crosses the creek near Constantia/Alliance. There are BIG Bauxite Barges plying the main river route between Moengo & the Paramaribo River: These are named ‘Kite’, ‘Kenley’ and ‘Kutari’, but if you keep in regular contact with them on VHF Channel 12 and let them know your current location & plans, not only will they advise you of the timings of their own passages, but they’ll go out of their way to be helpful to you; they come past the Domburg anchorage, so you can even call them up before setting off: DO NOT anchor in the  entrance to Koepman’s Creek without checking with the barges first; this is the place where they pass each other and/or anchor when necessary. That said, when we were up there, one of the barge skippers (I said they were a helpful bunch) changed his plans and anchored elsewhere to allow us to spend an undisturbed night in the creek’s entrance.

General:

We absolutely loved Suriname, very friendly and welcoming to visitors and the integration/tolerance of the assorted races and religions whilst not being perfect; is far better than anywhere else we’ve ever visited. With the prevailing winds and the Guiana’s Current (1.5 -2.5 knots running NNW) it would probably be very hard work getting here from the Caribbean, but easy enough from Brazil and having ourselves come across from the Cape Verdes to French Guiana, we now think that coming directly to Suriname would’ve proved a much easier passage.

Bob & Lesley Carlisle
Yacht Moon Rebel (British)

Related content
Domburg
Paramaribo
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Blackie
Blackie says:
Sep 01, 2017 11:32 AM

We have just checked in here at Suriname. We anchored outside and waited for daylight before coming up river and moored at Marina Resort Waterland which is past Domburg. A taxi was arranged and took us straight to all the relevant ofices. We needed a visa (not a tourist card) and this took a little while at a cost of $45. but all-in-all it was not a bad day. Everyone is friendly and helpful

marjam
marjam says:
Aug 11, 2013 11:18 AM

By reading this long letter about visiting Domburg and the Suriname river, I would like to make this long story short. Not all boats travel this way anymore and have faster ways of getting through by means of electronic charts and by moving with a taxi when ashore.Therefor I whould like to state that all does not have to take so much time to reach destinations.The buoys in the Suriname river are sometimes changed for reasons. This couple did not see , or did not study the river well before entering. All is safe to enter the river. And now only a tourist pass is necessary and, with a taxi this is done in a few hours, instead of going with the local buss, because such an incheck day takes a little time and its the best way to do all in short time. No searching for this or that building!!! The taxi drivers know exactly where all to find.
About the sundays, that's just holiday boys having some fun, I wonder why it is stated as being a pain in the arse!!! pls. this lengthy letter is somehow a bit confusing to the newcomer.
I would like it to be seen less a hustle getting to Domburg and all around it!
Thank you, Mieke Koenraadt

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