Get comfortable folks, this is going to be a long one!
A year or so ago I came across a YouTube video of a small colony of wild pigs living on an island, they would swim out and greet the approaching boats (being fed probably had something to do with the enthusiasm). Ever since watching that video, I have learned that the island with the swimming pigs is one of the 365 islands of Exuma, Bahamas, and I have added it to my “must visit” bucket list.
The opportunity came during Christmas. A few friends and I decided to spend the Christmas on a tropical island for a change, I suggested Exuma and after everyone watched the Caribbean Swimming Pigs video, nobody needed any more convincing. So the four of us found ourselves spending a Christmas week on the Exuma islands!
Bahamas is a very popular destinations with travlers from the U.S. due to it’s close proximity to Florida and relatively low cost. Before this trip, Bahamas did not feel exotic because everybody and their mother, and probably their grandmother had been there, it is after all a major cruise ship port. However, my Exuma experience was very different from Nassau and it completely changed my perspective of Bahamas.
Quite a few tour companies on Exuma run the same route, this route includes visiting the Caribbean Swimming Pigs, iguana island, sand bar, and food at Compass Point while visiting nurse sharks and sting rays. We ended up going with Exeuma Cays Adventures with Peter Burrows. The cost was $200 USD per person (cash only), while it is not cheap, the full day worth of adventure was totally worth it.
The four of us drove to the destinated dock at 9am to meet Peter and his first mate, there were three other people on Peter’s speedboat beside us 4. With a quick intro we were underway!
We motored for a good hour, we went passed the private island of Faith Hill, of Spearmint Gum, of David Copperfield… etc. Apparently lots of people own private islands here. Also I noticed that when introducing Exuma, one of the favorite things the locals would say is that Exuma has 365 islands, that’s an island for every day of the year. They also don’t seems to think too highly of Nassau, and that their 365 islands have a lot more to often. I tend to agree.
Our first stop was the filming site of an old James Bond film, the Thunderball Grotto. The grotto is a very cool enclosed cave with two openings that you could swim into during low tide but requires diving through during high tide — we went during the high tide. It was fun doing a few short dives to get into the heart of the grotto, where we had to hang onto the sides because the water current was moving quite fast.
Next stop was the iguana island, as soon as we anchored the speedboat on the beach these 2 foot long lizards would start speeding towards us, they must have associated boats as feeding time. Peter picked up some small sticks around the beach and skewer a few grapes for us to feed the iguanas.
While we were busy feeding the iguanas on the island, another speedboat tour pulled up and the iguanas gave them the same welcome. I am guessing the iguanas on this island don’t need to do much hunting, it seems like food from us tourists keep them decently well fed.
After spending 20 minutes or so on iguana island, we took a quick 10 minutes boat ride to the island with the swimming pigs. Peter explained that at some time in the past someone left a few pigs on this small island. With no natural predator the pigs settled in nicely and their population quickly grew. Each year the Exuma residences would be allowed to take one pig from this island back for food and this island has become a tourist destination. While this is the original island with the swimming pig, there is at least one other island in Exuma that have these wild pigs.
As our boat pull up to the beach, two of the larger pigs swam out to meet us. Peter dropped the anchor, hopped into the thigh deep water with a bag of white bread and proceeded to yell “Sit!” at this pig. We all laughed and though he was joking around, but to our amusement, that pig actually sat!
The speedboat docked at this island for a good 45 minutes, since this is considered the highlight of this tour. There were quite a few pigs here and even a sow with her babies in tow! It looked like only the two largest pigs were more adventurous and would swim out to greet boats while the rest would wait on the beach for their food delivery.
Half way through our stay another boat docked and they received similar treatment. Except they brought better food (fruits and veggies) so the pigs seemed a bit more enthusiastic. Similar to the iguanas, these pigs were fed well by the tour groups and most likely did not need to do much scavenging on this uninhabited island.
To put it bluntly, it was just a bunch of pigs on a beach. There are plenty of pigs on farms and we never thought much of them, but to see them on a tropical island and we lose our collective shit — totally drives home the famous saying, “Location, location, location!” right?
Having said that, I still caught the Caribbean Swimming Pigs fever and made a short music video (music by my friend GraceSkyBlue), enjoy!
After spending some quality time with the famous swimming pigs, we motored for an hour towards the Staniel Cay. The most famous establishment on Staniel Cay is the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. As we pulled up to the Yacht Club’s dock, we were dwarved by all the huge yachts already docked there, it was quite a sight! We got lunch at the Yacht Club, treated Peter and his mate to lunch, and headed back to the dock for our last stop. Nurse Sharks and Sting Rays right at the dock!
We photoed and even patted the sharks and rays for quite awhile (shark skin feels like sandpaper, while ray skin feels smooth, thick, and juicy), these looked to be sub-adults taken up refugee in the dock. I was going to hop in for a swim with them but unfortunately we had to get going. I will also leave you with a short GoPro footage below:
While this full day Exuma tour was pricey at $200 per person, it was totally worth every cent. We interacted with the different semi-wild lifes, visited different islands, and the ride on a speedboat cruising through the Exuma islands were a lot of fun. I would highly recommend this tour if you get a chance to visit the beautiful Exuma!