Guess we didn’t get our fill of swamps or creepy crawly things yet! After our day visiting the Barataria Preserve section of the Jean Lafitte National Park on Monday, before heading back to the beast we made a stop at the Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour to make a tentative reservation for the pontoon boat tour on Tuesday. Since we were originally supposed to check out of Bayou Segnette Campground on Tuesday, our taking the tour was contingent on our being able to stay one more night at our site there. Luckily you don’t pay for the swamp tour until you check in 1/2 hour before departure. We checked at the campground office and we were able to stay an extra night without moving, so everything fell into place.
Although there are a few swamp and airboat tour companies in the area, this one seemed to have some of the best reviews. Offering either large or small air boat tours or pontoon style boat swamp tours at three different times per day, this company will even pick you up at your hotel – for an additional fee of course. We opted for the less expensive pontoon style boat which was a 1-1/2 hour tour for $25 per person (pick up price with internet special $39) leaving at 10:00 am.
So on Tuesday morning we headed out figuring we would stop at a nearby IHOP in Marrerro for breakfast. As we were riding along in our Odyssey van, Rob noticed the idiot light had come on for the tire pressure monitor system (TPMS). Oh, oh! The idiot light lives up to its name as it doesn’t tell you which tire(s) have a problem, plus it has been known to indicate a failure when there is none, so we were hopeful it was just having a bit of indigestion. But no such luck, when we got to IHOP Rob checked all of the tires and sure enough he found one tire was low by about 10psi and found a nail head in the tread groove. Drat! It was even one of our almost new rear tires that we just replaced back in December!
Great, now what do we do? After checking Google Maps, we determined that there was a nearby tire shop so we had several choices: Rob could either change the tire so we could drop off the bad one and pick it up later; we could take our chances and deal with it after the boat tour (probably risky – who wants to have a flat in the middle of nowhere); or perhaps we could change our reservation for the swamp tour from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and go get the tire fixed right now. The last option seemed like the best choice so I called the swamp tour folks and after explaining the situation we were able to switch the time.
As soon as we finished breakfast, off we went to Twin Tire in Marrero. A very friendly and professional staff member greeted us and within a few minutes they were working on the van. After about an hour wait, our tire was fixed and we were $25 poorer. If there had been a BJ’s around (where we bought the tires) the repair would have been no charge. At checkout they presented us with the offending nail. It was only about 3/4″ long and looked like some type of construction nail so we’re guessing that we picked it up at Bayou Segnette near where they were building the new registration office. There is no way that this nail could stand on its head waiting for a tire to puncture – the theory is that one of the tires picks it up and slings it and then if it tumbles into just exactly the right position it pierces the next tire to come along – what luck we have!
At 1:30 pm we arrived at the swamp tour and checked in. Lots of people were there, but the woman had told us the day before that even though the boats could hold 60 people, they usually only put 30-35 people on each boat (they have at least 6 pontoon boats) so everyone would be comfortable. While we waited, we were entertained by a 6 foot long alligator basking in the sun on the embankment next to one of the pontoon boats, a snake (eww), a cage of chickens, a few cats and a tub containing a baby alligator and a turtle.
The boat was approximately 30 feet in length and covered with seats along each of the sides and double width wooden benches in the middle. Finally we boarded and off we went with our guide, Brent, explaining the safety rules and beginning his narration on the history of the area. The first thing we learned was the difference between a river, a bayou and a canal. A river obviously is a natural body of water with the water flowing in one direction, a canal is man made and is usually a straight body of water and a bayou is a natural body of water with twists and turns and has slow moving water flowing in both directions at different times, often resulting in brackish water.
As we slowly moved along Bayou des Familles, Brent talked about the numerous birds, turtles and alligators and the types of trees that we would most likely see. Several old, run down wooden fishing camps bordered the water where scenes for several TV shows (NCIS New Orleans) and movies (Beautiful Creatures released in 2013) were shot.
As we floated along, we could see numerous turtles and quite a few smaller alligators basking on logs. Although we had heard numerous facts about alligators during our audio tour at the park, we learned that:
- Alligators grow about 1 foot for each year so most of the ones we were seeing were fairly young since they were under six feet in length
- Males typically reach a length of 11 to 15 feet and can weigh 1000 pounds; females about 10 feet
- They are solitary territorial creatures
- They typically eat fish, reptiles, birds, amphibians and mammals
- They have been given a bad rap, probably because they are confused with the more aggressive crocodiles. Alligators are not aggressive and are generally timid towards humans.
- They can live to be 50 – 60 years old
- Louisiana has the largest alligator population
Before Brent turned the boat around to head back, we did see a huge, 13 foot male alligator. Yikes, I don’t care if they are timid, I wouldn’t want to get close up and personal with that guy! He had several females nearby, perhaps he had dishonorable intentions toward them?
Near the end of the tour, Brent brought out a live baby alligator, taped his mouth shut and passed it around so everyone could touch and feel it. That was neat – how often do you get to touch a live alligator?
Overall, we enjoyed the tour – it was very informative and just neat being out in the bayou for a couple hours. By the end of the tour though we were all “gatored” out. Our only criticism of the tour would be the boat seating layout – the folks in the middle benches have to look thru the folks that were lucky enough to snag seats on the sides. On the other hand, moving around is encouraged, so once everyone got comfortable with that, it wasn’t really a problem.
After we left, we stopped at the Restaurant Des Familles for a late lunch. We both had their 1/2 po’ boy (catfish) and seafood gumbo special for $11. Food was delicious and service was excellent. This appears to be a very nice place in regard to decor, food quality and service and we would recommend it for that special dinner.
By now it was close to 5:30 pm so we headed back to the hacienda. Since it was such a beautiful day, we (including Gizmo and Sparky) sat outside for a bit. Then Rob spent some time putting things away in prep for our departure the next day. Where are we headed? We’ll let you know in our next post.
More photos from our great swamp adventure…..