French Guiana Cheap Hotel Bed and Breakfast Guest House Accommodation
The Isles du Salut
Nestled between the Caribbean and the Amazon in the north of South America, French Guiana has the kind of climate and ecology that make it a popular destination for ecotourists, home to a variety of native cultures as well as fascinating wildlife from leatherback turtles to toucans – protected species of all shapes and forms. It is a French Overseas Department, its history marked by its former role as playing host to penal establishments such as the infamous Devil’s Island where inmates included the political prisoners Papillon and Alfred Dreyfus. Now, it features amongst its attractions some renovated colonial architecture and the European Space Centre of Kourou.
The areas around Ile de Cayenne, Kourou and Montjoly are popular with watersports enthusiasts, where swimming, waterskiing and sailing are activities of choice. Montjoly, Cayenne’s best beach, is a venue for those curious to witness the laying of turtle eggs by the leatherbacks from April to July. Devil’s Island is now another popular destination for swimming and fishing, where sharks and other big fish can be caught on the open sea. Around Kourou, Iracabo, Counamana and the lower Sinnamary, trips by dugout canoe can be taken in waters both calm and rapid according to your expertise or thirst for adventure. There are beauty spots such as the Mouragues Nature Reserve and the Kaw Swamps where incredible scenery inhabited by many species of birds can be enjoyed, and trekking within the jungle terrain can be undertaken with a night or two spent in jungle shelters. Another way to enjoy the spectacular pristine forest is from a microlight, while mountain bikes can be hired in Cayenne, Saül, Montsinery-Tonnegrade and St Laurent.
Cayenne’s major attractions include the residence of the Prefect in the Place de Grenoble and the Canal Laussat which dates back to 1777. For those curious about the penal settlements, all will be revealed at the Musée des Cultures Guyanaises, while the liveliest parts of town are the cafes and market stalls in the area around Place des Palmistes. Other tourist must-sees are the French Space Centre at Kourou which is open for tours and the launch pad and Space Museum are carved out of the rain forest, while visitors can actually stay in a hotel, a former mess hall for the prison warders, on the Iles du Salut themselves, of which one is Devil’s Island. Until 1953 political prisoners were held there in terrible conditions, described in the book written by Henri Charriere, better known as Papillon, who wrote of his escape from the prison. The islands can be visited on a day trip from Kourou, where boats leave in the morning from the port at the end of Avenue de Gaulle and return in the afternoon.
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