Official name: Republic of Suriname
Area: 163,270 square kilometers (63,038 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Juliana Top (1,230 meters/4,034 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Western
Time zone: 8:30 A.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 662 kilometers (411 miles) from northeast to southwest; 487 kilometers (303 miles) from southeast to northwest
Land boundaries: 1,707 kilometers (1,058 miles) total boundary length; Brazil 597 kilometers (371 miles); French Guiana 510 kilometers (317 miles); Guyana 600 kilometers (372 miles)
Coastline: 386 kilometers (239 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America. It is located on the northeast edge of the continent, with a coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. The country shares borders with French Guiana, Brazil, and Guyana. With an area of about 163,270 square kilometers (63,038 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of Georgia. Suriname is divided into eighteen districts.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Suriname has no outside territories or dependencies.
Suriname's climate is generally tropical and moist. The daily trade winds that blow in from the Atlantic Ocean are the greatest influence on the country's temperatures. Temperatures range from 28°C to 32°C (82°F to 90°F) during the day; nighttime temperatures can drop to 21°C (70°F).
Annual rainfall in Paramaribo, the capital city, is approximately 230 centimeters (90 inches). Most rainfall occurs in the mountains in the southern region. Annually, the western region receives 193 centimeters (76 inches) of rain, while the eastern area receives 241 centimeters (95 inches). Suriname experiences two wet seasons and two dry seasons. A long rainy season occurs from April to August and is followed by a long dry season from August to November. Another rainy season occurs from December to February, but it is shorter and less rainy. It is followed by a short dry season in February and March.
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Suriname is divided into three distinct natural regions: a coastal plain, a region of forested mountains, and high savannah in the southwest. Of these areas, the mountains are by far the largest, covering roughly three-quarters of the country. Seven significant rivers run through Suriname, all flowing into the Atlantic Ocean in the north.
Suriname is located on the South American Tectonic Plate.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Seacoast and Undersea Features
The Atlantic Ocean is located along Suriname's northern coast.
The shape and make-up of the coastline constantly changes because of the deposits from Suriname's numerous rivers. Ocean currents and wind push the river deposits to form unevenly shaped mud banks and ridges along the coast.
6 INLAND LAKES
The largest lake in Suriname is W. J. van Blommestein Lake. This man-made lake was created by construction of the Afobaka Dam.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
The numerous rivers that dissect the land are all interconnected by a remarkable system of channels. In the central part of the country the principal rivers are the Nickerie, the Coppename, the Saramacca, the Suriname, and the Commewijne. The largest river in the country is the Courantyne (Corantjin, 764 kilometers/475 miles), which marks the border with Guyana. Major tributaries of the Courantyne in Suriname are the Sipaliwini, Lucie, and Kabalebo. Along the eastern border with French Guiana is another large river, the Maroni, with its tributaries the Tapanahoni, Paloemeu, and Oelemari. All of the rivers flow northward into the Atlantic Ocean, with many rapids and waterfalls.
There are no desert regions in Suriname.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
The coastal plains in the north cover about 16 percent of the country. Large portions of the coastal plain are swampland, since most of this area lies near sea level. Mud banks and other deposits from slow-moving rivers in their delta stage also contribute to the swamps. Some of these swamps have been drained to make land available for farming.
In the far south, past the mountain ranges, grassy savannahs are scattered throughout the forests.
Approximately 80 percent of the country is covered by tropical rain forest. This is essentially all of the country south of the coastal plains, with the exception of some small savannahs in the south. The rain forest is considered to be one of the best-preserved on Earth. In the late 1990s, the Central Suriname Wilderness Nature Reservation was created, setting aside about 10 percent of the country as a protected area. The reservation is listed as a natural World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
The mountainous rain forest region that covers most of Suriname has been only partially explored. It consists of a number of chains, with the terrain gradually rising to the country's highest elevation, Juliana Top (1,230 meters/ 4,034 feet), in the Wilhelmina Mountains at the center of the country. The Van Asch-Van Wijck Mountains make up the rest of the central mountain chain, which is connected to the Tumuc-Humac Mountains along the Brazilian border by the southern Eilerts de Haan Mountains. Other ranges include the Kayser and Bakhuis Mountains in the west and the Oranje and Lely Mountains in the east.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
There are no significant natural caves or canyons in Suriname.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
There are no significant plateau regions in Suriname.
DID YOU KNOW?
The blue poison-dart frog is bright blue and produces special foul-tasting and deadly secretions to ward off predators. The "poison dart" part of its name comes from the fact that Amerindians rubbed the frog's secretions on the tips of darts for hunting and even for warfare. The blue poison-dart frog inhabits the rain forest of Central and South America and is one of the most-endangered of all poison-dart frogs.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
The Afobaka Dam was built in the 1960s on the Suriname River in the east central region. The dam generates electricity for the processing of bauxite, one of the country's natural resources.
DID YOU KNOW?
Suriname has some of the world's richest reserves of bauxite, a primary mineral used in the production of aluminum. Mining sites at Moengo and Paranam are estimated to have ten to fifteen years of bauxite reserves remaining. Other bauxite reserves have been located but are currently unexploited. All bauxite mined in Suriname is brought via navigable rivers and the Atlantic to the Suriname Aluminum Company (SURALCO) in Paranam, a subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA).
14 FURTHER READING
Beatty, Noelle B. Suriname. New York: Chelsea House, 1999.
Fridell, Ron. The Search for Poison-Dart Frogs. New York: Franklin Watts, 2001.
Goslinga, Cornelis C. A Short History of the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname. Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic Press, 1978.
Lieberg, C. Suriname. Chicago: Children's Press, 1995.
Wooding, Charles J. Evolving Culture: A Cross-Cultural Study of Suriname, West Africa, and the Caribbean. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1981.
"World Watch: Paramaribo." Time International, June 29, 1998, 14.
Lonely Planet Guide: Suriname. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/south_america/suriname/ (accessed June 19, 2003).