Editor’s note: This story originally ran as a travel piece in The Washington Post.
Three years after New Orleans resident Jared Sternberg formed Gondwana Ecotours, a travel company that organizes cultural and environmental excursions to such far-flung places as Ecuador and Rwanda, he decided to start a similar business in Louisiana.
Late last year, the 31-year-old graduate of Tulane University Law School opened Beyond the Bayou, which bridges a gap between the Big Easy and the less-visited destinations outside the city that are rich with culture and nature. Offerings include kayaking in Atchafalaya Basin west of the city, the country’s largest river swamp at nearly 1 million acres; visiting local enterprises deep in Cajun Country; and a tour of the Whitney Plantation on the Mississippi River in Edgard, which is focused solely on telling the story of slavery.
Q. You grew up in Southern California. What were your first impressions of New Orleans when you moved there in 2010?
A. I remember thinking that the people were warmer and the culture felt richer – and, of course, the food was amazing. But I also remember thinking that the nature was not that impressive. For one thing, I didn’t have a car, so I was always in the city. Later, after I started exploring more and had access to boats and kayaks and canoes, I realized how gorgeous the swamps are and how amazing the nature is. A major turning point was when I went to a friend’s fishing camp on this spectacular swamp, managed by an old Cajun guy I could barely understand.
New Orleans eco-tourism company showcases Atchafalaya Basin, wetlands loss | NOLA.com