Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This Is How It All Began

I have always been a wildman!

Playing in the swamps and living off the land is a Cajun tradition.

Many of us own a camp for fishing and hunting in the marsh or Atchafalaya Basin Swamp.

Almost 30 years ago, when I moved back to Louisiana from Hawaii, I experienced an epiphany: I realized I did not need to move 5,000 miles from home to live in paradise. All I needed to do was to build a houseboat or a treehouse and live in the Atchafalaya Basin.

I toyed around with the concept for about 5 years before I actually started construction on the houseboat because the treehouse really apealled to me but the houseboat seemed a lot more practical, and certainly more versatile and adaptable to the environment.

In the interum, I worked as a welder, bartender, painter, and a set carpenter on several TV commercials, and feature films such as Belizaire The Cajun, and Angel Heart.

I began constructing the styrofoam pontoons in my yard in Abbeville in January 1986, then transported them to Charenton Beach Landing on Charenton Lake in the Atchafalaya Basin. On those pontoons, I built a deck, then walls, a roof, and then as it warmed up and the mosquitos came out, added a screen porch by April as seen below.

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.

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 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.

Cattle Egret chicks

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

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

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

We were just having fun in the swamp, fishing, camping, and taking pictures.

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

I thought we were just having the time of our life, so let's enjoy it, life is short.

Tanya skinny dipping at Avery Island

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.

Later 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.

My houseboat in it's completed form with kitchen,
bathroom, a wrap around screen porch and the sleeping loft above, at Grand Avoille Cove in the Atchafalaya Basin

As a swamp tour guide I was being groomed to be a TV personality and address the environmental issues so many local people failed to grasp, as well as promote the Cajun culture, so many visiting tourists seek to experience and understand.

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

These past few weeks have been very special for me because of so many people visiting us from all over the world, and confirming that My Wild Louisiana will be a well recieved TV program in a world wide media, because of the passion and enthusiasm I bring into the presentation of our special way of life here in South Louisiana.

A six foot long, Grey Ratsnake