When travelers start to make plans to visit the Bahamas, they are already aware of the fact that they will be able to choose from an array of locations to enjoy. As Travel + Leisure noted, as soon as you step “onto the white-sand beaches of the Exumas — a chain of more than 365 tiny Bahamian islands and sleepy cays…you’ll be struck with the feeling that you’re the first to discover this remarkable corner of the planet.”
That is, until the pigs appear. One of the most unique attractions in the Bahamas is a spot known as pig island, which is actually named Big Major Cay. Home to the famous Exuma pigs, it is an incredibly popular spot with a bit of a mystery attached to it. As the Official Home of the Swimming Pigs website explains: “How did the pigs get to Pig Beach? We don’t know for sure. Big Major Cay is uninhabited and the pigs are not native to the island. Some say they were left by a group of sailors, who planned to come back and cook them. Or that the pigs swam over from a shipwreck nearby.”
Either way, there are more than a dozen of them living at Pig Beach, and the entire island is often called Pig Island by travelers eager to spend some time with the unique creatures.
The Pigs of Pig Island
If the idea of a visit to Pig Island sounds like a lot of fun, you would not be alone in that opinion. Many visitors head to Pig Beach in the Bahamas for a visit, and the appearance of the Bahamas pigs in the Bachelor TV series brought even more. Where are they exactly? To visit Pig Island in the Bahamas means heading to Big Major Cay.
This is a specific journey because, as noted, the island is uninhabited. It is around 82 miles southeast of Nassau, and about 50 miles northwest of George Town, and that means a private charter or guided tour is essential.
There are several all-day tour options that allow travelers to do more than visit with the pigs. There are options for swimming with the area’s nurse sharks, picnicking, encountering other wildlife, and even enjoying some world-class snorkeling.
Most travelers will fly into one of the three closest airports – Black Point, Farmer’s Point or Staniel Cay – and then charter a boat from the options nearby. Boats also leave from Great Exuma and Nassau several times a day.
Should You Feed the Pigs of Pig Island?
There are specific guidelines about feeding the Bahamas pigs. This is because they may accidentally ingest sand when a traveler feeds them. This is one reason why travelers are told to limit snacks to vegetables and pitted fruits, and to feed only when swimming with the pigs. This stops them from swallowing any sand, which ensures their health. Even better would be to bring a bit of fresh water and provide them with a nice, cool drink that is hard for them to come by on Pig Island.
What Time of Day Are the Pigs Active?
The busiest hours of the day for fellow travelers is between 9AM and sunset, and it is usually the early visitors who get the most uninterrupted time interacting with the pigs. They will be hungry upon waking and unlikely to be napping in the sun or shade (as is the case with the later afternoon hour). They are around all year long, however, from June through November there are caretakers who will round up the pigs and take them to shelter if bad weather threatens.
As transplants to the island, the pigs are used to relocating during the seasonal weather. They do need to be treated with respect and care, however, as they are easily harmed by careless travelers. Ignoring the feeding and swimming guidelines can easily jeopardize the animals’ health and well-being. It is also important to remember that the presence of piglets may trigger protective behaviors in the parents. Though domestic breeds, they are essentially wild animals.
As one expert said, the animals are quite large and often hungry, and if you “scare easily, you might want to roam the beach food-free,” or limit interaction to photographing and swimming with these charming creatures.
Tips for Photographing the Pigs
The pigs of Pig Beach are some of the most remarkably photogenic creatures around. To capture images similar to what is so often seen online means getting up close to them. This is easily done as they are highly approachable and will gladly stand still as you sit in the shallows to take a few pictures. Having a waterproof camera or container to keep the camera safe is key and submerging the lens half above and half below the water is a common way to get an amazing shot. Remember that midday is the brightest hour and may make photos trickier than the golden hours early in the morning and later in the afternoon. Timing is really everything when visiting Pig Beach.
Beyond Pig Beach
And as already mentioned, it is not the pigs alone who serve as the biggest local celebrities, and the swimming pigs of the Bahamas are not even the only creatures available for swimming adventures. There are also those nurse sharks (gentle sharks that are entirely safe to swim among) found at Compass Bay. If taking photos of an endangered species is appealing, the endangered Exuma Island Iguana is often spotted on visits to Bitter Guana Cay. For those who would like to see sea turtles, or even spend time swimming with them and feeding them, Little Farmer’s Cay is an ideal choice.
Those who want to find sand dollars will appreciate the ease with which they are found at Cocoplum Beach. And if snorkeling in an area for which James Bond is noted for snorkeling, it is Thunderball Grotto that will be sure to satisfy.
The Bahamas pigs are most definitely a must-do activity, but if you are more interested in exquisite beaches, luxury accommodations, world-class shopping, and all of the other watersports of the Caribbean region, you may want to explore some of the other islands of the region. Barbados, St Barts, and Turks & Caicos are equally popular, and though they aren’t home to swimming pigs, they have many other activities to enjoy.
And what about the Bora Bora pigs? This is a common misperception, and it is strictly the Exumas where you can book one of the many luxury rentals and head to Pig Island to meet those amazing creatures.