In November, Michael and I ventured 300 miles southeast of Miami to the Exuma Islands for a relaxing weekend filled with beautiful blue water, lots of sun, and pig swimming with our friends Ragnar and Andressa. This trip was unlike any of our previous trips because it was our first time flying “private” since Ragnar is a pilot and flew us their on a Piper Archer. No points or miles were needed for this flight (nor did we earn any 😥) and it was my first time flying on a tiny plane which was such a cool experience. I am excited to fly again and lucky enough for me I will be able to since Michael is working on his pilots license!
Once me made it to Exuma on Saturday Morning, after an unexpected stay at the Baha Mar in Nausea due to customs and the runway in Exuma not having lights, we made our way to Lumina Point, a luxury eco-resort on Stocking Island, a short boat trip from Great Exuma. The property is not only beautiful but is powered by its own solar farm, leaving a minimal carbon foot print. The service at Lumina Point was even more outstanding than the beauty of the property. Neither Micheal nor I have experienced more helpful and friendly staff in all of our travels. When our arrival was delayed, the staff worked tirelessly to reschedule our previously booked boat tour (to see piggies) to a later time. Once we arrived, everyone on the property was so friendly! In addition to working to reschedule our tour, the staff was willing to help in anyway they could. After our stay, we even got a thank you card from the property for our stay! The hand written note is a testament to the kindness of the staff and personalized service! Michael and I have never gotten a thank you note from a hotel. This small gesture made us even more excited to return to Lumina Point! … Unfortunately, I accidentally threw out the thank you note before taking a picture of it 😨.
Of all the Bahamian Islands, we could have traveled to for a quick weekend away, we decided to venture to the Exuma Islands to partake in the now ‘insta-famous’ activity of #SwimmingWithPigs. Prior to the trip I didn’t do much research into the history (or welfare) of the pigs. All I knew was that the pigs could only be accessed by boat, there were two islands that had pigs, and the pigs liked food. Since we didn’t make the original tour we had booked, the staff at Lumina Point was able to secure us a tour with Island Boy Adventures later in the day.
It was pouring rain when we met the captain and his crew the boat at the dock; luckily (as expected in the tropics) within five minutes the skies cleared and we were able to sail off on our adventure. Our first stop was to see the famous pigs and on the way there we learned that the pigs are owned by an Exuma Restauranteur who owns the land they live on. The land owner purchased the pigs after learning of the tourists visiting the original pig island located much farther away. The pigs on the original island also are not native but they were placed there for hunting. I also learned that the pigs are very food aggressive and only approach humans for food. The captains had brought white bread, a favorite pig snack. We were advised not to turn our backs to the pigs because they often mistake butts 🍑 for food and will actually bite your butt.
As we floated toward the beach, three pigs immediately swam to the boat to greet us. Seeing them doggy paddle to the boat was adorable. The pigs were bigger than most pigs I had seen. It was clear that they had their fair servings of bread…and whatever else the tourists brought for them. It was also clear that they wanted food when we approached… one of them tried to climb in the boat! We eventually made it into the water and onto shores where more pigs greeted us. They did become aggressive with each other over food, but I never towards us. We even got to see a piglet!
After the pigs, we visited three more islands. Two were naturally amazing! One with a natural wave ‘pool’ and one with amazing views and scenery. The third island was previously owned by Nicolas Cage. It was inhabited by thousands of native iguanas, who also liked bread and were also food aggressive. Watching the iguanas approach the beach from the brush was both eery and cool. I decided to join one of the captains to see the iguanas up close, and ended up being bitten by one who thought my finger was bread! Thankfully the bite wasn’t painful.
While the captains drove us to the different tour spots, they told us about the welfare of the animals we had (or were going to) see. I learned that the Iguana island is now protected by the Bahamian government from future development and that the island with the amazing views was recently sold and will be turned into a golf resort. I also learned about a recent bout of food/alcohol poisoning (which I later looked up) that killed some of the pigs. This was alarming and heartbreaking to me.
While the experience of swimming with the pigs was a very cool one, I couldn’t help but think of the animals. While they seemed excited to see us (to get food), was the constant tourism and interaction with humans the best thing for them? I don’t feel that these pigs were mistreated in anyway by their owner. They were free to roam the island and I was told they were also visited and fed by the owner’s family. I do feel that tourists (myself included) have taken the health of these pink, squiggly tailed cuties for granted in turn for that instagram shot of paddling in the water with them. These pigs were much larger than their standard breed likely because they had a constant supply of ‘treats’ supplied by tourists so they would swim with us. While I only fed them bread, other tourists fed them food (or alcohol) that resulted in some of their deaths. If there were more regulation on tourism in relation to the pigs, the pigs may be healthier (and still alive). Hopefully the Bahamian government will make some changes to protect these piglets and the other animals (such as the iguanas) in the Bahamas. Until then, I plan to practice Responsible Tourism and be cognizant of how my actions as a tourist may affect the local social, economic, and environmental welfare. I encourage you all to do the same!
On a last note on Exuma, if you go, make sure you visit Chat N’ Chill. I am still dreaming of the Conch Salad from the Conch stand. We also happened to be there for the Sunday Pig Roast, which was delicious and while I am in no way a vegetarian, eating a pig after swimming with them the day before did tug at my heart strings.