Outside their classical and historic country of France, the French are beefing up an island that will literally take their country to the stars. That island is French Guiana, the world’s largest non-island colony and France’s budding space shuttle program. Seated at the crest of the South American coast, French Guiana is one of France’s 26 overseas regions. Frequent airplane flights serve as the colony’s umbilical cord to its parent city, Paris. As the godfather, France invests a great deal of money to French Guiana’s economy, but the latter is sustained by its top industries such as fishing, gold mining and satellite launching.
Although the colony shares the same currency and European Union membership with France, French Guiana has its own distinct character. It is considered by many tourists to be more Latin than French because of its tropical climate, Native American bloodline and a diverse number of colored migrants.
Nonetheless, the cut between French Guiana’s natural and manmade attractions is crystal clear. On one hand, there are eco-excursion escapes like Trésor Nature Reserve’s bird-filled savannas and Kaw marshlands, Sentier Molokoï de Cacao’s exotic nature, and Awala-Yalimopo’s dinosaur-looking leatherback turtles. On the other hand, there are the famous manmade structures such as the Île du Diable (Devil’s Island), serving from 1851 to 1952 as a large penal colony. The Centre Spatail Guyanis (Guianese Space Center), which takes travelers on a guided tour into the satellite launching business, accounts for 25 percent of French Guiana’s gross domestic product.
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