City Breaks, Educational Adventures, Featured, Uncategorized

Pleasantly Surprised: A New Orleans Swamp Tour

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Think a trip to New Orleans is all alcohol and etouffee?  While I admit that doesn’t sound like a bad time, there is more to the Big Easy than simple gluttony (but oh, I do love the gluttony!)

On my second trip to New Orleans, I vowed to get out of the city for at least a few hours.  Thus, one of my mornings was spent on Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tour.  Despite my initial misgivings (ok, I had zero desire to tour a swamp; I’ll admit it) it turned out to be an absolutely experience–and educational, too.

Things I Learned

There was so much information presented on this tour–from facts about the various flora and fauna of the river and bayou area to historical and political facts about the region, there was simply no way for me to write down everything I learned.  The tour guide covered everything from why there are no mosquitoes out during the day (it has to do with dragonflies) to the American Indians’ response to the Spanish explorers (it has to do with Spanish moss).  I learned about the deforestation of old-growth cypress trees (the Lorax would not approve).  I even learned some linguistics–bayou means ‘slow moving, as opposed to the fast-moving river.  Imagine, linguistics in southern Louisiana!

Please note:  I have no idea if any of what I learned is actually true.   Given the fact that I saw more than one tour guide standing at more than one (different) tomb of Marie Laveau in St. Louis Cemetery #1, I’m not fully standing behind anything I learned on this trip as gospel truth.  Just saying.

Why Take a Swamp Tour

Most people sign up for a swamp tour because they want to see swamp creatures–namely, alligators.  But even if you don’t see an alligator (though I can’t imagine how that’s possible; our tour guide seemed intimately acquainted with every alligator hangout in the bayou and he could spot their eyes from two hundred yards away), there’s a darn good reason to take a swamp tour–the swamp.  It’s beautiful.  And still and silent.  The water is so reflective it is disorienting, and the Spanish moss–well, let’s just say that I have a thing for Spanish moss.

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Swamp Tour Tips

-If you are taking a morning tour, maybe skip that third cup of coffee.  Do you know what makes me have to pee?  A sloshing boat with a sign in huge letters reading ‘No toilets on board: Two hour tour’ (seriously–what’s the point of that sign?  If you can read it, it’s too late).  Or, if you have a normal-sized bladder, just use the restroom before you leave and you’ll be fine.

-If you want to see more wildlife, arrive later in the day and/or later in the season.  Apparently it is too cold for alligators at ten in the morning in early April.  Or maybe they skipped their coffee that day, too.

-Ladies–don’t bother doing your hair.  Trust me.  You won’t get that time back.

-It is super-easy to drive to Honey Island Swamp, so consider renting a car and skipping the hotel shuttle.  You’ll likely spend about the same amount of money yet save quite a bit of time.  Plus you get to drive over one of the smaller causeways crossing Lake Ponchatrain.  Which is kind of cool (even if you, like me, have an all-consuming fear of driving over bridges.  It’s something like 5.6 miles, and I promise, it is rather pleasant.)

I can’t stress this enough–I am not the swamp-tour-demographic.  But I had a wonderful time on the river and in the bayou.  Do yourself a favor and take at least one swamp tour during one of your visits to New Orleans (yes–I said ‘one of your visits’; I don’t know anyone who goes there once and is like ‘eh–I don’t need to go back’.)

Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tour headquarters is located in Slidell, Louisiana–a less-than 40 minute drive from New Orleans proper.  While it is not the only swamp tour offered in the New Orleans area, it is the only one I experienced and, thus, is the tour about which I’ve written.

Non-disclosure statement: While I would like to continue to thank the New Orleans CVB for helping organize this trip, I set up and paid for my own swamp tour.  And I’m glad I did.  

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