Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours has been in operation in St. Martin Parish for 24 years.
It was started by Bryan Champagne who was initially running airboats looking for oil deposits.
The tours are given in the Cypress Island Preserve on Lake Martin.
The main draw for many visitors is alligators.
"Just that one big alligator that was fifteen feet!” said Sugarland, TX resident Sharon Doenges. “Everyone was leaning to take pictures, and I was like don’t do that!"
Cypress Island Preserve is home to 205 different species of birds which is proof of a healthy ecosystem.
It supports a diverse array of indigenous species of plants and wildlife.
"Everything is so green and lush,” said Denver resident Gary Osadhuk. “And, when you get into Louisiana it’s even more so! I couldn’t believe the trees and how green everything is. Back in Colorado, it’s brownish colored.”
KATC’s news team met tourists from Australia, France, and Holland at Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours facility.
"In Holland, it’s village after town, village after town. And, here you can drive for hours and see just the landscape,” said Holland resident Wilm Bilo
Bayou is the native term for slow-moving stream or water.
“Now, back in the day when our settlers came down from Nova Scotia. There were no roads or highways, so what they had to do y’all is actually they had to build their homes along the higher parts of the bayous, and that’s how they got around back in the day. They pretty much utilized the bayous as their roads and highways to get around,” explained Tour Guide Jonathan Stutes.
While Stutes operated the boat he told stories on the history, culture, and science behind the swamp and bayou.
"The skin of an alligator y’all actually is very sensitive. And, they can actually feel or sense vibrations in the water up to a mile away. So, let’s say a little bird or something like that would fall in the water from a mile, they can actually feel that and sense that y’all and they can go about pursuing it whether or not they’re hungry or not,” said Stutes.
One of the appealing things about the Cypress Island Preserve in late spring is that there is virtually no sign of mosquitoes. The reason for that is the Tupelo Gum Tree which drops a sap into the water which acts as a repellant for mosquitoes.
Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours offers secure parking, restrooms, lunch, fishing supplies, and more.
They’re the premiere tour guide operation on Lake Martin because the Champagne’s are from Cypress Island, and know the area as their back yard.
"You know people took my trip years ago and they’re still coming back today,” said founder and owner Bryan Champagne.