Colorful tropical fish, shy sea turtles, playful dolphins – these are the types of sea creatures you’d expect to find swimming in the turquoise waters of The Bahamas. You might not expect to see pigs on this list. Surprise! The Bahamas is home to swimming pigs – and they love making friends with visitors! In recent years, the famous swimming pigs have been visited by celebrities such as Gabrielle Union and Amy Schumer, and they even appeared on an episode of The Bachelor.
Here’s your guide to our famous swimming swine. Learn where they came from, how they spend their time, and how you can get up close and personal with these friendly creatures during your Bahamas vacation.
Where did the swimming pigs come from?
There are a few theories about where the pigs came from, although nobody knows their origin for sure. One popular theory is that pigs were left on the beach by a group of sailors who planned to use them for food. The sailors left and never returned, and the lucky pigs were left to their own devices. Other people speculate that the pigs swam to shore from a shipwreck and ate excess food dumped by passing ships in order to survive.
A third possibility is that locals relocated the pigs to the island of Big Major Cay in anticipation of a slowdown in the economy during the Gulf War. Some residents were concerned about getting food supplies to The Bahamas from the US if the war continued, so they planned to start a livestock farm to feed the people on Staniel Cay in case of an emergency. As the pigs grew bigger, the story goes, they broke out of their pen and started roaming around the beach.
Where do the swimming pigs live today?
The island of Big Major Cay is uninhabited…by people, that is. Today, about 20 pigs and piglets call the island home. In fact, the area is informally known as Pig Island or Pig Beach, for obvious reasons! Pig Beach is located in a section of Bahamian islands known as The Exumas, an archipelago of 365 cays and islands beginning just 35 miles southeast of Nassau.
Regardless of how the swimming pigs arrived, they’ve figured out how to survive on Pig Beach and they’re now a major part of The Bahamas’ ecotourism scene. Today, when boats arrive at Pig Beach, the pigs swim out to meet them in hopes that they’ll be fed. No wonder they’re so friendly to visitors!
How can I see the swimming pigs?
If you’re staying in Nassau Paradise Island, set aside a full day to visit the swimming pigs. Book a full-day excursion with Harbour Safaris or Exuma Escapes. Both of these excursions depart Nassau at 8:00 a.m. sharp and return from The Exumas between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. In addition to the swimming pigs, you’ll also get to observe Bahamian Rock Iguanas who inhabit a secluded island on the way to Pig Beach.
Once you arrive at Big Major Cay, you’ll have a chance to feed and interact with the swimming pigs before enjoying lunch at nearby Staniel Cay Yacht Club, where you’ll also spot nurse sharks and stingrays. Swimming and sightseeing around the nearby cays will complete the excursion and make for an unforgettable day in Paradise! Please note that these excursions are best suited for adults and older children aged 12 and up.
You can also travel to Sandy Toes Rose Island to visit swimming pigs! Located just a 25-minute boat ride from Nassau Paradise Island, this secluded and uninhabited island is a relaxing retreat that's easy to get to. Relax in a hammock, bask in the sun on the beach, or snorkel or kayak on the crystal-clear waters to make it a fun and rejuvenating day.
Quick tips for visiting the swimming pigs
If you’d like to feed the pigs, stick to natural, unprocessed foods provided by your tour guide. Produce is your best bet: carrots, grapes, watermelon, apples, and lettuce are good choices. Avoid bread, starchy foods, or processed foods. Just because they’ll eat anything doesn’t mean they should.
Chances are (don’t take it personally) the pigs are interested in your food more than they’re interested in you! Stick to taking photos from afar instead of selfies. Pigs have very poor eyesight, and they’re always hungry – it wouldn’t be out of the question for one of the pigs to mistake your camera or smartphone for lunch!
Make sure to leave the beach the way you found it. Of course, this applies to any part of The Bahamas, but since pigs will eat absolutely anything, they’re also likely to snack on any garbage that gets left behind by visitors.
Pigs don’t fly, but they sure can swim – see for yourself in The Bahamas!