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Devil's Island





Fast Facts

Location: About 7 miles off the coast of French Guiana
Attraction Type: Historic prison
Significance: The most dreaded prison in the world
Best Time to Visit: All through the year
Visiting Hours: Daytime
How to Reach: By boat from Kourou
Nearest International Airport: Cayenne Rochambeau Airport
Devil's Island is perhaps the most infamous prison in human history. Located at about seven miles off the coast of French Guiana it is the smallest of the Three Isles of Salvation. Till 1952 Devil's Island in South America was a penal colony in French Guiana which was well represented in Steve McQueen's 'Papillon'.

This palm-covered rocky island rising 131 feet above sea level was set up as a penitentiary by French Emperor Napoleon III in 1852. Between 1852 and 1946 the inmates of this Devil's Island prison included politicians, murderers, thieves, and the most hardened criminals. From 1884 to 1946 more than 56,000 prisoners were sent from France to French Guiana. Escaping from Devil's Island in French Guiana was virtually impossible. The water surrounding the island was infested with piranhas and beyond that there was a dense jungle. Even if someone was successful in crossing the rivers he would be caught by Dutch soldiers stationed in the jungle.
Initially, the Dutch government offered shelter to those prisoners who crossed the waters successfully. However, due to atrocities committed by the escaped prisoners or 'bagnards' as termed by the Dutch, the practice was stopped except for German nationals. After 1938 the government of France stopped sending prisoners to Devil's Island, and subsequently in 1952 this prison was closed down permanently.

Presently, the Salvation Islands (Isles du Salut) of which Devil's Island is a part is used by Guiana Space Center for studying space launches. More than 50,000 tourists come to this island annually to visit the prison and the space center. View the sharks in the waters surrounding Devil's Island. Explore the island with its prison cells, barracks, and beaches.

Accommodation and Dining

For visiting Devil's Island, Kourou is the nearest place to stay. Hotel Kourou Atlanti, Hotel Des Roches, and Mercure Kourou are the notable places of accommodation in this town. Dining facilities are provided in these hotels and other restaurants of Kourou.?

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