Since Andy and I were able to see just about everything we wanted to see during our first 2 days in New Orleans, we decided to venture out to the swamps on our 3rd day for a swamp tour. It wouldn’t be a trip to Louisiana without making a journey to the bayou.
The Booking Process
Since we knew that there were a number of different swamp tour companies, we hopped on Google to see reviews and pricing for the different operators. We settled on Cajun Encounters as the reviews were good, the boats were small and the price was right. After a little digging on the site, we were happy to see a $6 discount per person for booking your tour online. We were happy to save $12 as we prefer to book online anyway.
The Ride to Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour
Part of our excursion fee was transportation from our hotel to the swamp. We were given an hour window and told to be ready in the lobby of our hotel for the shuttle. Since the weather was nice, we waited outside the hotel and were ready to jump in the shuttle when it arrived. It was a nice shuttle bus, reminded me of a minibus that some hotels use to shuttle guests to and from the airport. The driver checked our names off the list and we took a seat.
We were pleasantly surprised that all 3 of the hotel pickups after us were outside and ready. I thought for sure that we would have to wait for someone to come down from their room or finish getting ready.
After our pickups, we met up with a second shuttle where our bus unloaded and joined the other bus. I believe this helps the company get everyone more efficiently and saves 2 vehicles from driving all the way to the swamp.
Our driver tried to explain things that we were passing when we were driving to the swamp. It sounded like he had a mouthful of marbles and I understood about 10% of the words that he was saying. I wish that our first bus driver was the one that took us to the swamp as she was very clear to understand and I was interested in the history of some of the things that we were passing.
The Boat Ride through Honey Island Swamp
Once we arrived to Cajun Encounters, we checked in and were given colored wrist bands. The colors were linked to different boats. While we waited for our boat, I befriended the cats that were outside. They weren’t very interested in me, but I finally got one to allow me to pet it.
Once our boat was ready, our group headed down to the water with our captain. The boats were quite small with only 16 passengers per boat. Instead of the seats being forward facing, everyone faced the outside of the boat. This was great as it allowed nice viewing for everyone on the boat.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and gave us information about how Katrina re-shaped the swamp and impacted those living around it. As we got deeper into the swamp, I loved seeing the cypress trees growing in the water covered in peat moss. Since the cypress trees are a great wood that grew very straight, they were clear cut at one point. These trees now are protected to ensure that they are around for generations to come.
We were able to see a number of animals on our tour, which for an animal lover like me was the best part. We saw some small alligators, wild boars and a number of different birds including great blue herons, and snowy egrets.
Strangely enough, the food that they feed the alligators and boars is marshmallows. Evidently the floating white blob reminds the animals of turtle eggs which they love to eat. I’m not sure that it is good for the health of the animals, but it lures them out so everyone can see them and get the shots that they desire.
The boars were the coolest part of the tour by far. They live by the edge of the water and come out when they see the boats since they associate the boats with food. They came up very close to the boat to eat. The babies, who were only 2 months old and too young to swim, squeaked like crazy on the shoreline. We learned that they are quite destructive to the cypress tree roots and there is no specific season for hunting boars as a way to keep the population in check as well as protect the trees.
The Bus Ride Back to Downtown New Orleans
After we were done with our tour, we were anxious to get back so we could relax for a bit. Unfortunately there was an accident on the road coming to the swamp, so our bus was delayed about 30 minutes.
Cajun Encounters made the best of it by creating a trivia game with prizes. The prizes were clearance items from the gift shop, but got people excited to participate. Andy won a tie dyed Cajun Encounters t-shirt but we had no use for it so we just left it on the bus. I hope that it was recycled for the next trivia game.
I would recommend going on a tour of Honey Swamp Island, however if I were to do it again, I would go in the summer. Even though it is counter intuitive to go somewhere that has tons of humidity in the dead of summer, this is when the big alligators are out. We were actually lucky to see any alligators since it was just getting warm enough for them to come out. In fact, our guide said that the alligators had just started showing up the week before we were on our tour which was late March.
Plan for the tour to take up a good portion of your day. Our tour was at 2:45pm and we were gone from 1:30pm until around 6:30pm.