French Guiana is largely an unsettled wilderness, with unparalleled biodiversity. The Amazonian forest, located in the most remote part of the department, is protected as the Guiana Amazonian Park, and together with Tumucumaque National Park in neighboring Brazil represents the biggest rainforest protected area in the world. The beaches of the Amana National Nature Reserve are an exceptional marine turtle nesting site, one of the largest worldwide for the leatherback turtle. Several small islands are found off the coast, the three Îles du Salut (Salvation Islands) which include the infamous Devil’s Island, and the isolated Îles du Connétable bird sanctuary further along the coast towards Brazil.
First settled by the French in 1604, French Guiana was the site of notorious penal settlements until 1951, and today is the only non-independent portion of the South American continent. The European Space Agency launches its communication satellites from Kourou, near the equator.
- Developing sea turtle ecotourism in French Guiana: Perils and practicalities by MH Godfrey & OD Drif, 2001