SOUTH AMERICA’S CURIOUS EUROPEAN OUTPOST
The smallest of the three Guianas – and by far the least touristed by english-speakers – French Guiana is known to Francophiles and locals as Guyane and yes, this causes no shortage of confusion with similarly-named Guyana a few hundred miles to the west. Nonetheless, French Guiana is a singularly unique place from a political point of view. Its 84,000 km² (32,500 square miles) is a department of France and this territory is legally part of the European Union. President François Hollande is the head of state, French is the lingua franca, and transactions are handled in Euros. Espresso and wine are in ample supply.
The curious contrast here is how modernity of western civilization butts up against the powerful forces of tropical Amazonia. On the one hand, it’s impossible to miss the profoundly futuristic influence of the European Space Agency launch center in Kourou (especially if you’re around when one of the Ariane-5 rockets lifts a satellite into space) while at the same time the macabre allure of colonial France’s torturous past rest peacefully offshore on the three Îsles du Salut (often mistakenly referred to as “Devils Island”).
Meanwhile, the narrow strip of coastal development is shadowed by dense rainforests covering 95% of its territory, bursting with the same nature (1300 types of trees, 190 species of mammals, 720 species of birds, and 480 species of fish) and cultural heritage that define the rich character of the entire Guianan Shield. The beaches at Gallibi are renowned as a haven for turtle nesting, and the Marshes of Caw offer a swampy paradise of birds and four types of caiman.
Intrepid visitors from North America and the UK are simultaneously delighted by the natural and cultural treasures offered by French Guiana and dismayed by the utter lack of infrastructure for english-speaking travelers. Wilderness Explorers has worked hard in recent years to identify a small cadre of qualified english-speaking guides who can bring this utterly unknown corner of South America alive. Get in touch – we’d love to tell you more about this remarkable slice of Europe in South America.
Why Travel with Wilderness Explorers?
For more than 20 years, we’ve been working at the crossroads of adventure travel and community tourism. Not from the sidelines or behind a desk, but on the ground. In the jungle. On the boats. Getting our feet dirty and seeing everything first-hand. Tourism isn’t our business – it’s our life. Our handcrafted itineraries prove it.
Our partners in the field aren’t just suppliers in the traditional sense: we are deeply involved with the development of the lodges, tours, training programs, and attractions that draw adventurous souls to this part of the world. Back in 1999 Wilderness Explorers was one of the first tour operators to embrace the now-fashionable idea of community tourism, partnering with the Amerindian Makushi village of Surama in Guyana to provide marketing and administrative support for that country’s first indigenously-operated ecolodge. These days we continue to work with lodges and regional consortiums with tourism development aspirations. Hand-in-hand we are building opportunities for economic growth that don’t rely on resource extraction or the mass-market.
We know that tour companies are increasingly looked upon as unnecessary middlemen in a world where the internet connects everyone with marvelous ease. And, no doubt, someone with ample time and patience could organize their journey independently. But we know that sometimes you want to spend less time researching and more time travelling. If that’s you, we can vastly simplify your trip planning, get you into the best (and often least-known) lodges, prioritize your activity list, and set you up for an unforgettable getaway. Having the time of your life once you get there? Well, that part is entirely up to you!