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Visit the Iles du Salut

Iles du Salut French Guiana

Visit a notorious penal colony spread over a trio of tropical islands, most famous as the setting for the novel and film, 'Papillon'.

Slowly decaying in the corrosive heat and humidity of the jungle, the eerie remnants of a controversial French penal colony guard their brutal secrets beneath the sweltering equatorial sun.

The deceptively named Îles du Salut ('Isles of Salvation') were the dumping ground for France's criminal class between the mid 19th and 20th centuries, during which time they gained a reputation as one of the most hellish and inhuman prison facilities in existence. Effectively banished to the ends of the Earth and surrounded on all sides by hopelessly treacherous, shark-infested waters, many of the unfortunate captives fell victim to tropical disease or met violent deaths at the hands of wardens or other prisoners.

The most notorious of all the islands was the Île du Diable, or Devil's Island, where political prisoners including Alfred Dreyfus were held captive. Its rocky boundary and rough waters make it so naturally impregnable that even now it is completely inaccessible to visitors.

However, it is possible to take a tour of the other two isles, where you can wander amongst abandoned prison buildings clawed back by the jungle, visit the cemetery, guardhouse and museum, and stare out across the cruel sea to the unreachable island beyond.

French Guiana
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Real Latin America Experts

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.

  • Jamie Swan
    Jamie Swan - Travel Consultant

    Jamie backpacked across Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil before joining us; he has a degree in politics and is also a keen sportsman..

  • JimAshworth
    Jim Ashworth - Travel Consultant

    Jim first caught the Latin American travel bug in 2001 when he decided at the last minute to join a friend travelling around Central America – he hasn't looked back since.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Evie Oswald
    Evie Oswald - Travel Consultant

    It’s hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

Meet the team