The Caribbean is well-known and well-traveled because of its diverse tropical wildlife. You can expect to find all kinds of sea creatures throughout The Bahamas like sea turtles, tropical fish, stingrays, sharks, etc. You most likely wouldn’t include pigs on that list. However, one of the most interesting (and cutest) hidden gems in The Bahamas is called Pig Island. Exactly what it sounds like, this place is an island inhabited by swimming pigs who are oinking to meet you.
Throughout this list, we will give you 20 things you need to know about Pig Island and the surrounding Exuma Cays. This list will answer all the questions that you could possibly have about these tropical pigs, like ‘where did they come from?’; ‘Are they friendly?’; ‘How many are there?’ or ‘Can they actually swim?’ This list will also give you advice on where to stay, what else to do and see in the nearby islands, and what you need to do to be a responsible visitor and to help keep the pigs healthy and happy in their little home in paradise.
While The Bahamas are one of the most popular and famous tourist destinations in the world, these little guys and gals are still an under-looked part of this gorgeous country. They’re way cuter than the turtles and way more friendly than the sharks. While pigs probably aren’t the first thing you think of when you’re thinking of The Bahamas, we bet that visiting them would be an essential part of any Caribbean vacation.
20 Where Did The Pigs Come From?
In short, no one knows. There are a handful of theories in circulation to explain the pig phenomenon (band name?), though. One theory goes that a ship full of sailors stopped off at the island, dropped the pigs off so they would know where to get some pulled pork later and just never came back. Another story goes that there was a shipwreck on the island and the pigs managed to feed themselves on what was left from the shipwreck. My personal favorite is that the local peoples set up a pig farm on the island in case the U.S. couldn't keep up trade during the war.
19 What Are The Exumas?
The island that the pigs live on, called Big Major Cay, is located in The Exumas. This is an archipelago of about 365 cays and islands in The Bahamas, about 35 miles Southeast of the popular Nassau. According to Nassau Paradise Island, you can book a full-day excursion with a local tour company. These tours leave Nassau at 8:00 a.m. and return at about 5:00 p.m. On the day trip, there are other things to do throughout the archipelago besides just stopping by Pig Island (which is definitely the main attraction). If you're planning on visiting, it would certainly be worth a look at some of the other features of the islands.
18 What Are The Pigs Like?
By all accounts, the pigs are very playful, sweet, and have an appetite. Most people say that the pigs will swim out to the oncoming boats, hoping for food. While it's not necessarily advisable to feed the pigs (we'll get to that a bit later), most of the tours to the island will have some food that you can give to pigs. Outside of being hungry, the pigs are generally okay with being pet or swimming with the people that come to visit them. In general, treat the pigs kindly and respectfully and they will likely treat you the same way.
17 How Many Pigs Are There?
The entire island is uninhabited by people, so the only humans that the pigs interact with are tourists and local guides. Recent accounts say that there are about 20 pigs and piglets that currently live on the island, with the babies outnumbering the older hogs by about a 2:1 ratio. The number of pigs on the island does fluctuate fairly frequently. This is partly because of the handful of pigs that have passed away recently and partly because of the rate with which the piglets are being born. The population has been able to sustain itself with fairly low numbers for years.
16 What Can You Do On The Island?
The pigs are definitely the highlight of the island, but outside of just them, you are still on, you know... a Caribbean Island. Big Major Cay has beautiful white sand, crystal clear waters, a small forest, etc. Everything you would want or expect out of a Caribbean island, you could easily find here. It's a great place to swim (with the pigs or on your own), as well as relax or play. There are no restaurants or hotels on the island and people don't stay overnight so keep that in mind and enjoy island life for a day. With some pigs, of course.
15 What Is The Day Like?
The only real way to get to the island (unless you have your own private yacht) is to take one of the tours. Included in the official tours, found here, you can spend the night at a historic hotel in Georgetown, take a water taxi to Stocking Island, and see a variety of other islands as well as visiting the pigs. There will also be opportunities on the day trip to go snorkeling and see stingrays, turtles, or any other animal from Finding Nemo in their natural habitat. The Exumas are less overcrowded by tourists and resorts than the rest of the country.
14 Where Do The Pigs Live?
Initially, the pigs lived in the forest in the center of the island. However, since recent influxes of tourists, they have gradually gravitated further and further away from their forest dwellings and towards the beach. At this point the curious and hungry pigs have moved completely away from the forests and onto the beach. Unfortunately, this is starting to bear consequences for the pigs. Since they aren't native to the region, the pigs aren't accustomed to the sun and heat of the tropics. Issues of overheating and sunburn are becoming possible issues for the future of the pigs. So far, this hasn't been much of an issue though, but it's something to start thinking about.
13 Where To Stay?
Nassau may be the go-to tourist destination in The Bahamas, but there are plenty of places to stay in The Exumas as well. Hotels can be relatively cheap here, starting around $140 a night. You will have choices between hotels/resorts or beachside villas all around Great Exuma. Recommended places include the Paradise Bay Villas, Sandals Emerald Bay (pictured above), or Lumina Point Resort. If you want to visit Pig Island, it might be a better idea to stay in the less crowded area and closer to Exuma rather than the more popular (and expensive) Nassau. It’s really kind of hard to go wrong wherever you choose, though.
12 A Little Bit Of History
The Exumas are a group of islands in The Bahamas, which is a country with a pretty fascinating history. The country was established as a colony of Britain after the American Revolution. The islands were settled by a few thousand British Loyalists who brought their slaves with them. These settlers quickly established plantations throughout the islands. The islands eventually gained independence in 1973 and have since built an economy largely on tourism. While Nassau is the most popular destination for foreign tourists in the country, nearly everywhere is beautiful. The country is full of unique wildlife and, obviously, great beaches.
The Exumas are quite possibly the best place in the world for snorkeling. Besides the clear, warm, blue water surrounding all of the islands, there are stingray and shark nurseries across the cays along with tropical fish and sea turtles throughout the sea. While there aren’t that many dedicated snorkeling agencies throughout The Exumas, most boat tours that would take you to Pig Island would be able to accommodate you if you wanted to take a quick snorkeling stop somewhere. If you have any interest in snorkeling, then you absolutely wouldn’t want to pass up the opportunity to do it if you’re in The Exumas.
10 The Bahamas
In case you're one of the five people in the world who hasn't heard of The Bahamas, the island nation in the Caribbean is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It's really not hard to see why—it's one of the most gorgeous places on Earth. There are many oceanic species that are uniquely native to the area, making it popular for swimming and snorkeling. The tourist industry is responsible for a major part of the Bahamian economy meaning that there are resorts all over the islands and wildlife conservationists have focused more and more on The Bahamas in recent years.
9 Caribbean Travel Tips
There are a lot of things to keep in mind if you plan on visiting Pig Island. Being in The Caribbean, it will be hot. Obviously. Keep in mind the basics like shorts (not jeans like I wear when I'm in the tropics), sunscreen, a swimsuit, etc. are all good ideas. If you're from the U.S., your dollars will be accepted currency everywhere in the country. Similarly, The Bahamas has the same type of outlets as the U.S. so no converters are necessary. Really, most things are the same as the U.S., including tipping. Servers, bellboys, drivers, etc. should all be tipped according to American standards.
8 Other Islands
While there are only pigs on the one island, there are many other locations throughout The Exumas for you to visit. The area is generally divided into Great Exuma, Little Exuma, and the Exuma Cays which are famous for the high amounts of private homes of insert-rock star/actress/model/CEO names here. This area is also exemplary of the laid-back atmosphere of The Caribbean tourism industry. If you're looking for a gorgeous and secluded vacation spot, then The Exumas have a lot more to them than just pigs. Besides, there are plenty of animals that are native to this part of the world that you can also venture to see while you're there.
7 Other Places To See Around Pig Island
There are plenty of interesting attractions across The Exumas that you can see while you’re in the area. The Tropic of Cancer Beach (also sometimes called Pelican Beach) lies off the coast of Little Exuma. It’s the longest beach on the island and generally regarded as the best island in the Exuma chain. The Moria Harbour Cay National Park is a massive 10,000+ acre ecosystem between Great and Little Exuma. There are plenty of unique natural phenomena and wildlife across the park to see such as seabirds and turtle nurseries or sand dunes and sea grass beds, all of which can be visited by boat.
6 Rock Iguanas
On the nearby Allen Cay, the rock iguana is a slightly-less-famous but great component of Exuma. While the iguanas are wild, they are docile and extremely friendly—just like their neighboring pigs. According to Exuma Online, the iguanas (technically called Northern Bahamian Rock Iguanas) are quite large, reaching up to 24 pounds. They are also the largest land vertebrate in The Bahamas and frequently live up to around 40 years old. Many are apparently friendly enough to climb on visitors and they are certainly able to jump pretty high as well. While not as well-known as the island pigs, these iguanas are definitely pretty cool in their own right.
5 Don't Feed The Pigs
A sad consequence of the increased rate of tourism to Pig Island is that several of the pigs have lost their lives in recent years. According to Humane Society inspector Ventoi Bethune, this is likely because of tourists feeding the pigs. Visitors often bring food for the pigs to eat and tour guides offer food that you can purchase to feed the pigs. The leading theory is that the pigs have been eating food on the beach and consuming high amounts of sand because of that. It's generally advisable not to feed the pigs anymore because of this. They have lived for years without relying on tourists to feed them so they don't really need the extra snacks.
4 The Effects Of Tourism
As is the case everywhere else in the world, tourism has been a double-edged sword for Pig Island. Yes, there is a lot of good that comes from it. The local economy has improved drastically, there has been a major increase in jobs throughout the country, quality of life has increased, but there have been direct negatives to tourists flocking to The Bahamas as well. Pig Island has seen these effects clearly. The pigs have generally moved from the safer and cooler forests in the middle of the island to the hotter, more dangerous beach. Besides the deaths of several of the pigs, it’s unsure whether this place will remain as it is for much longer.
3 Limiting Tourism
The issues popping up around the pigs have led to attempts of limiting tourists to the island. Essentially every visitor to the island has to come through official tours. These have also been limited to a certain amount every day. According to the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the country is considering setting up boundary lines so people could still see the pigs but not feed them. Having a warden posted on the beach has also become a possibility. It might be worth keeping an eye on any possible changes going on before booking a trip to visit the pigs.
2 The Future Of The Island
Despite the challenges of wildlife tourisms and the issues facing Pig Island, it’s most likely that the pig-swimming tourism will keep going in a way that is safer for the animals. It’s become such a major attraction for the community that most people want the pigs to be able to thrive and for tourists to keep visiting. At least some of the proposed changes are likely to take effect in the near future, so hopefully the pigs have a bright and healthy future ahead of them. Hopefully tourists will still be able to continue swimming with the pigs long into the future.
1 Where Pigs Swim
Pig Island is a one-of-a-kind destination that is definitely worth a visit at some point in your life. There is nowhere in the world quite like this little bit of paradise. The pigs are extremely friendly and love to see tourists. Keep in mind to be a responsible guest on their island, though. In order for the island to stay a safe place for the pigs and piglets, tourists need to take care of the place. While there might be some changes coming to the island soon, it is without a doubt one of the most interesting things to see in The Bahamas.