CHOOSING A NEW ORLEANS SWAMP TOUR
As much as our family enjoyed the colorful scene of the Vieux Carré in New Orleans, we were ready for a little bit of nature during our trip. We researched swamp tours online and found that there were several tour companies offering options for the excursion. Some trips were on kayaks and canoes, and others on large covered pontoon boats. The duration of the trips ranged from a little under two hours to all day.
Our family includes a 3 1/2-year old, so we opted for the short tour on a pontoon boat. We chose Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, which is located in LaPlace, Louisiana, on a privately owned portion of the Manchac swamp. The location is an easy 25-minute interstate drive from Hilton New Orleans / St. Charles Avenue. Canjun Pride also offers hotel pick up for an additional fee if you don’t have a vehicle while in New Orleans.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU ARRIVE
We purchased our tickets in advance on the Cajun Pride website and received a $5 discount per ticket. Children ages 4 and under are free. Tickets can also be purchased when you arrive. You may also want to bring cash to tip your boat captain.
We arrived 15 minutes in advance of the 9:30 am tour departure and were able to snap some pictures of turtles and small alligators sunning themselves near the dock. We saw other families applying bug spray and realized we had forgotten ours! Luckily the small gift shop sold some individually packaged repellent wipes, and no one in our group got bug bites.
Our tour guide, Captain Allen, was a local with great knowledge of the history and culture of the area. We saw at least 20 alligators, numerous turtles, snakes, raccoons, and several species of birds on our tour, but Allen also took the opportunity to educate us about many of the plants that can be found in the swamp as well. We located and learned about Spanish moss, sawgrass, cypress trees, and the invasive water hyacinth.
Throughout the tour, alligators swam up to the boat to get a marshmallow treat. (Allen explained that marshmallows are harmless to alligators due to their extremely powerful digestive system.) Allen did a great job engaging the kids with funny jokes and not-too-scary ghost legends from the local area.
The boat stopped periodically for photo opportunities of baby raccoons, newly hatched herons in their nest, and of course — the alligators. We learned about the life cycle of an alligator in the wild and several fun facts, including how alligators can lower their heart beat to one beat per minute during the winter and can survive without eating for up to six months. (So don’t climb that tree when running from a gator!)
Although the trip was an hour and 45 minutes, it seemed very short due to Allen’s great narrative about the swamp and all of the sights to see. Near the end of the trip, Allen brought out a young rescued alligator for us to hold. He told us that rescued alligators can be returned to the wild when they are old enough to fend for themselves. The kids really enjoyed holding a real alligator and being able to see up close how beautiful they are.
When we were finished with the boat tour, my son really wanted to sample alligator meat, because our guide had told us that alligator could be delicious if properly prepared. We ordered an “alligator on a stick” from the snack bar, which was a sausage made from alligator tail. We each had a bite and everyone agreed that it was tender and delicious.
The swamp tour ended up being one of our favorite parts of our recent trip to New Orleans. We enjoyed the natural beauty of the swamp surrounding the Crescent City and learned a lot about life on the bayou. The next time you are in New Orleans, we challenge you and your family to step outside the usual city activities and try out a swamp tour.
This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.