In a small group of six friends, I went to the Royal Masia Resort at the Upper Suriname River to do preliminary research among the (Biblical) Israelites of the interior of Suriname and to enjoy the peace and nature in the pristine tropical rainforest. Not much can be said about the preliminary investigation, but about the journey and Royal Masia there is a lot to say.
The journey went via Atjoni, a mooring place for boats from the Upper Suriname habitat of the Saramacca tribe of the African-Surinamese. From there we continue our journey by boat to reach the villages and tourist resorts at the river. The Amazon rainforest stood out on both banks of the river. It resembles the “wilderness where according to Revelation 12:14 the Almighty hides his people from the persecution of the serpent. In Suriname, they fled behind the rapids because of persecution by evil and cruel Dutch slave drivers. In the forest, the villages are along the river. During slave times, the villagers did not live so close to the river, because they had to hide. Now there are 65 villages along the river between the rapids, in which boatmen skillfully maneuver the boat.
The Special Village of Dahomey
We passed the village of Dahomey. I became enthusiastic because I loved to visit this village. It means “The House of Dan” or the “Belly of Dan” and Dan is the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Dahomey was also the name of Benin until 1975 when there was a slave port where Dutch merchants bought captured people to enslave for life in Suriname. Dahomey seems to be a special village on the river. I would like to investigate why. Liesbeth Peroti, who was part of the group, told me she heard that when you pass Dahomey you fall asleep. We sailed past Dahomey, but my eyes were wide open. When we had passed I looked at Liesbeth and also saw her open eyes. I asked if she had fallen asleep and she answered enthusiastically: “No”.
Destination at Last
Lost in thought we sailed on. It didn’t take long and the final destination was in sight: the tourist resort of Royal Masia named after the village of Masia Kriki on the left bank of the Upper Suriname River. The mooring place is in the middle of the small Bia Hati rapids. Behind the Resort is the village of Masia Kriki with about six hundred inhabitants, not far from the Gran Dan Sula. I couldn’t wait to sit in that inviting natural Jacuzzi. Karel Freddy Mando the friendly and helpful owner was waiting for us. I didn’t have to lug my luggage off the boat myself. What a pleasure.
The warm greeting from the owner already made us feel at home. He gave us a tour of the plateau on which 4 modern, clean, luxurious, and spacious cabanas with baths and toilets were located. Mando has even thought of an adapted living room for people with disabilities. He worked for years at a travel agency and indicated that the cabanas are built on a model of Thailand in a colonial style, to distinguish themselves from the other resorts at the river.
In any case, you will not be bored there, because you can kayak, fish, spot birds, swim, take a forest and village walk, or just laze in a hammock. So, plenty to do. The kitchen and dining area behind the cabanas became our meeting place. There you could enjoy DJ music from music boxes.
Engine behind Resort
In addition, there is a restaurant that invited me to have a conversation with the owner. He turned out to be the father of the rapper Henk Mando more known as Henkie T, a famous rapper in the Netherlands. In 2019 he released his debut album Visionair, which reached number one in the Dutch Album Top 100. His music album went platinum twice and his show in Suriname in 2019 was sold out. From the proceeds of his song, “4 times more expensive” he has donated solar lampposts to the villages on the river so that it is no longer pitch dark at the jetties. He is the engine behind Royal Masia. ‘Tap A Bankstel with Henkie T’, a well-known Surinamese talk show, has therefore been recorded in the rapid in front of Royal Masia Resort.
Family and Charity
Anyway…, his father has a fascinating story to tell. He has always wanted such a place and after living in the Netherlands for 36 years, he has come back to make his dream come true. Togetherness and family ties come first for him. He likes to make new friends all the time. His circle of friends is getting bigger and bigger.
He also founded the Manzon Foundation to help needy people. This school year, for example, school fees have been paid for 100 children and the community house and the muje oso (the women’s house) have been renovated. Incidentally, the muje oso has to do with menstrual seclusion, one of the customs of the biblical Israelites.
Mando is still building various facilities on the grounds of Royal Masia, including a gym, a hammock tent, and a swimming pool. “I want to be the best of the best. You have to enjoy more and pay less,” says Mando. He wants to grow into a 5-star resort. Given his drive, he will certainly succeed. Its place is worth it.
Short Visit to Grand Chief
And of course, I cannot be so close to the residence of the Gaaman (Grand Chief) of the Saramacca tribe Albert Aboikoni, and not visit him. He was in Djoemoe a place the opposite of the Gran Dan Sula, a wide rapid in the split of the Pikin Rio and Gran Rio, two source rivers of the Suriname River. It was less than half an hour by boat from the Royal Masia Resort. The whole group traveled along to pay a visit to the grand chief under the trees.
Gaaman Aboikoni seemed to be content with the company and gave us his interesting vision about unity among the African-Surinamese. At this moment they are divided into two groups: the urban negro and the bush negro, while their ancestors were transported to Suriname by 1 boat during the transatlantic slave trade and slavery. The Gaaman of the Saramacca tribe has set himself up as their leader to become one people again. In a letter he pointed out to the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte the Hebrew identity of his people.