Discarded off the coast of French Guiana, lies an ominous, key-shaped island of sharp rocks and swaying palm trees - Devil's Island. As the site of one of history’s most infamous and feared prisons, the island's reputation as hell on earth was well earned, having been used to brutally imprison, torture and punish the French Empire's most notorious criminals. View more
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Devil's Island is but one of the infamous penal colonies of the Iles du Salut archipelago.
Today, visitors arrive at Ile Royale, the larger of the two islands (out of three) which can be visited, to experience the haunting history of this former penal colony. Pathways allow you to circle the island and to wander among the overgrown ruins of prison cells and administrative buildings. A recent restoration program has been successful in recovering some of the buildings, one of which now houses a small museum. There is also a hotel, the Auberge Iles du Salut, providing modest tourist facilities.
From 1852 to 1948, the main penal colonies were established on the three French Salvation Islands to hold the most notorious criminals and political outcasts. Those who were sentenced to seven or more years and survived were required to remain in French Guiana for life. Of 80,000 prisoners sent to the islands, some 50,000 died here. Ile Royale housed the administrative centre and the wardens' accommodations. The complex was virtually a self-contained community with houses, offices, a hospital, bakery, butcher shop and church.
On nearby Devil's Island are the ruins of the facility used for housing political prisoners. Here the inmates were often left without guards, since strong currents and sharks made a getaway virtually impossible. To this day there are no proper facilities to land on Devil's Island and therefore visit is prohibited. All penal facilities in French Guiana were finally shut down in the 1940s.
The walking paths lead uphill, where the majority of the buildings, including the museum and the small hotel are located.
Walking on the island is on hilly and uneven paths; the road circling the island is mostly on flat ground. The climate is hot and humid. Wear lightweight clothing, a sun hat and your walking shoes to explore this remote and exotic location. Tenders will be operating continuously during our stay, so you may return to the ship at any time.
PLEASE NOTE: This is a self-exploration opportunity and advanced reservations are not required.