September 20, 2009

Swamp Tour Update

Continuing from where I left off...
The guide gunned the boat deeper into the swamps through the channels passing adjacent to a large brackish water lake/ lagoon where shrimp farming is being practiced. As the boat lurched in the shallow waters of the swamps the guide explained that the water appears brown not because it is dirty because of the presence of a bacteria which stains the water. It is surprising that there were homes along the water channel and some had the most common sign I have seen in the US... "FOR SALE". There were speed limit signs for boats with warning of prosecution for violations, law enforcement everywhere, good for the local residents. Wish there was similar enforcement for alligators to prevent them from attacking humans :) and another law to make gators to voluntarily come forward to get culled :)...

Speed Limits on water too....

Large bird looks majestic and beautiful

I saw numerous birds such as cranes, egrets, ducks, an occasional eagle flying past ignoring the noise and spray raised by the boats as if it were their daily obstacles. The vegetation/ mangrooves became thicker as we ventured deeper into the swamps forcing the captain to slow the boat almost to a crawl as we passed an oil well which pumped away the black gold from the depths of the earth. Evidence that there is no corner in the earth which has not been explored and exploited by some greedy human being.

Duck with its chicks on a pier

An oil well in the swamps... quietly pumping away

After more lurching in shallow waters the captain stopped the boat and started shouting "oup... oup... oup... oup..." rather loudly. Initially I couldn't quite understand why he was yelling, but it soon became evident that he was trying to attract some wild alligators. Soon a few alligators were sighted around the boat and they started swimming towards the noise. The captain took out a bag of marshmallows and threw one into the water which was immediately grabbed by a hungry gator. Several gators came up as more marshmallows were thrown into water. The guide jokingly also said that if one of us wished to swim with the gators we were welcome to jump overboard.

Going deeper into the swamps... supposedly wild and unchartered territory

Gator coming for Marshmallows

Gator poses for a picture

Our tour guide playing with the Gator...

That's me handling the baby Gator...

We left the place and got back into the main channel after playing with the gators for some more time. The real surprise awaited us here. The tour guide produced a small one-year old gator and allowed everyone on the boat to carry it like a pet and get a feel of it. The yearling looked like the garden lizard but only more scaly, rough skinned and lazy. The baby gator didn't open its mouth, I wonder why... the guide mentioned that it usually doesn't open its mouth and bite but if it was suitably irritated it would. None of us tried to make it open its mouth was we passed it around. The last part of the tour was a fast boat ride through the channels, the twin-engine passenger boat showed its true power as the guide gunned it towards the pier. It churned up frothy waves and created a line of white as we sped towards our destination where we ended our short swamp tour.

Waves formed by the boat

As we disembarked from the boat the captain stood by the door gratefully accepting the tips handed out to him by passengers. There were boards all around the boat and the ticket counter which read "Tips accepted and appreciated"... Well that is how marketing is done I guess... instead of asking just say it...

What I must say here is that the guide did a good job in showing us the important sights around the swamp, gave us the true gator experience and even let us handle a year-old gator. He was funny and his narrative absorbing and never overbearing or overly seeking money. I think this kind of a positive attitude will generate lot more revenue than outright solicitation of tips.

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