Big Major Cay Island is an island in the Bahamas which, in itself, does not make it all that special. Did you know the Bahamas are made up of over 700 different islands? Phew! That’s a lot. So what makes this one stand out?
In recent years, it’s become known as "Pig Beach" or "Pig Island" for the simple fact that, well, it lives up to its name. On this island, pigs have appeared and seem to be quite happy living there; they're undisturbed and fending for themselves. The nickname for this island has become more well-known than its actual name at this point.
Naturally, this odd phenomenon has raised some questions about the island, so let’s try to clarify some facts...
This island is completely uninhabited by humans. These pigs haven’t been raised or helped by humans, or escaped from their owners. They’ve always been entirely wild because this island is uninhabited by humans themselves. There are no homes on this small island, nothing; just previously undisturbed luxurious beaches and a forest, which is where the pigs originally seemed to come from.
This in itself makes it an enticing destination. It’s obviously pretty remote and off the beaten path, but they’re understandably trying to keep tourism to a minimum so as not to ruin the island entirely. Still, this is definitely why the island itself is so well-preserved.
There have been theories as to where the pigs actually came from but the truth is that no one knows.
Some people think that people once lived on the island and had pigs as pets, and these are the descendants of those pigs. Others speculate that there was once a shipwreck and the pigs washed up on the island. Speculate as they might, no one has managed to come up with a concrete answer about how the pigs actually got there. There's not much evidence. Sure, some suggestions seem more likely than others, but it also seems increasingly likely that this is a mystery that will always surround the island.
The origin of the pigs is completely undocumented.
Yes, the pigs are totally friendly!
This was honestly the first question I had when I heard of the island. I would love to go, but it wouldn’t quite be as interesting to study the pigs from afar as it would be to get up close and personal to see them. Fortunately, they are very friendly and are completely happy to come up to tourists (probably because they’re looking for food).
Aside from clearly foraging from food though, they are apparently very playful and sweet. Seems that however these animals came to be, they’ve had good interactions with humans and have no reason to be frightened or aggressive.
Although tours may offer you some special food to feed the pigs, you really shouldn’t be giving the pigs any old food.
I know how tempting it is. When an animal’s giving you those eyes because you have food, it’s all too easy to just slip them a little, thinking that it couldn’t possibly hurt. But the truth is, it’s actually hurting those pigs to do that. They’re used to a certain diet and this could upset their stomach. They also might come to rely on humans for food if given too much, which is naturally very dangerous for them. They need to be able to get their own!
So if the tour guide has special food to give them, that’s fine, but please don’t slip them your own.
What makes this island even more mystical and magical is that there are only 20 pigs.
When I first heard of the island, I assumed there were hundreds roaming around, but no. The most recent estimate is that there are around 20 pigs and piglets currently living there. And yet, that seems to be plenty because everyone who goes out to this small island manages to see them all.
The number is sadly dwindling, of course, because there are a lot of reasons that the pigs are dying out, but I’ll touch on how the tourism of the island can be harmful later...
As touched on earlier, the island is in Exuma, Bahamas. There are 365 islands in Exuma and they’re called the Cays. So clearly, it is a huge district in the Bahamas and very popular to vacation in! Pig Island is far from Exuma’s only attraction, and you could probably spend weeks there wandering between islands and finding things to do.
Despite having so many islands, the population is actually less than 8,000, so don’t expect it to be filled with locals. This makes perfect sense to me, however. I do tend to think of the Bahamas as a vacation destination since I don’t know many people who have actually lived there.
As previously mentioned, there are no hotels or restaurants on the island. Yes, the island is uninhabited by humans but not just that, it has no place for them all. People go there on a guided day tour and that’s pretty much the only way you can visit. Hop on a boat and go back the same day. Knowing you can't spend hours there satisfies me greatly; if the pigs are happy there, I don’t want them to be too disturbed by people.
So don’t go out there expecting to have lunch or dinner in a nice hotel right before or after seeing the pigs. This is strictly a day trip!
If you’re going out there to see the pigs, you might as well check out the amazing snorkeling locations and diving spots nearby. It’d be a shame to be so close and pass them up. With its crystal-clear water, Exuma is famously one of the best places for snorkeling in the world. The Loaded Barrel Reef is out there, along with a whole host of other snorkeling locations. So it might be best to learn before you go if you’re planning to take a trip out there. And get some practice in so you can make the most of this awesome location!
Could Exuma sound any more like paradise right now?
For the animal lovers, the pigs aren’t the only attraction…
On a neighboring island, there are very friendly iguanas. The island is called Allen’s Cay. They’re referred to as the Allen’s Cay iguanas, but their proper name is the Northern Bahamian Rock iguanas and they are absolutely exclusive to Exuma — you can’t find them anywhere else in the world, only on three islands here (Allen’s Cay being the biggest). So why wouldn’t you stop by and see them if you were out there anyway?
They’re one of the world’s most endangered lizards and won’t be around forever so be gentle, and visit them while you can!
With all this attention on Pig Island, the tourism has been a double-edged sword for the pigs. They’re loving the food and attention, and this spotlight means the island can get what it needs (piggies included). But there are disadvantages, too. Knowing that incoming tourists often mean food, the pigs have veered away from their habitat in the forest and out onto the beach, which isn’t really sustainable for them — the heat isn’t good for them. And then, of course, there’s the more obvious problem of people feeding them things they shouldn’t be.
So yes, this is a wonderful island worth a visit, but please listen to guides when they tell you what’s best for the pigs! It may not be around for much longer.