Swamp view by way of kayak: LaPlace’s Wild Louisiana Tours open up outdoors to locals, newcomers

Published 12:15 am Saturday, July 14, 2018

When landscape and wildlife photographer Josh Reppel began using a kayak in the slow moving cypress swamps, it didn’t take long for friends to start asking if they could tag along.

Seeing an opportunity to provide an interactive tourism experience, Reppel opened Wild Louisiana Tours at 105 Gary Road in LaPlace.

With a meeting point and kayak rack located directly behind Bec’s at the Lake Restaurant & Catering, Wild Louisiana Tours does not currently have a physical storefront. However, Reppel said that hasn’t stopped the business from steadily growing since opening in 2013.

Fishing tour participant Tim Brooker holds a redfish. (Photos submitted by Josh Reppel)

Guests chose between a 2- and 3-hour Manchac Magic swamp tour, a 5-hour swamp landscape photo workshop and a 6-hour inshore kayak fishing journey.

Reppel said kayaks, paddles, life vests and necessary gear are provided on each family-friendly tour.

Josh Reppel owns and operates Wild Louisiana Tours.

“It’s a new experience for most people because a lot of companies stick to the airboats for swamp tours,” Reppel said. “I find more and more people want a first-hand experience getting into nature.”

In addition to promoting exercise, Wild Louisiana Tours provide guests a blend of fun and education.

“As you go through the swamp, the guide tells you the history of the area, the significance of the ecology and why we need to preserve it,” Reppel said. “This environment is so important to migrating birds and the seafood industry.”

A group tours the swamp on kayaks. Owner Josh Reppel said all tours come with guide assistance.

All tours are guided, Reppel said, and safety is paramount. Tour groups are small, typically capping out at 14 people.

Manchac Magic tours leave at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily from LaPlace. Reppel said the paddle trip is open to all ages and skill levels, and guests can expect to see alligators, snakes, turtles, egrets, herons, eagles and owls on the bayou.

Pricing starts at $59 for adults and $40 for children 12 and under.

Reppel guides guests on fishing tours, providing fishing rods and instruction wherever needed. Through the tour, guests visit the marshlands at the east end of Lake Manchac to catch redfish and speckled trout. Freshwater bass and catfish are also found on the tour.

Josh Reppel took this picture of an alligator while in the bayou. Photography tours are among the options offered.

Extended fishing and photography tours start at $250 per person and are aimed at individuals or small groups.

Reppel and New Orleans-based professional photographer Julie Verlinden provide expertise on guided photography tours, which typically run around sunrise or sunset for ideal lighting conditions.

“Early in the morning, there is active wildlife for bird photographers,” Verlinden said. “It’s basically an exclusive tour because things are easier to photograph when you’re in small groups, and you have time to sit and wait to capture that right moment.”

Verlinden’s favorite aspect of the tours is how the bayou changes incrementally day-by-day, providing a different experience on each journey.

She said even locals who are familiar with the ecosystem gain a new perspective from the inside of the swamp.

For more information on tour packages, transportation and group rates, visit wildlouisianatours.com.

— By Brooke Robichaux