The next morning we left our cabin at 7:30am to meet Steve for our tour of the Okefenokee Swamp. It was just a short drive to the dock where we could launch the boat into the water. I was a little shocked to see such a small boat considering there were so many alligators hiding out in it’s waters. I figured it must be safe though as Steve still had all his limbs!
Crocodile Spotting on the Okefenokee Swamp
We had one more stop over in Georgia before heading to state number 40. So we said goodbye to the beautiful Highland Inn and made our way to the Okefenokee Swamp.
The drive from Atlanta to Okefenokee was a long one, so to break it up we went via McIntyre, a small town with a population of only about 650 people! Anyone know who lives in McIntyre? It is of course Honey Boo Boo, the child pageant star of another US American reality show – Honey Boo Boo! As if you couldn’t tell already, Barry and I are sadly huge fans of reality TV (Stef more than me – Barry). Unfortunately it was a Friday afternoon, so even though they were currently filming for the show, the kids were all at school so there was no activity. A car did pull up as we were staking out their home, but no one left the car so after just a few minutes, we continued onto the swamp.
About 5.5 hours after leaving Atlanta, we eventually reached Folkston, where we were staying at Okefenokee Pastimes. We’d rented a cabin and arranged a tour of the swamp with the owners, Steve and Jo Knight. When we arrived they were there to greet us and told us all about the swamp and the venomous snakes and alligators that roamed the area. Jo made it very clear that we should watch where we stepped as the snakes were deadly and had been spotted hanging around. Due to Barry’s close calls in the past, I was confident that he would be looking out this time round.
Jo told us about a boardwalk we could follow over the swamp to an observation tower. So with a few hours to spare before sundown, we decided to go take a look before our official tour early the next morning. As we followed the road through the trees towards the boardwalk, we saw a deer chomping on the grass. When we reached our starting point, we parked up the car and started our walk. We’d only been walking about a minute or two, when I spotted our first predator. A snake was just lying out on the path. It was about 2 foot long and was just lying there, very still. Despite Barry’s warning he had walked straight over it without even noticing. We hadn’t even reached the boardwalk yet! (my THIRD snake related near death experience of this trip– Barry). We later found out it was a Cottonmouth and is extremely venomous!
Having gotten over the fact that we just missed being bitten – AGAIN – we continued down the boardwalk and found ourselves surrounded by the beautiful swampland. It wasn’t how I’d imagined a swamp to be. It wasn’t all mud and sludge, but very still black water with lots of green trees and lily pads floating on it. We kept our eyes out for alligators but Steve had told us they were only really active at night and early in the morning, so our chances of a sighting now were slim.
We made it to the tower without any more encounters from snakes and climbed to the top. We were met with an amazing view of the swamp, which went on for miles. It was so peaceful out there, with only the odd squawk from one of the giant birds that were flying around.
That night after a recommendation from Jo we found ourselves at Jalen’s, a tiny little Bar-B-Q and grill restaurant on one of the main roads. The food was very Southern and very delicious. I had the chicken and Barry had the pulled pork burger. We both went for a side of baked beans, which tasted like they were coated in brown sugar and cinnamon.
The water in the swamp is black, which you may presume means it’s really dirty, but it gets its dark colour from the tannin in the water and when you scoop it out it’s actually just a very light brown colour. You can even drink it, although I wasn’t about to try it!
Altogether we spent about 4 hours out on the water touring the swamp. We were lucky enough to see 4 alligators, dozens of tiny frogs leaping between lily pads and hundreds of birds. There were lot’s of colourful wild flowers and some very eerie but pretty Spanish Moss hanging from the trees.
Steve had an abundance of knowledge that he shared with us. My most favourite piece of information he gave us though was about the carnivorous plants that grow in the swamp. We’ve all heard of Venus Flytraps, but what we saw was completely different. First there were the Bladderworts, which were tiny little flowers that captured tiny creatures in their roots and sucked them up. Secondly there were the Pitcher Plants, which were like long tubes with an illuminated funnel that tricks small animals into thinking they can get out the other end. Once the animal falls inside the tube, it is trapped by small downward pointing hairs that stop it from climbing back up.
I think Barry’s favourite part of the tour was when we ventured down Spider Alley. It is so called because spiders spin their webs from one side of the open waterway to the other. As we sailed through we had to duck to miss the webs. The spiders were pretty big and you could see them sitting in their webs as you went past. Thankfully none of them tried to jump aboard.
It was a great tour and by far one of my most favourite things we have done in America. Who knew a swamp could be such a beautiful and fascinating place to see?