Day 13 - New Orleans  
   
    A lazy morning on the river.    
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala (Desaturated & Cropped)
 

On the previous day David and I had booked a swamp tour with the hotel tour organiser, so at 7.30 am on Thursday morning we were downstairs, awaiting the bus to pick us up for some 'gator action with 'Louisiana Swamp Tours'.

Situated only about 12 miles south of the French Quarter, it was nevertheless a 38 mile drive to reach the dock, and took about 45 minutes. Once there, we paid our fees, and waited for the departure of our airboat. The tour company offers two types of trip, one on a tour boat, the other on an open airboat. The airboats hold 16 passengers, and are powered by 425 plus horsepower Chevy engines, enabling them to travel at speeds of up to 35 mph in only inches of water.

The airboat tour is half adventure ride, and half tour. The ride aspect of the trip was great, and highly recommended. There is no doubt that travelling on the airboat at 35 mph is exhilarating, and the driver took great pleasure in thrilling us by spinning the boat around, doing spinouts from top speed to dead stop in the space of a few metres, and doing his best to give us a great experience. While the tour boat might be better for elderly people, or those with small children, I strongly recommend that anyone else take the airboat tour, it is a real buzz!

 
 
 
 

A typical sight once you enter the swamp. Rich vegetation, with trees weighed down by Spamish Moss.

 
 

Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 VFC MC Rokkor. Film: Fuji Superia Reala

 
 

After about 10 minutes of speeding along in the airboat we reached Lake Salvador, and the boat driver gave us a talk about the wetlands, their history, and the wildlife we would be seeing over the next hour or so. We then proceeded into the swamps for a close up encounter with some of that wildlife.

It wasn't long before we saw our first alligator, and thereafter we were seeing them everywhere! The tour guides certainly knew where the alligators chose to make their homes.

 
 
 
 

An alligator cruises the swamp.

 
 

Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

 
 

The American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis, Is named from the Spanish "el lagarto" which means "the lizard", and "mississippiensis" which means "of the Mississippi (River)", derived from mississippi + ensis (Latin for "belonging to"). This species of alligator is only found in the South-east corner of the USA, and is normally found in freshwater swamps and marshes, but also in rivers, lakes and smaller bodies of water. They can tolerate a reasonable degree of salinity for short periods of time, being occasionally found in brackish water around mangrove swamps, although they lack the buccal salt-secreting glands present in crocodiles.

 
 
 
 

A large alligator approaches the boat.

 
 

Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

 
 

Juvenile alligators eat a wide variety of small invertebrates, particularly insects, and small fish and frogs. As they grow larger, their dietary range increases to include larger prey. Eventually, large adults can tackle nearly all aquatic and terrestrial prey that comes within range, including fish, turtles, small mammals, birds and reptiles including small alligators.

Being surrounded by alligators means you don't want to go for a swim, but otherwise you are quite safe on the airboat. Actually, when left alone, alligators will stay away from humans and pose little threat. Alligators have been known in rare instances to attack children and even occasionally adults, usually because they mistake the human for much smaller prey, or they are provoked. I would not, however, recommend relying upon this advice in the swamp the airboat took us to, as in places where alligators are fed by humans, they can become dangerous because this habit encourages the alligators to approach humans aggressively expecting food.

 
 
 
 
Mind your fingers!
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 
 
 
Our guide grabbing a 'gator by the tail! (Please don't try this at home)
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 
After visiting the gators and watching them being fed our tour continued further into the swamps, where we saw other aspects of the ecosystem. The Louisiana swamps are a multi dimensional ecology, and while I was expecting the bayou's and overhanging trees of the waterways, I did not expect to see the other types of environment we came across.
 
 
 
 
You will see some beautiful sights on the swamp tour.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 85mm f/2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 

After visiting the gators and watching them being fed our tour continued further into the swamps, where we saw other aspects of the ecosystem. The earlier overcast was starting to burn away, and the day was becoming a beautiful sunny day.

 
 
 
 
Out from the trees and into plains of waterplants.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 
 
 
Detail of the waterplants.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/2.8 VFC MC Rokkor. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 
 
 
The view back towards the bayou.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 
 
 
David and I having fun! (Possibly not the most flattering angle or lens to use for my portrait)
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 VFC MC Rokkor. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 

Our guide was very experienced, and made the tour an immensely enjoyable and educational journey for us. I highly recommend the Louisiana Swamp Tour's airboat tours if you ever get to New Orleans.

To see the rest of Day 13, including a bit of N'orlins nightlife, please click on the link below.

 
 
 
 
Day 13 (Continued)
 
 
Back to Trip Index
 
 
Front Page