Its the whole Brazilian come Latin American thing, I believe the Carnaval season starts in Nov - Dec (unofficially), and carries on all the way thru till Feb, where it ends with a big procession, in Kourou and Cayenne (and Rio and Trinidad etc), its a great atmosphere, with lots of drums and singing and food and all the things you'd associate with the Carnaval season, the end parade varies every year, sometimes its the beginning of feb, sometimes the end, so if you're coming out and want to see it (its not worth coming out especially for), try and check before you go.
The other event linked with the Carnaval is the Tululu, where the women of the town get dressed up so they are completely covered from head to toe. Then, at night, they congregate in a certain area of town, on a dance floor, the men aren't allowed to step into the dance floor and have to wait to be asked by one of the mysterious ladies..... the women don't have to put their hands in their pockets for drinks all night, and the men may never know who they are dancing with
Mozzie repellent essential.
Backpack would be the best idea, also bring a daysack If you're going in the jungle, get some good boots that dry quickly, you'll also need a machete, these are available in most shops. You need Mozzie rep and waterproofs. Everything is quite expensive out here, have some stuff to deal with fungal infections, pro-poo and anti-poo tablets, pharmacies here are generally well stocked. Camera is a must, loads of wildlife shots to be had, zoom lense would be good, come out when there is a launch scheduled to get some interesting photos of rockets and stuff. Hammock (can be bought here)
Poncho, Mozzie net. Jungle boots, Sun tan cream, Machete and smaller knife. Normal beach stuff. Mozzie rep of a good grade, there be malaria, dengue fever and other mozzie flavoured nasties here, you need a yellow fever certificate to enter the country.
Amerindian village, beach carbets
As you walk further along the beach at Kourou, you leave behind the hotel des roches, kite beach and most of the people on the beach and come to the Amerindian village, with houses right on the beach, here there are about 4 carbets, more like shelters really where you can sling yr hammock for the night with only the crashing waves for company (apart from the mozzies of course).
This part of the beach is also the site where 24hour fishing competitions and beach rugby tournaments take place.
Kourou, La Ville Blanche
Probably the least historic town in French Guyana, Kourou is known as La Ville Blanche due to all the white people that live here. Built on the site of an old fishing village to house the people that work at the CSG, the town itself is quite spread out and not as vibrant as say Cayenne or St Laurent.
Kourou has many restaurants, from Chinese to Moroccan and lots in between, it is also the port you leave to take a trip to the Isles du Salut, trips run daily and are relatively inexpensive.
Security can be an issue here, the town has its good times and bad times, for the most part its quite safe.
One thing that sets Kourou apart from the rest of the towns in French Guyana is the Ariane 5 launches which take place about 5 times a year, the launches are spectacular and there are many places in and around Kourou where you can watch from, the beach is a very popular viewing spot and if you take time to go to the Space Centre beforehand you may be able to buy tickets to certain viewing areas which benefit from good views and televisions with which to follow the progress of the rocket.
"BIg green things"
There's lots of interesting wildlife around, this is a picture of a Caiman, obviously very similar to a crocodile.
Your realise that you really are in the jungle when one of these crosses the road outside your workplace, or, in one incident, crossed the main road between Cayenne and Kourou, just goes to show, they are around and not as scarce as you might think.
This one is pretty damn big though, they're not usually this big.
More on the islands
As I said earlier, the Islands were made famous by the book and film Papillon, Seznec, Dreyfuss and Charriere all spent time on the islands before being pardoned, dying or escaping.
There is not a massive amount to do on the islands, it can be very dangerous to swim, as the current is so strong and the water is filled with sharks, but its very tempting as the water here is a lot clearer then it is on the coast of Guiane.
There is an excellent museum on Ile Royale (the largest of the 3), and a lot of buildings to take in, walking to be done and there are some humbling graveyards to visit, one especially for children. Prisoners don't have their own graveyard as they were thrown into the sea when they died, to be eaten by the sharks which inhabit the waters around the island. There is a lot of wildlife in the water around the islands including a giant fish (approx 80-90kg) called a Merou. Due to the currents the swimming is limited to a tidal rock pool and a very small beach, if you keep a sharp look out you can see large turtles and the occasional shark.
Although the most famous of the 3 island, it is forbidden to step onto the island, something to do with wild goats being on the island and preventing hunters for having them for dinner I think. You can see it clearly from both islands, there are several ruins on island but mostly it is being reclaimed by jungle, just like the other 2.
Devils Island was reserved for the highest political prisoners and was also a leporacy colony.
The largest of the 3 islands, it houses the governors quarters, the hotel and restaurant, graveyards and the museum.
There is a lot of wildlife on the islands, termites, Agutis, Pheasants, Monkeys and Peacocks to name all I can remember. The museum is a very interesting place with lots of photographs of the time which is interesting, seeing as most of the buildings have fallen to ruin.
One of the most interesting buildings on the island is a tiny concrete room (about 7 foot by 4), on its own, in the middle of nowhere, this was the solitary confinement cell, you can imagine how outrageously hot it must have got in there, no prisoners within earshot. The longest time spent in this cell was in excess of 10 YEARS!!
One thing not to miss is the Caiman Lake in the centre of the island, basically it has a couple of caimans and quite a few iguanas in it, this is where the drinking water came from for the prisoners.
"St Joseph Island"
St Joseph island I would say has the least amount to do on it, it has a bar staffed by a Foreign Legionnaire and huts for slinging hammocks, though I believe these are limited to use by the Legion only. There is a nice little bay around the back of the island, it has a sand come shell beach, but be very careful when swimming there as the current is very very strong and catches you unawares often.
There is a little ferry that runs between the 2 main islands, the distance is minimum and easily swimmable, but it really isn't worth trying due to the strong current and the sharks.