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