Sponsored by 3 N’s Exuma Vacations
So, you want to swim with pigs in the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Bahamas? We did just that in the beautiful Exumas Islands, and this is how you can do it too!
Until fairly recently, swimming with pigs in The Bahamas was not something on anyone’s radar. Word started to slowly trickle out about a small Exuma Island called Big Major Cay (also now called Pig Island) that a group of wild pigs were excited to see any tourist that wanted to visit with carrots in hand.
Now it’s one of the most popular attractions in The Bahamas!
I never realized how much of a thing swimming with pigs would be but so many in our community enthusiastically responded with, “I had no idea you could swim with pigs.” “I’ve never considered the Bahamas before, but now I’m planning on it.”
Even all the way from Australia – the land of beautiful beaches – our followers said, “How do I get there? I’m coming!”
This guide to swimming with pigs in the Exumas, Bahamas will tell you all you need to know including how to get there, what are the best tours, what to expect, proper etiquette, and the other incredible things you see and do on the swimming with pigs tour.
Because Pig Beach wasn’t even the highlight of our 1/2 day boat excursion for me!
- Where Are The Exuma Cays?
- Where is Pig Island?
- Exuma Pigs History: Where did the pigs come from?
- Best way to see the Swimming Pigs in the Bahamas
- What to expect from a Swimming with Pigs Bahamas tour?
- Best Time to Visit the Bahamas to Swim with Pigs
- What Are The Boats Like?
- Our Experience Swimming with Pigs on Pig Island
- Other stops on the Swimming with Pigs Bahamas Tour
- Where To Stay in Staniel Cay: Embrace Resort
- Frequently Asked Questions About Swimming with Pigs
- Final Thoughts on Swimming with Pigs Bahamas
Where Are The Exuma Cays?
The Exuma Cays are an oasis of 365 remote islands stretching across the Tropic of Cancer in the southern half of The Bahamas. They are known for being more remote and exotic than the northern islands of the Bahamas.
I hadn’t even heard of the Exuma Islands until Natijia from 3 N’s Exuma Vacations invited us to visit Staniel Cay and experience their swimming pigs’ tour. (They are our paid partner for this trip!)
I’m not sure why The Bahamas was never on my radar. Probably because I’m Australian and had my fair share of spectacular beaches and islands. Would it really interest me, or would I just be as blasé as one gets visiting Europe and seeing endless churches?
Nope. Impossible when you see the absolute paradise that is the Exuma Islands. No wonder many celebrities come here for a private escape.
Our Bahamas vacation became so much more than just a swimming with pigs excursion, which is why I recommend you spend longer in this spectacular region.
On our tour, we visited several of the cays and spent four nights on Staniel Cay at the Embrace Resort. We are already planning our return trip and loved escaping winter from our home in Raleigh, NC!
Where is Pig Island?
The original Pig Beach is on Pig Island which is actually called Big Major Cay. It’s an uninhabited island next door to Staniel Cay, the gateway to the Exuma Cays.
Staniel Cay has the closest airport to the pigs, so most visitors joining the Pig Island tours by plane from Nassau or Paradise Island will arrive here.
If you’re taking a boat tour from Nassau or Paradise Island, it’s a 2-hour speed boat ride to Pig Island, each way! You can even get the ferry from Miami and Fort Lauderdale in Florida if you really want to (I don’t recommend).
Exuma Pigs History: Where did the pigs come from?
On a remote island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea lives a group of happy, healthy pigs. As they’ve lived there now for some time, they are native, but they didn’t start out that way!
There are a lot of stories about how the wild pigs of the Exuma Islands came to be. In fact, there’s a whole book on the subject called ‘Pigs of Paradise’ by T. R. Todd, if you’re really interested.
We learned the true story of where the pigs came from Natajia at Embrace Resort. And on what authority does she have to tell this?
Well, her grandparents were the original inhabitants of Staniel Cay and so she knows how the pigs moved from that island to the one next door, Big Major Cay.
As you can imagine pigs smell, and, on an island two miles long and half a mile wide, that smell can intensify quickly. Her family obviously needed food – not much is available naturally in the Exumas – so pigs were a necessity.
Instead of living amongst the uncomfortable smell of the pigs on Staniel Cay, they had the idea to move the pigs to the nearby desolate island. They could tend to them – and slaughter them – from there. And that’s the story of the pigs.
They soon grew comfortable in their paradise home and would often be visited by passing sailors and boaters who threw food scraps out to them. The pigs got used to this and would swim out to the boats for their feeding when they saw them arrive.
It has only been the past five years that swimming with these pigs became a thing and now it is one of the most popular things to do in all of the Bahamas.
I think the real star of this show though is the stunning natural beauty of the pig’s Exuma Island home. And there are now Pig Beaches popping up all over the Bahama Islands in an effort to capitalize on this world-famous phenomenon.
But there is only one REAL Pig Beach and that is on Big Major Cay, which is right next door to Staniel Cay.
Best way to see the Swimming Pigs in the Bahamas
There are several ways you can do a tour swimming pigs in the Exuma Islands. Here are the most popular tour operators and what they offer.
3 N’s Exuma Vacations Swimming with Pigs Tour
Our tour was with 3N’s Exuma Vacations, a premium four-hour tour that offers small group sizes, seven stops, and includes drink (even local Bahamian beer, Kalik), snacks, snorkel gear, beach towels, and entrance fees and taxes. They also offer private tours.
3 N’s was the first travel agency in Staniel Cay and is rated #1 on TripAdvisor and holds a Badge of Excellence. With 3N’s, the tour will finish at the Flying Pig Café on site at the Embrace Resort.
This is an all-woman and locally owned agency by a mother-daughter team who were both born and raised in Staniel Cay.
3Ns is an acronym for the 3 generations of women, Nellie (the grandmother and inspiration), Nikki, (the mother and foundation), and Natajia (the daughter and continuation).
With 3N’s Swimming with Pigs tour you get a premium service with extra stops compared to most other tours. While we did not experience any other tour operator, from our observations we felt we were on one of the best tours due to small group sizes, more comfortable boats, and premium service.
Here are the three tours they run:
1. Group tour from Staniel Cay
The best way to do the swimming with pigs tour is from your accommodation on Staniel Cay. This Cay is paradise – as are all the Exuma Islands. If you’re coming all this way, why not spend a night or two on the Cay?
You have to get the same flight over anyway, and this way you can spend more time relaxing in paradise.
These tours start at $300, and guests of Embrace Resort receive a 30% discount for the tour. We stayed at Embrace Resort, which is owned by 3N’s Exuma Vacation, who run the swimming with pigs’ tour.
2. Flying in from Nassau for the day
You can join the 3N’s tour for a full-day trip from Nassau which includes a 30-minute scenic flight to Staniel Cay, which is where you will join the boat tour.
The views from the plane are spectacular – so I hope you have great weather.
This is the second-best option. Once you arrive in Staniel Cay, you will join the group tour with those staying on the island and will be exactly the same as I’ve outlined in this post. At the time of writing (January 2023), this tour starts from $675.
3. Private Tour
Of course, the ultimate way to see the pigs (if your budget allows) would be on a private tour with your own boat.
You will have the same experience but the luxury of your own personal space and more flexibility in your itinerary. The private tour would be a great idea if you have a large group traveling together and could save you money.
Alternative: Speed Boat tour from Nassau or Paradise Island
What if you are coming in for the day from Nassau and don’t want to fly? We understand that some people don’t have a lot of time (or budget) in the Bahamas and may not be able to travel to Staniel Cay like us.
There is an option to join a swimming with pig tour on a speed boat from Nassau. A few important things to note:
- It takes two-hours on a cramped boat just to get to Pig Island. Because of this you only get 10-15 minutes at four stops before you have the long two-hour trip back.
- If the weather is bad, they won’t go because of choppy seas. But, if you’re flying in, or staying on the island, they can wait until the weather passes (which is common in the Exumas).
Personally, I don’t think it’s worth doing such a huge trip like this to see just the pigs for a short period of time, so don’t recommend it. Just like I wouldn’t recommend people driving four hours to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas for the day, just to see it for 15-minutes!
But, if this works for you and you really want to see the pigs, then go for it. It would be a more affordable option and I’m sure others have enjoyed it.
Although I have not been to Nassau, I found the Exuma Islands spectacularly beautiful and relaxed so would choose having a vacation here instead.
There are also swimming with pig tours from Nassau that go to other islands closer to Nassau. But note, these will not take you to the original swimming pigs, but to places that have placed pigs there to benefit from eager tourists wanting to see them.
What to expect from a Swimming with Pigs Bahamas tour?
This is based upon our experience with the 3N’s Exuma Vacation tour and our observations:
- You will get 25-minutes at all stops on the tours and the order of stops is never set in stone. Your guide will decide where to go first taking into consideration tides and avoidance of crowds.
- Tours depart once all guests flying in from Nassau arrive. Inclement weather may also delay departure. But with the Exumas, the downpours often don’t last long. Have patience, you will still get your four-hour, half-day tour no matter when you depart.
- Our guide was excellent at telling us before the tour started, before we jumped off the boat for each stop, and even while we were having the experience, how to behave and care for the animals and avoid getting bitten. I did not see anyone from our group behaving badly. Listen to the guide and care for the animals. If you get bitten, consider what you were doing that led to that.
- You’ll see we did not get any staged or unnatural selfies with the pigs. They were moving too quickly in search of food, and I wasn’t about to harass a pig just to get a vanity shot. The shots we got were all natural. If conditions are different for you then go for it!
- As lifelong travelers, we know how disappointing it can be if the weather is not blue skies and sunshine. But it can’t be helped or controlled. You can still have a great time and get awesome photos.
- You can feed the pigs, but not processed foods. You will be given fruit and vegetables, such as apples, watermelon, carrots etc. When feeding the pigs, hold your hand out flat and be mindful of their chompers!
- Check to see what your tour provides. You may need to bring your own water or snacks – you will need a little pick-me-up. And bring a towel! You will get wet. Our tour supplied all of this.
- Wear reef-safe suncream. Don’t spoil the natural beauty of The Bahamas by wearing toxic suncream that harms the fish. Try to invest in a reef-safe suncream before you go.
Video: Swimming with Pigs tour
Best Time to Visit the Bahamas to Swim with Pigs
If you’re planning ahead and wondering when to fit this attraction into your Bahamas itinerary, then you will want to plan your visit for outside the hurricane season.
The hurricane season usually lasts from early June to late November, and sometimes into early December. Weirdly, Staniel Cay has never been hit by a major hurricane, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
A good time to visit is the Spring. From April, the weather is at its mildest and you are blessed with sunny skies. The peak season runs from December until early April, so a good time to visit would be late April and May, which will see fewer crowds and good weather.
Peak times are Christmas and New Year, Spring Break, the 4th of July, Bahamian Independence Day, and the first week in August.
June and July are the busy high season.
The low season is usually mid-August to mid-November, but keep in mind that this is also the rainy season.
Surprisingly, Staniel Cay is good to visit year-round, and we had lovely 80F temps in January.
What Are The Boats Like?
The boats are quite small to allow for easy navigation around the islands, beaches, sandbars, and tide changes.
Our boat with 3 N’s Exuma Vacations from Staniel Cay had comfortable seating for the 13 of us on tour. Craig sat up the back behind the captain so we had more room at the front and so he could take photos.
The beauty of this pig’s tour is not just that Pig Island is only 10-minutes-away, or the stops you make along the way, but getting to the stops. You’ll cruise by stunning beaches, small islands, and spectacular views.
Many of the cays you pass by are privately owned, so enjoy a glimpse of large mansions and pristine private beaches.
Johnny Depp bought his own Exuma island after filming Pirates of the Caribbean and falling in love with it. My massage appointment was postponed because he kept our mutual massage therapist for a longer appointment on his private island!
Yep, we were one degree of separation from many famous stars including Michael Jordan, Pooh Bear, Paris Hilton, and Johnny Depp.
Embrace Resort can help you organize a massage from Khori at Illusions by the Sea – it was fantastic.
Our Experience Swimming with Pigs on Pig Island
Before going on this swimming with pigs tour on Pig Beach, Kalyra was adamant she was not swimming with the pigs as they are filthy – despite my protests that they were actually very clean animals.
But as soon as we arrived, and she saw those pigs swimming out to meet us, she was hooked and jumped straight in the water to spend time with them. She even cuddled and fed a piglet milk – given to her by one of the attendants.
This is why we value wildlife encounters – they can help us see the real beauty in animals and so do better to help protect them.
It’s about observing and genuinely connecting with the animals in a safe and loving way.
We couldn’t believe our luck when we arrived at an empty beach and had the experience with those pigs rising from their shady resting spot and swimming out to our boat. One even tried to climb into our boat.
We had a couple of minutes to enjoy their immense presence and funny behavior as they came for their food, remembering to put both hands in the air and say, “No food,” when they came near us wanting to eat.
And like well-trained piggies, they’d quietly swim away until they found the food they were looking for. I left the feeding to the experts, content to just watch and giggle at them.
I was surprised at how big many of the pigs were and what great swimmers they were. It can be unnerving when you see them come towards you, especially if their mouths are open.
If you follow the instructions, they will not hurt you. Don’t scream or run, just put your hands up and say “no food.”
While I saw most people behaving okay, I did see a few not thinking about the pigs enough, like the girl so focused on getting the perfect pig selfie she refused to listen to the PIGLET’S distressed squeals and put it down for about 20-minutes!
Or the woman screaming at the pig to ‘Go away, Go Away’ while wildly waving her hands around… with a carrot in it. Or the people trying to feed the piglets carrots when instructed not to! And – this was funnier – the young male telling the pig to “Sit. Sit” like it was a dog.
“I’ll show you sit,” said the piggy leaping at him with teeth bared to snatch the carrot he was dangling above its head. He kind of squealed, threw the carrot, and ran!
Generally, if anyone gets bitten, it’s because they have made choices like this. I was grateful for the preparation we had from Captain Dave before getting in the water with them.
If you care about the pigs and follow the instructions, you will have a wonderful time “swimming” with them. You’re not really swimming with them – more like wading in waist deep water – although if you are fortunate to get there without other boats you could swim with them.
One of the pigs pooped in the water near us, but you can easily avoid it. It’s all part of the tour!
Quite a few boats soon came in (the large speed boats from Nassau with lots of people), which made the experience feel a little more chaotic and crowded. This would be the value of a private tour as you’d be better able to avoid the crowds.
We researched the swimming with pig tour carefully before doing it, noting some eco-warrior and animal-lover friends of ours who have also done it.
The pigs are very well looked after, extremely well-fed, and get regular veterinarian checks. They have a committee of locals who work to keep them protected and on-site caretakers. They even get coconut oil rubbed on them to help with sun exposure.
As they are fed regularly by tourists who come to see them (healthy food pigs can eat) they pose no threat to the local wildlife as otherwise feral pigs would.
Other stops on the Swimming with Pigs Bahamas Tour
I mentioned earlier that it’s not worth doing a tour all the way from Nassau on a speed boat only to swim with pigs. We loved our tour with 3N’s Exuma Vacations because we got to see other gems in the Bahamas too and spend a good amount of time there!
Here are some other stops on the swimming with pigs boat tours.
Visiting The Iguanas at Bitter Guana Cay
Our first stop on the tour was Bitter Guana Cay to visit the native iguanas basking in the sun on the beach. Iguana Island is home to the only remaining endangered Bahamian Rock Iguanas in the world.
While they have no natural predators on the island, the iguanas on Bitter Guana Cay are endangered – their biggest threat being humans. Although illegal, the iguanas are often hunted for human consumption.
We were so enamored by the few that greeted us as we jumped off the boat that I failed to notice the scores of iguanas further behind on rocks and camouflaged by the shrub-like environment.
Their lovely brown-ish pink bodies quickly waddled down to the shore, checking us out with curious, red-rimmed eyes.
As instructed, we kept our distance from the iguanas as we said G’day, snapped photos, and took in the beauty of their pristine environment.
DO NOT feed the iguanas. It’s illegal to do so and just not good for them. They’re okay with you visiting, but if you’re a human behaving badly, don’t be surprised if they hurt you.
This was our first look at the stunning beaches that are in abundance on the islands of the Exuma – glistening white sand, and shallow clear turquoise water perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Video: Iguana Island
Swimming with Sharks at Compass Cay
This was another, “No way, I’m not doing that” wildlife experience our daughters protested about. To be honest, I didn’t think I would swim with sharks either.
Like many Gen X kids, I’ve feared sharks since watching Jaws as a young child. They’ve always been a frightening enemy intent on only one thing – eating humans.
So, this up-close encounter helped us to see that this is not an accurate portrayal. In fact, we all commented on how much they reminded us of our precious kittens – gently swimming past and kind of rubbing at your leg with their tails, hoping to be fed.
But unlike kittens, they’re as rough as sandpaper, but still beautiful to touch as they swim by.
Again, strict instructions told us how to safely interact with them, with warnings to keep our fingers out of the water lest we wanted them to be mistaken for fish food and bitten. These are docile nurse sharks with tiny teeth (that can still do some damage).
The attendants show you how to carefully pet the sharks and also hold them if you like. This does not hurt the sharks and they are carefully monitored by attendants, but we chose not to hold them just in case.
As it was low tide, we were mostly wading through the water as they swam around us. I was shocked that I did not feel any fear at all. It was a wonderful experience.
How did these sharks get here?
They were initially brought as pets, however, after gaining popularity through tourism, the Compass Cay Marina has turned the environment into a sanctuary for dozens of nurse sharks in the area.
Compass Cay Marina has one of the rare totally protected harbors in the Exumas. It’s a haven for boats, particularly big yachts. Keep an eye out as Michael Jordan was near here only a few days before us.
Note: If you stay on Staniel Cay, you can also see a lot of nurse sharks around the Yacht Club marina. They feed off the scraps the fishermen throw in after cleaning their fish.
Snorkeling at Thunderball Grotto
Snorkeling at Thunderball Grotto was my favorite part of the Swimming with Pigs tour. Not all tours go here, especially those coming in from Nassau by boat for the day tours.
I was not expecting the beauty that lay under the water. The grotto was teeming with small striped Sergeant majors, yellow tail snappers, and angel fish swimming around us, and bright-colored coral on the seafloor and rock walls.
With the light coming through the cave from holes above and below under the water there were varying hues of blue underwater as well.
A rope guides you through the small tunnels into the grotto where you can snorkel. We snorkeled at many places around the world, so I was surprised to see how pristine it was here.
The timing here is important as it’s best to enter the grotto at low tide.
Thunderball Grotto is located just off Staniel Cay and is named after the James Bond movie, Thunderball, which was filmed here. Splash and Into the Blue also had scenes filmed here.
Pipe Creek Sandbar
My other favorite part of the Swimming with Pigs tour was our stop at Pipe Creek Sandbar.
I have not seen a place as beautiful since Whitehaven Beach in Queensland. With its swirling colors of white sand and 50 shades of blue, it was very similar to this protected and remote area of Australia that, like Pipe Creek, is only accessible by boat.
Many people come here to get married. I would love to return with a picnic, a good book, and oodles of time to sit with the view.
Pipe Creek is said to be one of the most spectacular sandbars in the Exumas, possibly The Bahamas. You need low tide and a small boat to access it.
On this stop, you get to walk around, swim, and enjoy the heavenly views.
Seeing the Sunken Plane Wreck
Our last stop was to see a sunken plane that crashed in the shallow waters here in the 70s. It was a drug smuggler’s plane that belonged to Pablo Escobar and the Colombian Cartel.
Legend has it the two pilots could not escape the sunken plane because it was packed too tightly with marijuana and so died by drowning.
It is one of the most accessible underwater plane shipwrecks in the entire world and is visible from above water. We didn’t stop for snorkeling, but I believe you can.
The girls were a little freaked out when seeing this considering the small plane flight to and from Staniel Cay, which they were nervous about! But I’m happy to report they loved the return flight to Nassau.
Lunch at The Flying Pig Café
If you are doing the Swimming with Pigs tour with 3N’s Exuma Vacations, you will end with lunch at the Flying Pig Café located in the Embrace Resort on Staniel Cay.
We ate at the Flying Pig every day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – during our four-night stay and loved the freshness of the food.
Lunch is included in the tour and you pre-order. Options include:
- Greek Salad
- Vegan Coconut Chickpea Curry
- Wings with fries
- Fish Sandwich
- Chicken, Bacon Melt
Our daughter loved the chicken bacon melt and ordered it multiple times. She said it was the best she’s had. The wings were delicious – we loved the sweet guava sauce, and the fish sandwich and Greek salad were fresh and yummy.
As this is peak time at the café, expect a wait for your food. Sit in the sun – or at shaded tables – order a rum punch and enjoy relaxing into Bahama time.
If you are on a day trip from Nassau, someone will walk you over to the airport when it’s time for your flight to leave. If you’re staying here, enjoy relaxing at the resort or any of Staniel Cay’s beautiful beaches.
Where To Stay in Staniel Cay: Embrace Resort
If you are staying in Staniel Cay for the Swimming with Pigs tour, instead of flying in from Nassau for the day, one of the best places to stay on Staniel Cay is Embrace Resort.
Its affordable luxury with one to three bedrooms, and fully furnished villas, some of which come with self-contained kitchens.
We loved the relaxed, tropical vibe, friendly service, and the extra amenities that included the onsite cafe, swimming pool, and golf car rentals to help you get around the small island.
Read our full review of the Embrace Resort and Flying Pig Cafe.
Frequently Asked Questions About Swimming with Pigs
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about swimming with pigs Bahamas…
How do I get to Staniel Cay?
You can either fly in from Nassau (Bahamas) via Flamingo Air or Titan Air or fly in from Ft. Lauderdale (Florida, US) via Makers Air or Staniel Air. Flamingo Air, Titan Air and Maker’s Air have flights twice daily.
What is a Cay?
Don’t feel silly if you’re wondering what a Cay is or how to pronounce it. Because that was all me.
Cay is pronounced Key (like the Florida Keys) and it’s simply a naturally occurring low island, either a sandbar or a coral reef. Cay is most often applied to Caribbean islands and comes from the Spanish word, Cayo, which means key.
How will the weather be?
The Exumas has a tropical savanna climate with dry winter. The yearly average maximum temperature in Exumas is 81°F (ranging from 76°F in march to 85°F in august). Annual rainfall is 64.3 inches, with a minimum of 2.1 inches in March and a maximum of 11.7 inches in October. We visited in the first week of January and had lovely warm weather every day with a few sudden, but quick rain showers. Understand that weather is always unpredictable and cannot be controlled. Learn how to dance in the rain!
Do you need to tip your guides?
As with life in the USA, tip your guides if you feel they gave great service. They will be extremely thankful!
Video: Reasons to love the Exuma Islands
Final Thoughts on Swimming with Pigs Bahamas
So, there you have it, this is everything you need to know about swimming with the pigs in The Bahamas.
If you choose the right your, you will have a wonderful experience with the wildlife and be wowed by the spectacular beauty of this area. We have not been this impressed by beaches since we left our home country, six years ago.
We had a blast on this tour. It was our favorite part of our Staniel Cay vacation, and we have memories to last a lifetime.
To really take this experience to the next level, we do recommend staying longer in the Exuma Islands. Stay connected as we have more Exuma travel posts to come.
Don’t forget travel insurance, as you just never know when you may need it.
We hope this guide helped you to decide whether it’s the right Bahamas attraction for you and helped you get an idea of what to expect!
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!