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Kabalebo Nature Reserve
Kabalebo is a good place to spot lowland tapir © Ariadne Van Zandbergen
The top fly-in destination in the interior combines a super-remote location and upmarket lodgings with plenty of hiking, kayaking, fishing and wildlife-viewing opportunities.
The closest thing in the Surinamese interior to a genuinely world-class eco-lodge, the private Kabalebo Nature Reserve also provides some of the region’s finest wildlife viewing and birding, thanks to its isolated location in a region with no permanent villages. The reserve was established in 2004 when the dynamic owner-managers built Main Lodge next to Kabalebo airstrip (cut in 1962 and a relic of Operation Grasshopper), around 150km from the closest road. Today, the reserve supports three different lodges overlooking the Kabalebo River (a tributary of the Corantijn) and the forested Misty Mountain, which rises to around 250m on the opposite bank.
As with many other sites in the interior, the reserve supports a varied birdlife (around 300 species have been recorded) along with conspicuous populations of several monkey species, but it is also perhaps the best place to seek out more elusive medium to large mammals. The lowland tapir is often seen crossing the airstrip, the peculiar capybara and giant river otter are frequently encountered on boat trips, the beautiful ocelot often visits the camp at night and jaguars are observed in the vicinity from time to time. Activities on offer include guided walks, kayaking, swimming in the various rapids and waterfalls, game fishing, birdwatching and night walks. Facilities include a wide wooden balcony where you can relax on a hammock, a large swimming pool surrounded by a varnished wooden deck and shady sunbeds and a well-stocked honesty bar. Also impressive are the friendly English-speaking staff, the relatively high standard of guiding the and unusually varied buffet-style meals.
Kabalebo must rank as one of the country’s top birding sites, not least because it is one of the few places in the country where the guides all have some basic identification skills. Around 280 species have been recorded to date, with some of the more alluring being harpy eagle, king vulture, blue-headed parrot, black skimmer and buff-throated saltator. The area around Main Lodge is especially good for tanagers and hummingbirds (the latter are attracted by feeding devices close to the main building), while a slow walk along the airstrip is likely to yield several types of parrot, toucan and other forest species.