Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Birds at Lake Martin

The Nature Conservancy is building a walkway into the rookery at Lake Martin. This will allow a nice view of the nesting birds and the alligators that protect them. All should be finished before the birds start nesting next month and if as promised, the Nature Conservancy pumps the water in to replace what was drained off this past fall the birds should return. It is common knowledge that the birds nest and roost over water because the water holds the alligators and the alligators will eat anything that tries to swim out and prey upon the birds. The drainage of the water, as well as the application of herbicides to control the floating mats of aquatic plants and the presence of swamp tour boats in the rookery are all suspected of being the cause of the mysterious disappearance of the birds at Lake Martin a few years ago. In spite of numerous swamp tour businesses operating in the rookery and the application of herbicides there, I never noticed that the birds were leaving untill the water was being drained off every year. The true cause of the nesting birds disappearance is a subject of great disagreement amoung all parties concerned. I personally would like to see what would happen if they would not drain the lake. Maybe the birds would come back.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Louisiana Swamp Tour Alligators in December?

Louisiana swamp tours with alligators in December? We did a tour yesterday with great weather in the 70'farenheit range and saw several alligators after the sun came out. Looks like these gators are not going to hibernate this year. Although most of the gators are hiding now, this big boy was out sunning himself and sporting a nice pair of alligator skin boots! Louisiana swamp tours always slow down in the winter, but if the weather holds we should have a nice holiday season. Cheers!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This may be our last chance to see alligators on a Louisiana swamp tour for a few months!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Louisiana Swamp Tour Alligators

Louisiana swamp tour alligators usually begin to hide in October or November. But this year, here it is December 1st and we are still wondering if the alligators are going underground. I did Louisiana swamp tours on Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving and we saw numerous gators on every tour. I will post a couple of pictures here for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Autumn Transition

The fall is my favorite time of the year to do Louisiana swamp tours because the colors are in full force amoung the Bald Cypress and button bush at Lake Martin and in the Atchafalaya Basin swamp. I did a couple of tours on Thursday in suberb weather conditions and was very pleased to see numerous alligators both times. Last week with temperatures in the 80's I was seeing about 40 or 50 gators. Louisiana swamp tours usually do not provide much alligator viewing in the fall and winter. Now with freezing temperatures in the near forecast, the alligators will most likely disappear for a couple of months unless we have a mild winter in which case the alligators will be out every day the temps are 70 or above and the sun shines. It appears that the double barrel hurricanes of September 2008 did not shut down de la Houssaye's Swamp Tours and tourism overall in Louisiana the way Katrina did. I am getting many requests for Louisiana swamp tour reservations on a daily basis. Here is another nice shot of the sunset from the landing at Lake Martin. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who I Am and What I Am Going to Do

Sunset at Lake Martin Landing

I am Marcus de la Houssaye, owner and operator of de la Houssaye's Swamp Tours at Lake Martin, near Lafayette and Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. I have been conducting swamp tours in the Atchafalaya Basin and at Lake Martin for over 25 years as of 2008. When I first began doing tours most people in South Louisiana did not know what an ecotour was.

I have watched the gradual destruction of the Atchafalaya Basin swamp due to the construction of levees and channels all my life. Worse than that, in the last 8 years, I have watched the demise of the rookery at Lake Martin due to human intrusion. When I first began doing tours at Lake Martin full-time in 1996, the rookery of wading birds there was considered the largest in North America. I went to Lake Martin because it was not only the most wildlife intensive place I have ever visited; it was clean, quiet, safe, convenient to locate and especially beautiful to see and photograph.

For the first four years I conducted tours into the rookery, and though I was aware of the poaching of birds and alligators, I watched it expand in population and area. Since 2000, I have witnessed a gradual and "mysterious" disappearance of the birds that once nested there, as well as a decline in the alligator population. At present the bird population accounts for only about 5% of those that once nested there.

If you were with me on a tour between 1996-2001, I especially welcome your input here and I would like to hear from you. I will offer my explanation for the conditions that led to the disappearance of the birds in great detail later. For an article detailing a local professional photographer's observations and opinions regarding you can go to "Lake Martin Tragedy" and read Charlie Bush's story.

Because most swamp tours in Louisiana are tourist traps, which operate big boats with a large number of people in one group taking a little ride around the lake, or down a canal or bayou, many people leave Louisiana convinced that all the tours are operated that way. This type of tour is especially prevalent in and around the New Orleans area. These large boats fail to penetrate the dense, flooded cypress and tupelo forest where the birds and other swamp creatures congregate.

The boat I do my tours in is locally known as a "crawfish boat," or crawfish skiff, which gives me an advantage over all other boats in the dense floating mats of submarine vegetation, and thick jungle-like flooded forests of the swamp.

Because of the ability of my boat to reach the ecologically-sensitive areas where wildlife is in great abundance, and my ability to establish a friendly relationship with the wildlife therein, I have been regarded by many tourists as operating the best tour in Louisiana.

Due to my success and the competitive nature of business, many tour operators are trying to copy my style, using a similar boat, but failing to understand the importance of establishing a relationship of respect and trust with the wilderness residents therein and they are wreaking havoc on wildlife as a result.

I have set up this blog for the benefit of tourists coming to Louisiana to help them find a quality tour and avoid the tourists traps. In addition to that, I also hope to expose those tour guides who are only in it for the money and who are doing tours in ecologically-sensitive areas in ways that are detrimental to wildlife.

I welcome and encourage you to comemnt on your experiences while in Louisiana doing swamp tours whether they are good or bad and I hope that this blog evolves to serve as an informational source for tourists trying to decide where to find what may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the wilderness wetlands of Louisiana and get a taste of Cajun country in nature.

Marcus de la Houssaye