Finding Pigs who Swim in Exuma, The Bahamas.
Ever wondered what makes a Posh Pets® girl smile? Well, in terms of dream experiences, I have, for quite a while had one involving pigs. Ever since I read an article last year about these delightful, wild, swimming pigs who live on an island in The Bahamas, I’ve wanted to go there. Well, this week, I finally had the chance!
The swimming pigs live on a couple of islands in The Exumas, a region of the Bahamas. The Exumas are a chain of 365 islands – the locals say, one for each day of the year – with the most incredible clear, turquoise waters and a soft, sandy bottom. The clarity is stunning, but it does mean that it is very hard to judge depth which can be a real issue for boaters not familiar with the area. The particular beach we visited was called Big Major Cay. It’s now known as “Pig Beach” after its adorable residents. Isn’t this water gorgeous?
The pigs freely approach boats as they come towards the beach which is why Big Major Cay is the most popular. The Cay is completely protected, resulting in very calm waters in which the pigs feel comfortable swimming. That is why, while a couple of other islands have wild pigs, they do not necessarily swim – their waters are too rough. Most tourists bring veggies or water, so the pigs have learned to look upon us gangly bi-peds as great sources of food. This was the first guy to approach our boat with a big smile!
Of course, their real intentions quickly became clear – they were looking for food! Seeing their opened mouths and knowing that they are not domesticated (always respect wildlife!), made me a little nervous to get off the boat. So, I did the wise thing. I let someone else go first. 🙂 But, once I saw that he survived, I was in! I found the piggies to be curious and friendly, so I got to pet a few heads and place a few carrots into eager mouths.
These next few images were the ones I really wanted to get. The pigs swim like dogs, doing a little doggie-paddle. So, I wanted to be able to catch the pig with his head out of the water and the sight of his fat little body in the clear water. To do so, I had lure them out to deeper water with the promise of treats. They were funny little guys – they would come out so far, but if they saw someone else closer to land with food, they would give me this look as to say, Nope. Too much trouble., and turn around!
With about 20 adult pigs on the beach, it’s no surprise that there are also little piglets on the island. They don’t venture into the water too much, but they are happy to receive fresh water and apples (softer than carrots) from anyone willing to provide them.
And because I am a pet photographer, I had to pose a pig and take a portrait. Well, truth is, there was no posing these guys…I just waited them out. This one was sizing me up. Was the carrot I was holding enough of a temptation to make the effort to swim?
You can watch a video of the pigs in action here. It was my husband’s first time using a GoPro and he did a great job of catching the underwater action along with what was going on above. Hope you enjoy it!
Getting There: There are various ways from the do-it-yourself to fully guided tours. (1) If you are fortunate enough to own a boat or know someone who does, you could chart a course for Big Major Cay and spend as much time as you like with the swimming swine. (2) You can fly to Exuma and charter a boat. (3) You can book with a tour operator. We were staying in Nassau, so we went with Harbour Safaris who did an amazing job. Our day included transportation on a speed boat, swimming with the pigs, a lovely lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club (I hear the parties are legendary), and feeding grapes to a group of wild iguanas on yet another island of The Exumas.
Technical Info: I have never photographed underwater before, so there have understandably been some questions about my camera. These were not taken with my usual workhorse – the Canon 5DMIII – a DSLR I use for client sessions. The simple reason is because I was not ready to invest in the required underwater housing to keep it dry and safe. This is a little point-and-shoot which came with great reviews. It’s the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-4 and it is definitely waterproof and boasts that it can be dropped from a height of 6ft. and still keep ticking. Well, it wasn’t dropped at any time, but it was in and out of salt water, sand, thrown in a bag and it has held up. I rinsed it in clean, fresh water each night and dried it off, but that is just because I am used to showing a certain amount of respect for my equipment. This is a point-and-shoot camera which does not allow you to go into full manual, so as a hardened manual shooter on my DSLR, there was an adjustment period. However, it is truly amazing what can be accomplished by reading the manual and a little practice 🙂
Hope you have enjoyed coming on this little trip! Maybe now you will add seeing the swimming pigs to your travel list too…