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Searching for the Cock-of-the-Rock, Voltzberg, Suriname

Suriname is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. In 1667 it was colonized by the Dutch, who governed Suriname as Dutch Guiana, just like its neighbours French and British Guiana. On 25 November 1975, the country left the Kingdom of the Netherlands to become independent.

For us, dutch people, Suriname is a well-known travel destination, but for the rest of the world the country still remains off the beaten tourist track. And maybe we have to keep it that way as long as possible...

In 2013 Max and I visited this former Dutch settlement. When we entered Paramaribo the first thing we've noticed were the hordes of Dutch female students, mostly blond, good-looking and young. And according to Max, looking for the 'black experience' ;-)

After a day in the capital I was happy to leave and find some more remote places.

After a few weeks travelling we were heading for the Voltzberg and Raleighvallen. Our main goal was to find the illusive Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock bird and of course other wildlife encounters were also welcome.

Luckily we brought our own tent, so we were able to camp on a little piece of land along the riverbank of the upper Coppename River, together with our boatsman. Most of the time the boatsman doesn't seem to be in the same place and time as we were. He was contanctly smoking weed and only reacted when I put on some Bob Marley tunes.

This is all part of the Suriname-experience and he did a great job driving the wooden canoe (also known as 'Korjaal') on the river-rapids. At first I didn't have a lot of trust in it, but after 3 rapids I felt more secure and thought he was good at the things he did.

The next day we started the arduous 13 kilometres hike alongside the Voltzberg and through lush jungle to finally find the beautiful orange bird, in dutch called 'Rotshaantje'.

The Guianan cock-of-the-rock is a bird species of about 30 centimetres in length. They are found in tropical rainforests, near its preferred habitat of rocky outcrops, at an altitude of 300 to 2000 metres. I think, that's the reason the Voltzberg is a favorite spot for our orange friends. The males plumage is bright orange and they have a prominent half-moon crest. The females are brownish in colour, and are generally much duller coloured than the males. The Guianan cock-of-the-rock is found in French and British Guyana, Suriname, southern Venezuela, eastern Colombia and northern Amazonian Brazil.

In December 2000 the Voltzberg and Raleigh-vallen were designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site for its pristine tropical rainforest ecosystem with its uplifted monoliths of granite rising high above the surrounding rainforest. Althought we didn't climb the magical monolith, we still got to see its surroundings, which has many secrets waiting to be discovered. Around the Raleighvallen we saw lots of wildlife, like the striped poison dart frog, a cane toad and the black spider monkey, who was staring at us like a Homo sapiens. The experience of seeing wildlife, being in pristine jungle and photographing the cock-of-the-rock definitely made the 13 kilometre jungle-hike worthwhile!

If you want to visit the Voltzberg and Raleighvallen by yourself, it's helpfull to bring your own car, tent, GPS and arrange a boatsman in the little village of Witagron. If you have any questions about this trip, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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