You wouldn't know it, as you approach the soft sands and gently waving weave of palm trees, but this tropical paradise once stashed away some of France's most notorious criminals. Home to one of history's most remote and brutal penal colonies, Ile Royale is one of three - somewhat ironically named - Salvation Islands. The neighbouring Devil's Island's title offers some honest insight into how these islands were previously thought of. Nowadays, you'll discover a heavenly escape of tropical beaches, and jungle reclaiming the island from the prison’s imprint and cleansing its dark history within a cloak of verdant green.
The setting for Steve McQueen's Papillon, and indeed the 2017 remake, the films tell the story of Henri Charriere's attempted escapes from these notoriously impossible to leave islands, which lie seven miles offshore from French Guiana. Unravel the stories for yourself, as you explore the ruins that have been left behind. Wander to the chapel that was constructed by prisoners, as well as the island's hospital and staff quarters.
There's incredible wildlife among the penal colony's ruins too. Cute agouti sniff tentatively at fallen coconuts, vast sea turtles lounge around, squirrel monkeys clamber up through the vegetation, and giant iguanas bask in the sun's glow. Wander the path that loops around the island's circumference to spot them, and to discover the lay of the land. Now administered by the French equivalent of NASA, CNES, the islands are occasionally cleared, as rocket launches roar up into the sky overhead.