West & Central Region Attractions
The coast from Kourou to St Laurent du Maroni follows the sea-coast past the town of Iracoubo with its church decorated by a prisoner and to St Laurent and its historic Camp de la Transportation.Dividing Suriname from French Guiana is the Maroni or Marowijne River with many Maroon and Amerindian settlements along its bank.
Saul, French Guiana
Isolated in the very heart of the Amazonian forest and reachable only by plane is Saul, a small mining town retaining evidence of the gold fever which happened in the area in the late 19th and early 20th C.In the undisturbed rainforests that surround the town are a network of hiking trails and study sites have been established by the New York Botanical Garden and colleagues from ORSTOM, the French Overseas Research Institute.
St Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana
St Laurent du Maroni is an old port town of 22,000, sitting along the river which forms the boundary between French Guiana and Suriname.Once a reception camp for newly arrived convicts, St Laurent retains some picturesque colonial buildings plus offers nightclubs and cinemas.Boat trips can be arranged to the area's Maroon and Amerindian settlements.
At the atmospheric Camp de la Transportation c. 1857, prisoners arrived for processing and transfer to the various prison camps throughout the territory.After walking through the same gates as Dreyfus and Papillon, grim reminders of the harshness of life in the penal colony can be seen including solitary confinement cells with their tiny windows, shackles and open toilets.The abundant foliage has softened some of the grim history.
Mana, French Guiana
On the Atlantic coast is the rustic village of Mana which has an attractive waterfront overlooking the Mana River.The town with a population of 2,000 was centered around an orphanage founded by a French nun in 1830.The area also served as a refuge for runaway and newly emancipated slaves and the setting of a leper hospital.
Plage les Hattes is the most important single nesting site in the world for the giant leatherback turtles who come ashore to nest from April to July. During this peak season more than 200 leatherbacks come ashore in a single night. Their eggs hatch between July and September. This beach is also an important nesting site for green turtles. Olive ridley turtles and hawksbill turtles are occasional nesters. There's also a local museum with turtle information.
Awala & Yalimpo
There are Amerindian settlements at Awala and Yalimpo at the mouth of the Maroni River. Excursions are taken from the Awala-Yalimpo area up the river to a permanent traditional village on the Coswine Creek.
The Mana is considered to be one of the most unspoiled rivers in Northern South America. The third largest and wildest of French Guiana's rivers was a gold seeker's river.
Iracoubo, French Guiana
Iracoubo is best known for its parish church whose interior was elaborately painted by a convict named Huguet. Coastal Amerindians live near the area around Organabo Creek.
Bellevue, French Guiana
An Amerindian village is located at Bellevue were Nalina pottery is for sale.
Maripasoula, French Guiana
Connections to Cayenne can be made from the airstrip in Maripasoula.Visiting the Wayana Amerindian villages upriver requires permission from the Prefecture.