French Guiana has a special place in the French national imagination. It is seen as a coveted yet hostile land which saw off early attempts to colonise it. Or a land of exile to which France dispatched its many various undesirables and opponents, lying at the end of a horrendous one-way passage. But does this combination of historical reality and fantasy mean that French Guiana is now a prisoner of its own past?

Once these images of its turbulent past recede into the distance, it is still as intriguing and unnerving for the uninitiated, who shudder at the idea of an impenetrable jungle full of dangerous beasts. The hair-raising tales of visitors-turned-adventurers on their return from their (invariably epic) time in French Guiana are full of fat-bodied spiders, vampire bats, anacondas, and deadly mosquitoes.

And in its latest avatar French Guiana is seen as a new Far West, home to all sorts of trafficking. This vision is kept alive by a few highly specific TV reports emphasising practices which can be illegal and even violent on occasions, such as clandestine gold mining.

All these overlaying fragments feed into a certain fascination for a land which is more a place of fantasy than somewhere people actually know. But it fails to do justice to French Guiana and does not trigger the right sort of motivation to discover the place in a spontaneous and open-minded manner.

Only a handful of the remarkable quantity of animal species found in French Guiana is actually dangerous to man. Pit vipers are tropical snakes which are as dangerous as vipers found in temperate zones. The penal colonies closed their doors over half a century ago, and it is now time to go out and discover the true wealth of this country – its nature and its people.

If a hoped-for drop in plane ticket prices to Europe comes about, then French Guiana could soon become easier to get to, and this is an opportunity both for the Guianese and for tourists looking for unspoiled spaces.

“Ecotourism encompasses all forms of tourism focused on nature where the principal motivation is to observe and appreciate nature and traditional cultures living in natural areas. It includes local and indigenous communities in its planning, development and operation, and contributes to their well-being” [Final Declaration of the World Summit on Ecotourism, 2002].

Following the example of Costa Rica or nearby Surinam, French Guiana could become a popular ecotourism destination, and thanks to its eco-responsible principles this could become not just some marginal activity but a driving force behind sustainable development.

Before heading off into the forest

How best to respond to the call of the forest, its rivers, its cultures – and make the most of this unique experience? You’re about to enter an unknown universe, where it will be just you and nature! Beautiful, immense, living, rare, enchanting, bewildering, and mysterious –so near and yet so far.

In French Guiana as elsewhere there are risks associated with going hiking. But always remember that you are far away from any rescue services and that it is hard to alert them. Do not take any unnecessary risks. For more information about how best to encounter the Amazonian habitat you can consult: Le Petit Guide de la Randonnée en Guyane which can be downloaded at ( and which is available at all tourist reception points.

Practical guide



There are two lines flying direct from Paris to French Guiana – Air France and, since December 2008, Air Caraïbes. The Brazilian airline TAF provides links with Brazil via the towns of Macapa and Belem. It is possible to fly from Surinam (Paramaribo) with Surinam Airways (Tel 05 94 29 30 01[U1] )


To get the most sun it is better to come in the dry season, between July and November. If you want to enjoy the carnival and its various festivities then choose to come in the months of January and February.


Public transport between towns in French Guiana is via 12-seater minibuses called taxi-co. To discover the many rivers in French Guiana the best thing is a pirogue or aluminium hulled boat.


Vaccination against yellow fever is obligatory. In certain areas such as on riverbanks, malarial protection can be advisable.


A lively site with all the latest news and a large number of classified ads.

A full and rich site about various themes related to ecology in French Guiana.


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