Don't Miss Places In French Guiana
The French Guiana is not an independent country but has belonged to France since 1667. For about 150 years it was used as a penal colony – a place where dangerous prisoners were sent. Today, representatives from French Guiana have seats in the parliament of France. This humid land lies just north of the equator. A plateau spreads across the center of the country, with a plain to the north and the mountains to the south.
Much of French Guiana is covered in steamy rain forest, cut through with numerous rivers that flow straight to the Atlantic Ocean.
These are the top ten not to be missed places in French Guiana.
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The Devil’s Island is located just off the coast of French Guiana. It is one of the several extremely harsh French prison colonies. The prison was closed in 1945 and the island is now a tourist resort. This island is most often referred to as the Isles of Health consisting of three islands; the Royal, St. Joseph and the Devil. Catamarans leave from Kourou (1 hour travel time) or from the capital city of Cayenne.
You have to book in advance because they usually have high occupancy especially during the peak season. The start of the trip is usually at the Royal Island. Bring packed snacks or picnic basket, and enough drinking water as the weather becomes unbearable once you move on the road. There is a hotel-restaurant at the top of the first island but the food and water is a little expensive.
There are no guides, no organized movement, and tour operators as you get to the island. Each group goes on their own without explanation or anything. If you arrive early to the area of the monkeys, you can feed them and take pictures. However, you have to ask how to get there because it is not easy. There are two swimming areas in the rest of the island; a small artificial pool with rocks, and another in the vicinity of the breakwater.
If possible, go to the Island of St. Joseph (you can usually hire a displacement from island to island on arrival at the Real). It is a small beach of shells with a small pool which the kids can safely swim around. Once there you can feel the vibe and a chance to visit the ruins of prisoners along the next island of St. Joseph. It is dubbed as the prison of isolation because of the deserted and remote atmosphere.
Marshes of Caw
This place in Cayenne (the only large town) is best visited by a ride on the boats moored on one of the country’s main canals. Water travel is vital here because the dense forest and heavy rain makes building roads difficult. Every boat is provided with a guide that takes tourists through the multitude of birds, vast savannahs, the habitat of the howler (the endangered black spider) monkeys, colorful toucans, and piranhas that survive in this place.
Return before dusk wearing headlamps and you can see the fiery eyes of the caimans (alligators) in the equatorial night. You can view the rest of the remaining huge caimans in the thick of the night without any sufficient guards or wildlife conservation enforcers to protect them. For the sports minded tourists, there are pedal boats and canoes available for rent. There are lots of fine dining restaurants in the small village near the marshes that serves delicious local cuisine.
For couples or families there are Eco-lodge floating marshes where visitors can enjoy an overnight stay. The simple accommodation consists of a bed or hammock with large four poster beds with mosquito nets, shower and toilet, and a breathtaking view of the relaxing ambience on its private terrace. A visit to the Marshes of Caw is a great experience to absorb the tranquility of the calm wetlands, diversity of the flora and fauna, and natural reserves. For the more adventurous and daring, a little swim in the swamp is an activity that is not to be missed.
The Cayenne Zoo is a well laid out park with a concrete path with walkways that are equipped with signs indicating the direction and part that is visited. There are no picnic grounds even in the area outside. All animals are individually grouped according to species starting from; the Guyana monkeys, caimans, snakes, jaguars, macaws, etc. that is surrounded by so many fences everywhere. As compared to other open zoos, it is difficult to clearly see the animals and take pictures. Even monkeys are difficult to see through the windows while on the next cages the capuchin and squirrel monkeys can be freely seen swinging from one tree to another.
The canopy walk perched more than 20 feet above the ground is an essential activity especially if you are travelling with children. A tour of the zoo is a great opportunity to see and be aware of the interesting animals in captivity from the French Guiana. The children will enjoy more than the adults to see and approach the caimans, jaguars, pumas, anteaters, snakes and birds. The zoo also offers a fun night safari tour with a guide and a play park area for children at the end of the visit.
This is one of the most idyllic places in the region of Arrondissement, Cayenne. There is not much to see but it is very nice to come early in the morning for a nice day of fishing. Just watch the daily activities of the locals and most importantly, around 18:00, do not miss the homecoming flights of the red ibis.
There are several boats that make a quick tour of the waterways and where one can watch the sunset in the distance. It is a bird watcher’s haven and every afternoon, tourists converge for a social gathering with other bird watching enthusiast as they aim their DSLR cameras to make the perfect shot of the migratory birds that visit the port.
The Cayenne River is an impressive waterway with a visible exit towards the city of Kourou, the width of the river branches out and leads to the shore lined with thick mangroves. A visit to the Cayenne Bridge gives a breathtaking view of the city. Catching fresh shrimp and discovering the whole width of the river are the activities offered in this place. Explore the nearby forest and swim on its vast river expanse. Families enjoy having picnics under the shades of this all natural reserve attraction.
Place des Palmistes
The Place des Palmistes is the famous landmark in the historic capital city of Cayenne (cayenne is a fiery spice made from chili peppers which the capital has been exporting for the past 200 years) that is prefect for outdoor meeting or just simply go people watching in the afternoon. It is filled with huge palm trees, historical statues (statue of Felix Eboue), colonial style houses, cool bars and cafes, souvenir shops and at night organized concerts are held in this public venue. Exploring the whole of the Palmistes is an absolute must at all times of the day.
During the day, the shops offer a multi ethnic presence including the "Chinese" traders. It is physically close to everything like; the prefecture, county council, banks, markets, etc., and a main road that is filled with cars.
In the evening it gets more crowded as tourists walk on foot and enjoy the fast food and the festive atmosphere of the typical promenade square once the sun sets. Tourists make food trip at night to buy and eat something at the snack carts along with taking multiple pictures or self photographs along the main square area while having a drink or eating a local specialty.
Avenue du General de Gaulle
This famous avenue is a commercial street that is located within 10 minutes away from the Place des Palmistes. There are various shops and pedestrian roads where tourists can enjoy shopping and hop on bars and fine restaurants. The architectural structures and impression on this side is typical Guyanese, chaotic, lively, and charming. Situated on The city center of Cayenne, on this avenue you can also find travel agencies, airline offices, car rental agencies, signature clothing stores, hotels, and government offices. This downtown street is interesting as it signifies the main artery or life of French Guiana.
Most of the trades are in this avenue; however, trading shops do not open or engage in business until 4 in the afternoon. It is a common sight to see all kinds of nationalities on this place. Most of the locals in French Guiana are descended from African slaves who were brought here to work on French banana plantations. There are also Europeans, Chinese, Lebanese, Syrians, and Haitians and most of them are employed by the government.
Remire- Montjoly Beach
It is a nice big beach with yellow colored sand and while the color of the water is not very engaging at first you will get used to it quickly. At night or early dawn, this beach is one of the breeding grounds of leatherback turtles and sometimes the Green and Olive Ridley turtle species. Around the months of April, May, September and October are ideal months when they lay eggs and give fabulous show. On such months, huge leatherbacks (approximately 400 Kgs.) climbs the shore and dig a deep hole in the sand to lay and bury their eggs and return to the ocean after doing so.
It is an exceptional experience that tourists try to do at least once in their lifetime. Most guests of the Remire – Montjoly Beach wait through the night and capture everything on film. From the arrival of the leatherback from the ocean, to its nesting and struggling to expel all her eggs (sometimes they made a strange noise to express their difficulty in laying eggs). The activity must be done with a wildlife volunteer guide tasked to protect the turtles. At dawn you can also have a chance to see newly hatched turtles breaking out from their eggs rushing and finding their way back into the ocean (be careful not to step on them).
Kourou Space Centre (Centre Spatial Guyanais)
A visit is completely free but must be booked in advance with the CSG (Centre Spatial Guyanais). The tour starts on board a bus with 2 knowledgeable guides that will share interesting and factual information as the bust explores the vastness of the space center with designated stops to see the launching pad of the Soyouz, Vega, and Ariane V rocket ships. The rockets launched from here often carry satellites into space. A visit to the adjacent museum is totally free. Rocket launches can be attended by invitation from the CSG and also free of charge.
A coach transfer will bring the group of visitors to the launch site with package buffets (not free). Do not forget to apply for an identity paper upon entrance and to indicate what type of tour you want to explore (to the launch site or to visit the mandatory control rooms and the museum). The tour is well organized and orchestrated and above all else do not forget to bring your camera. In addition to the space center, the CSG also serves as a research center where independent medical researchers study topical diseases, epidemiology and environmental study especially about the rainforest which the French Guiana is well known for.
Association Chou Ai
Paula and her team are passionate about working for the protection and rehabilitation of the animal called lazy for more than a decade. By dint of courage and passion, they have managed to love this animal that is so misunderstood and so endearing. Children will be delighted to see these animals to spend some time to cuddle, hug, and play that these animals so deserve.
The team discusses about his habits and diet (wood harvested fresh daily barrel). Inside the Association Chou Ai, you can see a dozen of animals and read all the information panels about their habitat. A donation of € 5 is requested at the entrance in a visit that takes a total of one hour and a half. Go there and you will not regret that you have done a good deed to preserve and protect them.