Saturday 23 June 2018

FRENCH GUIANA: Visit Cayenne Don't Miss The Devils Island

Cayenne is the largest city in and capital of French Guiana.

Cayenne is the capital city of French Guiana, an overseas region and department of France located in South America. The city stands on a former island at the mouth of the Cayenne River on the Atlantic coast. The city's motto is fert aurum industria, which means work brings wealth.

At the 2015 census, there were 131,922 inhabitants in the metropolitan area of Cayenne 57,614 of whom lived in the city of Cayenne proper.

Cayenne is located on the banks of the estuary of the Cayenne River on the Atlantic Ocean. The city occupies part of the Cayenne Island. It is located 268 kilometres (167 mi) from Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni and 64 kilometres (40 mi) from Kourou.

Distances to some cities:

Paris: 7,100 kilometres (4,400 mi).

Fort-de-France, capital of Martinique: 1,500 kilometres (930 mi).

Paramaribo, capital of Suriname: 342 kilometres (213 mi) to the northwest.

Macapá, capital of the state of Amapa, Brazil: 554 kilometres (344 mi) to the southeast.

Ignored by Spanish explorers, who found the region too hot and poor to be claimed, the region was not colonized until 1604, when a French settlement was founded.

However, it was soon destroyed by the Portuguese, who were determined to enforce the provisions of the Treaty of Tordesillas. French colonists returned in 1643 and founded Cayenne, but they were forced to leave once more following Amerindian attacks.

In 1664, France finally succeeded at establishing a permanent settlement at Cayenne. Over the next decade the colony changed hands between the French, Dutch, and English, before being restored to France.

It was captured by an Anglo-Portuguese force at the invasion of Cayenne in 1809 and administered from Brazil until 1814, when it was returned to French control. It was used as a French penal colony from 1854 to 1938.

The city's population has recently grown dramatically, owing to high levels of immigration, mainly from the West Indies and Brazil as well as a high birthrate.

Health conditions in Cayenne and French Guiana are generally good. The principal illnesses that cause mortality are circulatory, infectious and parasitic diseases, as well as cancer.

A branch of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, located in Cayenne, conducts research on tropical and endemic local diseases and is renowned throughout Latin America. Life expectancy averages about 76 years for men and 83 years for women.

Cayenne is an important seaport in South America. The major port of Degrad des Cannes, is on the estuary of the river Mahury, replacing Larivot and the Îles du Salut. Timber, rosewood essence, rum, and gold are exported in small quantities.

In the mid-1960s sugarcane and pineapple were planted around the city, and a pineapple cannery and a shrimp-processing plant were later built.

A seafront avenue links Cayenne with the suburbs of Chaton and Montabo, where the French Institute of Tropical America and the Pasteur Institute are located.

Historic landmarks include the Church of the Holy Saviour and a prefecture on the Place d’Armes. The Felix Eboue International Airport is the only International airport serving Cayenne.

Cayenne is very ethnically diverse, with populations of Creole, Haitian, Brazilian, European, and Hmong and other Asian origins.

It is famous for its annual carnival which starts with the arrival of Vaval - the Carnival King on the first Sunday after New Year's Day and continues with very popular all-night costume balls and Sunday afternoon parades every weekend until Mardi Gras.

Carnaval dances include mazurka, biguine and pike djouk. It is the role of the Touloulou or disguised women to invite men to dance; the men do not have the right to refuse her. Only Touloulou have the right to dance, non-disguised women may not dance.

There is a large dance scene including both lessons and social dancing. Cafe de la Gare and Domino offer a variety of opportunities including bachata, salsa, merengue, kizomba, zouk, and forro.

There are occasionally outdoor socials nears the Place de Chaines Brisees. Capoeira is also popular and is offered in multiple styles by groups such as ENERGIA PURA.

Cayenne centres on its main commercial street, the Avenue General de Gaulle. At the east end of the avenue near the coast is the Place des Palmistes and the Place de Grenoble also known as the Place Leopold Heder.

Most of the official buildings are located in this area: the Hotel de Ville - the town hall built by Jesuits in the 1890s, the Post Office, the Prefecture, residence of French Guiana's Prefect, and the Musee Departmental Franconie.

To the west of this area lies Fort Ceperou, built in the 17th century, though now mostly in ruins. To the south lie the Place du Coq and Place Victor Schoelcher, named in honour of the anti-slavery activist and a market.

To the south of this compact region is the Village Chinois also known as Chicago, separated from the rest of Cayenne by the Canal Laussat. It has a reputation for being a dangerous area.

Other buildings in the city include Cayenne Cathedral, municipal library, the municipal museum and a museum of French Guianese Culture - Musee des Cultures Guyanaise and a scientific research institute (IRD or Institut de recherche pour le developpement, formerly Orstom.

The Jardin botanique de Cayenne is the city's botanical garden.

Cayenne is served by the Cayenne – Felix Eboue Airport, which is located in the neighbouring commune of Matoury.

Cayenne has a tropical monsoon climate (Am). Average high and low temperatures are nearly identical throughout the course of the year averaging about 30 °C (86 °F) and 23 °C (73 °F) respectively. Cayenne sees copious precipitation during the year.

The city features a very lengthy wet season and a very short dry season. The dry season only covers two months of the year - September and October, while the wet season covers the remainder of the year.

Precipitation is seen even during the dry season, a trait commonly seen in places featuring tropical monsoon climates. Cayenne averages roughly 3,750 millimetres (150 in) of rain each year.

The French folk song Cayenne named after the main city of French Guiana, tells the story of a pimp who shoots a well-to-do client who grossly disrespected a prostitute, and is then convicted and transferred to the infamous penitentiary.

In The Hardy Boys #12: Footprints Under the Window, the Hardys' investigations take them to Cayenne.

The 1955 film We're No Angels involves three prisoners who escape from Devil's Island and settle incognito into a family store in Cayenne.

The Cayenne pepper is named after the city or the city was named after the pepper.

The Porsche Cayenne, a mid-size luxury crossover SUV, is named after the city.

French Guiana's main international port of entry is the Cayenne-Felix Eboue Airport (CAY), formerly known as Rochambeau Airport, with daily flights mainly to the French Caribbean and mainland France.

Note that French Guiana has some different visa policies and some nationalities Including the Brazilian one must have a visa prior to arrival.

- Air Caraibes to Paris.

- Air France to France, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

- Surinam Airways to Belem, Paramaribo, Georgetown and Miami

- From France, with Air France and Air Caraibes.

Place des Palmistes is the main square in the old city of Cayenne. It is a vast park, dotted with many royal palm trees, surrounded by shops, bars, restaurants and banks.

In the centre of the park stands a monument to Felix Eboue (1884-1944), a French politician and WWII Resistant, born in Cayenne.

Fort Ceperou, the first colonial fort, was built in the middle of the 17th Century, at the top of a small hill which dominates the centre of Cayenne. The remains of the fort offer a wide view of the city of Cayenne and of the estuary of the Fleuve de Cayenne.

Cathedrale Saint-Sauveur, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Cayenne, is an 18th Century building.

Traditional Creole houses or Cases Creoles are scattered all over the centre of Cayenne. They are built of wood and are painted in many different colours.

Place des Amandiers is a small esplanade facing the Atlantic Ocean. It is a favourite dating place for couples and, in the evenings, a competition ground for the game of petanque.

Between May and July sea turtles come to lay their eggs on the beaches of Montjoly at night and in the mornings if there is high tide.

Volunteers are at the beaches and can show you where the turtles are and provide you with some more information about them. Bring a headlight that you can switch to red as the white light distracts the animals and should not be used.

Hike in the forests around Cayenne

- Le sentier du Rorota: The 6 kilometer hike takes about 2 hours and leads you through the green Amazonian forest. The path is mostly quite flat and offers at some points a good view of the beach and the islands. If you are lucky, you can see sloths, monkeys and many colorful birds on the way.

- Le sentier de Montabo: This track is reachable on foot from Cayenne city center. The trail is around 4 kilometers going along the coastline and takes about 2 hours.

In the evenings several food trucks go to Place des Palmistes selling for instance burgers, wraps and sweets for less than 5 €.

Good hotels exist, but they can be relatively expensive.

- Novotel Cayenne

- Central Hotel

- Hotel la Bodega

- Best Western Amazonia

There is also Ket Tai. Single room for 43EUR, double for 50 and Triple for 60. Nothing fancy but clean and a few minutes walk from place des palmistes.

Good Places To Visit In Cayenne:

Deep in equatorial South America, French Guiana is a department of France bordering Brazil, Suriname, and the Atlantic.

It's a land where old abuts new in striking incongruity. Dense rainforests shelter centuries-old indigenous villages, while rockets zoom overhead, launched from the country's lucrative Space Centre.

The capital, Cayenne, is a melting pot of French, Asian, African, and Brazilian cultures, and if you visit during Carnival, between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, you can join in the celebrations with parades every weekend.

Eco-tourism prevails in the country's largely unspoiled wilderness, which is home to an astounding diversity of wildlife. Along the coast, nature lovers can explore bird-rich marshes, where caimans lurk, and Atlantic beaches, where turtles nest in droves.

Inland, vast savanna stretches to lushly cloaked mountains, and rivers slice through steamy jungle. Traveling through this pricey French outpost can be challenging especially for those who don't speak French, as the country lacks a well-developed tourist infrastructure.

Less experienced travelers will benefit from using a tour company. Intrepid travelers will welcome the adventure.

Cayenne Cathedral

Cayenne Cathedral or Cathedrale Saint-Sauveur de Cayenne is a Roman Catholic cathedral, seat of the Diocese of Cayenne.

It is a national monument of France, located in the town of Cayenne, capital of French Guiana.


Catholic church of Notre Dame in the Hmong Village of Cacao

On the Comte River south of the capital, Cacao is a popular day trip from Cayenne. Hmong refugees transplanted from Laos in the 1970s are the main ethnic group in this small Asian village of wooden stilt houses.

Sunday is the best day to visit, when the popular market features Hmong embroidery and weaving, as well as local noodle soups. The insect museum, Le Planeur Bleu, is also worth a stop for its extensive bug and butterfly collections and impressive specimens of scorpions and spiders.

From the village, you can also embark on a scenic hike through the misty jungle or paddle the river in a canoe

Musee Départemental De Franconie, Cayenne

Musee Départemental De Franconie, Cayenne

Near the Place de Palmistes, Cayenne's liveliest plaza, the Musee Departemental De Franconie offers an overview of the country's history, as well as its flora and fauna. The museum tucks into a simple wooden Creole house built in the 19th century by the Franconie family.

Exhibits cover indigenous people, colonial history, and the penal colony, but the signs are only in French. Of note are the large stuffed black-caiman and the Butterfly Room.

Address: 1 Avenue du Général de Gaulle, Cayenne, French Guiana

Place Victor Schoelcher Market, Cayenne

Place Victor Schoelcher Market

For a spicy snapshot of local life, head to Cayenne's main market in Place Victor Schoelcher, a town square named after the man who ended slavery in French Guiana.

Exotic aromas waft through the air, and the market stalls brim with tropical fruits, perfumes, fragrant spices, and Asian-inspired snacks.

You can relax with a hot bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup, sip tropical juices, pick up some fresh-plucked produce, or purchase locally made handicrafts and souvenirs.

Camp de la Transportation

Camp de la Transportation

In the border town of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, at the chilling Camp de la Transportation, prisoners arrived for processing and transfer to penal colonies throughout the territory.

After walking through the same gates as former inmates, Alfred Dreyfus and Papillon, you can see rusty shackles and solitary confinement cells with tiny windows.

Abundant foliage has softened some of the grim history here, but the impression of past brutality lingers. Self-guided tours are free, or for a fee, French-speaking guides will take you on a more detailed tour. Look for Papillon's name engraved in one of the cells.

Pirogue River Trip

Paddling along a jungle-fringed river in a local boat is an exhilarating way to explore French Guiana's seemingly impenetrable wilderness.

The rivers flow through the heart of the steamy jungle and are the best way to travel between remote villages and see wildlife in its natural habitat, including capybara, caiman, and monkeys.

Typically, guides offer cruises in pirogues, dugout canoes carved from local wood.

One of the most popular rivers to paddle is the Maroni River, on the border of French Guiana and Suriname. This is the country's longest and most populated waterway and provides a chance to encounter Amerindians and Maroons and learn about their culture.

The 263-kilometer Sinnamary River cuts through the Amazon rainforest. Peaceful pools and swirling rapids punctuate this unspoiled, wild waterway. Another option is the Oyapock River.

Rich in gold mining history, it offers both a wilderness experience and a chance to meet Amerindians and Brazilians, who make their home along its banks. On the Approuague River, paddlers will find the highest rapids in French Guiana as well as pristine forests.

Remire-Montjoly Beach

If you're seeking a beach fix, you'll find Cayenne's best stretch of sand and sea at Remire-Montjoly.

The beaches in French Guiana are typically wild, windswept affairs, and this beach is no different, but it does have a narrow, strip of golden shoreline that is great for sunbathing, and palms and lush greenery fringe the sand, providing welcome patches of shade.

The silty waters are not ideal for swimming, but decent enough for a quick dip after a hike in the nearby nature reserve. You might spot sea turtles here during nesting season.

Fort Diamant presides on the point of the Cayenne Peninsula, and you can also see the ruins of an old sugar mill. From the town of Remire-Montjoly, the scenic five-kilometer Rorota Trail - Sentier du Rorota ascends Mahury Mountain with the chance to see wide-eyed sloths clinging to the trees.

Ilet la Mère

Monkeys are the main attraction at lovely little Ilet la Mere, an uninhabited island about a 30-minute boat trip from the marina at Degrad des Cannes, just outside Cayenne.

These gentle little critters have no fear; be prepared for them to jump on your shoulders and rifle through your bags. Besides photo ops with the monkeys, popular things to do on the island include strolling around the walking trails, swimming and basking on the small beach, and enjoying a picnic.

But you must bring your own food as the island has no facilities. Local tour operators offer both half-day and full-day trips to the island.

Zoo de Guyane

Jaguars, sloths, agoutis, crocodiles, howler monkeys, anteaters, and a panoply of birds, such as toucans and macaws are just some of the residents at Zoo de Guyane.

The focus is on animals native to French Guiana, so this is a great place to get acquainted with the country's wildlife before you venture into the wilderness.

The 450-plus animals in the zoo's collection represent around 75 different species, and you can access the naturalistic exhibits on a series of well-signposted trails through lush vegetation.

Kids and adults alike will love the treetop walk, strung through a canopy of native forest, and the children's playground is a hit with younger children.

Tresor Nature Reserve, Kaw

A 1.5- to 2-hour drive from Cayenne, the wildlife-rich marshes of Kaw cover thousands of square kilometers.

The Tresor Nature Reserve encompasses a huge area of the Kaw ecosystem and is a great place to observe black caimans, a smaller relative of the American alligator, as well as a rich diversity of bird life such as the scarlet ibis.

Travelers usually explore the wetlands on guided tours aboard local boats that vary considerably in comfort. When booking boat tours, be sure to ask about shade canopies and seat cushions.

Options include day or night trips as well as a 24-hour excursion with an overnight stay in an Amerindian-style hut. Although this is one of French Guiana's most accessible wildlife areas, it is still well off the beaten track.

Within the Tresor Nature Reserve, Mont Favard features hiking trails, petroglyphs, and plentiful purple and yellow poison dart frogs.

Guiana Space Centre (Centre Spatial Guyanais)

Apparently, rockets and rainforests are a good mix in French Guiana. In 1964, the French government chose this jungle-fringed slice of equatorial coast near Kourou for a space center, thanks to its low population density and distance from storm tracks and earthquake zones.

Three separate organizations operate here: the European Space Agency; the French Space Agency; and Arianespace, a private commercial enterprise developing the Ariane rocket.

Aided by French-speaking guides, you can view a film tracing the history of the Space Centre and tour the Jupiter Control Centre and Ariane facilities. The free tours last about three hours.

A highlight of a visit to French Guiana is the chance to view a space launch from the jungle. The center conducts up to nine annually, and tourists can witness the spectacle by reserving a free ticket in advance or just head to the beach and view it from there.

Also here, the Space Museum illuminates the history of space through seven themed modules. Audio-visual and slide presentations provide added details and include the preparation and launch of Ariane from the Space Centre.

Hattes Beach (Plages les Hattes)

In the northwest corner of French Guiana, Plage les Hattes at Awala-Yalimapo is the most important single nesting site in the world for giant leatherback turtles. During the peak season from April to July, more than 80 leatherbacks lumber up the beach in a single night.

Their eggs hatch between July and September. This three-kilometer stretch of beach is also an important nesting site for green turtles and, on occasion, Olive Ridley and hawksbill turtles. Before heading to the beach, you can learn about these gentle creatures at the small local museum.

Also at Awala-Yalimapo are many Amerindian settlements, and you can cruise up the Maroni River and visit a permanent traditional village.

Îles du Salut (Salvation Islands)

In 1931, Frenchman Henri Charriere was convicted of a murder he did not commit. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at the penal colony on Devil's Island, one of the infamous Îles du Salut, where shark-infested waters lash the rocky shores.

After surviving 12 years of horrific conditions, he escaped to Venezuela. The book and movie, Papillon, recount his ordeal.

Today, a trip to the islands, about 11 kilometers offshore from Kourou, brings his story to life. Most arrive at Île Royale, the largest of the three islands and the former administrative headquarters for the colony.

The buildings have been converted to hotels and tourist facilities, and an abundant array of wildlife now inhabits the island, including macaws, monkeys, and agouti.

At the gift shop, you can buy postcards stamped Devil's Island while the harbor now welcomes cruise ships where prisoners were once disgorged. Île St Joseph was reserved for solitary confinement for those prisoners at Devil's Island, and Île du Diable or Devil's Island is now closed to the public.

Tourism Observer

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