(WVUE) - One of the most relaxing ways to experience the natural beauty of Louisiana is to tour a swamp in a kayak. One of the most beautiful places to paddle is Lake Martin.
For those inexperienced in paddling a kayak, the instructions are brief and simple.
"I'm pushing with my right, pushing with the left. I'm not pulling, I'm pushing," said Stacey Scarce.
Scarce is a long-time wilderness guide with Pack and Paddle in Lafayette. She's leading a group of late afternoon paddlers around Lake Martin. And within minutes, she spots a bald eagle.
"If you want a better shot of any bird, you never go towards them," she said. "You have to go at an angle. So they don't, they feel threatened when you're coming towards them. I love kayaking in the Louisiana swamps. In my opinion, kayaking is the best way because you can see things that you can't see when you're flying by in a boat."
Lake Martin is part of the Cypress Island Nature Preserve. It's a 20,000-acre cypress Tupelo swamp. And this lake is famous for its nesting birds.
"There's three great blue herons up there," Scarce said. "And there's a nest, so I would presume there's juveniles there."
One of the major nesting areas is off-limits to humans. But with binoculars or a long camera lens, we can see the pink roseatte spoonbills and white egrets on their nests. And there are times when you put the paddles down, and just sit quietly and listen.
"You heard that snorting? That's a pig frog. Now you hear the click click click - that's a cricket frog. Cricket frogs are about this big," she said.
One of the paddlers is teenager Shuntaro Okuma, a high school exchange student from Japan.
"Near my city, it doesn't have such a good nature like this," Okuma said. "So yeah, it was a good experience for me."
Part of that new experience is seeing an alligator close up.
"I thought it's more scary, but it wasn't, actually," Okuma said.
On Lake Martin, you weave in and out of cypress trees, sometimes through a green carpet of duckweed or across the open lake, always looking along the water's surface or scanning the treetops.
"And the ospreys are up there," Scarce said. "So the two adults are in there feeding the young. That's pretty cool. Lake Martin is great for beginners or seasoned kayakers because you can come out here solo and know that you're safe. And watching the sunsets here, too, are amazing.
There is nothing like being rewarded with a beautiful sunset at the end of your kayak journey, seeing the silhouette of a distant shower, and then watching as the setting sun breaks through the clouds for a brilliant farewell. It's truly a gift of nature.
Lake Martin is located a few miles south of Breaux Bridge, and if you are interested in trying out a kayak, Pack and Paddle offers a variety of tours and kayaks for rent.