Gator chasin’ in the deep south
If you have been following my posts you will notice I have more than one written about New Orleans. The reason is obvious, the ‘South’ is one of the most intriguing places in America and full of places which really resonated with me on my travels. So why not throw in another post about the greatness of the deep south. Who wants to go gator chasin’?
I remember it was a hot afternoon in early April when we drove south of New Orleans through the small cajun town of Lafitte. We found the the small run down shack along the banks of the vast bayou which covers much of the area south of New Orleans. The shack was the home base of Airboat Adventures, a tour company who has the right idea and spends more money on tweaking their airboat’s V8 engines than giving the shack and alligator sanctuary a facelift.
Prior to the tour we looked inside the shack where no rednecks could be found but rather something more interesting, alligators up close. Among the many alligator souvenirs we were astonished to find not one but two albino alligators! I would have thought them to be a rare thing so I have no idea how they found two of them. The creatures are completely white with red eyes just like albinos of any other species and are beautiful in their own scary prehistoric kind of way (just like Mike Tyson I guess).
After a few minutes in the shack we are interrupted by a thunderous rumble and a puff of dust wafting inside. The airboats had returned from the previous tour and now it was our turn. We ran outside to climb aboard these impressive boats and were lucky enough to be perched right up the top row next to our driver and directly in front of the large fan. We idled out of the inlet and placed our ear muffs on firmly when we hit the open and our driver planted the accelerator. The engine and fan let out a mighty roar and we were off!
Ten minutes later the engine revs down again as we entered a small cove in search of alligators. Like something out of a movie, we saw a 1.5m gator sunbathing on an old ship wreck and continued on turning off the engine. Silently floating in the cove, one by one the nostrils and eyes of many gators were revealed along with the buzz of insects in the marshes and cypress trees. Our guide threw out marshmallows which happens to be the other other white meat gators enjoy. They gobbled down the tasty treats and we moved on in search of a larger gator and some of the other inhabitants of the swamp.
On our way we found a few bird species including an osprey and rip it up in a large open area. Our guide opened his lunchbox to reveal a stowaway, a baby gator which we got to hold. They surprisingly has very soft skin and are a pretty calm creature.
Heading back to the old shack we pulled into one more cove, home to One Eyed Willy. It seems gators are very territorial and only one large one can inhabit a certain area. Willy may have lost his eye in a
turf swamp war in days gone by. Our guide found one eyed Willy and lured him toward the boat with more marshmallows but he quickly lost interest. It was time for a real treat and our guide pulled out a chicken leg and slapped it against the water until Willy turned and approached. Sadly for old Willy he lacks depth perception and took a few attempts before rising half way out the water to spectacularly grab the chicken from our guide’s hand. Our guide crossed his heart, thankful he still had his hand and we returned to the shack to end the tour.
Tours can be booked online or from New Orleans through many airboat tour companies and run for about 1 hr 45 mins. and 2 hrs. throughout the day.