The moment I spotted Isadou Island, Suriname from the motorized canoe upon our approach, I knew I was in for something special. There are so many reasons to visit Isadou Island. That much was clear before I even landed on its shores. I noticed that there are no roads in this unspoiled area of the Amazon Rainforest. The locals get around by traveling along the Upper Surinamese River, which is were Isadou Island is located.
The people who live along this river, the Maroons, are the descendants of African slaves who escaped into the interior of Suriname after being brought over during the Atlantic Slave Trade. They were able to preserve elements of their culture and language, both of which are on full display in and around this peaceful, gorgeous island.
I fell in love with Isadou Island and its people during my time there, and I have to thank my friends at Jenny Tours for making it such a wonderful experience. These are the 5 reasons to visit Isadou Island in Suriname.
Isadou Island is about as close as you can get to an unspoiled tropical paradise in the Surinamese rainforest. One of the best reasons to visit Isadou Island is to get away from it all. There’s no WiFi, so being there forces you to put away your phone, tablet, and laptop, and just enjoy the gorgeous setting and the people you’re there with. The best place to do that is Isadou Resort.
Made up of 28 cozy bungalows that can easily be spotted as you arrive on the island, Isadou Resort is rustic and minimalistic. You won’t find posh suites, swanky spas, or infinity pools here. But you will find tranquility. As someone who is always on the go and always using my devices for work, it was nice to be somewhere where I could unplug and spend long stretches of time just relaxing. It reminded me a lot of my time in the San Blas Islands in Panama, an equally beautiful place that’s almost completely off the grid.
The bungalows consist of a small bathroom just inside the entrance, and a basic room with two beds with mosquito netting just beyond that. An electric fan stood between the two beds. My back door led to a small patio with a hammock that offered stunning views of the Suriname River.
The resort, which is the dreamchild of Saramaccan tribespeople Aelientje Adipi and Andre Kaise, was built between 1994 and 2000. The bungalows are arranged around a central lawn. This quiet, peaceful resort offers everything you could possibly need and is easily one of the top reasons to visit Isadou Island.
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Go on a Jungle Trek
When you’re on Isadou Island, one of the perks is that you’ll have lots of downtime where you can just chill and enjoy the company of the people you’re with. But when you’re ready for a fun activity, one of the best options is a jungle trek. Before you go, I highly recommend applying sunblock and mosquito repellent and bringing more with you, along with bottled water.
A five-minute boat ride across the river will take you to a man-made trail that leads deep into the nearby rainforest. I recommend heading into the forest for about 45 minutes and then heading back down the trail to your boat. Even though the trail was cleared by humans, there is still a lot of brush everywhere.
One of the reasons why I consider this jungle trek one of the top reasons to visit Isadou Island is that you get to fully immerse yourself in nature. It may be hard to spot a lot of wildlife, as walking through the jungle makes noise. But when you stop and are completely quiet, you realize that the jungle around you is alive with the sounds of animals and insects everywhere. If you’re lucky, you just may spot some of the native sloths, monkeys, or tortoises!
During our trek, the animal I encountered the most were mosquitoes, but I was able to spot a black monkey high up in a tree. Remember that any kind of nature walk can be hit-or-miss when it comes to wildlife. Sometimes animals will show up, but sometimes they won’t. Keep that in mind and enjoy the experience!
NOTE: As you continue down the trail, the path gets quite narrow in places and can be very slippery, especially if it has rained recently. Therefore, I recommend wearing comfortable but appropriate footwear. My sneakers held up pretty well, but a boot with grips on the bottom would be optimal.
Swim in the Suriname River
Suriname is located on the northern coast of South America. But as you travel deeper into the country’s interior, you get closer to the equator. Because of that, Suriname is sweltering almost all the time, especially during the day. Luckily, one of the top reasons to visit Isadou Island is that you can enjoy a dip in the Suriname River!
While it’s not uncommon for the air temperature in and around Isadou Island to climb into the nineties Fahrenheit and even the triple digits, the river is nice and cold. It’s the perfect place to cool off and have a bit of fun. There’s an area of the river with a swift current that runs over and between a bunch of large, smooth rocks. Because of the rapidly flowing water, you don’t have to worry about water-based predators like caimans, anacondas, and piranha, which prefer calmer waters.
Ease into the water and anchor your legs between the rocks so the current doesn’t carry you away, and you can experience a sort of massage-like effect as the flowing water pummels your back. It feels incredible and is the perfect thing to do on a boiling-hot day! It’s one of my top reasons to visit Isadou Island for a reason. You can’t beat it!
Tour the Local Village
I’m all about immersion when I travel. For me, there are few things more rewarding than meeting people in new places, trying their foods, visiting their homes, and seeing how they live. So there’s no way I could visit Isadou Island without taking a quick trip over to the local village, Jaw Jaw.
Jaw Jaw can be reached by motorized canoe and is located just a couple of minutes away from Isadou Resort. It’s located near the Jaw Jaw rapids, which have caused the village some hardships over the years. The river flooded by three or four meters back in 2006, forcing the locals to evacuate. They’ve also lost crops due to rising waters, but they returned once the water levels were normal.
My main goal was to find a unique souvenir to take home with me, but I also couldn’t wait to see what their village is all about. From the bit I had learned from Imro beforehand, I could tell they were resourceful and resilient people and I couldn’t wait to meet them.
Upon arriving I learned that Jaw Jaw is home to about 500 residents. They’re members of the Surinamese Maroon tribes, many of whom work at the resort on Isadou. The locals make canoes by burning and stretching large pieces of wood until they’re wide enough for people to sit inside. I also got a look at some local houses and learned that it’s customary for married couples to sleep in separate houses. Kitchens are typically located outside.
Meeting the Locals
I got to watch a woman make some casaba soup. The root she was using is known as yuca in other parts of the world. After a fair bit of searching, I found my souvenir: a carved, six-foot-long wooden paddle. A very nice man sold it to me for 200 SRD, or about $25 USD. I couldn’t wait to display it on my wall at home!
As my friend and guide Imro and I continued through the village, I realized that the homes had electricity. There was a nice guesthouse in town, and I noticed immediately that they had some yellow-foot turtles there. Turtles are my favorite animals, so I was sad to learn that they eat the turtles. A guy at the guest house showed me a gorgeous turtle shell that he had preserved and then showed me his toucan. It was a beautiful bird, but it flitted around so much I couldn’t get a photo with it.
As if you needed more reasons to visit Isadou Island, the locals are extremely friendly. As Imro and I continued through the community, we met a woman selling some beautiful, hand-stitched scarves. She wrapped a purple-and-yellow one around me and sold it to me for 75 SRD, or about $10 USD.
Sensitivity while Visiting
The one thing I implore you to remember is that this is a real village with real people living there. During my time there, I saw locals bathing nude in the river. If you’re traveling with a camera, please be respectful. Don’t take photos or videos of them in sensitive situations. But other than that, enjoy your time in the village. It’s one of the main reasons to visit Isadou Island and is an amazing, immersive cultural experience.
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Try Amazon Food
One of the best reasons to visit Isadou Island is to try some delicious Amazonian food. The food on the island is uncomplicated and unpretentious and is made from simple, yet tasty, ingredients. The key is that everything there is locally-sourced. The vegetables, meat, and grains are all from the immediate area, and nothing is ever frozen. Because of that, every meal is as fresh as you can get, and you can really taste the quality.
Meals take place in the Isadou Resort’s open-air dining halls. There, a variety of local specialties are offered. Breakfast consisted of fluffy scrambled eggs, cucumbers, fresh tomatoes, a tangy grapefruit-like fruit, and hard casaba bread. You can also get coffee as well as your choice of butter, peanut butter, and hazelnut spread for the bread.
Lunch at the resort is among the fantastic reasons to visit Isadou Island. The main dish is a deliciously fresh chicken that comes covered in a sweet, Asian-inspired marinade. There were also bitter melon greens, which reminded me of a soupy and spicy coleslaw.
The meal comes with sides of rice, earthy green beans, and cucumber. It’s a tasty and healthy meal you have to try for yourself! Other offerings available for lunch include an Indonesian chicken that’s similar to Jamaican jerk chicken and bitter eggplant.
Dinner at Isadou Resort is an equally tasty affair. Whether you try the locally-sourced brown beans with casaba bread or the casaba soup with rice and chicken, your taste buds are in for a treat. As I tried the casaba soup, I was surprised to learn that it tasted identical to yuca. It turns out they’re regional names for the same root. It contained nice chunks of chicken and was incredible after I added seeds from a chili pepper to it.
If you want fresh, delicious, and organic jungle-inspired food, you must travel to Isadou Resort. It is, without question, among the top reasons to visit Isadou Island. It will have you craving fresh, healthy food from your very first bite!
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I may have only spent thirty-six hours on Isadou Island, but the memories I made there will last a lifetime. From my amazing trek through the jungle, to the incredible food, to my mind-blowing tour of Jaw Jaw village, I am convinced this is an island everyone needs to experience. It may be low-key and far off the beaten path, but that’s what makes it so charming and so memorable. Book a trip to Suriname today to experience these reasons to visit Isadou Island for yourself!
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