Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a drift of swimming pigs, and they’re heading your way. Brilliant or bonkers, you’ve got to admire the sensational swimming pigs of The Bahamas.
In a world where luxury travel is increasingly defined by adventure and one-off experiences, jetsetters are seeking more than just a palm-strewn beach with a cold-pressed juice bar when they head to the Caribbean. They want life-changing experiences, they want to interact with the locals, to climb volcanic peaks and immerse themselves in a vibrant culture in order to forget their troubles and switch off. Hence, the steady rise of culturally immersive and trend-driven programmes at five-star hotels across the globe. Martial arts training academies, water-biking classes, Ayurveda under a full moon… It’s all there for the taking. Excursions, classes and experiences that give the traveller real bragging rights when they get home, and photographs to treasure forever.
But of all the gimmicks, fitness fads and creative campaigns marketing execs can dream up, there’s no beating the power of nature – an encounter with wildlife – up close. Mother Nature’s charisma has always been, and will always be, the strongest draw of all.
For decades, travellers have associated the azure waters of the Caribbean with scuba diving and snorkeling; dolphin cruises a firm staple on any honeymoon itinerary, and lucky honeymooners might even see turtles hatching. However, none of these come close to the animal encounter on offer on Big Major Cay, one of the tiny islands in the pristine Exumas archipelago. Up until now, the area was the preserve of limit-pushing deep-sea divers for its shadowy blue holes, cavernous caves and colourful coral reefs (not to mention plentiful sharks) but now, holidaymakers are coming in their hordes to splash around the shallows with a colony of wild pigs.
Pig Beach, as it’s been coined, is home to a rambunctious clan of more than 20 pigs and piglets which were stumbled upon by the photographer and ocean guide Jim Abernethy a couple of years back. The animals roam freely up and down the beach of this uninhabited island and love nothing more than plunging into the surf after long hours of sun-bathing. When visitors arrive, they’ll trot out from under the almond trees to greet their guests with great gusto, and far from the image of smelly, mud-swilling farm animals, these four-legged creatures are clean and friendly with soft furry ears and pink noses just waiting to be petted. Visitors can watch the pigs frolicking in the surf from the bow of a luxury yacht, hang out and take selfies with the hogs on the beach or swim alongside them. They are excellent swimmers – just mind you don’t get too close, as their hooves can do damage.
How did the pigs get there in the first place? It’s unknown. Theories include a shipwreck where a few pigs swam ashore and set up home. Others have speculated that sailors arrived on the island and left a handful of pigs there with the intention of returning later for a lavish feast, but never made it back. No matter the circumstances, there’s no denying these porcine islanders’ unique appeal. They’ve even got their own Instagram account with, at the last count, 288,000 followers. Talk about hogging the limelight.
Other celebrities who call the Exumas (which are technically part of The Bahamas) home, include A-list actor Johnny Depp, who fell in love with the islands after filming Pirates of the Caribbean there, plus the magician David Copperfield and the Formula 1 racing champ Eddie Irvine. With some of the best beaches in the world, and an easy transfer – just an hour from Miami – these little piggies certainly chose their home well.