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Isn’t it amazing when a place you’ve barely thought about proves to be an unexpected highlight of a trip abroad? As we were crossing the Cotentin and Bessin Marshes Regional Natural Park, our group of friends was keen to explore this place of great beauty from a different perspective. And a private boat tour, topped up with a local “aperitif” on board, is exactly how we discovered this little slice of Normandy!

Sipping local drinks on board!

As we arrive by the water, a lively little “guinguette” awaits: a traditional open-air restaurant. As we reach the dock, we jump on board an electric boat where appetizing aperitif platters are all set up for us! We are greeted by Vincent, an enthusiastic boatman eager to show us around the marshes. As we start gliding on the water, we are introduced to the local delicacies to sample during the cruise: charcuterie from the town of Marigny in the Manche area, regional cheeses, caramel and butter from Isigny as well as local cider and apple juice from Maison Hérout. Let the feast begin!

Aperitif on board an electric boat Boat tour ©Marie-Anaïs Thierry
Aperitif on board an electric boat ©Marie-Anaïs Thierry

An escape to the very heart of nature

Boasting pastures, wooded areas and wetlands, this haven is a true biosphere reserve! We keep an eye out for a chance to see local wildlife in this pristine habitat. Very quickly, passionate bird lovers Clément and Sarah start spotting a vast array of birds! The marshes have no secrets for our guide Vincent who is able to distinguish all kind of creatures from afar. As we relax to the sounds of nature, Vincent points out various inhabitants “Take a look at the nutria on your left and the heron under the tree“ he whispers.

Birds flying over the marshes © Marie-Anaïs Thierry
Birds flying over the marshes © Marie-Anaïs Thierry

In this oasis of greenery, observing an eclectic mix of wildlife around us is fascinating: cows, ducks, herons, kingfishers, nutrias, swans and dragonflies seem to be living their best lives in this untouched paradise!

Cruising onboard an electric boat in the marshes of Cotentin© Marie-Anaïs Thierry
Cruising onboard an electric boat in the marshes of Cotentin© Marie-Anaïs Thierry

 History of the MARSHES

As we journey into the hidden heart of the wildlife-rich marshes, we start wondering whether this habitat is natural or man-made. Well, although not a contradiction, the answer is both! Originally, wetlands imply an area that is neither wholly land nor water, with characteristics of both terrestrial and aquatic systems. Joining technology with natural processes, flood gates were created by men in 1735 to prevent sea water from entering the body of fresh water, thus enabling flood control, surface water storage, and regulation of nearby stream flows.

At this time of the year, the area is referred to as the “green marshes” as the verdant trees and lush vegetation reflect in the water. In winter on the other hand, they turn into “white marshes” as the water submerges the surrounding pastures and land, reflecting the clouds and the white sky. The way Vincent describes this phenomenon definitely entices us to come back to see it for ourselves!

Exclusive boat tour in the marshes © François Dourlen
Exclusive boat tour in the marshes © François Dourlen

An exclusive boating EXPERIENCE

Time flies when you’re having fun! This immersive hour and a half water trail went so fast. Swamps have this unique, soothing vibe. The changing light, the stunning setting, the abundant wildlife, Vincent’s anecdotes and insight into the place’s history, especially on the role it played during WW2, was captivating!

As we glide towards the banks of the canal, we slowly reconnect to reality after this timeless tour between earth, water and sky. We can’t go without mentioning how much of a treat the aperitif platters were to our taste buds. Yummy!  

Private boat tour in the marshes of Cotentin © Marie-Anaïs Thierry

USEFUL INFORMATION

Les Bateliers du Marais
Embarcadère de Port Jourdan
Village des Ponts Douves
50500 Carentan-les-Marais
+33 (0)6 83 60 08 12
[email protected]
www.decouvertemarais.com

Private boat tours take place outside of usual opening hours, early in the morning or in the evening, in small groups of 8 participants maximum. The boat tour lasts about 2 hours.

Dates

From April to end October, online booking only

Rates

Morning boat tour: €25 per person

Evening boat tour with local aperitif: €39 per person


All of the above information is subject to change.

VINCENT BISSON

Boatman and guide

Vincent grew up in the marshes and knows this area criss-crossed with canals by heart. He takes pride and pleasure in sharing local stories and making sure visitors get the best out of this fantastic VIP boat experience!
 

THE COTENTIN AND BESSIN MARSHES

In the heart of the Cotentin and Bessin Regional Natural Park, the marshes extend over 30,000 hectares. Green in spring and white in winter, they change appearance with the seasons. Renowned for their extensive biodiversity, electric boats tours are a perfect way to take in the beautiful surroundings and spot wildlife.

Boat tour ©Marie-Anaïs Thierry

A foodie bike tour with local guide

A foodie bike tour with local guide

Coasteering in the Cotentin

Coasteering in the Cotentin