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Airboat Adventures (NOLA)

New Orleans Swamp Tour

In this series of posts we were in New Orleans. My girlfriend for a work conference, myself along for the ride, in leisure.

Whenever I travel I like to explore the area as it is and that includes nature and its landscape. I don’t know much about the South, but I do know they have swamps, and that was the one thing on my list I really wanted to see. Hearing my request, my girlfriend made plans for us to take a swamp tour. She booked a pick up from our hotel right to the sightseeing adventure, for first thing in the morning.

A bumpy bus ride that drives through the city and went through the suburbs, all the way to the water’s edge. This is Lake Salvador, the third largest in Louisiana with brackish salted water.

Once stopped all passengers were asked to head into their lodge to check in and obtain our wrist bands. Here, there were washrooms, a snack counter, and gift shop. But the attraction was their albino alligator resting in shallow and clear water. It wasn’t doing much, but a nice to see.

All booked ticket holders were split into one of four airboats. There was also a pontoon boat option, but this would have more people under one roof, going a lot slower over the water. We opted for the one with the least obstructed view and a limited number of people.

When time guests were ushered to the dock. There, you lined up for a souvenir photo in-front of a green screen, which is very atypical of any tourist attraction.

You also had the option to pick up a spiked slushie in a souvenir plastic cup with straw. This was also very typical of New Orleans, as I knew it to be thus far.

Guests were directed to board the airboat and take a seat on one of the rows of cushioned benches. Each seat equipped with noise reducing headphones.

Our captain would push the craft off the edge of the dock and hop on, traversing the ledge to her captain’s seat at the very back. This was situated in front of the motor, elevated on what looked like a throne.

And then we were off. On larger canals we went faster, chopping the waves. On narrower streams she guided us slower, past the rushes. She was our pilot and guide, pausing at points of interest to pass on fun facts or to point out wildlife.

In the sky we saw the raptor bird: osprey circling their nest.

On land I spotted a black vulture scavenging. And I swore I caught another stretching out its wings to scare off a gator.

Another predators birds in the area that we did not see included bald eagles, hawks, owls, snowy egrets (which are like a small white heron), and various wild hawks.

We also learned about nutria rats, an evasive species introduced to Louisiana through Spain. A cross between a hamster, rat, and beaver that tears up everything, disrupting the eco-system. To combat this, the government allows them to be hunted all year round and if you manage to kill one you can turn in its tail to the wildlife commission in exchange for $5, which basically equates to beer money. They can also be hunted for food, but our captain has never tried it.

There are also 15 different species of turtles in the swamp, but these proved challenging to find.

But the animals we were all most interested in seeing were the alligators, and after 30 minutes into our 1 hour and 45 minute airboat tour we started seeing them bob up. Louisiana has the most alligators, just under 2 million, which is more than all the states combined.

Majority of the alligators we encountered were young “teenage” ones. A fact you can tell based on the distance between their eyes and snout. The more feet in between and the longer, the older.

They were not afraid of humans and swam up to our boat. They apparently grew up in the waters and were well verse with the sound of a noisy engine. Not to mention, as a fun party trick, the captains do bring treats out to feed them. Raw chicken gets them more aggressive, so our captain prefers marshmallows, stating they can easily see the colour.

She threw the floating round into the water repeatedly to attract any given alligator’s attention. She pick up the floating round and threw it down until the gator was close enough to touch. She showcase her expertise and experience by booping one on the nose, drawing out its teeth for us to see.

She then tossed the marshmallow into the water for the gator to retrieve, pointing out its behaviour of raising it head and tail, to be visible out of the water.

She also put a marshmallow on a stick and urged a gator to jump out of the water a little to retrieve it. This was not a guarantee, as the gator had to be willing to do the work.

We would also putter through a lovely narrow canal that had plant life reaching out on either banks. This we were told was the inspiration for Disney’s Princess and the Frog animated movie. Show runners surveyed the landscape and took the tours themselves to be able to recreate a realistic background for the motion picture. The greenery here includes Cypress trees, Oak, Maple, Dwarf Palms, and Spanish Moss.

In short, this was a great way to be able to explore the landscape of the state through a first hand, up close look at nature. Highly recommend.

Airboat Adventures
5145 Fleming Park Rd, Lafitte, LA 70067, United States
+1 504-689-2005

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