Kappel From Suriname, joined Jul 2005, 3533 posts, RR: 18 Posted (2 years 5 months 4 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 6219 times:
I was in Suriname last March and my cousin (who's a catholic priest) told me that the gorgeous old wooden cathedral in the city centre was to be reopened on November 14. This was a good reason for another visit to Suriname. On top of that, KLM had a great offer (EUR 600, which is as low as it gets for flights to Suriname), so I just had to book. The cathedral had been in renovation for over 20 years, but was finally ready to be reopened. It's the largest wooden building in South America:
Either way, that TR will come as well, inetersting as a KLM MD11 always is, but as I've already posted 2 PBM trip reports, I thought this one should come first.
The brother of a good friend of mine is a pilot for a local airline called Gum Air. It's owned by the family Gummels, hence the name (so has nothing to do with bubble gum, ). He (and his chief pilot) agreed to take me on a flight to the interior on one of their Twin Otters (he flies those exclusively).
They have 3 Twin Otters, 3 Grand Caravans, 1 Islander and 3 Cessna 206's. They fly mostly to the interior of Suriname, but also have regular flights to Georgetown, Guyana. They fly from a small airport in the middle of the capital Paramaribo called Zorg & Hoop airport (so not the international airport about 50 km south of the capital).
My flight would be to Tabiki, which is in the South-East of Suriname, on the border river with French Guyana (the Marowijne river).
The flight was scheduled to leave at 8 am, but they tend to be delayed due to late pax and such. Tabiki is an active gold mining town and just about every morning there are several flights each morning to Tabiki from both Gum Air and their main rival, Blue Wing. The flight was ready to board at about 8:20am. I was actually quite surprised at the amount of cargo that can be fitted in the Twin Otter. They load the nose, tail and main deck also receives some cargo.
The engine seen from seat 1C:
Boarding was done very quickly, as only 13 pax (out of 19 seats) were getting on board. So very soon it was time for engine start: Engine Start
The flight would be about 1 hour 10 minutes. Some interesting scenery of course during the flight. More on that later, as I had a cleaner window on the way back . Mostly though, what you see is mostly green tropical rainforest with some openings made by gold prospectors (they really ruin the rainforest ). Our flight would cruise at 9,500 ft.
The Gum Air Twin Otters are fully equipped with GPS:
After about an hour, some interesting scenery it was time to land. This would be my first flight to a jungle airstrip so I was quite curious how this would be. The very experienced pilots made it look effortless though, to land on this tiny airstrip: Landing at Tabiki
Another look at Tabiki airport:
The river next to the airfield. Part of the pax cross the river into French Guyana to dig for gold over there:
As I mentioned, there is quite some traffic to Tabiki in the morning. When we arrived, there was already another Gum Air Twin Otter there and a Blue Wing Grand Caravan. Just after we landed, a Blue Wing Twin Otter also came in to land: Blue Wing Twin Otter landing at Tabiki
After a very short turnaround of about 15 minutes, it was time for us to head back to Zorg & Hoop in Paramaribo. This time there were only 3 pax and no cargo, so we were up in the air in no time: Takeoff from Tabiki
This time we would cruise at 10,500 ft.
The mighty P&W prop on the Twin Otter:
A remote village in the rainforest:
An old Bauxite mine, now a lake:
Getting closer to the city, the vegetation changes:
The Alcoa plant. Suriname was a big producer of Aluminium. They now only process the Bauxite, as the production of Aluminium requires a lot of energy and was not deemed worthwile anymore. But for example, during WWII, Suriname was a big supplier of Alumium to the American war effort. There is still an old German warship lying at the bottom of the river in the city (partly above water) as a testament to that fact (the ship is called the Goslar). Passing the Alcoa plant in Paranam, Suriname
So what did I think? Gum Air is an air taxi operation, so no service onboard. But the pilots were extremely nice and it was a fantastic experience to fly to the interior of Suriname and land on a jungle airstrip. The Twin Otter is definitely perfectly made for these kind of missions. It needs only a very short runway, and is very sturdy. Good thing production is starting up again!! The aircraft also feels very stable. I was curious about this, as the smallest plane I've ever flown is a DC-9-30. So amazing experience! The smallest plane I've flown now is a Cessna 172 (and I flew it myself) but that's another story .
Hope you enjoyed this TR, definitelty a bit different from what's usually posted here, so I thought it was worth doing. Let me know what you think!!
ZKCIF From Lithuania, joined Oct 2010, 225 posts, RR: 0 Reply 2, posted (2 years 5 months 4 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 6002 times:
Thank You, Kappel. A great read. I understand, ORG is used only by airlines operating domestic flights on Cessnas, Itters and Antonovs, right?
What is the border crossing procedure at your destination? Am I right in believing that the relationships between Suriname and Guyana are quite tense?
Kappel From Suriname, joined Jul 2005, 3533 posts, RR: 18 Reply 3, posted (2 years 5 months 3 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 5828 times:
Quoting Coal (Reply 1): Cool report! I find it very interesting to fly on these small airlines to mining towns.
Thanks, it was a really different experience for sure!
Quoting ZKCIF (Reply 2): Thank You, Kappel. A great read. I understand, ORG is used only by airlines operating domestic flights on Cessnas, Itters and Antonovs, right?
Both Gum Air and Blue Wing use Twin Otters, Grand Caravans and Cessna 206's. The Antonovs are no longer in use after 3 crashes (of which 2 fatal). There is also the Aero Club (where I took some flying lessons) that flies 2 Cessna 172's, but not on a commercial basis. There's also another air school and missionaries that fly a Cessna 172.
There are further also a couple of other aircraft that were impounded because they were used for drug smuggling, but sadly they are rotting away, like this one:
Quoting ZKCIF (Reply 2): Am I right in believing that the relationships between Suriname and Guyana are quite tense?
Not really, with neither French Guyana nor Guyana. It used to be the case with Guyana a couple of years ago due to a border dispute (over oil of course, what else), but relations have eased significantly. Surinamese people do need a visa to visit French Guyana (not sure about Guyana) but to be honest, as most gold mining is done illegaly, I wonder if these people stick to the procedures. I've been to French Guyana once, from Albina (in the North-East) to Saint-Laurent and that was an easy boat ride to the other side (after the formalities were done of course).
Quoting ZKCIF (Reply 2): I thought, the cathedral of Castro, Chiloe Island, Chile, was the largest in SA. There are so many things to learn here.
That's what's being told in Suriname at least, lol. I took a look at some pictures of the Cathedral in Chile. It certainly does look impressive. It also looks quite similar to the one in Paramaribo (the interior).
ZKCIF From Lithuania, joined Oct 2010, 225 posts, RR: 0 Reply 4, posted (2 years 5 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 5528 times:
Quoting Kappel (Reply 3): I took a look at some pictures of the Cathedral in Chile. It certainly does look impressive. It also looks quite similar to the one in Paramaribo (the interior).
Kappel, if You ever decide to go to PMC, take a ferry and then onwards to Castro, Chiloe, its nature and wooden churches are just beautiful, just keep in mind that You have 2 weather options there:
2) heavy rain
As I can see from the photos, You've got more weather options in Suriname.
My family want to visit Suriname in 2012 (we might be first Lithuanians up there?!)
Could You please tell me which areas are safe from malaria in June-July-August? Is it the rainy season or is it mostly dry at that time?
Kappel From Suriname, joined Jul 2005, 3533 posts, RR: 18 Reply 5, posted (2 years 5 months 3 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 5322 times:
Quoting ZKCIF (Reply 4): As I can see from the photos, You've got more weather options in Suriname.
Haha, definitely. If it rains, it's usually only for a short time and then it dries up quickly. Sept-Nov is the dry season. The (smaller) rain season was just about starting, but even then there's a lot of sunshine.
Quoting ZKCIF (Reply 4): we might be first Lithuanians up there
Haha, you'd be surprised to see the variation in peoples in Suriname. One of our latest additions are Turkish people. They run a few casinos in Suriname. There is also a population of Lebanese and Syrians that have been in Suriname for a few generations now. But Lithuanians... you might just be the first indeed...
Quoting ZKCIF (Reply 4): Could You please tell me which areas are safe from malaria in June-July-August? Is it the rainy season or is it mostly dry at that time?
This is the rainy season, so you might see quite a bit of rain. But again, there should also be no shortage in sunshine. Be advised though that this is the high season for tourism from the Netherlands, so it will be quite crowded and flights will be expensive. I always advise people to go in November-December (Christmas is a lovely time in Suriname, there's a very festive mood in the country, but as in the summer airlplane tickets can be crazy expensive during X-mas time) and especially February-March. Especially the latter is the (relatively) coolest period of the year, with a nice cooling breeze and almost daily rain (which also cools the temperature). Don't worry, these showers typically don't last longer than half an hour.
As for malaria, Suriname is renowned in the region for it's fight against malaria (in fact, just this month they won a regional prize in this regard, not sure if it was from the OAS or PAHO). It's quite uncommon to catch malaria over there. It hasn't been eradicated, but very rare. As June-August is the rainy season, it's of course a higher risk season than the dry season, but still the risk is quite minimal. Do look out for Dengue fever though, those mosquito's can be found in the city (usually at the end of the year) and come out at night. So wear jeans or trousers at night. I had Dengue once and I can tell you it's not pleasant. And each subsequent time you get it, it's worse.
Hope this helps! I can for sure advise a vacation to Suriname. The main language is Dutch, but like in the Netherlands, just about everybody (especially in the city) speaks English. So very easy to find your way. Just remember to drive on the left side of the road
No, I was lucky that I could be taken for free. It pays to have some connections . I was properly registered and everything. That's also the benefit of a small airline. It's very easy to discuss something like this with the top brass.
CaptainRed From Germany, joined Oct 2010, 578 posts, RR: 19 Reply 8, posted (2 years 5 months 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 4791 times:
awesome report from a very interesting location. I just checked out the videos you made, especially the one with the landing on that 'dirt road' was great. Nice view you had from your seat, you were really close to the action in the cockpit, certainly a great experience. I like it how you can even hear the 'terrain' warnings from the cockpit.
Quoting Kappel (Thread starter): The smallest plane I've flown now is a Cessna 172 (and I flew it myself) but that's another story .
So, then of course we want to hear that story as well
Thanks again for sharing this exceptional trip with us
Definitely! I will write a PBM trip report, also including the MD11 trips as well as the Cessna flying with pics taken from the Cessna in the air. The MD11 trip was not so exciting this time (nobody died thankfully) but I did get an upgrade to a WBC (with Y service) as Y was way oversold. There were even a couple of guys sitting in the FA seats for the entire flight!
Very cool that you got the cockpit view, too. I experienced this on a small PC-12 flight earlier this year, and found it fascinating to watch the pilots do their work (even if I was a bit envious of them)
Quoting Kappel (Thread starter): The very experienced pilots made it look effortless though, to land on this tiny airstrip:
Quoting Kappel (Thread starter): As I mentioned, there is quite some traffic to Tabiki in the morning. When we arrived, there was already another Gum Air Twin Otter there and a Blue Wing Grand Caravan. Just after we landed, a Blue Wing Twin Otter also came in to land:
Great videos...when watching the aircraft approach, it seems almost impossible that they're going to actually land there...but they do!
Quoting Kappel (Thread starter): I was curious about this, as the smallest plane I've ever flown is a DC-9-30.
I guess the Otter provided a much different experience!
Thanks again for sharing. I always liked your PBM reports with the MD-11, too. Looking forward to seeing more of your reports in the future.