The Exuma Cays have some famous residents. Stars like Oprah, Johnny Depp, Nicholas Cage and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw all own islands there. But the Exuma Cays have another unlikely star. Swimming with the pigs in The Bahamas is topping many travelers’ bucket lists these days and when a pack of porkers start doggy paddling out to your boat, you can’t help but laugh with delight.
I’m not even sure where I first heard about The Bahamas’ swimming pigs, but I knew that when I planned a trip swimming with the pigs in Exuma had to be on my itinerary. When my friend Angie Away invited me to her Bahamas destination wedding, it was the perfect opportunity for me to island hop around and explore a country I’d been dying to visit for more than a decade. After blocking out the dates for Angie’s Abaco wedding I got right down to planning my trip to Exuma, and more importantly, swimming with the pigs.
Initially it wasn’t as simple as hopping on a flight to The Bahamas. I knew that the swimming pigs were located on Big Major Cay and that I needed to go on a boat tour to see them. Ideally, I’d stay on nearby Staniel Cay and take a tour organized by one of the few hotels like Embrace Resort. Unfortunately, Staniel Cay’s airport is closed and it made getting there for a non yacht owning regular person like myself nearly impossible.
I stumbled across Exuma Watersports on Instagram and was met with picture after picture of happy pigs doing the doggy paddle. Exuma Watersports operates from the much more accessible island of Great Exuma (you can even fly directly to Great Exuma from Florida) and is a quick golf cart ride away from Sandals Emerald Bay.
Swimming With the Pigs
Ray Lightbourn, owner of Exuma Watersports, told me the story of the swimming pigs as the speedboat whisked us out to the sandy cays dotting the horizon. The original swimming pigs are located on Big Major Cay and though there are legends that no one knows how they got there, the pigs were put there by their owner. One day when he would come to feed them, the pigs swam out to meet his boat and the tourist attraction was born.
The pigs got a bit lazy when they realized that tourists would bring them food and now they often just wait on the beach, knowing snacks will come to them. Another new friend who I met at Angie’s Bahamas destination wedding, Kristin from Camels and Chocolate, told me that when she visited Big Major Cay a few years ago, she had waited a long time before one lone piggy finally came out of the bushes and swam out.
Ray got the idea to revive the attraction and purchased three piglets. They arrived on the mail boat, the captain complaining to him that his pigs were stinking up the place. Ray loaded the three piglets on to his own boat and made them a lovely home on an uninhabited cay not too far from Great Exuma.
He slowly taught the piglets to swim, rewarding them with food. Now, with the latest piglets that had been recently born a few weeks before my visit, Ray has 24 pigs.
We’d brought along chicken hotdogs – you can’t feed pork hot dogs to a pig, of course – to feed them. I quickly hopped in the waist-high water and Ray gave me a big handful of hotdogs. The pigs would paddle on over and slurp up a hot dog right out of my hand.
After all the hotdogs were gone, the pigs swam back in to the beach and Ray had a mix of fruits, veggies and lettuce for them. We filled up the troughs and they gobbled up their breakfast while Ray refilled their water with the fresh water he’d brought. The pigs were clearly well cared for and loved.
I snatched up a piglet to cuddle. They’re quick little buggers and the newest ones aren’t yet used to people picking them up, so they squeal.
It was time to go. Ray had a lot more to show me around the Exuma Cays, but I was already happy as a pig in a blanket.
What Else to See on Exuma Water Sports Ocean Safari
If cute pink piggy noses paddling next to you aren’t reason enough to entice you on Exuma Water Sports Ocean Safari tour, we made several other stops throughout the Exuma Cays.
I loved our next stop almost as much as the swimming pigs. As the boat neared another little cay, this one once owned by Nicholas Cage, another critter suddenly emerged from the brush. The Exuma Cays are also home to the critically endangered Exuma Island Iguana. Sadly there are only around 1300 of them left in the wild and this little cay is home to around 100.
I actually visited another cay on a different Exuma excursion and also saw the Exuma Island Iguana there, but they were very skiddish around people and I think that is because that tour is a much larger tour. With Exuma Water Sports, these iguana weren’t the least bit shy.
We came with grapes, which the Exuma Island Iguanas absolutely love. One guy got a little confused since my toenails were painted purple and he desperately tried to shove my whole toe in his mouth. Lucky for him, I had a handful of grapes and he happily gobbled them up. I was even able to pat him on the head.
I also found a Queen Conch on another cay that we visited. This cay has a sandbar which creates a natural swimming pool where you can sometimes find conch and starfish. It was a perfect spot for enjoying the warm-as-a-bath water.
Another stop had us hiking to the top of a hill for views over the Atlantic Ocean on one side of the island and the Caribbean Sea on the other. Though the high point in The Bahamas isn’t really that high, the vantage point really let us take in the beauty surrounding us.
Our final stop was for snorkeling. Exuma Water Sports selects the best spot based on the day’s conditions and we stopped at a spot with two blue holes. The depressions were absolutely teeming with colorful reef fish and I even spotted a massive stingray. It was a fantastic way to end a great tour around the Exuma Cays.
Know Before You Go
My Ocean Safari was provided by Exuma Water Sports in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.