Today’s sweltering temps in LA remind me of an especially hot day my sister and I experienced while trawling a swamp in Lafayette.
It was midday and 16 of us were seated in a crawfish skiff, melting under the sun, but eager to spot some wildlife. I was just dying to see alligators, maybe because I’ve never seen a crocodile in the wild. The cold-blooded creatures sun themselves on land to warm up, said the guide from the back of the skiff, because their temperature drops after months of not eating. Today, however, they were proving elusive. Perhaps it was just too hot for them.
We cruised the swampy swamp for an hour, spotting egrets, owls, American lotus flowers, dragonflies, and even two full-buttocked cypresses, some 300 years old. Fanning myself with a flimsy piece of paper, I hoped the clouds would give shade us from the sun’s rays. I itched to stand up and was growing agitated that I hadn’t seen the reptilian beast yet.
And then… two beady protrusions, a ‘gator’s chartreuse coloured irises, surfaced above water level. They flicked with ambivalent curiosity as we all stared back. 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.
The alligator grew bored of us, disappeared, and we set off in search of more treasures: croaking frog, multi-coloured lichen, blue herons, and as luck would have it, sunbathing baby alligators. By the second hour, I was rather restless and hoped the boat would pick up speed to cool us off.
When the tour finally came to an end, 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 continually.
And, three: In summer, wait until sunset to take a swamp tour, otherwise you’ll be sitting in a swamp of your own.