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The Iles du Salut: from hell to paradise

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Of these three volcanic rocks 14 kilometres from Kourou, only Ile Royale and Ile Saint-Joseph can be visited. The most famous, Ile du Diable, aka Devil's Island, remains virtually inaccessible.

From the Dreyfus Affair to Papillon, the stories of suffering connected to Devil's Island, the world's most notorious penal colony, are legion. From 1852 to 1953, some 70,000 prisoners served their sentences at this former leper colony, in the most humiliating and inhumane conditions.

In 1965, the French government gave the islands to the CNES space agency, which has since restored many of the prison administrative buildings on Ile Royale, which are classified as historical monuments.

The islands now receive more than 50,000 tourists each year most stay on Royale, because the shark-infested waters and treacherous crosscurrents around Devil's Island make for too dangerous a voyage.

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