One thing that many people suggest that you do when visiting Louisiana is to take a swamp tour. They come in two flavors: The slower pontoon-style boat tours and the quicker airboat tours. For the uninitiated, airboats are the ones with the giant fan on the back that help the boat skim across very shallow waters. Halee and I decided to go with Lafitte Swamp Tours for our bayou adventure.
The great thing about most of these tours is that they’ll send a small bus out to pick you up from your hotel. Our bus came on time and was quite spacious and our driver was very friendly and knowledgeable about the area. The drive out to the swamp from the center of New Orleans is relatively short, only about 30 minutes. After driving down some long roads lined with mansions, mobile homes, and homes on stilts, we pulled up to the home with the dock. You go inside and confirm your reservation and can browse their gift shop. Since a cold front was pushing through that morning, there was a bit of rain. They offered ponchos for us to us or not. If we ended up not using it, we could return in for no charge.
The rains subsided and we boarded the airboat. It holds about nine people, three in three rows. The seats were very comfortable and noise-protection headphones were provided. You cruise down some pretty snaky bits, the boat darting and gliding gracefully through the waters. Every now and again the pilot will stop the boat and tell you a little bit about the swamp ecosystem. It was very interesting and informative. One of the crowd-pleasers is definitely the baby gator, which emerges from his “office” to visit you during the tour.
The main stretch you boat down before reaching the swampier, harder to navigate bits is actually part of the Intercoastal Waterway, a 3,000-mile waterway that stretches from the Atlantic (Boston) all the way down to the southern tip of Florida, and then back up along the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas. During the busy shipping season, barges coast through the waterway to transport goods from major shipping harbors. Since it was the winter, and there wasn’t much shipping going on, many of the boats and barges were just parked there. Our guide told us to think of it more as the intercoastal parking lot during the slow seasons.
If you have time to take an airboat tour, I highly recommend it! It’s nice to just enjoy the cruising of the boat, but the additional information the guides provide you really enhances the overall experience.