Honey Island Swamp Tour in Louisiana

On my second day in New Orleans (July 28), my lab-mate and I signed up for a swamp tour at Honey Island Swamp near Slidell, i.e., a chance to see American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) in the "wild".

American alligator is endemic to southeastern US and is the official state reptile of Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  It and the Chinese alligator are the only two living species in the genus Alligator.  Alligators belong to the family Alligatoridae, and crocodiles belong to the family Crocodylidae (and both families belong to the reptilian order Crocodylia).  They are real "living dinosaurs" because their lineage goes back to about 240 million years ago, and they are still surviving and thriving in the present (way beyond the extinct dinosaurs).

One common question from most people is what are the differences between alligators and crocodiles.  Basically, alligators have a wider snout and expose only the upper jaw teeth when the mouth is closed.  Meanwhile, crocodiles have a long and narrow snout, and upper and lower teeth are both exposed when the mouth is closed.

To get to Slidell from New Orleans, we drove across Lake Pontchartrain on the Causeway which is the second longest bridge in the world.  Pretty awesome.
We passed through some interesting communities and houses.

Stilt houses are pretty common here, especially ones right next to the water.

We skipped breakfast and arrived just after 9 AM and were ready for the 9:30 AM tour.

Pelican, one of the animals that I hoped but did not get a chance to see here in Louisiana.

Taking some photos while waiting for the rest of the group to show up.

Dragonfly close-up
Got a nice close-up photo of this dragonfly as you can see top of its compound eyes in focus.


There are multiple tour boats going on at the same time.  This one had no roof.

Tour boat
Ours was similar to this.

Again, we passed by more stilt houses.


Some were done well, according to our captain, while other houses were on cinder blocks and became tilted and unsafe over time.

I really enjoyed the greenaries, especially with the Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) hanging over the tree branches.


Heading into the more swamp-like areas.

Love the view.

Saw this interesting abandoned structure.

Now, photos of alligators.


American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
This was the best example of just the upper jaw teeth exposed.

This one had a crooked mouth.  Not sure how it got this way, but it seemed to survive well thus far.

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)


There were alligators that swam up to the boat, but there were also ones hanging back.  Our captain attracted them by throwing marshmallows and hot dogs into the water (this seemed to be a common practice among the captains, but I can't say I am a fan of them doing so).

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Alligator eating marshmallows.  I think they eat pretty much anything in/on the water; hence, their ability to persist throughout history.

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Such a cool creature.

Other visitors taking photos with their smart-phones.

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Baby alligator.

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Baiting it with a hot dog.

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Eating a hot dog.

Our captain also enticed a few alligators to jump for food.  Again, not a big fan, but it shows us how powerful its body (especially the tail) is to be able to propel itself out of the water like that.

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

I suppose I should make a point that no alligators or humans were harmed during this trip, thankfully.

Our captain also pointed out a few interesting things during the tour.

A large spider (the size of someone's palm) hiding underneath the bark.


Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Great egret (Ardea alba)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Another GRBH

A Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) and another bird I just found out in the photo a few minutes ago.  I think it was another BCNH.

Overall, the tour was pretty cool as it brought us out of the city and we saw some interesting wildlife (especially the alligators).  Definitely recommend it for people visiting Louisiana.

Cute stray kitten
Saw three cute kittens outside the tour building.  I think they are strays.  This one wasn't as shy and was pretty darn cute.

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant called Speckled T's recommended to us by one of the employees.  I had a large plate of fried oysters and sweet potato fries, while my friend went for the seafood buffet.  It was a good meal indeed.  Plus, I had leftover fries for dinner.

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