Cajun Encounters offers a unique, enjoyable, educational tour of one of the few preserved wetlands in Louisiana. A trip to a swamp offers a great alternative to Bourbon Street and high end New Orleans restaurants. Cajun Encounters Swamp Tours provide a shaded flat bottom boat visit to the Honey Island Swamp located in Slidell, Louisiana about a 40 minute ride from the French Quarter. The swamp or marsh is located between Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico and is situated on the West Pearl River.
The operation at Slidell is well organized. Visitors are divided up in groups of 22 and led to small open boats equipped with two motors. Our boat was driven by Captain Britt who supplied informational and interesting commentary. He grew up in the area and is thoroughly familiar with the swamp and the creatures that inhabit it. In fact, he told us about some of his face to face encounters with water moccasins and alligators.
The tour lasted about two hours and we were able to get up close and personal with some of the critters. Britt told us that the swamp was loaded with alligators, but since it was cold, many were still in hibernation. We learnt that alligators are only four inches long at birth, and if they survive the wilds will grow a foot per year until they are six years. At that time their growth rate drops to one inch per year.
We learned that some of the creatures have a life span of up to about 100 years. Male gators may reach 15 feet in length while females generally reach between 9 and 10 feet. It did not take us long to have our first gator encounter with a few creatures who were out sunning themselves
Captain Britt told us that alligators are generally not aggressive to humans and will run away to avoid contact. There is a month long hunting season for the alligators. In fact, gator hunting is featured in the History Channel’s series Swamp People. Gators supply meat as well as leather for handbags and other accessories.
We were cautioned not to put our fingers or hands in the water since a snapping turtle could easily bite it off. There were some turtles sunning themselves on a log, but they were not the fierce snapping turtles.
Captain Britt told us that there are 36 different species of snakes in the swamp. Fortunately only four of them are poisonous. We drove down a waterway called Snake Alley looking for the non-poisonous snakes and found some diamond back water snakes. They not be poisonous, but still scared us.
The trees in the swamp are quite numerous and we saw several varieties. Wood from the Bald Cypress tree was used to build much of New Orleans.
People do live in the swamp. We passed by a small Cajun village of about six homes. They were only accessible by boat, but each had electricity and television.
The trip was quite enjoyable and educational. If I return to New Orleans, I think I will take the night swamp tour and see some of these creatures at night. Cajun Encounters also runs a plantation tour as well as a New Orleans City Tour. Visit Cajun Encounters for details.