Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Big Picture

After 25 years of doing my Louisiana swamp tour, I look back and realize I have lived a life I never dreamed of, and been able to share the things about the Louisiana wetlands that I love with many people who truly appreciated them. The people who came on my Louisiana swamp tours taught me ways to experience nature I had never known, such as bird watching and photography.

As I shared my passion for the wetlands and culture of south Louisiana with my guests, they helped open my eyes to many things I had never stopped to look at until they asked questions about those things.

In time, due to the success of my Louisiana swamp tour business, I have come to recognize the importance of Louisiana tourism as a means of protecting the environment, through education and the delightful experience of being on a Louisiana swamp tour in these wonderful wild places.

My experiences as a swamp tour guide in the Atchafalaya Basin and at Lake Martin have groomed me to be a television host and producer of educational and entertaining 1/2 hour programs. Welcome to My Wild Louisiana! These programs are focused on the Cajun culture, lifestyle, history, food, music, dance, festivals ,wildlife, and the enviroment.

Steve Riley and The Mamou Playboys at Festivals Acadiane 2008

All of the above is designed to entertain and educate the public at large through televion programs and video sales. The primary focus is entertainment, and the education will follow through to deliver the truth about Louiaiana's coastal erosion issues.

People lining up to catch beads at a Lafayette Mardt Gras parade
Throw me something mister!

To preserve and restore coastal Louisiana, we must first understand what it was before we began logging the cypress forests, building roads and bridges, digging canals for navigation and drainage, dredging the barrier reef, and worst of all constructing levees to “protect” the Mississippi River delta from flooding, as well as all the floodplains from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

A photo taken fromm the top of the earthen levee at Henderson, Louisiana. Elevation of Henderson, approxomately 12 feet above sea level. Elevation of the top of the levee, 50 feet above sea level,

More recently, in observation of some of the projects being installed to fight coastal erosion, one must consider if we are doing more harm than good. To quote writer Wendell Berry; “We cannot know what we are doing until we know what nature would be doing if we were doing nothing.” We will not protect and thus preserve what we do not love, and we cannot restore what we do not understand from a historical perspective.

Wave activity washing away the marshland along coastal LouisianaDue to the destruction of our barrier reef and the absense there of, the only thing which stabilizes the land in the marsh is the roots of plants. And, in and of themselves, it is nor enough. We are losing 30-50 square miles of marshland in coastal Louisiana every year due to erosion.

I grew up in coastal Louisiana hunting and fishing the swamps and marshlands with my father and never imagined that in my lifetime I could witness the loss or collapse of this immense ecosystem. We lived off the land eating fish, frogs, turtle, alligator, shrimp, crab, crawfish, oyster, deer, rabbit, squirrel, duck, and goose. The abundance of seafood and game was so great in the wetlands that we always had a freezer full of seafood and meat, and a surplus to share with family and friends.

From the top, a speckled trout, redfish, and sheephead, caught in the marsh at Marsh Island, our largest barrier island off the coast of Louisiana.

Before I ever did Louisiana swamp tours, or had built my houseboat and moved into the Atchafalaya basin swamp to live full-time, I thought I would share that experience with family and friends when I became a fulltime resident of the basin. After I got there, nobody came unless they hunted or fished. And too many of those “consumers” in my opinion did not really appreciate what we had, and therefore made no contribution to care for or guard the resources therein.

To truly know and love the vast wetlands of Louisiana, you need to go out into it and explore the swamps, bayous, bays, barrier islands, and marshlands. Experience the sunrises, smell the sweetness of the air in the swamp in spring, eat the fish, photograph the flowers, hunt the game, watch the birds, smell the salt air in the bay and Gulf, catch crabs with hand nets and boil them on the spot, feel the wind in your hair, and hear the sound of silence at sunset in the middle of nowhere, as well as listen to the symphony of frogs in the swamp on a summer night.

A fresh caught blue point crab in the middle of Marsh Island

If you love the swamps and marshlands like I do, then you will enjoy the content and pictures in this website for their entertainment, research, and educational value. Use the public facilities and support the commercial businesses listed here for your outdoor pleasure, and make every effort to educate our youth regarding responsible use and stewardship of these fine recreational, natural resources available in Louisiana.

This website has been created to help visitors coming to Louisiana understand what a swamp and marsh is and find quality tour attractions that present educational and entertaining services without destroying the environment or threatening the wildlife that live in those environs.

As I travel around the state in production of my television programs, I will give an up to date list of businesses and recreational locations that are my favorites and qualify to be mentioned. That list will evolve and be updated as quickly as I can evaluate new attractions and locations that I discover. This website is not now nor will it ever be a finished or complete list of locations or attractions. If you are a seasoned tourist or a newcomer to Louisiana, I encourage you to leave your comments and questions on the blog and assist in the creation and maintenance of this guide to Louisiana swamp tours in the wilderness wetlands in Louisiana.

I will soon be enabling the comments section again, but was recently being spammed so, I shut it down temporarily untill we can resolve that security issue.

Marcus de la Houssaye

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Louisiana Swamp Photography Safari

Grande Avoille Cove, circa 1992

A Yellow Crowned Night Heron photo I took on tour this week

A photo of a Snowy Egret by Al Guidry

A pair of nesting Spoonbills

This is how it all began...

More than 25 years ago

A photo of Cattle Egrets nesting, by Tanya Landtmeters of Belgium

Tanya skinny dipping at Avery Island

Before I ever built the houseboat and became a full time Louisiana Swamp Tour Guide, I was guiding personal friends of mine into the Atchafalaya Basin swamp to put them into close photographic proximity of nesting birds.

My houseboat at Grand Avoille Cove in the Atchafalaya Basin

What really amazed my friends was the fact that I could bring them 10-15 feet away from these birds and not disturb the birds normal behavior. Because I lived on a houseboat and worked as a commercial fisherman, I visited the birds everyday, and we developed a relationship of mutual trust and respect.

I would come and go, never threatening or disturbing anyone so why should the birds panic when I showed up with a photographer in my boat?

A night heron hen, incubating eggs on her nest
and keeping an eye on us in the tour boat below

Queen Tanya nestled into the loft on my houseboat, at sunset

Because of my guide skills and service to birdwatching
and photography friends,
they suggested I become a full-time Louisiana swamp tour guide.

I told them they were crazy,
because no one would ever pay me to drive them into a swamp!

Little did I know they were looking into my future at the time.

I never planned, dreamed or imagined becoming a swamp tour guide, because back then, to my knowledge, commercial swamp tours were not even in existence in Louisiana.

A photo by Marc Garanger, a National Geographic photographer from France,
who took this photo of me in my old wooden skiff, over twenty years ago.

I built the houseboat to fullfill a personal desire to embrace nature, and to share that passion with other people, I began doing swamp tours.

My swamp tour guests photographing a Great Egret taking flight

As I grew up hunting and fishing the marsh and swamps with my father, I was being groomed to be a swamp tour guide and never knew it at the time.

I took this with my cheapie pocket camera from the road overlooking the rookery north of Lake Martin, while guiding Larry this week.
A Rosette Spoonbill

An egret roost at another rookery south of Lake Martin

My first butterfly of the season!

And the dragonflies are coming out too!

Because it was my photographer friends who inspired me to be a tour guide, I still love to do private photo safaris to remote locations for special people on occasion.

My friend Larry with a real wildlife camera,
focusing in on a rosette spoonbill engaged in nesting activities.

That's one really ugly bird!

I took Larry and his wife to some private areas outside of Lake Martin this week to do a photo safari of nesting birds and to eat at The Boiling Point in New Iberia.

We had fried catfish, fried crawfish, and fried shrimp, and as an after thought, I ordered a half order of boiled crawfish too!

Maybe Larry can send me some of his photos for me to share with you here in an upcoming post.

In the meantime here are a couple of pictures sent to me by some other Lake Martin safari photographers recently.

A photographer named Al Guidry was on the road and took a photo of me as I was leaving the landing to start a Lake Martin Swamp Tour a few weeks ago and sent it to me as seen below.The aluminum crawfish skiff I built to replace the old wooden one as a commercial fisherman over twenty years ago is still my ultimate swamp tour boat today, because it allows me to get into the shallow, densely vegetated areas most boats cannot access, and that is where the most wildlife is likely to be found.

If you would like to contact Al to order prints,
or to hire him for photography services;
337 406-0927 email:portfolio2000foto@cox.net

The photos below are provided by Al Guidry for your viewing pleasure.

Another photographer named Claude Nall took a panoramic photo of these two Lake Martin alligators below, from his kayak on the north side of the lake.
This is the kind of photo opportunities you can have if you join me for a swamp tour or photo safari at Lake Martin or some of the other private locations I guide my friends to in My Wild Louisiana!

Red Heron Sunset, Lake Fausse Point, circa 1992

If you would like to call me for reservations for my regular 2 hour Louisiana Swamp tour, the cost is $20/adult, and $10/seniors and children. I can be reached on my cell phone at 337 298 2639. And please bear in mind; tours are by reservation only. There is no regular schedule, because I am often fully booked for custom, private, full day trips. Also I launch from a wilderness area, public boat launch, so there is no storefront, reception area or restrooms at the landing. Unless you have reservations, you are most likely wasting your time to drive out, hoping to catch me there. Furthermore, I do not have time to do businesss by email, telephone communication is your only reliable means of contacting me.

Thank You, Marcus de la Houssaye

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Very Busy Season

A photo by Claude Nall

Do you have a reservation?

This is a common question being asked at the landing for the last few weeks by the tour guides to people who show up expecting to get on a Louisiana swamp tour without calling and making a reservation first.

On Tuesday, six people from Switzerland were very disappointed because someone from Lafayette told them they could just drive out and step on to a boat, with no reservation.

And they left without doing a tour.

On Thursday, when I got in at 1:30, eight people had been standing around for over an hour hoping to get on the 2PM tour, to no avail, every boat was booked solid.

My boat is running at near capacity for nearly every tour as seen below.

On almost every tour some asks if we will see alligators...

And I usually ask that person if they want to get up close and personal.

Is that close enough for you?

So... if you want to get up close and personal with a big gator,

and we have a lot of them,

normally seeing about 40 or 50 total on every tour,

I suggest you make a reservation before driving out to the lake.

My cell phone for reservations is 337 298 2630.

It breaks my heart to see so many people coming to the landing with great expectations,

thinking this is like a Disneyland attraction where you can just show up,
get in line, and it is on.

And then having to leave without getting out on the water.

Also, bear in mind there are no public restrooms at Lake Martin Landing, we launch from a public boat landing into a primitive wilderness area.

The new Nature Conservancy visitor center will provide a restroom on the other side of the lake, but I don't know if it is open yet, and it is a couple of miles from the landing.The Nature Conservancy Cypress Island Preserve Visitor Center

This week I am doing private photo safaris to remote locations where spoonbills are nestingand even though I am seeing more spoonbills at Lake Martin everyday, none are nesting close to the road the way they did before the lake water was being drained for the last few years.

But... you can get some great photo opportunities on rookery road with the little herons

And... along Prairie Highway near Lake Martin, the Red Iris are in bloom

See you at the lake

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Sweet Smell of Spring

The alligators are out,

And the crawfish too...

It seems just a few weeks ago, the trees were bare except for the birds.

Well spring has arrived full force!