My good friend Debbie invited me to join her for a Swamp Tour. We had several dates lined up that were rained out, but were finally able to make it this week. We drove down to Breaux Bridge and easily found Champagne's Swamp Tours,(pronounced "shawm-pawn" for those of you that aren't cajun).
We met our guide, Captain Morgan, and got settled comfortably into our boat. Having lived his whole life in the area, he was very knowledgeable about the history and ecology of the swamp and you could tell how much he enjoyed the outdoors.
We were the only two people on the tour that day, so we were able to use one of the small boats, which allowed us a little more flexibility in where we could go. The skies were mostly overcast and the wind was quite chilly, so we were thankful for our sweaters and jackets.
When you hear the word swamp, mud and mire probably come to mind. And that would be true in this case, as well. But there is a beauty in this place that is so quintessentially Louisiana and very peaceful.
From the tall cypress and gum trees draped with moss, to the small green water plants, to the green algae swirling atop of the water, it was definitely a treat to see.
One of our main goals of the trip was to see the birds and other wildlife and we weren't dissapointed. While I was not able to get a clear picture, one of the first birds we saw was a bald eagle that unexpectedly flew over us.
There were plenty of egrets and many different varieties of herons as well.
We saw a few kingfishers and other smaller birds, but the owls that are often found on in the trees, were apparently taking shelter from the cold weather.
As we cruised around the swamp/lake, Captain Morgan pointed out a small black patch to the right of one of the trees and we soon realized why.
The gator never moved, so all we saw was his back, but he appeared to be quite large. As we moved away from him, Capt. Morgan explained that he had waited to tell us one fact---the length of a gator is usually almost exactly how far he can leap through the air to reach him. Yikes--we were about 8 feet away and he was probably 8-10 feet long.
It is almost nesting time (when parts of the lake will be closed to boats since it is a preserve), so many of the birds were carrying sticks as they flew. The double-crested cormorants and herons nesting side by side atop the cypress and gum trees.
The wide open lake was the coldest part of the tour. There were some die-hard fishermen out that day, but not much of anyone else.
Cormorants were spotted on many of the bare trees throughout the lake. They reminded me of the vultures in the Disney movie, Jungle Book.
The few turtles that were brave enough to crawl out onto the logs were very quick to slide back into the water when we approached.
We surprised a bunch of black-bellied whistling ducks
and saw a smaller egret resting on what appeared to be a ground nest.
Just as the tour was about to conclude, we rounded a corner and saw this.
We slowly made our way around behind him and were able to get quite close without him moving a muscle (although he did seem to have quite a smirk on his face).
We had such a good time together and can't wait for our next adventure!