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Brownsberg Nature Park
This nature park is one of the country's best birdwatching areas © reneholtslag, Shutterstock
Plentiful monkeys and birds, plus a superb location overlooking Brokopondo Reservoir, make this a very popular and worthwhile day trip from Paramaribo.
About 100km inland from Paramaribo as the crow flies, and readily accessible by road, the scenic and wildlife-rich Brownsberg Nature Park is one of the most popular destinations for organised day trips from the capital. Created in 1969, the 112km2 park protects the forested slopes of Brownsberg (‘Brown’s Mountain’), which rises to an altitude of 560m immediately east of the Brokopondo Reservoir. Around 1,500 types of plant have been recorded in the park, as have 410 bird species. It is also one of the most reliable sites in Suriname for seeing large mammals, with red howler and black spider monkey both common in the vicinity of the camp, along with several smaller monkey species and the twitchy little agouti. The mountain, like nearby Brownsweg, is named after John Brown, who worked the slopes in the late 19th century (some of his diggings can be seen along the footpaths close to camp). Ironically, illegal gold mining is today probably the biggest threat to the park’s wildlife. In 2012, the WWF discovered 50 illegal gold-mining sites in the vicinity of the park, which aside from contributing to local deforestation, can result in increased subsistence hunting for bush meat and also mercury contamination of the soil and water. The park receives an estimated 18,000 visitors annually, a high proportion of which are local weekenders from Paramaribo, so it tends to be quietest on weekdays.
The most popular activity in the park is the hike downhill to the Leo or Elena Falls, which are about 45 and 60 minutes from Brownsberg Camp respectively, and which tumble into small clear pools where you can swim. For wildlife viewing and birding, the best place to focus your attention is the forest fringing the Brownsberg Camp, which is home to plenty of red howler and black spider monkeys, along with lizards and agouti. The sprawling camp and surrounding roads generally offer more rewarding birding than the narrower footpaths through the forest interior. A speciality is the striking grey-winged trumpeter, an otherwise seldom-seen guineafowl lookalike that lurks around the forest floor in front of the restaurant. Among the many other alluring birds seen regularly at Brownsberg are the variegated tinamou, marail guan, black curassow, ornate hawk-eagle, green-backed trogon, white-throated toucan, Guianan tucanet, wedge-billed wood-creeper, white bellbird, thrush-like ant-pitta and purple honeycreeper. The checklist also includes 18 parrot and macaw, 38 ant-bird and 30 tanager species.