Today’s sweltering temps in LA remind me of an especially hot day my sister and I experienced while trawling a Louisianan swamp in Lafayette.
It was midday and 16 of us were seated in an open boat, called a crawfish skiff, melting under the sun but eager to spot some of the wetlands’ wildlife. I was just dying to see alligators — maybe because as an Australian I’ve never seen a crocodile in the wild. The cold-blooded creatures sun themselves on land to warm up, I heard the guide say from the back of the skiff, usually because their temperature drops after months of not eating. Today, however, they were proving elusive. Perhaps it was just too hot for them.
We traversed the swampy swamp for an hour, spotting egrets, hooting owls, American lotus flowers, and hundreds of dragonflies; even a pair of full-buttocked ancient cypresses, some 300 years old. Fanning myself with a flimsy piece of paper, I internally pleaded with the clouds to give us some respite from the sun’s rays. I was itching to stand up and growing agitated that I hadn’t yet caught a glimpse of the reptilian beast.
And then… two beady protrusions surfaced at water level. A ‘gator’s chartreuse coloured irises. They flicked with ambivalent curiosity as we all stared back at it. I tried locking eyes, but the ‘gator wasn’t having it. While taking photos, as if on cue, he gave us a peek of his scaly back. As the scarediest cat of all, I was hardly fazed. The mind is good at playing tricks like that. Apparently, it’s only when provoked that alligators attack.
Back of a gator
When the alligator grew bored of us, we searched for more treasures, and encountered a throaty frog, scores of lily pads, multi-coloured lichen, little blue herons, and as luck would have it, sunbathing baby ‘gators. By the second hour, I was growing rather restless and secretly hoped the boat would pick up speed to cool us off.
Spot the frog
With the tour finally coming to an end, and alligator spotting checked off my to-do list, I noted three takeaways from the experience:
One: Overcome fear by staring it in the face. See you later, alligator. (If it makes you feel better, apparently the alligator brain is the size of a peanut.)
Two: When in the Deep South, carry SPF at all times and reapply constantly.
And, three: In summer, wait until sunset to take a swamp tour, otherwise you’ll end up sitting in one yourself.