Blasting through the Bayou
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You know what seems like a fantastic idea? An exhilarating airboat tour of the Louisiana Bayou when it’s warm and sunny. You know what seems like not as fantastic of an idea? An endless airboat tour of the Louisiana Bayou when it’s cold and wet and gray — and the day after Fat Tuesday.
Of course we hadn’t planned it that way. When my sister and I signed up for Viator’s Small-Group Bayou Airboat Ride with Transport from New Orleans, we signed up for Thursday, when we reckoned we’d have had plenty of time to recover from the Mardi Gras madness, and whatever lingering hangovers we had would be healed by the Lousiana sun.
When the company called us on Monday to let us know that our tour had to be bumped to Wednesday, we almost bailed. I mean, Mardi Gras is intense! We weren’t sure we’d be up for an 8am call time the next morning. But in the end we decided to rally, and the tour operator graciously offered to pick us up at my sister’s residence as an apology for the inconvenience.
And actually, considering the party started crazy early and wound down mid-afternoon on Fat Tuesday, the alarm going off on Ash Wednesday wasn’t as painful as we’d imagined. But the biting cold was. The weather in New Orleans in early March was unpredictable — some days we’d been sweating in shorts, and others we were shivering in down jackets. This was a down jacket kind of day.
During out hour-long ride out to the swamp, I was enthralled by our driver’s thick Louisiana accent. While his speech was peppered with interesting facts about the history of New Orleans and Cajun culture, I was most interested in his personal stories of his long life in the Big Easy — including surviving the infamous Hurricane Katrina.
When we arrived at the edge of the Bayou, we felt worlds away from New Orleans. While our group of six waited on the docks and tried to coax the sun out of hiding, I happily listened to the casual chatter of the boat drivers. Since Katrina, New Orleans is a city of transplants, and it’s hard to find a local Louisiana accent. Not down in the Bayou.
After checking out an albino ‘gator in the visitor’s center — a rare find worth a quarter of a million dollars, our guide explained — we went out to search for swamp-dwelling ones. Donning oversized rain jackets and noise-blocking earphones, we boarded our airboat and zipped off through the murky marshes.
Unfortunately, gators don’t like overcast skies or cold weather any more than I do, and so spottings were not as plentiful as we had hoped. But there were other things to see, from hardy birds to elegant cyprus trees to the Spanish moss that clung to every branch.
With my camera trained on a duck in the distance, I was startled by the sound of my sister’s scream. Our airboat captain had finally revealed what was in the small cooler sitting at our feet the entire time — a small baby alligator. In that heavy accent that never seemed to get old, he introduced us to his toothy friend, who he had obvious affection for. We each got the chance to hold him, and feeling the surprisingly heavy gator squirm was an adrenaline-boosting highlight.
I was pretty happy to be out of biting distance, however, when the guide starting cackling over an unruly guest who his little friend had taken a chomp out of. “But don’t worry,” he drawled. “That was a bachelor party, and they was getting outta line.”
Once again I stitched together some iPhone footage using the smartphone video editing app Together, so you can get a better idea of our day.
Unfortunately, our wildlife sightings were few and far between due to the weather. While the haunting atmosphere of the overcast bayou was captivating and the Southern hospitality was warm, I know I would have enjoyed this tour more on a hot and sunny day (lesson learned: if it’s cold out to begin with, it’s going to be downright freezing at 45mph on an open airboat).
But now I have an excuse to return to the Big Easy — as if I really needed another one.
Have you been down to the Bayou?
Note: I am a freelancer for Viator and participated in these tours in order to write a review for their site. I was compensated for my time and they did not request favorable reviews on either their site or my own.
Wow, your guide was very casual in that video whilst playing around the mouth of that little ‘gator. Far too comfortable for my liking.
The albino ‘gator sounds very interesting, did you get any pictures of that one?
Unfortunately I didn’t. He was in a pretty dark area with bad lighting and so I didn’t even try. I’m sure Google can give you an idea of what one looks like though — sorry I couldn’t!
Too cool! I’ve always wanted drive one of those boats around. Cute little gator too, hope the guide talked about the eco system and environmental concerns for the area. I’ve seen pictures of the albino gator, almost alien!
There was a bit of that but this was the deep south, and I think in these parts “environmental” can still be considered a bit of a dirty word 🙂
I love your swamp photos, especially 6 & 10 (the one after the gator in the water). They almost look like paintings.
Aren’t baby gators cute?
I definitely didn’t get a photo as great as the one from the Amazon… I guess I would have needed sun for that!
The video makes it look really cold and gloomy, but I like the guide tapping the gator’s mouth open.
Ha, yeah — I wasn’t going to try that trick myself!
Wow, the video looked good. Handling the gator looked cool. Was it?
Yeah, it was a thrill! I didn’t think it would be so heavy, or so smooth!
looked like fun! I hate doing anything the day after a party… these days my hangovers are unbearable! Reptiles really scare me and gators are no exception!
Tell me about it — normally I schedule nothing but a massage (in Southeast Asia it is!) We had booked for a different day but got bumped — argh.
I love all of the spanish moss, makes it look very atmospheric. How weird do alligators feel? I held a baby when I was in Egypt and couldn’t get over how soft the skin was.
I was surprised by that as well! Also — he was heavy! I guess I should have anticipated that part.
I heard about the airboat tours but I didn’t take one when I was in New Orleans 🙁 Despite the cold weather it looks like it would be super fun, especially on that boat! I did drive down to the bayou. It totally feels like a different world. I loved how all the street signs were in French down there!
Next time you’ve got to get on a boat! I’m definitely planning to do it again next time the weather is a bit sunnier.
Awesome! Gators would freak me out… but it looked like an experience! (Also, how cool are his sunglasses?)
Ha, he definitely looked like he could have been starring in a Bayou reality show.
Great little video.
Although gloomy weather you two brightened it up.
Thanks, Rick! I wish I could shoot more videos like that but my darn phone is always running out of memory!
Looks like fun despite the weather. I’m afraid I’m a wuss. Alligators I’ve fine with, but cold weather…it would make me miserable!
I’m always afraid of coming off like a complainer because I feel like I moan quite a bit about bad weather around this ‘ol blog… but COME ON! I need sunshine to smile 🙂
Man, we have had THE worst weather this year in the South as a whole, so I feel for you in that cold. It’s actually similar today (following two weeks of 90 degrees) =/
Ugh! What the heck is going on! It FINALLY turned to summer in Upstate NY (my friends who lived through the entire winter want to stab me every time I make a statement like that) and it has reminded me why I should never, ever schedule a visit home in March/April ever ever ever again.
I have never been to a Bayou tour but after seeing this post I might consider booking one. Thanks
Let us know how it goes if you do, Ernest!
Bummer it wasn’t as successful as it could have been. Boat trips are sooo weather-dependent. My swamp tour was a highlight of my Louisiana travels but I once had quite the miserable Long Beach whale watching trip. It was so effing cold, by the time a single whale decided to shake its tail about 2 hours in, we were over it!
Yeah, whale watching is suuuuch a gamble. Glad I did it in Iceland because I was basically obsessed with the politics of whaling at that point and wanted to do as many whale-related activities as possible but had I not been in that mindset it would have been a bit of a yawn.
The little aligators look so sweet. I am sure that even those little teeth would hurt though. :-/
I wouldn’t want to test it!
Very cool thing to do which I know I would love to do someday. I’m sure you’ve heard this before a million times but you and you sister look so alike.
Ha, yes we do hear it all the time and I see it as a compliment since she’s clearly a stunner 🙂
Loved this post! You are truly inspiring and have helped me and my determination to travel more! Keep livin life girl!
Wow, thank you Ashley! That is truly heartwarming to hear. Happy travels, girl!