If you're looking for an experience that's unique to Louisiana, nothing beats a swamp tour.
I've done about a half dozen, ranging from flying along the water on an airboat to walking a half-mile boardwalk that a couple built in the swamp behind their convenience store business. It's a fascinating, almost other-worldly journey and the good news is that you can find several options not far from New Orleans. At the bottom of this post, I'll share a link to a site that offers swamp tours close to the city. But since I haven't gone on that particular tour myself, right now I'm going to take you on a recent swamp tour of Lake Martin that my family enjoyed. This particular tour is on the outskirts of Breaux Bridge, a good two hours from New Orleans, so it's too far for a day trip. But you'll get the general idea of what to expect.
On this particular tour, there were about twelve of us in the Cajun Crawfish Skiff (swamp people boats), which are specially built to go through flooded cypress forests and shallow water. Our guide Jim had been leading tours for thirty-five years and shared how Lake Martin was a cut-off from the Atchafalaya River Basin Swamp.
We made a slow circle through this beautiful wildlife preserve, our guide pointing out flora and fauna as we went. We saw heron, egrets, and yes, even alligators. In fact we witnessed a sight our veteran guide had never seen before and which thrilled him no end.
See those two alligators in the photo above? They were in the midst of a standoff. Jim cut the engine and we watched. After a few minutes, the gator on the right suddenly lunged at the one on the left, and they both tumbled into the water. The guy on the left went belly-up, his little gator legs flailing in the air. Then he rotated his entire body and slunk away, leaving the other gator triumphant. "In all my years, I ain't never seen nothing like that," Jim exulted. Throughout the rest of our tour, whenever Jim saw another boat, he'd regale the guide with the story of what we'd witnessed.
We passed through swamps of cypress, and learned that the little stumps growing next to the big trees are called cypress knees. Why? No one knows.
Our Lake Martin tour lasted two hours, and we loved every minute of it. There are plenty of tours much closer to New Orleans. I found one called Honey Island Swamp Tour that I'm thinking of checking out myself on a future visit. Here's a virtual tour from their website.
Whatever tour you choose, you'll be introduced to a fascinating world unlike any you've encountered. Just remember those gators and make sure you keep your hands inside the boat!