A few weeks ago, my family and I went down to New Orleans for a long weekend. After spending two days in the city, Ryan and I were itching to get out and see some swamp life! Since we were only two people and didn’t have a car, our hotel booked us with a swamp tour that would provide door-to-door transportation to and from the swamp (about 40 minutes away).
We had the option of going through the swamps and marshes with a slow, flat-bottomed boat or the loud, speedy airboat. So of course we chose the airboat with Louisiana Swamp Tours!
There seemed to be quite a few other swamp tour purveyors on the shores of the lake, and we all set off together. We crossed the lake into the Barataria Preserve in the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve.
Our guide was funny and informative, joking about the differences between the Cajuns (the country residents) and the Creoles (the fancy city French people). He also said that the last name Boudreau is one of the most common surnames in his part of Louisiana, which happens to be the last name of the husband of one of my friends…he comes from New Brunswick (aka Acadia). From our guide’s stories, it sounded like the Cajuns and Creoles in Louisiana don’t speak French anymore, but they still use French words here and there, just as our family uses the occasional Japanese words but we don’t speak fluent Japanese.
The swamp itself was so beautiful. The day started as grey and overcast, but it cleared up and got warm by the time we arrived. Sunshine = greater chances of seeing alligators sunning themselves.
We went fast!
Once we crossed the lake, we entered the bayou which was edged by cypress trees dripping in Spanish moss. Our guide joked that sometimes tourists try to smoke it to get high (don’t worry, it doesn’t do anything).
It was kind of eerie going up and down the bayous. And our guide said that the water in several places is only a few inches deep; he’s so used to being able to walk in the ankle-deep water that he gets weirded out be the thought of animals and fish being able to swim under him in a lake or ocean.
Then we saw one – a gator!
Guides toss marshmallows into the water, and the alligators are attracted to the fluffy white morsels. I don’t know how good the marshmallows are for their teeth, though.
This guy was about 4 or 5 feet long.
After the bayou, we went to the swamp. The floating islands of reeds move around and so the swamps aren’t really mapped. Our guide also said that trying to cross the swamp on foot is possible, but getting from where we were to the tree line would take about 6 hours, since the hapless traveller has to pick their way across the floating reed islands and when they invariably fall in, have to pull themselves out of the muck!
Our guide found a baby alligator and we got to hold it!
I think Ryan and I are getting a pet alligator once we get back home 🙂
A family of grebes came to say hi, and beg for marshmallows.
Eventually we returned to shore and boarded our bus which took us back to the city. We ran into a traffic jam in New Orleans as a random parade went down Canal St, so Ryan and I got out and walked back to our hotel in the Marigny district. What a great day out!