Swimming with the Pigs in Exuma
The Bahamas is well known for ivory-white beaches, crystal-clear blue waters, unspoiled tropical escapes and happy swimming pigs. That’s right — these real-life beach Babes are one of the main attractions of the Bahamas, and tourists travel from all corners of the globe to take a dip with these lovable pigs.
The swimming pigs of Exuma have become an international sensation that attracts thousands of tourists every year to this pristine chain of islands. The pigs inhabit Pig Beach (named for obvious reasons) on Big Major Cay, which is completely uninhabited (except for the pigs, of course). These pigs of paradise live a luxurious lifestyle where they enjoy daily swims in tropical waters, naps on the beach and endless snacking on treats brought by visitors. If tropical paradise and adorable swimming pigs sound good to you, then be sure to add a trip to Pig Beach to your Bahamas itinerary.
The Mystery of the Swimming Pigs
Even for the locals, the swimming pigs of Exuma are a mystery. No one is exactly sure where they came from and when, and there are numerous local legends about the origins of these porky islanders. One tale says the pigs survived a nearby shipwreck and swam ashore to Big Major Cay where, despite not being even remotely like their natural habitat, their population thrived. Another story suggests that sailors dropped them on the island with the intention to come back to eat them, but never made it back for their meal. The most exciting myth is that pirates who roamed these islands kept pigs there. Relatively recently, an American man claimed responsibility for the pigs and said he was keeping them there in case of an apocalypse. Regardless of how these lucky pigs found their way to the tropics, they were only discovered there in the past 20 years and have since become an international phenomenon.
Finding the Pigs
The pigs live on Big Major Cay, which is one of over 365 islands in Exuma. The Exuma chain of islands is around 90 minutes from Nassau and the closest inhabited island to Big Major Cay is Staniel Cay. Getting to Exuma is not as straightforward as flying into Nassau, but it’s accessed either by boat or by small plane. Big Major Cay is about 80 miles south of Nassau and 50 miles northwest of George Town. The only way to reach the swimming pigs of Big Major Cay is by boat. Seeing as the pigs are world-famous, it is very easy to arrange trips with tour companies or via nearby all-inclusive resorts to see these adorable piggies. Getting up close and personal to these popular Bahamian residents is easily done as a guided tour or by chartering a boat.
Swimming with Pigs
Cruise across glassy Caribbean seas and you’ll see the pigs swimming in clear waters and lounging on the white sand of Pig Beach. You will probably fall in love with these tropical porcine babes before even anchoring, but just wait until you get in the water for the real heart melt. While these swimming pigs are feral, they are also incredibly friendly. They will let you swim right up to them, that is if they don’t get to you first!
Feel free to gently touch and pet the pigs, as they are very lovable and intelligent creatures that are happy to say hello. As with dealing with any animal, just remember to treat the pigs with respect and they will do the same. It is best to avoid teasing, riding or throwing things at the pigs. Despite their island having no full-time human company, these little piggies love people and are used to human interactions. If you are feeling particularly timid, be sure to avoid carrying food on you, as they may decide to chase you down the beach if they smell snacks!
Feeding the pigs is acceptable and even encouraged. Being pigs, these lovable creatures will eat anything you give them. The Bahamian Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources asks that tourists only feed the pigs pitted fruits and vegetables and to only feed them in the water where there is less chance of them ingesting sand. If you are on land, you are encouraged to feed the pigs freshwater, as freshwater is scarce on the island and the pigs will certainly appreciate the hydrating refresher.
Some recommended food to feed the porkers are carrots, lettuce, watermelon and apples. If you have arranged a guided tour to Pig Beach, then pig snacks are likely included in the tour. If you have chartered your own boat, then be sure to pack your own pig picnic. If feeding pigs is not your thing, no problem!
When to Visit
The best time of the day to visit the swimming pigs is in the morning. Most tours to the island run between 9 a.m. and sunset. However, by late afternoon the pigs are often sleepy and are likely to be found snoozing off their full bellies on the beach rather than playing in the water with visitors. The pigs are happy to welcome visitors to their paradisal digs all year-round; however, some times of the year are more suited for visits than others. The months of November through December are some of the best times to visit the luxury islands of the Bahamas, as the weather is perfect and the islands are slightly quieter. Peak season runs from December into April, and during this time the island is more swarmed with tourists, which could limit personal time with the piggies. The rainy season runs from June to November and will likely guarantee you more interaction with the pigs, due to it being low season. However, if there are storms during this time, the pigs are taken to a local shelter for safety.
Visiting the swimming pigs of Exuma is an exotic and unmatched exotic tropical adventure that should not be missed. Don’t forget to also enjoy the tropical virgin beach, snorkel in crystal-clear waters, visit shipwrecks and play with iguanas.