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Gone Swamping with Gators in Louisiana

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

While full-time RVing in Robert, Louisiana, we were sweltering under an excessive heat watch. July in the South is always hot and muggy, but this excessive heat was due to the heat dome over the South. Almost everyday we were there it was 95 to 98 degrees, with such high humidity that the heat index made it feel like 108, and even your eyelids would pour sweat! A few minutes outside in the direct sun would leave you soaking wet and exhausted or ill. We spent most of our time in the lake or in the pool at our RV park.

I was so disappointed that we couldn’t spend more time outside because we had planned to go to New Orleans. I knew that after an hour outside, most of us wouldn’t feel well, so I started looking at briefer activities outside that might be more doable in the heat.

I live in Florida, so I'm very familiar with and comfortable in swamps, but I just couldn't visit Louisiana and not visit a bayou! I first fell in love with swamps as a child growing up in California, oddly enough. I was a frequent visitor to Disneyland in Anaheim, and from the first time I went to Pirates of the Caribbean as a toddler, I loved the beginning of the ride set in the Louisiana swamp. It always felt like such a mysterious and fascinating world to me. I longed to see fireflies and to watch alligators lurking in the swamp. I even loved the smell of it! Disney actually got it right! You can imagine my excitement at finally getting to visit the real swamps of Louisiana in person. My first night in Louisiana, I walked around a lake and saw a little house on the edge of the bayou that brought all that Pirates of the Caribbean nostalgia back. It even had rocking chairs and flickering lights on the porch overlooking the swamp. I couldn't wait to go explore the swamps on a tour.

I researched swamp tours nearby and found Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, which received stellar reviews and was within 40 minutes of our location. I chose them because of their 5-star reviews, and the fact that their boats are quiet, so we could enjoy the wildlife without disturbing them. Most tours of the swamp are in noisy airboats. After one unpleasant airboat experience, I decided I would choose more eco-friendly tours. I also chose Cajun Pride tours because their swamp boats are covered, so we could be in the shade.

The tour was only 90 minutes as opposed to some of the other companies that offered longer tours. I knew that with the heat, the shorter tour would be more pleasant.

We had an easy check-in process from my online ticket purchase and friendly staff that welcomed us.

There is a shaded waiting area and some baby gators and turtles to see, which my daughter enjoyed before we left on our tour. They started their tour right on time and gave a very professional introduction with a review of safety protocol before we departed on the tour.

Our tour guide Brian was friendly and extremely knowledgeable of the area, the culture, history, and flora and fauna of the swamp. He grew up in the area and is from a Cajun family, so it was really fascinating to learn about Louisiana culture, folklore, and facts about alligators and other wildlife from a local expert. For example, I learned the difference between Creole (Spanish term for 'born there' and born of Spanish or French parents) and Cajun (the word Cajun is derived from “Acadian,” a group of French people who were exiled from Nova Scotia and came to Louisiana to live) on his tour.

We also learned some local folklore about the infamous Julia Brown, the Voodoo Priestess of Frenier, who supposedly haunts the swamp. Local guides have set up a prop graveyard and grave for her to add to the spookiness of the mysterious swamp. The legend goes that she was unappreciated by the local townspeople for her aid in healing them, and that she cursed the town, claiming when she died, she would take the whole town with her!

On the day of her funeral, the famous hurricane of 1915 hit and wiped out most of the town. Some locals say that her ghost can sometimes be seen cackling on the shore in a blue dress. I think you have less to fear from the ghost of Julia, and more to fear from the dozens of alligators that congregate in the swamp if you get lost there!

Our guide stopped the boat throughout the tour so we could take photographs and videos of the wildlife, and explained interesting details about their behavior.

He also taught us about the ancient Cypress trees of the swamp; some of the remaining trees that weren’t logged in the 1800’s are hundreds of years old. It's such a shame that so many trees that were over 1,000 years old were cut down for lumber. It would have been incredible to see such majestic giants.

Almost as soon as we started down the river, we gained a host of scaly admirers. Alligators of varying sizes suddenly materialized from the depths of the murky green bayou and followed our boat. Many of them were covered in mud from rolling in gator holes and applying their own sunscreen/bug treatment. It provides them with a little relief from the extreme heat. One of the huge gators that followed us was about 10 feet long and looked like a mud monster emerging from the depths. Anyone want to go for a swim?

Some of the guides stop and feed the gators chicken on a hook from the deck of the boat, demonstrating their bite strength (2000 pounds per square inch!) and their ability to leap up out of the water using their powerful and muscular tails.

Alligators can leap up to 6 feet in the air! I didn't know they would be feeding the alligators and I don't typically agree with feeding wildlife, however, it was quite exciting to watch the alligators leap out of the water to grab the chicken.

The guides explained that this is not something that should be done by the general public, of course, as this encourages gators to become too used to people and poses a danger. Most alligators are shy and will stay away from humans. They have a special license to feed them just in that one small section of the swamp.

Watching the alligators leap as they fed was exciting, but without a doubt, the cutest part of the tour and the part my youngest daughter loved the most, is when a group of raccoons, known as a “gaze,” suddenly came pouring out of the Cypress forest to see the boats arriving. I’ve never seen so many raccoons together before. They are usually pretty solitary, although you will see them in family groups. These little trash pandas were obviously very used to the boats coming and going and hoped to get some scraps after the gators were done. They stood up on their hind legs and looked longingly at the chicken that the gators were eating.

I had hoped to see more birds on the tour, but most of the birds were nesting up high in the treetops. We did see one of my favorite Southern birds, the Black-bellied whistling duck, and we saw a female Anhinga drying off her wings over the water.

Towards the end of the tour, our guide Brian, opened up a cooler and brought out a young alligator for us to meet and hold. The youngster was quite used to being held and was very docile.

I've held alligators numerous times, but I always enjoy feeling the special scales on their backs called scutes, and their soft, smooth bellies. The gator’s mouth was closed with an elastic band for safety reasons. Our kids really enjoyed being able to hold the little alligator, and so did I!

Seeing alligators in Florida and visiting swamps frequently made the tour a little less exciting for us than for other guests, but for many visitors from other states and from other countries, it was really thrilling, and it was quite fun and entertaining to watch their excitement as they held a gator for the first time.

If you’re looking for an educational and entertaining tour of the Louisiana swamp, Cajun Pride Swamp tours were excellent and I would highly recommend them. You just can't visit Louisiana without venturing into the beautiful and mysterious swamps filled with ancient trees, fascinating wildlife, and spooky folklore and legends! Happy Swamping!

Copyright @ 2023 Love Wild Nature, Lorien Villucci Nature Photography


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