When it comes to animals tourists line up to swim with, pigs aren’t generally high on the list. But the pigs at Grand Isle Resort & Spa in Exuma, Bahamas, love the water so much they are irresistible. After all, you like relaxing on the beach and splashing in the surf, so why wouldn’t a pig?
At “Pig Beach” on Big Major Cay on the island of Exuma, you can take a boat tour to the beach and hop right in. Pigs are better known for wallowing around in mud puddles, but here the turquoise waters are crystal clear.
Pig Beach is home to these unique and lovable creatures. The cay is uninhabited, so how the pigs originally arrived there is a matter of speculation, but it’s possible they arrived with Christopher Columbus himself.
Historian Cordell Thompson, in a film about the pigs by Charles Allan Smith (below), said, “We can go back a couple hundred years to the pigs in the Caribbean. When Columbus came here on his second trip he brought animals.”
Most likely the pigs were survivors of a shipwreck, or left there by sailors who intended to eat them but, for whatever reason, never returned. Tourists are now reaping the benefit of the pigs’ island home.
Captain Jerry Lewless added, “Some of the boats got stranded and wrecked. That’s one of the first parts where this originated. People can’t believe pigs swim, so it’s been a big, big fascination to them. Everyone says they see pigs in the slaughterhouse or the farm, but they never see them swim.”
Visitors to the tropical paradise are embracing the chance to splash around with the porcine critters. In the Bahamas, visitors can already snorkel and scuba dive with sea turtles, eels and hundreds of species of tropical fish. Add the pigs to the list. Tourists have dubbed them “adorable.”
They are feral pigs that live freely on the beach and enjoy basking in the sun, but when they see tourists approach, they quickly hop to their hooves and come visit from the shadow of the almond trees under which they bask. The pigs are remarkably good swimmers and enjoy the attention.
Peter Nicholson, villa owner, explained that, “People just love them–people 9 months old to 90 years old. If the water wasn’t crystal clear, I don’t think the pigs would swim so well.”
Crews of passing yachts bring food for the pigs, and they have become so popular that children’s book author Jennifer R. Nolan wrote “The Secret of Pig’s Island” celebrating them, and songwriter Sandra Boynton wrote a children’s song based on it.
There are approximately 20 pigs and piglets surviving easily on Big Major Cay. They are able to live there because of the three freshwater springs on the island, partly because tourists and visitors are so generous with their food when they go to visit the pigs.
“We have a lot of families now that come to Exuma, and the first thing that comes to the kids’ mouths, are I want to see the swimming pigs,” said resort owner Tyrone Munroe.
It’s easy to see the pigs. Dozens of tourism companies on the island offer tours to Pig Beach on Big Major Key.
Young visitor Kia Mouallem said, “They were so cute, especially the babies. When I get back home to Canada, I’m going to tell all my friends, and I don’t think they’re going to believe me that the pigs swam.”
The Director General of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Joy Jibrilu, said, “As a destination that is world-renowned for welcoming visitors and providing them with the most beautiful beaches, lavish hotels and resorts, and fine dining, and for being a dream destination, the Islands of The Bahamas are very proud to be the Official Home of the Swimming Pigs.
“Providing visitors with the once-in-a-lifetime experience of interacting with these wonderful animals is just one more thing that distinguishes The Bahamas. We’ve already introduced thousands of visitors to ‘Pig Beach’, and we look forward to welcoming thousands more in the years to come. These animals are now as much a Bahamian experience as any other that visitors may discover while visiting The Bahamas.”
Should you decide to visit, Great Exuma Island International Airport is accessible with direct flights from Nassau, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Montreal. Once in Exuma, a variety of tour companies offer daily excursions to visit the pigs, including Exuma Water Sports.