Everyone's heard of swimming with dolphins, but what about swimming with pigs? Located in the Exuma district of the Bahamas, Pig Beach or Pig Island is one of the most unique tourist destinations in the world. This island is home to about 20 wild pigs who love to play and interact with their human visitors. The island itself is remote and very well cared for, a beautiful place to experience a unique side of the Bahamas.
The truth is, no one really knows where the pigs came from but there are a lot of theories out there. One story is that a nearby settlement didn't like the smell of their pigs so they moved them their own island. Other people believe that the pigs were survivors of a shipwreck and swam ashore. Whatever the reason, today there are about 20 pigs there that make the island their home.
The inhabitants of Pig Island are charming, friendly, and love to interact with visitors. Younger, more adventurous pigs may swim out to meet you as your boat arrives and have been known to venture as far as a mile offshore. Older pigs typically hang out on the beach or wade into the shallows. Most of the time, they approach you with friendly curiosity and the hopes that you'll give them a treat.
Feeding the pigs is allowed but it's important to keep their health and safety in mind. Fresh veggies and pitted fruits are fine. Local guides often recommend dropping the food in the water and letting the pigs swim to get it rather than placing it on the sand or trying to feed them out of your hand. Keep in mind that these pigs are wild animals - some of them are really big - and they may be aggressive when trying to find a snack.
Yes, swimming with the pigs is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it alone is worth the visit to Pig Island. Other than hanging out with the pigs, though, there are limited things to do. Relax in the shade in the nearby pavilion and grab some snacks. It's also a great place to learn about what to feed the pigs and how you can do your part to take care of them during your visit.
You can only reach Pig Island by boat and, since there are no hotels, resorts, or restaurants on the beach, this excursion is strictly a day trip. Touring companies in the area take you to Pig Island as well as other attractions in the Exumas so you can make a full day of it. Some hotels and local businesses let you rent a boat to visit Pig Island on your own so you can go early in the morning before most visitors arrive. Guides are also available for hire.
Most tours run from about 9 am until sunset. It's best to get to Pig Island as early as you can, though, to avoid the crowds. The later in the day you arrive, the more the pigs have eaten and swam so they may not be as active as they are first thing in the morning. When planning a visit, remember that hurricane season runs from June to November and the pigs are removed from the island for safety.
Allen's Cay is close to Pig Island and home to the Allen's Cay iguana, also called the Northern Bahamian Rock iguana. These reptiles only exist on three islands in the Exumas so it's worth including a visit on a day trip to Pig Island. Because they are endangered, the lizards are protected by law but, don't worry, they are very accustomed to human visitors. They may run across the sand to greet you and, like the pigs, they expect a snack.
Another spot close to Pig Island that's worth including in a day trip is Compass Cay. If swimming with animals is your thing, you have to see the nurse sharks. They can reach up to 14 feet long and their fins look very intimidating from above, once you get in the water, you see how harmless they are. They've become such a part of the culture in Compass Cay that the locals have given them names, including Ross, Mutt, and Chunky.
Another awesome place to visit if you're planning a day trip to Pig Island is nearby Little Farmer's Cay. Here, you can jump in the water with sea turtles and have them eating conch right out of your hand. There are rays, sharks, and dolphins swimming around, too. This is a great place for snorkeling - there are plenty of coral reefs and sea caves to explore.
Since there are no hotels or resorts on Pig Island, choosing one that's close by is the next best option. Fowl Cay Resort is only a few minutes away on a private island and one of the closest available. Stanley Cay is also nearby. It has an airport which makes it extremely accessible to tourists. There are luxury resorts, boutique hotels, and privately owned inns, too, so there's something to fit most travel budgets.
As mentioned, you can only get to Pig Island by boat. The airport at Staniel Cay is the closest and most tours from Miami, Nassau, Fort Lauderdale, and other cities start by flying there. Black Point and Farmer's Cay have airstrips, too, but aren't as close. Once you're in the Exumas, there are plenty of daily boat tours to Pig Island as well as longer journeys that include stops at other attractions.