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The Best Cajun Swamp Adventures in the Louisiana Bayou

Are you heading to Louisiana? The one thing everyone will tell you is to take a swamp tour. Taking one or more of our recommended Louisiana swamp tours is a must. I’ve even taken four in one week before, they’re so addictive!


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Swamp Adventures in Louisiana

Gator tours or Louisiana swamp tours are a must-do when visiting this unique southern US state. I was visiting Louisiana for about ten days, and during that time, along with all the other fun things to do in Lafayette, I took no less than four swamp tours. I just couldn’t get enough.

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Sunrise over Lake Martin, Louisiana.

We were staying in Lafayette, the smaller and maybe tastier cousin to New Orleans, so one of our first stops was the visitor’s center. The ladies told us all the things to do in the city, but they kept coming back to taking a true Louisiana swamp tour. Apparently one is just not enough. They laughingly suggested one per day.

I have to say, after my first one, I was convinced. Taking swamp tours gets you out into nature, into the stunning vistas of the mossy Louisiana swamps, surrounded by beautiful bald cypress trees. I was enchanted.

While there, I took a private small boat tour, a kayak swamp tour, and two larger swamp boat tours in two different locations. I can honestly say, every single tour was different and worth the money. All of them were fantastic.

Along the way, we learned quite a bit about the flora and fauna from our tour guides. Of course, a lot of what the guides shared depended on their own personality and personal experience in the swamps and bayous. With their musical Cajun accents, knowledge of local lore, plant and animal life, I learned something new each time.

As you know, I love a good animal photo, and each tour was conducted at different times of the day. This facilitated seeing the wildlife in a variety of different behaviors and poses and in different locations. Each tour gave me multiple amazing shots.

We saw many alligators on our gator tour of the Louisiana swamps.

All Kinds of Swamp Adventures

During my week in Lafayette, I was able to really get a good feel of the many types of swamp adventures available. Our first tour was a private charter that included Ginny, Jim, the guide, and myself on the boat. That’s it, and aside from a few distant kayakers and anglers, it felt like we had the whole swamp to ourselves. We were in a small motored swamp boat, and our guide was able to turn the motor off and glide in close to a number of animals and alligators before they got spooked and took off.

Lake Martin's mossy trees are indicative of a true Louisiana swamp.

Kayak Swamp Tour

The second tour I did with Jim and it was my favorite–a kayak swamp tour. This is because I was out there to photograph and see lots of animals and birds. We started right before sunrise and it was mesmerizing to watch the whole area glow in the light of the rising sun and come to life right before our eyes and ears.

The great thing about the kayak tour was the fact that Jim and I could go where we wanted to and not have to rely on the guide to drive us. The kayak was also very quiet and we were able to get up close to many birds.

The downside of the kayak tour was we went too early to see many alligators. We did see some further away, but the mid-day tours provided so many more gator sightings.

We did have one harrowing experience with an alligator as we were finishing our paddle. A gator was just about to catch a garfish for his meal, sans Tabasco unfortunately, and he actually came right out of the water looking like he was going to land in our boat. Luckily he was just as startled as we were and hightailed it in the other direction. I do hope he was able to find breakfast after that.

Down on the bayou, be on the lookout for alligators.

Alligator Tours

The last two tours I did were both gator tours. Let’s face it, most people taking a swamp tour are there to see alligators and expectations run high. We were there in an October which, thankfully, is right before they go into their dormancy period. For a few months each winter, usually from about November to February, alligators go into a burrow and wait for the cold weather to pass.

So, we were extremely happy to see plenty of alligators on our swamp boat tours. On one we saw a mother who was watching over her brood of month-old hatchlings and the guide also fed the gators chicken so they were all around the boat.

Both guides on these larger group tours told us the names and personalities of each alligator, as well as plenty of stories and local lore. The gator tours were about an hour long, and probably the most popular type of tour to take.

Lake Martin in fall, with a blue heron and white egret.

My Recommendation for the Best Experience on a Swamp Tour

I really loved the kayaking. I loved the sunrise, but you don’t have to go so early. As I mentioned, later in the day would probably be better for seeing and photographing more alligators.

Here are some tours that we recommend you do:

New Orleans: Bayou Tour in Jean Lafitte National Park – This is the third tour I took where I got to see at least 20 alligators and the guide brought them up close to feed them.

New Orleans: Manchac Bayou Swamp Cruise with Optional Pickup – One of the last tours I took, I stupidly left my big camera at the hotel thinking I had plenty of alligator photos, then the guide introduced us to the mama alligator and her dozens of foot-long babies.

New Orleans: High Speed 6-9 Passenger Airboat Tour – Even though I didn’t take this tour this time around, I did take one the first time I visited New Orleans and loved it!

On our swamp tour of Lake Martin, we watched this blue heron fishing.
Blue Heron

The Wildlife

If you are like me and love seeing animals and birds in their natural habitats, you will love taking a swamp boat tour.

We saw so many birds, like anhingas, egrets, and blue herons. Let alone a real Woody Woodpecker (pileated woodpecker) and of course some I couldn’t capture on camera.

Anhinga drying its wings in Lake Martin, Louisiana.
Anhinga drying its wings.
A white egret adds to the serenity of our early morning kayak swamp tour.
White Egret
A blue heron we saw on our kayak swamp tour.
Blue Heron
Pileated Woodpecker, Lake Martin, Louisiana Swamp Tour.
Pileated Woodpecker

We also saw plenty of other wildlife, like spiders, wasps, turtles, raccoons, and, of course, alligators galore.

Baby raccoon seen on our motor boat swamp tour of Louisiana.
This baby raccoon was sitting on the shore. So darn cute!
We saw this turtle during our gator tour of the Manchac Swamp.
The turtles were actually kind of shy. It was hard getting a shot of one before they dived back into the swamp.
Alligator tours provide you with up close and personal looks at these reptiles.
So many alligators. We saw this group, about 20 of them, because on this big group tour the guide fed them chicken. They loved it.

Final Thoughts

If you are visiting Louisiana, take it from me, and the ladies in the Lafayette visitor center, and take a few (definitely more than one) Cajun Swamp Tour. You won’t regret it and you will see such amazing things. Pick different times of the day as well as different operators to really get a good taste of what’s out there.

Note: We’d love to thank our friends at TBEX and Lafayette Travel for sponsoring us on some of these amazing swamp tours.

A bald cypress tree majestically sits in Lake Martin in October colors.

Author Bio – Corinne is an avid camper and traveler. She’s been to all 50 of the US states and has four more Canadian provinces to visit. However, she’s not stopping yet. There’s always more to see of this great continent! Corinne loves local foods, getting outdoors, landscape photography, and road trips.