Is there any more evocative landscape in the U.S. than the swamps of Louisiana? Mile after mile of eerily still water, loomed over by trees draped in Spanish moss, and through gaps in the foliage, are glimpses of weatherboard houses that speak of mystery and the blues. Then, there’s the wildlife, with choruses of birds competing with those of frogs, and floating with sinister intent through the rushes: alligators.
What’s even better, all this and more is within easy striking distance of the Big Easy, New Orleans itself, and there are a whole plethora of companies set up to take you around the swamps and inform you of both their historical and natural significance. Tours are, naturally enough, made on boats, and if you pay slightly more, great fan-powered air boats, another icon of Louisiana Americana, redolent of a very particular kind of frontier spirit and offering what feels like a journey into the recent past.
FROM: $26/per person
A great budget option, very close to New Orleans itself, offering an introduction into all things swamp. Based out of the Cajun town Frenier with boats crewed by local guides, expect a primer on local wildlife and culture from the back of a large flat bottomed craft. And the best thing is, it’s so close to the Big Easy, you can be back in town in time to neck mint julips at sundown.
From $59/ per person
The bayous may have a reputation for being a laid back kind of place, but that doesn’t mean you can’t expect a shot of adrenaline when it comes to exploring them. This sixteen passenger airboat tour, piles a whole bunch of visitors onto a large fan-powered craft so you can see as much swamp as possible in tours that last from 100 minutes to 4 hours. Alligators and an expert local guide are guaranteed. Pick-up from your AirBnB or hotel is also offered.
From $64/ per person
Sometimes, to paraphrase Roy Scheider in Jaws, what you need is a smaller boat. Joining a more nimble-sized tour means being able to access parts of the swamp you would not otherwise be able to, a more personal experience with your guide, and more chance of holding a baby alligator – a definite highlight of any bayou trip.
From $182/ per person
Going way beyond the swamp, this tour offers a complete experience of the historic, beguiling countryside around New Orleans. Including transport both by boat and minivan, as well as the usual visit to the swamps there’s a guided visit to a couple of plantations, and an extraordinary Cajun lunch half way through. It’s pricey, but at nine hours long worth every penny.
From $50/ per person
A little further from New Orleans centre than the other options, but Honey Island Swamp is considered among the most pristine examples of wetland anywhere in the United States. It’s also said to be home to the legendary “Honey Swamp Monster”, a Louisiana big foot myth, covered in grey foul-smelling hair, and looking out on the world with piercing yellow eyes. The nuts and bolts of the tour are similar to elsewhere, leisurely moving boats and expert Cajun captains telling you all you need to know about the history and the wildlife you’re floating through. The cost includes hotel pick-up.