Swamps, Snakes and Turtle (Soup)

Pearl River Swamp
Pearl River Swamp

Krrwaaack!  That must have hurt.  The alligator lurched forward trying to get the proffered marshmallow secured on the end of a long stick. Its body thwacked into our swamp boat and those on board shrieked with fear and delight.

Pearl River, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana
Alligator!
Alligator flinging himself at our swamp boat
Alligator flinging himself at our swamp boat

Apparently, these puffy white round sweets look just like duck eggs to a gator and are a favoured snack.  That must be why these animals will do just about anything to get at them.

 

Snake sunning itself
Snake sunning itself

About 45 minutes outside of New Orleans and its famous French Quarter is the Pearl River in the St. Tammany Parish.  This is Louisiana Bayou country and  where the name ‘backwater’ must have come from.  It is full of wildlife and in a two hour tour we will see snakes, spiders, turtles, blue heron, alligators and even wild pigs.

Wild pigs in the swamp
Wild pigs in the swamp

I am staying in New Orleans to uncover some of the food stories that the French Quarter is famous for.  And in Cajun tradition, there are several dishes that feature wild animals.  One of these is turtle soup.  It is made with a rue (or gravy), turtle meat and then topped off with sherry.  A very flavourful and rich dish. I had a feeling that seeing turtles out in the swamp might make me think twice about eating turtle soup!

Captain Eric takes our assembled group out in a motor powered boat.  We quickly found out that it could reach some pretty decent speeds but also slow down and get us up close and personal with the indigenous animals.

A profusion of wild irises
A profusion of wild irises

The Cypress trees growing out here are incredibly resilient and the swamp is also full of wild irises, wild yellow roses and flowering lily ponds.  So it really is a remarkable sight in the spring.

 

At first we spot, of course, turtles resting on logs and protruding roots at the river’s edge.  But as we go deeper and deeper into the swamp and slow down our pace, we soon come across a variety of snakes.  None of them are the poisonous water moccasins, which were once a deadly force of nature out here, but it is eerie just the same. Perhaps our most interesting encounter was with wild pigs.

Mamma piggy
Mamma piggy

A mamma and her brood appeared when Capt. Eric shouted out to them.  I know that these creatures are very big but the others were shocked at their size. But when mamma came swimming out to us to get a snack, there was genuine shock amongst the guests that a wild pig could even swim. The piglets are adorable but they stay on shore waiting for their mamma.  One is white around its middle and has a black head and a black behind and has been nicknamed OREO.

I do love wild animals but I could certainly see how people could be put off by seeing, for instance, enormous deadly spiders crawling around in the undergrowth near the boat!

Livin' in the Bayou
Livin’ in the Bayou
Perfect for fishing!
Perfect for fishing!

What is also incredibly interesting is the fishing shacks right out in the middle of the swamp.  The local parish even get electricity out to these folks. We did notice that several of these properties are now perched on very high stilts.  Changes like this happened after historic storm Katrina came raging through here 10 years ago.

If you are ever out on Louisiana or New Orleans you would be missing out on something special if you didn’t take a tour to Bayou country.  It will be an unforgettable experience.

 

All images ©roamingscribe

To book a Cajun Encounter visit: www.cajunencounters.com/.         For more information on Louisiana visit: http://louisiana.gov/