During our exploration of French Guiana, we had a plan to head eastward into the Kaw region. Actually, you all know Kaw! Well, at least for those who followed the TV series ‘Guyane’… Saint-Elias, does that ring a bell? Well, that was the alias used for the television series, but it was actually filmed in Kaw. The Kaw Swamp area consists of three distinct zones: The red zone, the largest but not accessible. It’s managed by the CSG and CNRS for research purposes. This is where you’ll find the largest caimans (the largest identified one was 7 meters long!!). In the other two zones, movement is allowed, but with restrictions: a green zone for authorized hunting and fishing, mainly intended for the residents of Kaw; an orange zone for fishing, but hunting is not permitted.

It’s important to know that the further east you travel in French Guiana, the higher the rainfall index becomes. The Kaw Swamp region is therefore very humid (3500 to 4000 mm per year with peaks at 8000). This explains the dense hydrographic network in this area. Additionally, it’s worth noting that there are essentially no other villages in the Kaw Swamp area. The village has around 50 inhabitants… For us, this excursion aimed to explore this region of French Guiana, and to engage in wildlife photography, particularly of birds since this area is populated by hundreds of bird species.

So, we embarked on a two-story boat, with the roof serving as an observation deck (and a UV cooking spot, since there’s no sun protection at that level… so it’s hard to stay there for more than 30 minutes in direct sunlight). The photographic challenge was to combine the speed of the birds (they rarely stay in the same place for more than 30 seconds…), the speed of the boat, rapid adjustments of focus, and settings for aperture and correct ISO. Photography enthusiasts will understand. With a 600mm lens, the margin for maneuver is small, and as the light decreased, we had to increase the ISO, inevitably introducing grain to the photos. It was a rewarding photographic exercise with its frustrations and disappointments. But no worries: out of the hundreds of shots taken, we managed to capture something… (See you at the exhibition on December 4th, 2023, about French Guiana, at the Galerie des 3 Frères from 7 pm).

We spent 24 hours on the boat. Everything was perfectly organized, and the closeness with 10 other travelers was not a problem at all. The closeness with mosquitoes, however, was another story!! A full-fledged attack starting around 6 pm… mosquito nets at night, but a good thirty bites per person at the very least: the price to pay to witness one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve had the chance to discover in my life. Fantastic!! I understand why locals say ‘not to be missed.’ A delight for photographers and nature lovers. And we saw caimans!! (Not 7 meters long, fortunately).

As for the sunrise over the swamp, it’s unforgettable…

Here are some images and a video to illustrate the place…

See you soon to present the Salut Islands.

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