Suriname is located on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America and is its smallest sovereign state. The geography of Suriname consists of rainforests, savanna, and coastal swamps. Its forest cover is approximately 90%, the highest of any nation worldwide.
The Natural Landscape of Suriname
Suriname is located on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America, bordered by Guyana to the west, French Guiana to the east, and Brazil to the south. Its coastline with the Atlantic Ocean in the north extends approximately 386 km (239 mi).
Suriname is South America's smallest sovereign state, just under 165,000 sq km (64,000 sq mi). Tropical rainforests predominantly cover the country.
Formerly "Dutch Guiana," Suriname is a part of the region known as "The Guianas," which includes Guyana and French Guiana.
Suriname is sometimes considered part of the "Caribbean South America" subregion, along with the other Caribbean Sea boundary nations and territories of South America: Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and French Guiana, because the United Nations granted them an area of the sea.
On the other hand, because the country's official language is Dutch, Suriname is sometimes not considered a genuinely Latin American country.
The capital city of Paramaribo is the main urban area. The city accounts for nearly half the country's population and moss urban residents. Most municipalities are located within the capital's metropolitan area or along the densely populated coastline.
According to the Global Biodiversity Index, Suriname ranks 42nd in the world in terms of biodiversity, providing habitat for approximately 696 bird species, 114 amphibian species, 1,046 fish species, 207 mammal species, 156 reptile species, and 5,100 vascular plant species.
At approximately 15 million ha (37 million acres), Suriname's forest cover is about 90%, the highest of any nation worldwide.
Suriname has a tropical climate, and temperatures do not vary much throughout the year. However, there are two wet seasons: from December to early February and from late April to mid-August.
Map depicting the countries on the continent of South America
Natural Geography of Suriname
The natural landscape of Suriname consists of rainforests, savanna, coastal swamps, and the two main mountain ranges: the Bakhuis and Van Asch Van Wijck Mountains.
the northern lowland coastal plain
the interior and southern tropical rainforest and savanna
the southern highlands
Northern: Coastal Plain
The coastal plain is flat and sometimes as much as 1.5 m (5 ft) below sea level, necessitating a system of sea defenses. In addition, the soils of the coastal plain are relatively fertile.
The narrow coastal zone, approximately 386 km (239 mi) in width, consists of sandbanks and mudbanks. This sediment was deposited by the southern equatorial currents from the area surrounding the mouth of the Amazon River, located on the Brazilian coast to the south.
Further inland and south of the mudbanks, the "New Coastal Plain" begins, which was also formed from sand and clay from the mouth of the Amazon. This region consists of clay swampland in which peat has developed and is traversed by sandy ridges that run parallel to the coast.
South of the New Coastal Plain is the "Old Coastal Plain," which consists primarily of fine clays and sands. This Old Coastal Plain contains a variety of topographies, including old ridges, clay flats, and swamps.
Paramaribo: the capital city and surrounding areas are home to almost half the country's population.
West Coast: known for its birdlife, Bigi Pan Nature Reserve, and a few towns.
East Coast: home to former colonial plantations and sea turtle nesting beaches.
Interior: Rainforest and Savanna
The interior rainforest region covers the central and southern parts of Suriname. It is part of the vast Amazon Rainforest, characterized by dense tropical rainforests, rich biodiversity, and numerous rivers and creeks.
Within the interior rainforest region are areas of savannas characterized by grasslands and scattered trees. The savannas offer a contrast to the dense rainforests and provide essential grazing areas for wildlife and cattle.
This region is sparsely populated, with indigenous communities and small settlements scattered throughout the rainforest.
The interior rainforest is of significant ecological importance and is home to various plant and animal species, including jaguars, monkeys, and rare bird species. In the upper Coppename River watershed, the Central Suriname Nature Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, cited for its unspoiled rainforest biodiversity.
Southern: Guiana Highlands
Even farther to the south, bordering Brazil, is an area consisting mainly of a central mountain range along with its branches and scattered hilly regions. A vast tropical rainforest covers these highlands.
The Guiana Highlands are characterized by rugged mountains, tepuis (tabletop mountains), and plateaus. Some of the notable tepuis in this region include Tafelberg and Voltzberg. The highlands have unique ecosystems and mineral resources, attracting scientific and mining interests. In the southwest, near the Brazilian border, lies the Sipaliwini Plain, another savanna.
Map illustrating the regions of Suriname
Low-lying coastal plains and dense rainforests primarily characterize Suriname's terrain and lack extensive mountain ranges. However, some notable highlands and isolated mountains exist, particularly within the larger Guiana Highlands. Here are the main mountain ranges in Suriname:
Wilhelmina Mountains: The Wilhelmina Mountains, also known as the Wilhelminagebergte, are located in the southern part of Suriname within the Sipaliwini District. This mountain range is part of the more extensive Guiana Highlands, which extend across several South American countries. The Wilhelmina Mountains are home to Suriname's highest peak, Juliana Top (Juliana Peak), reaching an elevation of approximately 1,280 m (4,200 ft) above sea level. The range is known for its biodiversity, with various plant and animal species in its rainforests.
Kasikasima Range: The Kasikasima Range is in southern Suriname, specifically within the Tumuk Humak Mountains. Mount Kasikasima, one of the tallest peaks in the country, is part of this range, standing at an elevation of about 718 m (2,356 ft) above sea level. The remote area is home to indigenous communities, making it an important cultural and ecological region.
Tafelberg Range: Tafelberg Range is not an extensive mountain range but a notable tepui (tabletop mountain) in central Suriname. Tafelberg, also known as Table Mountain, is one of the most recognizable tepuis in the country. It is approximately 1,026 m (3,366 ft) above sea level and features a flat tabletop summit, typical of tepuis. Tafelberg is in a pristine rainforest area and offers unique hiking and exploration opportunities.
Map depicting the topography of Suriname
Bodies of Water
Many of Suriname's water bodies are ecologically significant, providing habitats for various plant and animal species. Wetlands, mangroves, and riverine ecosystems support multiple forms of aquatic life.
Suriname is characterized by several significant rivers that play crucial roles in its geography and development. Many rivers are used as natural transportation routes, supporting trade and connecting remote communities with urban centers.
The country has a relatively short coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. It features several coastal lagoons, estuaries, and wetlands.
See more: Water Bodies of Suriname
Suriname has a few islands, although mostly small and uninhabited. The largest island in Suriname is Bigi Speight Island, located in the Atlantic Ocean, about 15 km (9 mi) off the coast. It has an area of about 4 sq km (1.5 sq mi) and is uninhabited. The island is primarily covered in mangroves and is a popular nesting ground for seabirds.
Other islands off the coast of Suriname include:
- Klein Speight Island
- Long Island
- Goat Island
- Rabbit Island
These islands are also uninhabited and are mainly used for fishing and recreation.
Suriname is divided into ten administrative districts: the two urban districts of Paramaribo (the capital) and Wanica, six rural districts in the coastal area, and two in the interior.
See more: Cultural Landscape of Suriname
CIA Map of Suriname
Suriname is situated in the Neotropical realm. Ecoregions are classified by biome type - the major global plant communities determined by rainfall and climate. In addition, the country contains six terrestrial ecoregions.
Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests:
Paramaribo swamp forests
Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands: