Roura, French Guiana

Photo: Renske Ek, www.tresorrainforest.org
Photo: Renske Ek, http://www.tresorrainforest.org

You’ve always had a secret yearning to explore a rainforest. The twisted trees and the animals not found anywhere else have always fascinated you. The slow-moving rivers and the tribes untouched by modernity constantly intrigue you. While the idea of truly escaping from everything sounds like absolute bliss. But you need a test trip before you disappear into the Amazon.

French Guiana, a French department north of the largest rainforest in the world, is a good place to start. Since nearly half of its land is protected and most of the population lives along the coast, its primary rainforest has remained pristine and untouched. Plus it’s easily accessible from Cayenne, the colorful capital filled with colonial architecture.

Head south to Roura, your rainforest home base. Camp Caïman, powered by solar electricity, sits on a tributary of the Oyak River. Hammocks are strung underneath huts with forest or river views. Rooms and meals are simple, as expected. You won’t be spending much time here anyway, though. The deep forest is calling your name.

Follow the botanical trail in the Trésor Nature Reserve. You might see dyeing dart frogs or a lancehead snake eating a lizard along the 1.75-mile path. Ride a boat around reeds and water hyacinths in the Marais de Kaw, France’s third-largest nature reserve. Six species of caimans—a smaller relative of the American alligator—peek their eyes above the water. Cocoa herons wade tentatively through the marshes. While scarlet ibises look like prehistoric creatures in the sky. Pass an old cemetery and the ruins of a sugarcane plantation as you hike up Favard Mountain to see engraved rocks. Then hang out with monkeys and cool off in the Fourgassier waterfalls. It doesn’t seem like your test trip will be the only time you disappear into the rainforest.

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