5 must-dos from a Guiana Amazonian Park guide

France’s biggest national park, and even Europe’s, is actually in South America!

The Guiana Amazonian Park covers a vast territory of over 30,000km², and is accessible only by air or canoe along the Maroni and Oyapock rivers, where Native Americans and Bushinengues, the descendants of slaves, still live. Loïc Massué, National Park guide and tourism officer, tells us five of his favourites.

The Amazon for all in Saül

The little village of Saül, a 45 minute flight from Cayenne, is a tourist hot spot for hikers. There are 45km of safe, signposted trails, and five trails that have been fitted out for visitors with reduced mobility. It’s part of the “Amazon for All” programme, which proves that everyone can access the Amazon rainforest and, in perfect safety, rub shoulders with its giants like the 60m kapok tree. That’s as tall as a 25-floor building!

Reach for the clouds on Mont Galbao

Tree-like fern, rampant palm trees, and outlandish mosses... Songbirds, too, that fill your heart with joy as their calls ring out in the deep emerald forests. 20km from Saül, along a strenuous trail, you get to the majestic Mont Galbao. This mountain rises up to 700m in height, and is a refuge for unique plant and wildlife, with species who appreciate the altitude and record-breaking humidity. “It’s the country’s water tower”, with work underway to make accommodation there possible soon.

Swim with otters in Memora Creek

On the Brazilian border, Oyapock is French Guiana’s other main river. And it is on one of its tributaries, Memora Creek, that some of the best canoeing is to be had. As if drawn into a verdant tunnel, pirogues travel from falls to falls, alongside the giant otter that inhabit these protected waters, and aren’t shy of being watched. There are jaguars too, but they are far more discreet! On foot, we reach the inselberg Susu Bella, a sugar loaf emerging from the tropical rainforest. Home to orchids and rare birds, it also boasts rich archaeological remains.

Fresh air at Gobaya Soula falls

An unforgettable experience is two or three days immersed in a canoe trip through the Amazonian Park, canoeing the Maroni upstream until you get to Maripasoula on the border between Brazil and Suriname. If you’re in a hurry, you can skip the nights sleeping in a hammock and catch a flight (it’s one hour from Cayenne) to reach this hiker’s paradise. The most popular destination? The Gobaya Soula falls: 20 minutes by canoe and then a 40 minute walk to reach an outstanding spot for a picnic and swim, amidst the forest’s abundant greenery.

Awaken the senses in Papaïchton

A traditional village on the banks of the Maroni, upstream from Maripasoula, Papaïchton is the starting point for the Sentier de la Source, a trail that leads to the remains of a mountain that was revered in the pre-Colombian era. Designed to awaken your senses, the route invites visitors to try mombin, the wild plum that makes such good jams in French Guiana, as well as sweet peas. It is also a chance to inhale the changing aromas of the forest and the scent of its flowers, and to wonder at this exuberant vegetation which includes the turtle vine, a spectacular specimen whose long undulating ribbons strive for the canopy. Upon arrival at the viewpoint, a breath-taking panorama of the river awaits!

Getting to French Guiana