By: Sandy Cares
Tucked away on South America’s northeast coast is a mysterious three-island archipelago composed of Île Royale, Île Saint-Joseph and Île du Diable, or Devil’s Island, once known as the Salvation Islands. Each of these storied tiny islands, which together served as a French penal colony between the mid-19th and 20th centuries, had a different purpose.
Île Royale was the site of the administrative center, the wardens’ accommodations and the prison for less dangerous prisoners. Île Saint-Joseph was the island where the worst convicts were jailed, and Devil’s Island, virtually inaccessible, was where political prisoners were kept in isolation.
Flooded with an infamous and mysterious past, these islands are now frequented by curious travelers – myself included – fascinated by the island’s dark history. One legendary prisoner, Alfred Dreyfus, was a French artillery captain framed and arrested for high treason in 1894 and was sentenced to life at Devil’s Island. He was later exonerated, but only after years of imprisonment. He was the only prisoner on the island at the time, and his guard was ordered to never utter a word.
There are no piers on any of the islands, the spot that was once the home to thousands of thieves but is now accessible from Kourou. Wildlife is now more abundant than ever, with green-winged macaws, agoutis, capuchin monkeys and sea turtles frolicking all around. Timeworn buildings retain the history of the deserted and final decades of the thousands of prisoners sent to Devil’s Island between the years of 1850 and 1953 – when it finally closed down. Only 10 percent of the total number of detainees survived, and only a few ever escaped.
Ironically, Devil’s Island is now best known as a small, secluded historic spot where people willingly escape to.
For more insight and history on the beautiful Caribbean islands and Central America, join me on one of these unforgettable voyages:
Marina | February 25, 2017
Marina | March 7, 2017
Insignia | October 30, 2017
Insignia | November 14, 2017
Guest lecturer Sandy Cares’ animated and entertaining talks about people and events reveal colorful and unexpected aspects of the destination’s history, culture and traditions. Whether you are heading out for an action-filled adventure or are just planning to relax on the beach, she encourages you not to leave the ship without knowing the “story behind the story!” Drawing from stories by local authors as she weaves in anecdotes from travel and life, Sandy combines meticulous research with effervescent enthusiasm and humor for a fresh and fun twist to understanding and appreciating Bermuda and Caribbean destinations. Sandy has been lecturing aboard Oceania Cruises ships throughout the Caribbean and Central America since January 2014 and looks forward to meeting you soon.