A Tour of the Swamps Starts With Swamp People
There is nothing quite like the excitement of a swamp tour to see the alligators of Louisiana in the wild. When you visit the swamp, you'll be led by none other than the swamp people themselves - the Cajuns, as they call themselves. If you've never heard of Cajuns, they are some of the most lively, charming, and down-home Americans you might never understand that live on the bayou. When I say you might not understand them, that's because not every English speaker can understand a Cajun when they speak even though they are, in fact, speaking English!
Cajun folks are big on helping out each other and will gladly help you, too. They have quite a fair amount of spunk and, whilst careful around gators, live happily in and on the same waters the alligators call home. It's a well known fact that the swamp people regularly find alligators on their front porch, yard or stoop of their bayou swamp home and they regularly swim to cool off from the hot summer heat by jumping in the very waters their prehistoric neighbors troll for food.
A Tour Where Alligators Await
On a typical tour of the Louisiana swampland, you will find gators sunning themselves on the banks. Typical of reptiles, they must maintain their body temperature by heating and cooling it using exterior sources for assistance such as the sunshine, the shade, and the water. The American Alligator is native to Louisiana and there are presently over a million of them. Once endangered, these 37 million year old creatures, were later protected and now are hunted in Louisiana during a short one month season each year, where hunters are issued a limited amount of tags that does nothing to diminish the population.
We embark on our trip and are told to keep our hands, feet, and head inside the boat! Our guide is knowledgeable and fills us in on an education on the American Alligator, the history of the area we are touring and the other animals native and non-native to the area. We learn about local lore and the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the area. On our tour, as is common on other swamp tours, our native guide summoned the alligators by feeding them. There are strict laws in place as to where alligators may be fed and the guides are well within the legal requirements in feeding the gators. It is outstanding and impressive to witness these great creatures lift themselves three to four feet out of the water to catch such treats as hotdogs, particularly when one realizes the animals weigh 800-1000 pounds. One most imposing creature lazying about in the sun weighs over 1000 pounds and is known in the region of the Slidell township area as "El Whoppo" or "The Whoppa" (meaning the huge one). He lives up to his name. He waits with a sort of half smile just near the beginning of the swamp tour docking area, where people load into the boats.
Two Hours Of Excitement in Nature
Swamp People Just Having Fun
Most everyone enjoys a swim in a lake or pool to cool off but for the Cajuns living on the bayou, the swamp is the perfect choice. From rope swings to water slides mounted on the house that lead straight into the swamp, these folks who live on the waterway know how to have fun. They will tell you themselves they've never heard of an alligator attacking. Even when I inquired locally, I found only one person who had worked and lived in the swamps all his life who had heard of anyone being attacked in over forty years - and that person was not killed, only wounded.
While I may be well-traveled, you won't find this urban dweller jumping into the alligator infused wetlands anytime soon. Animal experts will tell you to leave the alligator alone in its natural habitat. Do not approach their nesting locations. Though they usually leave when they see humans approaching, this is not an invitation to visit them any closer than from the banks or the boat. Just leave that to the Cajun natives and the animal experts.
A Fun, Scary Alligator Movie
"... the thick, slow, black, unsunned streams almost without current, which once each year ceased to flow at all and then reversed, spreading, drowning the rich land and subsiding again, leaving it still richer..."
- William Faulkner
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