Security is a strict priority in a remote site such as the Nouragues Station. Dangers related to the life in such a remote place should be known ahead of time and correctly evaluated. Please contact the management team if you have questions or doubts.
The major danger is to get lost in the forest.
The topography is hilly and it is difficult to find the way back when one is lost. Trails are quite small and if you are not perfectly comfortable to walk alone in the forest, just do not leave alone. To maintain contact with the base camp, bring with you a walky-talky (available at the camp), a map of the site, and a compass. Always bring with you a head lamp, and always tell to the camp chief where you are planning to go. A new-generation GPS might also help on this occasion.
If you do get lost, avoid moving too much. Call the base camp with the walky-talky and mark your current location. Choose a comfortable place, preferably a hill (avoid proximity of a river, or a gully), and wait for help. Spot a tree with buttresses, and help the search team by hitting a buttress with a branch at regular intervals.
The commonest accidents are falls, and small bruises. A complete pharmacy is available at both base camps.
Biting insects are not very abundant at Nouragues.
By far the most abundant stings/bites are caused by mosquitoes, horseflies (more abundant during the dry season), chiggers (small acarians), and ticks. They are unpleasant and may can inflammatory reactions, but they are usually not dangerous. These irritations may be prevented by the cream Elenol (french brand), and cured by the cream Eurax (for sale in pharmacies). Moquito repellant is the best way to avoid bites and infections (see below).
Wasp or large ant stings (Paraponera clavata, or bullet ants, locally called fourmis flamandes) are occasional. Although they are painful, they are not a major danger. In case of an allergic reaction, however, the second effect may be serious. In case of a known reaction to wasp stings, bring with you a antihistamine medicine prescribed by your doctor.
Snake or spider bites are exceedingly rare, and generally occasioned to scientists who manipulate these animals (1 one snake bite has been recorded over 21 years at the station, to a person who was manipulating a snake). If your research project does not involve snakes or spiders, avoid them, and learn the dangerous snakes of the Guianas (fer-de-lance, genus Bothrops, locally called ’grage’, or coral snakes). At the camp, at night, be aware that snakes may move around among the carbets. Avoid to walk barefoot without a headlight. Never catch snakes bare-handed, especially when you do not know them and bear in mind that helicopters cannot travel at night.
Aside from corporal accidents (follow this link), other major risks are caused by infections. Like for any stay in warm and moist regions, fungal infections on the body (waist, feet) are high. Risks of infection of existing wounds (or insect bites) are also high (e.g. by streptocoques).
But the potentially higher risks are caused by vector diseases.
French Guiana is classified as a malaria-risk area, with different levels of risk following regions where you stay (see map of malaria risk, on French Guiana Prefecture website).
Nouragues area is not classified as a high risk region, but a prevention is recommended by health authorities : Mosquito bite prevention (adapted clothes, repulsive products, mosquito net...) plus appropriate preventive treatment (see WHO website for details - select "French Guiana" as a country in choice menu).
The main vector of malaria in French Guiana is the anopheles Anopheles darlingi whose larvae are found in large water bodies (swamps, river sides, criques…). Its activity is highest at dawn and dusk. It is apparently absent from the Inselberg site, but because water bodies are frequent close to Pararé, the risk is higher at the Pararé/COPAS site.
Since december 2003, several people have contracted two strains of malaria (Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax), all of them at the Pararé site. These represented the first cases of contamination in 18 yrs, probably caused by neighboring reservoirs of illegal gold miners.
So, the following advice, which applies to high risk zones, should be consider as the default at Nouragues: "It is essential that you sleep under a mosquito net, if possible impregnated with a moquito repellant. At dawn and dusk, you should wear covering clothing with moquito repellant. An anti-malarial treatment may be taken on a case-by-case basis, depending on where you exactly go, the duration of your stay, and your tolerance to the medicine.
Please, for further information about appropriate preventive treatment, report on World Health Organization website (select "French Guiana" as a country in choice menu)
If you have fever and are very tired a few weeks after your stay, consult your doctor and mention a suspicion of malaria. A simple blood test sanguin is enough to confirm this suspicion. If not cured rapidly, malaria may have serious, and even fatal consequences.
Dengue fever is a viral disease transmitted by a mosquito in the genus Aedes. It stings mostly during the day, around housings. In French Guiana reported cases are essentially in urban areas with two hotspots in Saint Georges de l’Oyapock and Kourou. Symptoms are: a high fever, muscular and articular pain, and headaches. IFour types of viruses are known. When one of these viruses has been contracted, an immunity will be acquired for this virus, but not for the three others.
In case of a suspicion of a dengue fever, consult a doctor, do not take aspirine and protect people around you by sleeping under a mosquito net, and using mosquito repellant.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from all travellers in French Guiana over 1 year of age.
Please, for further information, report on World Health Organization website (select "French Guiana" as a country in choice menu)
Leishmaniosis is a parasite infection caused by a trypanosome protozoa in the genus Leishmania. This parasite, mostly transmis by the bite of the female sand flies in genus Phlebotomus, infects mammals including the Man. This genus of sand flies is mostly in the forest from the ground to the top of the canopy. It is mostly active at dawn and dusk, but risks of an infection during daylight should not be underemphasized..
In French Guiana, cutaneous leishmaniosis is mostly caused by Leishmania guyanensis . The parasite infection manifests itself most often in unprotected parts of the body (hands, arms, legs) after an incubation period of one week to one year, by the apparition of cutaneous lesions, which do not close. The cure needs a medical treatment and it is usually slow. Cases of the Leishmania braziliensis infections have been reported at the Nouragues-Inselberg station in 2007. This infection needs to be diagnosed and cured as soon as possible.
There is no prophylaxis for this disease. Cases of leshmaniosis are episodic and they can be cured. If you have a bite that does not heal, mention to your doctor that you have been in South America, and that the area has seen cases of leishmaniosis.
MÉDECINE DE PRÉVENTION - (in French) livret inter-organismes de Recherche du voyageur - Livret édité à l’intention des agents se rendant en missions à l’étranger et dans les collectivités/régions d’Outre-mer.
PREFECTURE DE LA RÉGION GUYANE - (in French) - Health information section on the website of French Guiana Prefecture
AGENCE RÉGIONALE DE LA SANTÉ - (in French) - French Guiana Health authority website.
INSTITUT NATIONAL DE VEILLE SANITAIRE - (in French) - French public authority for Health monitoring website (type ‘Guyane’ in search engine)
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION : website of WHO for updated information about health in Guianas areas (select French Guiana as a country in choice menu)
SCOTT’S TIPS FOR TROPICAL BOTANISTS : Botanist Scott A. Mori, Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator at the Botany at the New York Botanical Garden has written an account to the attention of tropical botanists, but which may be of use to anyone wishing to spend time in a neotropical rainforest.