For anyone who has ever traveled to the lurid shores of the city of New Orleans, it can be safe to say, the city itself is the most unique metropolitan area in the United States.
Its identity is steeped in the music flowing through the streets, the clash of cultures found in its food, and the free-wheeling feeling of endless population for those vacationing or living there.
But beyond the endless party scene lies areas in and around the entire Gulf Coast which also holds a certain mystique for those wandering through the swamp lands.
The tremendous wildlife diversity proliferating on its shores can only be found in the climate zone found in NOLA and its surrounding areas. And due to the distinctive lands, certain breeds of animals grow, diversify, prosper, and live in the swamps.
This provides ample opportunity for anyone traveling to the bayous to see wonderful creatures they may not have ever seen in their lives.
And, of course, as Perfect Paddles always preaches, one of the best ways to experience such animal life is by participating in a Wildlife Tour.
NOLA itself is still growing in terms of outdoor activities based around exercise, so while we may have a few shops and outfitters outside of the city and even the state, as well as a company which only specializes in kayaking, we want to provide a list for our readers which consists of at least a similar ecosystem to that found in New Orleans. And hopefully we will entice travelers to hop on a board and experience the wildlife firsthand. Let’s begin!
Aloha Paddling Company (Pensacola, FL)
This company may find itself quite far away from the city of New Orleans, but it does lies in a similar environment and is on the way to NOLA for those wanting to hop into a vehicle and road trip halfway across the country.
If you do stop here on your way out to the Mississippi, be sure to sign up for their Dolphin Search tour.
This includes a two-hour guided paddle with a certified instructor who will first make sure you are completely comfortable with your technique on the board as well as your ability to stop, turn around, and maneuver through the water.
Tours also include snacks and water to make sure participants are adequately hydrated throughout the trip.
The goal, of course, is to search for, and find, pods of dolphin jumping through the water. This chance to get close to a pod and see the large mammals jumping in and out of the water is not to be missed!
While not exactly close to New Orleans, Aloha Paddling Company makes our list due to its relative proximity and opportunity to splash around with pods of dolphin. Perfect Paddles highly recommends reaching out to this outfitter to set up your guided tour today!
SUP Express (Destin, FL)
A little farther east than the previous Aloha Company, SUP Express is found on the clear waters and beautiful white sand beaches of Destin, Florida.
A full outfitter and shop, SUP Express provides vacationers and travelers with options regarding lessons, rentals, and tours.
Besides offering delivery of boards to wherever you are staying in the Destin area, SUP Express also offers sunrise, sunset and SUP glow tours at night.
However, if you are looking for a Wildlife Tour, the best option to take would be the sunrise SUP tour. During the morning paddle, the waters are usually calm making them more clear, allowing standing paddlers to peer into the water and see dolphins, porpoises, jellyfish, manta rays, as well as numerous ocean-dwelling birds such as herons, egrets, and all types of gulls.
Due to the heat and the humidity inherent to the area, paddlers find participating in a sunrise tour not only the best way to experience the wildlife teeming among the shores of Destin, but also the easiest paddle with the coolest temperatures.
Perfect Paddles highly recommends SUP Express to those looking to paddle crystal clear waters under a brilliantly bright rising sun!
Bayou City Adventures (Houston)
Coming in at number four on our list is a company called Bayou City Adventures located in Houston.
For those who follow Perfect Paddles closely, you may recall this outfitter finding its way onto our list of recommends Wildlife Tours in the Austin area as well.
You might be asking yourself then, why do they make it onto another list if they’ve already appeared?
Well, the answer is simple- we don’t want any potential paddler to miss out!
Bayou City Adventures is of course located in Texas, well past New Orleans, but there are plenty of potential paddlers in between Houston and NOLA, all with a legitimate chance to make their way to this wonderful outfitter if they are headed west in their travels.
The reason their tour made it onto our Austin as well as this list is because of the unique opportunity to paddle down Buffalo Bayou- a slow moving river which runs right through Houston. It is here, paddlers are mostly likely to spot red-shouldered hawks, Carolina wrens, and other bird species while at the same time taking in the sights of the city surrounding the river.
This is truly a best of both worlds tour- participants experience the wildlife while at the same time taking in the views of the city. That is why Bayou City Adventures lands at number four on our list!
Bayou Paddle Sports (New Orleans)
While this outfitter specializes in kayaking, they also do offer beginner lessons and rentals for those who swing more towards SUP.
Along with their rentals they also have group tours where guides will direct groups onto the water of Bayou St. John. Located within the city of New Orleans, this body of water runs calmly alongside the sights of the buildings and neighborhoods.
It is not unusual to see otter, rabbits, squirrels, turtles, woodcocks, foxes, beavers, and even the occasionally alligator which are of course, native to the shores of New Orleans and other swamp adjacent cities.
What makes this company crack the top three on our list is the highly qualified instructors who will lead any group of any skill level on the water comfortably and into areas where paddlers will be able to see tremendous wildlife along the shores.
2. New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours (New Orleans)
Ok, this is the company to contact if you want a full NOLA experience, paddling through the swamps, and see the unique ecosystems that make up these environments.
These tours are especially for those who are desiring a less-crowded element to their trips and want to replace the loud hustle and bustle of the city with a tranquil paddle through the narrow straits of the bayou.
Perfect Paddles highly recommends searching their website for the different options in regards to tours but as a highlight their Manchac Swamp Tour is perfect for beginner and experienced paddlers alike.
Taking place on the serene waters of the bayou, surrounded by Cypress forests, groups will most assuredly sight species such as pelicans, egrets, hawks, and of course, the famous alligator native to these waters.
Guides will provide interesting facts about the area as well as point out interesting plant and wildlife species roaming the shores and forests surrounding the group.
So, sounds amazing doesn’t it?
You’re then probably wondering, why isn’t it number one on our list?
The answer to that is simple. These swamp tours are only offered on kayaks. Which of course, are great tools for all paddling sessions, but not our preferred method of travel on bodies of water.
But if you are looking for a true New Orleans experience and do not mind sitting down while paddling, then this is the company for you!
NOLA Paddleboards (New Orleans)
Paddling on Bayou St. John, groups are led through a beginner lesson to make sure everyone is comfortable on the boards, before being ushered onto the smooth waters of the bayou.
The launch point is less than two miles away from the French Quarter and accessible by streetcar making this company the most convenient paddle board outfitter in the city.
Once on the water paddlers can expect to see otter, rabbits, squirrels, turtles, woodcocks, and even the occasional alligator, though in this area that may be rare. On top of that, paddlers will be able to take in some amazing views of the city as well as the famous steamboats pushing their way through the waters.
This tour is great for the experienced and beginner paddlers alike. And due to its accessibility, location, accommodation, and perfect location, NOLA Paddleboards lands at number one on Perfect Paddles list!
Let’s tell the truth. Most people make their way to New Orleans for the nightlife. The ability to hear world-class musicians with a tasty drink in hand, walking down Bourbon St., while popping in and out of bars is an experience not found in any other part of the United States.
But there is a side to NOLA which most people don’t know about or are uneducated about.
And that is the teeming wildlife found within its abundant waters and in the areas surrounding the city.
Various species of birds, local land wildlife and of course alligators, all contribute to what makes this part of the US unique and special.
One of the best ways to experience this often-overlooked area of the city is by way of paddleboard. Pushing your craft through the famous waters of the city is an opportunity not to be passed up!
Which is why we have created this list of the Top 6 Wildlife Tours in the New Orleans area. We hope we have shed some light on additional possibilities to enjoy the bustling metropolitan area. And of course, we at Perfect Paddles are always present to answer any questions you might have in regard to all things SUP!