It’s hot, it’s humid, and you’re on a 24 seater boat slowly making your way through the Honey Island swamps of Louisiana. That might sound like much fun, but in actual fact this off the beaten track swamp tour turned out to be a definite highlight of my summer trip to the USA.

As we step out of the air conditioned car in the dusty parking lot of the Cajun Encounters swamp tour, the unforgiving southern sun engulfs both Susan and I. It’s late in the summer, but down here that doesn’t make much difference at two o’clock in the afternoon. It’s hot whichever way you cut it.

We happened upon Cajun Encounters swamp tour as we drove on old highway 90 from New Orleans to Mississippi. It wasn’t something we had planned to do, but the rickety sign by the side of the road advertising ‘swamp tours’ sounded strangely adventurous.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on a swamp tour and after we purchased our ticket it seemed like we might be the only two people on the tour as there was nobody else around. A few minutes later though, a Cajun Encounters bus arrived and out of it poured camera carrying sun ripened tourists from all over the world. The rickety sign and wooden lodge belied the fact that this was clearly a slick operation that picks people up in nearby New Orleans and brings them here several times a day.

Two boats were going to set out for the tour scheduled for 2PM. Of course, out here the clocks run on Cajun time which isn’t as strict about those minutes that swirl around the hours. So 2PM might just come around just a little bit later than it would back home, but I wasn’t complaining, Cajun time works for me.

Our tour guide was a retired New Orleans firefighter by the name of Captain Nolan. A burly Cajun man brimming with knowledge of the swamps learned from doing this job for some eleven years. He introduced himself then ran through a few quick safety tips before setting out onto the river. “This is the bit where I’m going to tell you to hold on to your hats.” He said as he began to accelerate and the noise of the engine increased. “We’ve lost a few hats over the years.” He said, more to himself than anyone else.

Once in the swamps Captain Nolan told us stories that he blended with facts. Of course, the facts might have also been stories, I mean how would I know! But I figured after living in this area and doing this job for as long as he has it would be fair to consider him something of an authority when it comes to swamps. I doubt that if anyone else had told me an alligators favorite snack food are marshmallows I would have believed them, but Captain Nolan showed us all that the ‘gators’ can’t resist them. I’ll be honest, I didn’t see that coming.

As a kid I spent many an hour sat on the banks of my grandparents pond fishing for newts, dragonfly larvae, water boatmen, and diving beetles. As we scanned the swamp for signs of life I was reminded of those childhood days. I remember the thrill of catching the rare Great Crested Newts that hid in the reeds, their bellies red like fire, and their skin course like the surface of a road. That feeling echoed back through the years as we had the chance to hold a baby alligator and have her nip at our fingers. That was great.

The tour lasted something like two hours and was just wonderfully relaxed and unhurried. Captain Nolan’s narration of the whole experience was priceless. I’d go on another swamp tour in a heartbeat, if only to kick back and while away another couple of Cajun hours under the hot Louisiana sun.

Cajun Encounters swamp tours
[Video] Honey Island Swamp
[Video] Broadband TV : Louisiana Swamp Tour
[Video] TV’s Kelly Ripa talks about Captain Nolan and the tour