In the Caribbean, there’s a bay of pigs where you can experience for yourself what that’s like. No, not the Bay of Pigs, as in the site of the CIA’s failed invasion of Cuba1. This (literal) bay of pigs is located in the Bahamas, on the uninhabited island of Big Major Cay — one of the 365 Exuma islands that stretch out in an arc south of Nassau. That’s where you’ll find beach Babes swimming in the clear waters and frolicking on the golden sand.
Rumors abound about how the (originally domestic) pigs came to live in such a unusual environment. Most likely they were dropped off by sailors who planned to come back and roast them. They could also be survivors of a shipwreck. Or perhaps the key to a long-forgotten business scheme to attract tourists?
Regardless, the island, referred to locally as Pig Beach or Pig Island, is home to about 20 pigs and piglets. The now-feral swine rely on their strong swimming skills and the kindness of incredulous boat passengers (plus locals and tourists) for their food2.
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And when they take to the water, you – if you so choose – can join them. While the pigs don’t seem to mind fellow swimmers, their focus is on the food. Indeed, they sometimes board boats uninvited in search of snacks!
Several tour companies operating out of mainland Exuma run tours that include a stop by Pig Island. But the better way to see the pigs is as a guest at the rather magnificent Fowl Cay Resort, located on an island adjacent to the pigs’. Stay there and your room rate will include food and drink, snorkel, watersport and fishing gear — and unlimited use of a private power boat. With your own easy access to Pig Island you can visit outside the times the tours operate.
Unfortunately, both options are expensive. The tour that includes Pig Island run by Island Routes, for example, costs US$375 per adult. And even in the low season, a night for two adults in a one-bedroom villa at the Fowl Cay Resort will set you back nearly $1,500. That’s a lot of bacon.
1 The name for The Bay of Pigs in Cuba is the product of a mistranslation from the Spanish term for the area: Bahía de Cochinos. Though “cochinos” can be slang for “dirty pig” in a certain context, in this case the word actually refers to the triggerfish that reside in the area. Today, the Bay of Pigs hosts the largest marine park in the Caribbean and makes for a wonderful — if pig-free — travel destination.
2 A natural spring on the island provides the pigs with fresh drinking water.
Planning your pig swim
When: Spot Cool Stuff prefers traveling to the Bahamas in the off-season, from early May through November, when both the crowds and prices are lower. The downside is that rain (and hurricanes) are more likely during this time. No matter when you go, the pigs will be there.
If you go: The pigs have no natural food source on the island and are counting on you to provide them with a meal. We suggest bringing little hot dogs wrapped in baked dough.
Where to stay: If the Fowl Cay Resort is beyond your budget, consider the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. It’s also close to Pig Island and runs (relatively) inexpensive private boat trips there.
Family friendly? Yes! Kids love the absurdity of swine swimming. Or, at the very least, they are less freaked out by the idea than adults. If you visit with young kids you absolutely have to read The Secret of Pig’s Island (see below) before your trip.
For your bookshelf: The Secret of Pig’s Island. It turns out that one of those little swimming pigs has a big message for humankind.
For your MP3 Player: Philadelphia Chickens: A Too-Illogical Zoological Musical Revue. This Grammy-nominated children’s album includes an entire song dedicated to Pig Island.