Hand Me An Alligator!

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I’ve taken three trips to New Orleans and have gone on swamp tours in the bayou three times now. It’s always one of my favorite experiences in Louisiana, but I must say — the swamp tour this time topped them all.

When you take a swamp tour, you have two basic options: airboat or passenger boat. On my second trip to New Orleans, we did the airboat tour. I’m not a fan. They’re fast, choppy, and noisy. In fact, we had to wear headphones. To me, it disrupts seeing alligators and other creatures in the wild. It’s almost more about the boat ride than seeing swamp life. And I want to see gators!

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I much prefer the larger, slow-moving passenger boats. I made sure to book that type of tour this time. I remembered that when I went in the early 90’s, the guide stopped the boat frequently to toss marshmallows to the alligators to bring them closer to us. That happened this time, too. Alligators LOVE marshmallows. And chicken necks. They’ll come right out of the water for those.

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I’d read lots of reviews before booking a tour with Cajun Pride and was dismayed to read that many people only saw one or two alligators in March because it wasn’t very warm yet. I was afraid that would happen to us, too, since we went the first week of April. I needn’t have worried. We saw dozens of alligators! And turtles. I took a million pictures, but these are two of my favorites:

Looks fake, doesn't it? It's not.

Looks fake, doesn’t it? It’s not.

As the alligator got closer, the turtles dove into the water.

As the alligator got closer, the turtles dove into the water.

But just in case we hadn’t seen any alligators, Cajun Pride had a back-up plan: a 5-year-old alligator that we could hold!
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We all took turns. She was surprisingly strong and surprisingly soft. Her belly felt like the inside of your forearm. Not at all what I expected. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to hold her, but since my mom was brave enough to do it, I figured I could. It was one of the highlights of my New Orleans trip. Like my once-in-a-lifetime experience petting a tiger last year, I never expected to hold an alligator. But I loved it. What an adventure! I hope someday I can do it again.

Have you had any alligator encounters?

12 responses to “Hand Me An Alligator!

  1. My family visited Miami about ten years ago, when my little brother was about five. We have a great photo of him holding a little alligator like the one in your photo from when we went on a similar sort of boat ride in the Florida Everglades.

    • This won’t make any sense, but the alligators in Florida scare me. I don’t know why. Maybe because I lived there for a while and didn’t want to think of them lurking nearby??

  2. I love the pics with the turtles! I saw alligators when I was in Florida. We went on a tour similar to the one you were on. I’m always amazed at how prehistoric they are!

    • I know. The first time I took a swamp tour, it was so amusing to think that they like those little sugary sweets. Now, 20 years later, tour guides are still tossing them out into the water to get their attention and it works every time.

  3. Those pictures are amazing! Though I did gasp a little to see the one with the alligator so close to the turtles like it was going to gobble them up. Do alligators eat turtles? Never thought they’d like marshmallows though, especially since I myself don’t like them very much.

  4. Hmm, not so sure marshmallows do them much good 😦 Still, good to see them protected – the days are gone (hopefully) when man hunted wild creatures to extinction.

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