As you float across the shimmering waters of The Bahamas, past exotic islands and cays, the view itself will speak of paradise. Like the ice in your crisp and cool tropical beverage, your heart begins to melt.
Your boat approaches an ivory-white beach, and 20-something adorable pigs and piglets hastily make their way to you for a playful encounter in the shallow waters.
Welcome to Pig Island… Where all pigs go to heaven.
What started out as five baby piglets (four females and one lucky male) in the early 90s, is now the enduring reason why millions of tourists flock to the Bahamas annually for a bit of pig-cuddling therapy.
In this article on the Sandals Blog:
As you would expect with creatures so wildly adorable, the famous swimming pigs of The Bahamas have gained much internet fame over the years. These pigs reside on various islands in this territory including Eleuthera, Rose Island, Abaco, and Ship Channel Cay, but the main island where you can find swimming pigs in The Bahamas is Big Major Cay. The pigs on Big Major Cay (Pig Island) are considered the ‘original swimming pigs’ of The Bahamas. There are about 20 pigs on this island and piglets as well.
Depending on whom you ask, you might hear stories about how the pigs were brought to The Bahamas by sailors (or possibly even hungry pirates!). Some stories suggest that they swam to The Bahamas from a nearby shipwreck. One of the most popular local legends revolves around a man named Wayde Nixon who is said to have brought the pigs to the islands along with business partner Don Rolle. Their intention? To start a pig farm in the 1990s. Helping to create a sustainable food supply could have been their objective.
What you need to know ahead of a trip to Big Major Cay is that yes, the piggiess can actually swim. Added to that, the pigs swim up to your boat once you arrive on the island. On Big Major Cay, piglets are thought to possibly outnumber the hogs with a ratio of about 2:1!
The famous pigs of Pig Island are wild, yet they can be playful, adorable, and hungry! They love the fact that visitors to this island sometimes come bearing gifts (food!) though there may soon be some restrictions implemented regarding who can feed the pigs, and when (more details later). In terms of where you might have seen the pigs in the past, they made an appearance on The Bachelor TV show that was quite memorable!
The original swimming pigs of The Bahamas live on Big Major Cay. The nearest inhabited island to this one is Great Exuma, but you’ll need to get there by boat. If you want to catch a boat to Big Major Cay from Great Exuma or Nassau, you’ll either need to book a tour, charter your own boat or catch a ride with a friend who owns one. You can also rent a boat and take yourself to Pig Island for about $250 USD per day. Renting a boat can be worth it because you’ll have the freedom to visit other islands in the area as well. If you rent a boat, consider hiring a tour guide who can help you navigate this experience.
Here are some more details on the distance from Nassau (New Providence) and George Town (Exuma) to Pig Island:
● 82 miles from Nassau (132 km) = 2-3-hour boat ride to the SE
● 50 miles from George Town (80 km) = 2-hour boat ride to the NW
Expert tip: It takes less time to get to Big Major Cay from Exuma than from New Providence (Nassau). You can stay at and book your tour from adults-only resorts in Exuma to save on travel time. Tours are available daily.
You can get to Pig Island from Exuma fairly easily. There are various ways to do so including by plane and by boat. If you fly to Exuma from New Providence, you’ll still need to take a boat to Pig Island once you arrive. Various tour companies will have different prices for this excursion. Here are some more details on getting to Pig Island from Exuma:
● Go on a one-day tour from Sandals Emerald Bay - (Exuma Cays Swimming Pigs Adventure). This tour leaves from the lobby of Sandals Emerald Bay and includes cruising around the Exuma Cays, snorkeling, interacting with swimming pigs and endangered iguanas, and enjoying lots of snacks and beverages along the way.
● Go by plane from Great Exuma - It is possible to fly to a nearer point in Exuma to facilitate your swimming pigs tour. The best option will be to land in Staniel Cay and then hop on a boat to Pig Island. FlamingoAir/Bahamasair can take you to Staniel Cay. Bear in mind that a passport is necessary for visitors to book domestic flights in The Bahamas.
Insider tip: Sandals Emerald Bay is a great option if you want to do exciting tours and excursions in The Bahamas including visiting Pig Island. Not only will you be able to book your tour easily from your resort, but you can also enjoy high-quality inclusions in a luxurious atmosphere.
While Exuma is the nearest island to the best swimming pigs excursions in The Bahamas, it is not hard to plan a trip to Pig Island from Nassau. Pig Beach is located southeast of Nassau and it takes about 3 hours to travel from island to island. Here are a few day trip options for this experience from Nassau:
● Go on a one-day trip by plane to Big Major Cay from Nassau - (Nassau to Exuma Day Trip Swimming Pigs). You’ll arrive either at Staniel Cay, Black Point, or Farmers Cay. The closest option to fly into is Staniel Cay. This can cost around $135-$250 USD a seat.
● Go on a one-day trip by power boat to Big Major Cay from Nassau - This will be a scenic option and some power boat tours include the chance to feed stingrays and see sharks up close, in addition to meeting the pigs.
Expert tip: If you're staying at all-inclusive resorts in Nassau like Sandals Royal Bahamian, you can book your swimming pigs tour through the resort. Most excursions and tours booked through the resort include pick up and drop off back to the resort.
Swimming with pigs can be just the motivation you needed to plan some island-hopping in The Bahamas. There are a few other islands in The Bahamas where you're likely to find swimming pigs. These include Eleuthera, Rose Island, Ship Channel Cay, and No Name Cay, Abaco. Following in the successes of the original swimming pigs tours, the following islands offer similar experiences where visitors can get close to these wild animals:
How to get there: From Nassau, it takes about 1.5 hours to get to Meeks Patch Island in North Eleuthera when traveling by boat.
Taking a day trip to Eleuthera is a great way to experience swimming pigs in The Bahamas. Eleuthera is well-known for its pink sand beaches, and for being one of the few Caribbean surfing destinations in The Bahamas. The tiny island of Meeks Patch Island in northern Eleuthera is home to swimming pigs, ducks, and even a turkey! Excursions like the Eleuthera Swimming Pigs and Snorkeling Experience give you the opportunity to see these friendly pigs on Meeks Patch Island, plus Rose Island (which has its own pigs!), and Green Cay where you can snorkel with gorgeous green turtles in the wild.
How to get there: You can take a 25-minute boat ride from either Nassau or Paradise Island to get to Rose Island.
Rose Island can be visited as part of a day trip, and there are swimming pigs on this island that are fun to be around as well. There are nine pigs on Rose Island, namely: Babe, Wilbur, Pumba, Larry, Curly, Mo, Ginger, Pepper, and Spice. A tour to see the pigs on Rose Island can include snorkeling, lunch, and more.
Expert tip: The Rose Island Reef is one of the best places to go snorkeling in The Bahamas. You can combine your swimming pigs adventure with an underwater experience at this thriving reef.
How to get there: A boat trip is the best way to get to Ship Channel Cay. It can take about an hour (varies) to get from New Providence to Ship Channel Cay.
You can visit Ship Channel Cay via powerboat tour while in The Bahamas. Usually, these tours are day trips. Ship Channel Cay is quite small at around two miles long and half a mile wide. Like other swimming with the pigs experiences in The Bahamas, the one in Ship Channel Cay will allow you to get some really cool (and highly Instagramable) vacation photos!
How to get there: You can rent a car to get to Treasure Cay in Abaco for this excursion or you can charter a boat from Marsh Harbour, which tends to be a bit more costly (around $800 USD).
The swimming pigs on this beautiful island are not as famous as their cousins on Big Major Cay, but it’s fun to take a day trip from Treasure Cay to No Name Cay to see them. A tour from Treasure Cay to see the swimming pigs starts at around $55 USD per person.
How to get there: You can get from Nassau to Long Island via boat or plane. It can take around 1 hour and 26 minutes to get there by boat. Dove Cay is just minutes from Cockburn Harbour (South Caicos) by boat.
Several swimming pigs have been spotted in Dove Cay, Long Island in recent times. Dove Cay is in northwest Long Island. Another place where you can find swimming pigs is on Sandy Cay, which is in the middle of Long Island on the western side. Sandy Cay is a private island so you’ll need an approved tour boat to take you there. The pigs on both of these islands are thought to have been brought there from Big Major Cay.
Generally, the best time to visit The Bahamas is between mid-December to mid-April. This is also the best time to go swimming with the pigs in The Bahamas. Since this is the peak travel season for The Bahamas, you’re more likely to find a tour you will enjoy to visit the swimming pigs. However, you may find that June-November is less busy because it is hurricane season on the island. While you will take a chance with the weather, you may find that the island is significantly less crowded during these months.
In terms of the best days/times to swim with the pigs, you might consider going as early as possible on any day of the week that suits you. This means that it makes sense to sign up for an early tour to Big Major Cay, but it is also a good idea to go early if you’ll be taking your own boat. The latter option (taking your own boat) may soon be prohibited due to changing regulations from the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources in The Bahamas, so it's a good idea to verify before you go.
Keep in mind that if you visit Pig Island around lunchtime or late afternoon, you're likely to find the pigs resting on the beach after having their fill of food.
If you’re planning on visiting Big Major Cay to see the swimming pigs during your vacation, there are a few things you might want to bring along for your tour. We’ve listed a few of the most important:
● Towel & change of clothes - Walk with a towel and a change of clothes so you can dry off and change once you’re done enjoying the water.
● Swimsuit - If you're headed to Pig Island, chances are that you’re going to get wet. There are some really nice beaches on this island, so walk with or wear a swimsuit.
● Camera - You’ll have plenty of photo ops during this tour so make sure to be prepared. If you have a waterproof camera, this might be a good opportunity to put it to use.
● Cash - Bring a small amount of cash with you on this tour. Around $50 USD or BSD should suffice, preferably in smaller bills. Both U.S. and Bahamian currencies are accepted.
● Sunscreen - As with all boat tours in The Bahamas, you’ll want to apply plenty of sunscreen ahead of time. This tour includes lots of sunshine so be sure to bring enough for reapplications, especially if you plan on getting into the water.
● Water shoes - These will come in handy when walking around the island and particularly if you choose to get into the water to see the pigs up close.
● Insect repellent - Keep safe from bug bites by packing some repellant and bringing it along with you for your tour to Pig Island.
● Don’t wear expensive jewelry - You might want to consider leaving your more pricy jewelry behind or not wearing any jewelry at all during this and other excursions in The Bahamas as these items can easily get lost. Sandals Resorts in The Bahamas have rooms and suites that come with their own safes where you can store your valuables during your vacation.
First things first, let’s talk about petting the pigs. On Pig Island, you’ll generally be allowed to pet the pigs but, as with most tours that include animals, you’ll need to use your discretion too. It is important to respect the animals and be kind to them so that they return the favor. Always be cautious when approaching the animals, and especially when handling them. Be thoughtful and responsible with all of your actions.
It is not recommended that you handle the piglets. They might squeal if you pick them up, which might startle you and cause you to drop them. The same goes for the older pigs (handling), and it is also not recommended that you try to “ride” the hogs. Overall, when interacting with the pigs, keep an eye on them at all times.
There have been some issues with visitors to the island feeding the pigs in the past, so the Bahamian Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources has hinted that this allowance might change in the future. For the time being and for the well-being of the animals, this is what you need to keep in mind when feeding the pigs on Pig Island:
● Be extra careful - If you turn your back on the pigs they might think you're ignoring them and nip you to get your attention. Keep your eyes on the animals, and if they approach you thinking you have food when you don’t, show them your open palms so that they understand that you don’t.
● Learn about the recommended foods - If you plan on feeding the pigs, keep in mind that the pigs eat pitted fruits and vegetables, lettuce, carrots, watermelon, apples, and freshwater. Their supply of fresh water on the island is limited and sometimes even dries up. Water is always welcome!
● Do not feed the pigs if you are scared - Plain and simple, this is a no-no. The pigs are quite large, and it is possible that they might try to chase you if you're carrying food. If you are scared of the pigs, do not walk onto the beach with any food at all.
● Do not feed the pigs on the sand - It is not recommended that you feed the pigs on the sand. The preferred option is to feed them in the water when they come swimming up to your boat. Feeding the pigs on the sand can result in them ingesting too much sand, which is not good for them. If you’re not sure, opt out of feeding the pigs altogether.
When it comes to feeding the pigs, it is important to note that they are perfectly able to find their own food on the island without being fed by visitors — they’ve done this for many years. In terms of the possible changes when it comes to feeding the pigs, the relevant authorities have proposed that a warden might soon be posted at the beach and boundary lines laid out. This means that visitors may only be able to view the pigs, but not feed them. It is not clear when these changes will take effect. In the future, visits to Pig Island might be limited for the safety of the pigs and the preservation of the general area.
Other concerns currently also include the domestication of the pigs, which once lived mainly in the small forest sections on Pig Island. With the large numbers of visitors coming to see them by boat, the pigs have gravitated towards the beach over time, which is not their natural habitat. This has had consequences. Fortunately, conversations are already being had on measures that can be put in place to protect the pigs yet still allow visitors on a smaller scale.
There are a few excursions that you can do in The Bahamas that will not only let you see the swimming pigs but also tie in other nature-oriented excursions. This includes tours to see the rock iguanas at Bitter Guana Cay, visits to Thunderball Grotto (made famous by James Bond), and to the Exuma Sand Bars at Pipe Cay.
You can also do combination tours of Big Major Cay and Compass Cay (swimming with nurse sharks) or Big Major Cay and the Pablo Escobar sunken drug plane tour. Additionally, the nearby Staniel Cay Yacht Club is the perfect place to stop off for lunch or dinner.
If you want to visit more Bahamian animals during your trip, you can also stop by West Bay Adventures to snorkle with sea turtles. Though this destination is a little far from Pig Island, it is still a great destination for your Bahamian vacation.
Expert tip: There's lots more things to do in Exuma besides swimming with pigs. Check out these awesome activities you can try while you're in the area!
Boats and tours in The Bahamas typically operate between the hours of 8 AM/9 AM local time (morning), and 5 PM (sunset).
A tour to see the swimming pigs in The Bahamas can cost anywhere from $160 to 210 USD per person. The price of this tour varies based on the tour operator, so it is a good idea to shop around before selecting the best one for you.
It is possible to pay for tours in The Bahamas using U.S. dollars (USD). Though the main currency of these islands is the Bahamian Dollar, USD is widely accepted.
Most tours are around four hours though some can be more or less. Travel time is usually not included in this calculation. The duration of your tour will depend on whether you sign up for a half or full-day tour, and the type of excursion/tour you will be going on. Some adventures span for an entire day, while there are shorter options that last just a few hours.
No, it is not a must that you get wet to interact with the swimming pigs in The Bahamas. You may be able to interact with the pigs right from the boat as they tend to swim out to meet arriving boats. With that said, some people choose to get off the boat and make their way to the island when the boat gets close enough to shore. If you choose to do so, you’ll likely get wet in the process!
There are many different types of tours available in The Bahamas including power boat trips, catamaran cruise trips, one-day excursions with flights to the various islands, and a range of excursions and tours, many of which include transportation from your resort to the attraction and back.
For safety reasons, the Swimming with the Pigs excursion is not recommended for women who are pregnant, individuals who are physically challenged, people with back problems or who have had recent back surgery, anyone who is physically handicapped, and people who get seasick easily.
Big Major Cay is not inhabited by humans. This island is one of the many uninhabited islands of The Bahamas and it is primarily used for tours.
It is not possible at this time to overnight on Big Major Cay as part of a tour. Most tours just spend a few hours on the island and then return to the mainland. There aren’t any facilities here currently that would make it possible to overnight on the island.
The pigs on Big Major Cay are a large part of the attraction, but this is also quite a beautiful island with pristine white sand beaches and a small forest. Even if you go there just to see the pigs, you can still have a great time lounging on the beach and exploring the island.
Yes, there will be opportunities to take photos during your visit to Pig Island. Before setting up to take photos, make sure you’re completely aware of your surroundings.
A boat ride is the only way to get to Pig Beach in The Bahamas. Even if you fly to Exuma from another island, you’ll still need to take a boat from there to get to Pig Island. This can be easily arranged via a tour.
The Bahamas is an incredible destination with so much to offer. During a vacation on these islands, you can start by exploring the incredible beaches, tour some of the historical and cultural attractions, and enjoy authentic Bahamian cuisine. Pencil in some time for adventure with hikes through national parks, visits to water parks or spend some time at couples-only all-inclusive resorts like Sandals Emerald Bay, and Sandals Royal Bahamian (which includes its own private island!). Whatever you decide to do, this vacation will be one you won't soon forget!
Expert tip: There are lots of other exciting things to do in The Bahamas! Feel free to try as many as you can while you’re there.