Get Out of Town
Beyond the Bayou highlights the environmental and cultural beauty of Louisiana.
New Orleans is a city unto itself. Locals tend to stick to their neighborhoods and shudder at the thought of leaving Orleans Parish. Crossing a bridge is carefully considered. Is the pho really that much better across the river? Is Mosca’s worth the drive? The answer to both, by the way, is yes.
So it’s no wonder that visitors to New Orleans keep to the French Quarter, or think they have truly experienced Cajun culture by sampling hot sauce with a name like “Hebert’s Heatlamp Hot Lava Pepper Passion Mouth Explosion (patent pending).”
Thankfully, the tendency of both locals and tourists to stay close to the city has a solution. Beyond the Bayou is disrupting the alligator excursion model by providing curated and immersive experiences that highlight the environmental imperatives and cultural cache of Creoles and Cajuns.
Founder Jared Sternberg began Beyond the Bayou three years after first running its international destination sister company, Gondwana Ecotours. Sternberg says that while living in New Orleans he has observed that visitors seem to enjoy the city, but often leave without “any true impression of Louisiana and the depth of its culture and nature.”
Sternberg set out to remedy the situation by creating a tour company that did its research, developed relationships with local culture bearers and focused on the authentic beauty of Louisiana and its people.
“We take pride in presenting Louisiana as the locals live it, and we do that by very carefully choosing our guides and activities,” explained Sternberg. “Many of our experiences were created exclusively for our company, like our Cajun cooking class or Zydeco music studio tour. We work with independent local guides who educate guests on what makes the nature and culture here so special.”
Sternberg added with a smile, “Anyone can lure a gator to a boat with some chicken or walk you around a plantation, but our guides give you a firsthand account of what it really means to live here and the issues that Louisiana has dealt with in the past and still faces today.”
Beyond the Bayou intentionally keeps its tour sizes small so guests get the most from their experience. Guides are also allowed to share their own personal stories and insights.
“We see our tours as a form of cultural exchange,” said Sternberg. “We are not afraid to dive into subjects like coastal erosion and wetlands loss, or the history of slavery and how it impacted our culture today. This provides guests with a well-rounded educational experience that we feel is important when visiting this region.”
Beyond the Bayou currently offers six tour packages with an additional tour in development. Options include various combinations of Treme, the Whitney Plantation, Maurepas Swamp, Cane Bayou, Manchac, Atchafalaya Basin, Lafayette, Nottoway Plantation, Bayou Teche and Avery Island. Time commitments range from half-day swamp tours to the four-day Cajun country trip and are priced accordingly. Tours are meant for two or more guests and families are welcome.
“All of our tours are great for families, and we can always adjust our itineraries to suit younger children. Being a smaller company allows us to be flexible and personalize our offerings for each guest,” he said. “Our trips to Cajun Country have tons of fun activities for kids, like visiting an organic pecan farm and meeting the sheep and chickens raised there, learning about Cajun cooking from a local chef, and spotting alligators, rare birds and other creatures on our boat tour of Lake Martin.
“We love living here in Southern Louisiana,” he added. “Our mission is to show guests what makes it such an incredible place. Our aim is to send you home having seen and learned much more than you expected.”
To learn more or book a tour with Beyond the Bayou, visit beyondthebayoutours.com.
Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.