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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Day 26 - Thursday 30th January - Iles Du Salut - a windy paradise

Devils Island from Royal Island
We watched the film Papillion again last night, mostly I was keen to see the buildings in the movie, and relate them to what we would see on the ground when we visited today. Apparently, the buildings built for the film were an exact copy of the real thing. Having seen the real thing, I was engrossed in which buildings were where, and what they were used for. I watched all the way through the credits to get as much info as possible from the film.

We were very excited about getting to Isle Du Salut.  "The Salvation Islands", or Devil's Island is actually three islands, Royal Island, St Josephs Island and Devils Island.  We get to visit Royal Island, which is where the main buildings of the penal colony were built.  Devil's Island and St Joseph's Island are tantalisingly close, but not easily accessible, so we aren't able to set foot on them, but it doesn't matter. Royal Island more than makes up for not seeing the other tow. 
The only worry was the weather. Every time we’ve been here, there’s always been a bit of a swell, and it’s always made it difficult for the crew to get the passengers off and on the tenders. We wanted to get one of the first tenders, and tender tickets were due to be released at 8.30. Thing is, everyone had been queing from 8 o’clock and by the time we got there, the tickets were being issued for tender D - i.e the fourth one to leave the ship, so we were going to have to wait a little while.

Actually, we were going to have to wait a long while, because as before, there was a bit of a swell making it difficult for the crew to tie the tenders up and make it safe for passengers to get on to them. I say “bit of a swell”, there was a LOT of a swell. The wind was gusting, the tenders were smacking against steps leading out of the ship and the whole operation was looking decidedly dodgy. I was worried that they would have to stop.

And they did stop. After the first two lifeboats had gone ashore, they had to stop to adjust the position of the ship, using it to shelter the tender operation. Time ticked on and I was worried that we wouldn’t have very long on the island. The tender loading started again and eventually it was our turn. Finallly! It took about 10 mins to get from the ship to the little pier on Royal Island, and at last, by 11.15, we were there. The wind was blowing a gale, but who cares, we were back on paradise. 
St Joseph's Island from Royal Island.  As I said, it was a bit windy!
We love these island and were keen to see as much as we could in the time that we had, but we knew that the last tender would be 1pm, so we didn’t have much time. We decided to walk anti-clockwise around the outside of the island, to see as much of the wildlife as we might, before heading upwards to the centre of the island where all the prison building were. I had Peter’s good camera as well as my own in hand, in the hope that, if we did get to see some of the wildlife, I might be able to get a few good pictures.

As we set off, the wind began to die down, and the sun came out. There were aguti, or palm rats everywhere, and we got loads of pictures of those.
Aguti, or palm rat - they live mostly on coconuts
Sadly, we didn’t get to see any turtles this time, although the leaf ants were very busy and entertaining. The heat was beginning to get to us, so as we got to the centre of the island we headed for the cafe for a cool drink. We’d managed to collect a whole load of scrap euro change, i.e. 10 and 20 cent pieces, and I’d given it to Peter in the hope that we could get rid of some of it when we were on the island. (Isle de Salut is part of French Guiana, and as such takes the suro). In the cafe, Peter ordered two large bottles of still water and a couple of cans of lemonade. And then, in his own inimitable way, he threw the bag of change on the counter and let the assistant sort it out for himself. Nearly 12 euros in copper! That was one way of getting rid of it.

We didn’t have a lot time and never got to walk around all the old penal colony buildings, but, as we left the cafe, Peter spotted a humming bird right outside. He stopped to start taking pictures, and then, magically, the bird decided to start feeding on the bush right in front of us. It was amazing, this exotic creature flicking from flower to flower not three feet away. Our camera’s were going nuts. Absolutely brilliant.

How lucky were we that this hummingbird decided to dance among the flowers of the bush in front of us.

Black throated mango.  Beautiful
And then it was time to start making our way back. We know there are monkeys on the island that, although not quite tame, are happy to be fed by the tourists, so off we went looking for them. Unfortunately we only came across two little squirrel monkeys which , and never got to see the Brown Capuchins, who were obviously off somewhere hiding, but there are photo’s off them in previous years blog posts.

Squirrel monkey
Finally we were back at the bay, waiting for the tenders. The swell had continued to cause delays, and we sat in the sun until it was our turn. Whilst we were waiting, I managed to see spot royal terns, a spotted sandpiper without his spots, and another blue grey tanager. All this life and colour is so brilliant.

So that was Isle de Salut for another year. We now have a sea day before we get to our first Caribean island, Grenada. I’m looking forward to the beaches and the chance for a swim. Awesome.

Isle De Salut 2012
Isle De Salut 2013 - 1st Post
Isle De Salut 2013 - 2nd Post

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