I'm just back from Exuma in the Out Islands of the Bahamas, where I had the adventure of a lifetime. Vacationers in the beautiful Exuma islands have the chance to swim with stingrays and sharks, AND with wild pigs!
Exuma, which is located a bit south of Nassau in the Bahamas, is an archipelago comprised of 365 magnificent islands and cays. Imagine having a different palm-lined oasis for every day of the year. Sailing among these pristine islands has become a favored pastime for wealthy vacationers, attracting luxury yachts and Hollywood elite for decades. A-Listers like Johnny Depp, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, David Copperfield, Eddie Murphy, and Nicholas Cage are just a few of the many who have snapped up private islands to hide from prying eyes and paparazzi while taking an indulgent beach vacation. But don't be put off by the uber-wealthy; the pigs don't care how much money you have, they just care how much green lettuce you've brought along!
Our one-day aquatic adventure to meet the marine wildlife of Exuma begins early in the morning as we climb aboard an excursion boat guided by Captain Pat of Four C's Adventures. Despite gray skies and blustery winds, Captain Pat assures us that we'll skip between islands to find sunny sheltered coves and calm waters. True to his word, we glide past a private isle once owned by actress Jessica Tandy and make for an inviting scenic grotto on the far shore. Exuma is the location of the Thunderball Grotto of James Bond fame, and the setting for two Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I can easily see why; the five shades of aquamarine water rippling between sandy cays is completely mesmerizing.
After a morning of island gawking and snorkeling with tire-sized rays, we stop for an early lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club and collect the kitchen scraps to feed hungry pigs. We're off to Big Major Cay, and even before the boat slows down to skim the shoreline, here come the pigs! Hearing our boat motor, they come charging out of the bushes heading straight for us at full speed, leaping into the water, squealing, snorting, and doing the piggie-paddle all the way. Who knew pigs could float? We are hysterical, laughing at their upturned snouts and eager grunts of anticipation. After taking several minutes to make friends and share food scraps, it's everyone into the water – time to swim with pigs.
We heard several explanations of how pigs came to inhabit this particular island, but the Tourism Bureau's version sounded most plausible. It seems years ago marauding pigs were pestering local homeowners' properties, so they were rounded up and dropped on this uninhabited island. Since the island has a lovely beach on one side, unsuspecting boaters would pull up to go for a picnic and swim. Out the pigs would charge and off the visitors would run leaving their picnic snacks behind for the pigs. Before long, the pigs were so excited at the sound of an approaching motor boat that they swam right out to the boats before they even stopped. Their technique has certainly paid off. Tourist boats now visit with regularity, bringing tasty treats to feed the pigs and tourists to go for a communal swim.