Arriving in French Guiana without any issues; after finding our accommodation which would serve as our base for excursions, organizing our belongings, and a few hours of sleep, we set off for Ilet La Mère. Does the name intrigue you? It did for me, so I tried to understand. Well, it’s a legend that gives it its name. The island is part of an archipelago of 6 islets, off the coast of Remire-Montjoly: La Mère (The Mother), Le Père (The Father), Les Deux Mamelles (The Two Breasts), Le Malingre (The Weak One), and L’Enfant Perdu (The Lost Child). The legend says that this family, while peacefully sailing, was overturned by a massive wave. They all fell into the water, each trying to save the other, unsuccessfully. Le Malingre (The Weak One), the servant, tried to save the youngest, also without success. The young one (L’Enfant Perdu), drifted to the west and ended up stranded off the Cayenne River. The legend says they were petrified at the very spot of their shipwreck to keep forever their memory alive…

Termitière géante

The first inhabitants of the island were the Amerindians, as mentioned earlier. They used the island’s blunt rocks as grinding stones to sharpen their tools. After the Amerindian occupation, few people resided here due to the island’s small size! The Jesuits arrived in the 17th century with the first French settlers, practicing slavery for agriculture and farming. Later, they accommodated lepers since the site was far from the mainland. In 1852, the first penal colony was established along with its facilities (barracks, hospital, cemetery, church). The 600 convicts regularly present on the island were renewed with each yellow fever epidemic…

Between 1923 and 1933, the wife of a former convict, Duez, rented the island to establish a large farm with diverse fruit trees. This farm supplied the entire Guyanese coast and even Europe! After her death, no one managed to continue the activity, and the enterprise declined. In 1981, the Pasteur Institute set up on the island, focusing on breeding squirrel monkeys for malaria research. When the scientific teams left the island, they left the monkeys behind. They are now the main inhabitants of the island. Humans cannot reside there as it is a protected nature reserve. Besides squirrel monkeys, numerous birds inhabit the island. The termite mounds are impressive. The fruit trees have persisted and serve as the main food source for the small monkeys (banana trees, papaya trees, mango trees, breadfruit trees). Finally, “fromager” trees, are characterized by their geometric lamellar base and towering height. They are also called “pirogue trees” as the wood historically served for building canoes.”

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