We are from the north, and were interested in seeing the swamp. We like to kayak, so my son who has just turned 13 and I rented a tandem. I asked the man who set us up in the boat if there would be alligators, and he told me no. (When we cam back later and told him we had seen 4 alligators swimming with us and on the bank, he said, well it warmed up) We talked a bit about kayak vs, canoe and he told me about an experience he had with a cotton mouth or water moccasin that sounded scary. I told him I was afraid of snakes. He said, you won't be going into the bushes, so it wont be a problem.
Well, my son and I stayed clear of the edges of the canals. We knew there may be snakes there. We stopped in the middle of a wide area in a canal with trees overhead, so out of the sun, to have a water and snack break. When we started to paddle again, my son accidentally hooked a huge water moccasin on his paddle! It thrashed about and I would guess swam off as fast as we paddled off. We were very frightened. We then realized, and later had it confirmed, that the big splashes from things coming off the bushes were snakes too. We wanted to go back to the rental area as fast as possible, but we then had alligators swimming near us. We had been told we wouldn't see them, so had no discussion that we didn't need to be afraid. Were were very afraid as we were close to the water and I didn't know they wouldn't attack us until we finally saw one of their guides in a motor boat. Although it is a beautiful place, I would never go back. Had they adequately explained to us what we would encounter, it would not have been so frightening. We have been to many national parks where there are grizzlies, moose, or snakes and any potential encounter is explained in advance. I knew there could be snakes, but did not know they were swimming in the water. I thought the alligators were not going to be moving due to the time of year, and they were. Had they explained the situation, we would have gone on a tour boat with a roof and a guide. Their people were nice, but need training in what to explain to visitors. This may have been a better experience if the visitor center had been open, but the entry booth had a sign that directed you to go straight to Okenfenokee Adventures.
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