This post was most recently updated on September 13th, 2016
On my last full day in New Orleans, I figured a change of scenery was in order, so I decided to sign up for a New Orleans swamp tour with Cajun Encounters. I swapped the city’s commotion for the swampland’s lazy riverside daze, searching for alligators, snakes, birds, and whatever other creeping creatures lurked out there. I really had no idea what to expect from the swampland, but I thought, “Why not?! Louisiana must have more to offer than just New Orleans.” And I was right!
Before this trip, I’d never visited the South. And as you can imagine, when I first landed, the grunge, liveliness, and crazy quirkiness of New Orleans shocked me initially. It even scared me a little bit, I’ll admit. The South is different than where I come from, and it’s much different than anywhere else in the world that I’ve visited. So you can bet that, before my trip to New Orleans, I’d never in my life visited a swamp either. It, too, was different, interesting, and informative even, since I decided to do a New Orleans swamp tour with Cajun Encounters.
Right on time, Cajun Encounters picked me up from my beautiful hotel, the Hyatt Centric French Quarter (read more about my amazing stay here), and drove me from civilization to what seemed like an entirely different world: the swampland, the Bayou, the real and rural Louisiana. Along the way, our driver, Troy, pointed out landmarks, told us information about New Orleans and the surrounding area, and recounted the city’s experience with Hurricane Katrina.
About forty-five minutes later, I stepped off the coach bus, and immediately, the sights and sounds of the swamp overcame my every sense. I listened to the birds chirping in a happy frenzy, welcoming me kindly, as all Southerners do, to the swamp. I smelled the stale swamp water, imagining what it’d be like to slowly drift along the swamp’s many bends; I would soon find out. I felt the insects buzzing around me, hoping they wouldn’t eat me alive. And I wondered if I’d get a good seat on the boat for viewing any alligators that decided to reveal themselves graciously. I was anxious to see what the swamp had in store for me; I was excited for my New Orleans swamp tour with Cajun Encounters.
After the Cajun Encounters staff swiftly sifted us into different groups, our captain collected us and walked us over to our boat.
For about two hours, we drifted along the swamp, in search of Cajun critters. Along the riverside, for as far as the eye could see, stood thick, green forest, fraught with all kinds of wild critters, from turtles to deer to hogs to alligators. While I scanned the edge of the waterway, occasionally I noticed a majestic-looking bird, but for a while, that was all I saw. As we continued to drift, I would notice patches of beautifully bloomed lily pads floating downstream, accompanied by lime green algae. The swamp’s water is unlike the colors of the Bahamas’s beaches, as you might imagine, so the occasional pop of green brought as much beauty as possible to the brown, murky swamp.
Throughout the swamp’s open water float abandoned, waterlogged logs that often take the shape of alligators to fool tourists. I probably guessed about twelve of those logs to be alligators, in which case, my heart started to beat a bit faster as I began to get excited. Yet my hopes dashed away just as soon as we approached each “alligator log” and realization set in. Nope, just another log.
Not only do the thickest of trees and a variety of animals live together in harmony in the swamp, but also, there are swamp people that lead slow, laidback lifestyles in the swamp. They hang out and watch the Saints and LSU battle their rivals out on the football field, they hunt alligators (but only in September, as decreed by hunting law), they go fishing, and they drift along the swamp with the birds and the bugs. Their houses look decrepit and rickety, and some of them, as if they were completely flooded, as some of their wooden porches were completely submerged in swamp water. However, though their homes are dilapidated and seem, to you and me, as though they’d not be fit to live in, you actually look at them in awe, because each and every home built upon the swamp was built by its owner, and every part necessary to build that home was taken in, back and forth, back and forth, by boat, the only way possible. So what’s intriguing, is how content these swamp people seem to be with their Spartan way of living; though to me, it seems much more difficult to live in the swamp than in an urban or suburban setting. I got the feeling, as we boated past them, that each and every individual there was genuinely happy. All of the Lousiana swamp dwellers smiled and waved to us as we passed by, and from what I could tell by the signs some of them hung over their porches, they have a great sense of humor too.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the tour was when our captain informed us that we must keep all hands, feet, and other appendages inside of the boat. So that alligators didn’t chomp off my fingers and toes? Not quite. But if you pretend that danger is that imminent, your tour may be that much more exciting. Anyway, our captain steered us into a very narrow part of the swampland, so narrow that we thudded into old trees and twigs whipped their ways through our boat. Why we were straying down this path, no one knew; all we knew was that the captain wanted to show us something.
A few minutes later, I caught sight of the most adorable baby pig, followed by its mama, more siblings, and more of its pig family. They swam around, playing, splashing in the water. I couldn’t help but to hope that alligators wouldn’t decide to show up at this very moment… That would be a sad sight to see during my tour with Cajun Encounters… Luckily, no pig predators appeared.
After we’d had our fill of gawking at the swimming pig babies, we somehow maneuvered our way out of our restricted route and back to the main river. We jetted our way back to the starting the point and I held on for dear life to my Ray-Bans and my camera as the swamp water and wind lashed against my face. On our way back, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that I didn’t get to see any alligators – but I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t yet summer, which is usually when alligators are on the prowl in Cajun Encounters territory.
As soon as we returned and our captain docked the boat, he informed us that he had one more special thing to show us, if we’d just follow him… And guess what! I saw an alligator! He was a cute lil guy! Check him out…
Floating along the Bayou with Cajun Encounters was exactly the change of pace and scenery my trip to New Orleans needed. If you decide to book a New Orleans swamp tour with Cajun Encounters, you’ll guarantee yourself an entirely new perspective on New Orleans, and Louisiana as a whole. Overall, I had a memorable day learning about the swamp, its history, and its unique culture. The New Orleans swamp tour is an experience that you won’t want to miss while in the Big Easy! And keep in mind, if a New Orleans swamp tour really just isn’t your thing, Cajun Encounters also offers City and Plantations Tours as a wonderful alternative!
Travel Alphas embarked on a New Orleans swamp tour as a guest of Cajun Encounters. As always, all opinions are our own.