Holidays To French Guiana
Holidays are something which each one of us always cherish and become nostalgic while remembering all the fun and good times spent. Holidays are also the best way to bond with family and friends. I was lucky to have a nice group of colleagues in my office with whom I have gone for a lot of holidays. We all shared a similar motto in life which was ‘work hard and holiday harder’.
One of our best French holidays I remember enjoying the most was a trip to French Guiana with the same group of office colleague who had eventually become good friends.
French Guiana is a French region situated in the northeast of South America; it has the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Surinam to the west and Brazil to the south and southeast. French Guiana is only slightly smaller than Portugal and has an area of around 91 000 km2. French Guiana is often called as the nature lover’s paradise. More than 6000 plant species, 700 bird species and 160 species of mammals have been identified till date.
We chose French Guiana after a lot of discussions and research about the place.
We travelled in Air France and arrived at Cayenne after a 41 hour long flight and after changing 4 flights. Cayenne is the administrative capital of French Guiana.
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Cayenne's location is on a small, hilly peninsula between the Cayenne and Mabury rivers. We checked in a nice 3 star hotel located in the heart of the city. The hotel looked good with nicely done up interiors. It had a roof top bar and restaurant, outdoor swimming pool surrounded by tropical gardens.
Our tour started with visiting the Cayenne Zoo. The animal attractions included snakes, lot of birds, turtles, tapirs, monkeys, caiman, etc. We spent 3-4 hours at the zoo before heading to the Cayenne River. The Cayenne River is a 50 km long river in French Guiana. Cayenne River is formed by the Cascades River and the Tonnegrande River and it flows into the Atlantic forming a 2km long creek near the city of Cayenne. We had a nice stroll walking past the river and enjoying the calmness in the nature. The next day we visited the Rémire-Montjoly. This area is known for its long sweeping beaches and offers some of the best waterfront in the country. We did a 5 km hike to the Grand Matoury Nature Reserve at La Mirande and experienced some good bird-watching. We spent two beautiful days in Cayenne relishing in the Frenchness and enjoying delicious food in the French and Chinese restaurants. Cayenne is a city of multi-colored cultures bounded by all the colors of the Caribbean. The vibrant streets, markets and excellent restaurants with amazing variety of food makes this an ideal place to experience the Caribbean and French culture. This town is attractive to the eyes as well as to the belly.
Our next destination was the Kaw rainforest. We camped in the Kaw rainforest in a remote village amidst the rainforest wildlife and nature. The subsequent day, after a morning hike through the lush flora we drove to Cacao. Cacao is the name of a town in French Guiana, to the south of River Cayenne. The inhabitants of this town are Hmong farmers and refugees from Laos. Every Sunday, this village hosts a colorful market which sells things like Laotian Hmong weaving, embroidery, handicrafts and eatables. We purchased some fruits and handicrafts from the market.
The next day was dedicated for our remarkable and fascinating excursion to the Devil’s Island. This island is the third largest island in the Atlantic Ocean and is located to the north of the town Kourou. We reached the island by boat.
The Devil’s Island is basically a rocky island covered by a forest of palm trees. Apart from its natural attributes, this island is also famous for its historical background. It was once used as an exile for the prisoners during the time of Emperor Napoleon III. We also heard some tourists saying that this island was named ‘Devil’s Island’ because of the prison. We saw the buildings where the inmates stayed and got an idea of how the prisoners must have lived in this wild and secluded island.
Besides the interesting history, the wildlife was visible almost everywhere on the island. We saw macaws, agoutis, sharks and sea turtles. The beaches look great and tempting but swimming was not permitted since there were a lot of sharks. The hot and humid climate along with the presence of the sharks was one of the reasons why this place was chosen as a prison by the French Government. Overall this island is a great tourist destination and worth a visit.
We then headed to Kourou to visit the Kourou Space Centre. This was a captivating place to visit even for someone who doesn’t understand much science like me. We had a three-hour guided tour around the facilities where the guide gave us an interesting and informative overview of space travel. The guide told us that more than 500 launches have left from this centre. The centre launches around 50% of the world’s satellites and the site assembled and launched three different types of satellites: Arian, Vega and Soyuz. We were driven to the launch pads and were overwhelmed by the size of the equipment. We were also shown around to the Commanders control rooms. The three hours spent here were absolutely interesting and informative.
After a great day at the Space centre we drove on to Yalimapo located to the northern coast of French Guiana. We had an awesome time at the beach seeing the leatherback turtles laying eggs in the sand. The following morning we enjoyed a lovely stroll along the beach and a refreshing swim. The afternoons were spent engaging in various activities like kayaking and wind surfing.
After Yalimapo, our next destination was St. Laurent de Maroni, a historical town located on the Maroni River. It is the second most populous city of French Guiana. The town was built around a prison – which was the port of entry to the French penal colony that French Guiana once was. By visiting this town, we got a great glimpse into the country’s past.
Post this, we headed to our hotel in Cayenne where we spent the entire night dancing and shaking a leg at the roof top pub. We met some fellow tourists and exchanged our ideas and notes on the entire trip.
The hotel had arranged some amazing entertainment for us. Beside the swimming pool area, they had constructed a small stage with backdrop and music system. A ladies dance troupe performed a beautiful English country dance. After their performance, there was a ballet dance performance. The ballet dance even had a story to it and the dancers were incredibly graceful. After the performances, we headed towards the buffet table for dinner. My friends skipped dinner since they were high on spirits while I chose to munch on the starters and enjoy the desserts.
As rightly said by our tourist guide throughout our trip - French Guiana is French in every sense of the word. French Guiana has something to offer everyone, from sports enthusiasts to people who love nature and the beach. For people who love science and are keen on knowing man’s latest and greatest adventures, the Space Centre is the perfect place. There are best restaurants offering world class cuisine for foodies and colorful markets for the shopaholics.