The safety of the swimming pigs in the Bahamas has been confirmed after Hurricane Dorian swept through earlier this month. Abaco and Grand Bahama in the north suffered a massive hit, but the Exumas, where the pigs are located, were spared. Many tourists have been cancelling trips to the island nation, fearing that the hotels would still be recovering from the damage or that it would be inappropriate to enjoy a vacation so close to where tragedy had struck just a few weeks ago; however, the Bahamas are urging tourists to keep coming. The most popular islands were unaffected by the storm, and the Bahamian economy depends on tourism and needs the revenue in order to rebuild.
Where did the pigs come from?
Big Major Cay, a.k.a. Pig Beach, is uninhabited by humans, and the pigs are not native to the island. There are many legends about how the pigs got there. Some say that they were left behind by sailors who planned to eat them, while others claim that they swam to the island after surviving a shipwreck. The consensus among residents of nearby Staniel Cay, however, is that farmers used to keep pigs in their backyard but got tired of dealing with smelly pigpens, so they decided to move their pigs to a separate island.
The practice of raising pigs on Big Major continued on-and-off for many years. Visitors from Staniel Cay would bring them table scraps, and the pigs gradually learned to swim out to the boats in anticipation of being fed. As fears of a Y2K crisis mounted in the 1990s, one resident, Wayde Nixon, decided to place his own colony of pigs (one male and four females) on Big Major to create a sustainable food source in the event that imports to the islands were cut off. Fortunately, the pigs were not needed for food and have continued to run wild and increase in number.
How do you visit the pigs?
Staniel Cay is the best place to stay if you want to be close to the pigs. You can get there by boat or by plane. Makers Air offers daily flights from Fort Lauderdale or you can take Flamingo Air from Nassau. Staniel Cay Yacht Club has many accommodation options, a bar, and restaurant. You can rent a boat to go from Staniel Cay to Big Major. It is best to go early in the morning before the tour groups start arriving around 9am. You can also book a day trip to see the pigs from Great Exuma through Exuma Water Sports or 4C’s Adventures.
What can the pigs eat?
The pigs have mostly abandoned foraging for food and rely on tourists as their primary food source. They will come out of the forest when they hear the sound of a boat arriving and start swimming toward you. They are not shy about begging for food. It is best to only feed them fruits and vegetables in the water instead of on the beach, as several pigs were found dead a few years ago due to sand ingestion. You could also give them fresh water since their supply on the island is limited, which may have contributed to the deaths.
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