Ever considered swimming with pigs? We’ve partnered with travel expert and writer Angie Orth from Angie Away for a look into her experience in Exuma, where she dove in with these unexpected aquatic creatures!
When I first visited the unassuming swimming pigs of Exuma in 2007, they were hardly the paparazzi-magnets they are now. Back then, a few small boats might motor up to shore each day in the hopes of catching the water-loving piglets on the beach. In the ensuing years, their popularity has skyrocketed and the pig population has grown, too. Now that the local swine are the subject of The Bahamas’ ad campaign, the swimming pigs of Exuma have become a curious must-see attraction for visitors.
If the summer-loving sows have swum their amphibious way onto your travel bucket list, here are a few tips for a productive, safe visit to piggy paradise.
1. Book a tour or stay on Staniel Cay.
If you want to stay near Big Major Cay where the pigs live, your best option is itty-bitty Staniel Cay, which offers a sizable marina, several small hotels (EMBRACE Resort is my favorite) and an airstrip. From there, you can rent a small boat or hire a local guide to whisk you over to Pig Beach. From Staniel Cay Yacht Club, it’s only about 10 minutes to the pigs.
If you’re staying on mainland Exuma, which most people do, your best bet is to hop on an organized tour that includes a visit to Big Major Cay. I recommend 4C’s Adventures because you also get to check out the friendly sharks of Compass Cay, the endangered pink Rock Iguanas on Leaf Cay and a gorgeous sandbar that goes on for miles.
2. Don’t be fooled by imitation pork.
The bonafide swimming pigs living on Big Major Cay, an uninhabited island about halfway up the Exuma archipelago of 365 islands. If you hop on the 4C’s Adventures boat, it’ll take up to two hours to speed to that area of the Exumas from the settlement of Barratarre.
Be warned – imitation pigs are popping up everywhere! On our honeymoon, I found out that Sandals Emerald Bay takes their tour guests to a much closer island, claiming an interaction with the famous swimming pigs. Sure, they’re pigs and they swim, but they aren’t the famous swimming pigs of Big Major Cay. It’s up to you if it makes a difference – just don’t be fooled by lipstick on a pig.
3. Be a gracious guest.
I’ve seen people act like swine in the presence of these national treasures – it’s just piggish! It should go without saying that you shouldn’t tease the pigs, throw rocks at them or try to ride them. I’ve seen all three behaviors.
Also if you can, feed the pigs natural food, not bread, cinnamon buns, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs or Poptarts. Stick with grapes, apples, lettuce and produce.
4. Take photos, but no selfies, please.
As sad as it is, most wild animals don’t want to be your friend. (Read: my bear encounters in Alaska) Usually, they just want the food in your hand.
Since their eyesight isn’t the best, it’s very easy for the pigs to confuse your GoPro for a tasty snack. And if the GoPro is next to your face … things could go badly … for your face. Take safe photos & know where the pigs are at all times. Turning your back to them in order to take a selfie is a huge no-no. It can be done, but you might just get your ear nipped off!
5. Pigs aren’t mermaids, y’all.
I like the swimming pigs, I really do, and I may get some heat for saying this – but y’all, they’re pigs. If they weren’t in the water, washing off their steamy tropical stench, they’d just be rancid livestock. In a pigpen, most folks would turn their noses up – but put them in sparkly turquoise water on a white sand beach and suddenly they’re the mermaids of the Exumas.
They still do all the things non-marine pigs do, like poo, only they do it in the water where you’re swimming. Just remember that when you’re diving in with your mouth wide open next to them.
6. Be prepared for a crowd of tourists who haven’t read these tips.
As the pig popularity has grown over the years, so has the fan base. Countless boats, large and small, motor up to the beach every day and the piggies swim right out to meet the adoring crowds. Depending on the time of day, you could have Pig Beach all to yourself, or you might share it with 50+ people.
If you’re alone, you’ll have the chance to take some fantastic photos. If you’re sharing with lots of others, it’s going to be very difficult to take good shots. Be patient, follow the outlier pigs – – and don’t be afraid to be the first person off or the last person back on the boat. You’ll get the best pictures without your fellow travelers in each shot.
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