The Famous Pig Island, Exuma, and all you need to know!
What if there’s a nation on Earth ruled by pigs that, unlike Animal Farm, co-exist peacefully with the rest of our world? Although the notion might make you scoff ‘when pigs fly,’ here at Big Major Cay in Exuma, it’s actually ‘when pigs swim.’
While the Bahamas is known for sunny weather, pristine beaches, and savoury conch fritters, the mysterious colony of pigs at Exuma has long fascinated travellers who decided to hop into the water with them. So wildly popular are the curly-tailed denizens that roam the shallows of the uninhabited cay, it became to be known as Pig Breach.
For those hoping to paddle a few laps with them in crystal-clear water, here’s what you need to know:
About Pig Beach
No one knows for sure how the pigs came to be on Big Major Cay, though there are a few theories to this enduring mystery. Some claim the pigs were left here by sailors who had planned on eating them, only to never return. While others say these fuzzy transplants swam ashore from a nearby shipwreck.
In recent years, a local man has come forward claiming that he released the pigs during the Y2K scare, in hopes of creating a sustainable food supply on the island.
Regardless of their origin, the 20 or so pigs on the cay survived over the years from food fed by both locals and visitors. A caveat for those hoping to feed the pigs: A wave of them have died from tourists feeding them alcohol and the ‘wrong’ food.
How to get to Pig Beach?
The easiest way to get to Pig Beach is by privately chartered boats, power boats, yachts, boat tours, or by seaplanes. While you can sign up for boat tours in Nassau, some are only available in Georgetown on Great Exuma. You can also book flights from Florida. If you hope to explore Great Exuma, try grabbing a cab or rent a car. If you do decide to rent a vehicle, be prepared to drive on the left side of the road.
When to visit?
Getting there early will guarantee a full day of activities with the pigs. Most tours arrive on the island after 9 a.m. If you opt for air tours or private boat tours, try and beat the crowd to experience a quieter beach. By mid-morning and well into late afternoon the beach can become extremely crowded.
If you arrive later in the day, the pigs might be all pooped out. Don’t expect them to do much other than napping on the beach.
Try and avoid hurricane season, which falls between June to November. If there is a storm in the area, local businesses might take the pigs into a shelter.
What can you expect besides the pigs?
Although Pigs are the main attraction on the island, there are plenty of nature, wildlife, and white-sand beaches on the cay. You’ll also encounter a few rock iguanas, goats, and a few stray cats.
As a part of Staniel Cay, Pig Beach is close to the main island, its village and airport. Staniel Cay is famous for the snorkelling and diving spot, “Thunderball Grotto,” where parts of the 1965 James Bond movie were filmed.
Another popular dive site in the area is the sunken wreck of a drug smuggling plane that was supposedly ditched by the cartel. Local tours offer snorkelling and diving trips around the wreck.
All around Exuma, you’ll find many sandbars and shallow waters for water activities and interacting with marine wildlife. In Compass Cay, there’s also a natural habitat for nurse sharks by the marina and visitors can see them up close in the water.
Other points of interest include the Exuma Land and Sea Park, also called “The Aquarium,” where visitors can explore underwater corals, marine life, and find other useful info on Exuma at the visitor centre.
What to bring to feed the pigs?
For now, visitors are allowed to feed the pigs pitted fruits, vegetables, and bread. After a recent stream of deaths, where the pigs died from food poisoning, local authorities are working on putting together regulations to curb irresponsible feeding practices.
You can feed the pigs from the beach, but be on guard for the mature ones to chase after you or flock around you at the sight of food. It’s also possible to feed them from boats along shallow waters and watch them swim toward you for a stick of carrot.
The pigs can become aggressive when provoked. Be careful not to ride them, become physically too close to them, or they will bite.
Feel free to hop into the water at any time to swim with the pigs, remember to take lots of pictures while you’re at it.
What to bring?
-Vegetables and fruits, but not citrus (some tours provide these for you)
-Snacks and lunches (for people)
-Sun protection, including sunscreen, hats and shirts
-Change of clothes
-Sweaters or jackets for colder evenings or for extensive periods inside air-conditioned watercraft
-Charger or batteries for your phone if you plan on taking pictures or videos with it
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