Swimming with the pigs in the Bahamas
When is the best time to visit the pigs?
Most tours to the island run between 9 a.m. and sunset, a local guide told Travel + Leisure, so if you're taking your own boat, go early in the morning for the most uninterrupted attention from the pigs. By late afternoon, you'll usually find them tuckered out with full bellies, and they're more likely to lounge in the sand than to paddle through the water with you.
You can visit any time of year, but know that June through November is considered hurricane shellter, and when a dangerous storm is coming, the pigs are usually taken to shelter by a local water sports company.
Step onto the white-sand beaches of the Exumas — a chain of more than 365 tiny Bahamian islands and sleepy cays — and you'll be struck with the feeling that you're the first to discover this remarkable corner of the planet.
Here it's iguana tails, not human footprints, that leave marks in the sand, and stumbling upon a gleaming pink conch shell the size of your head is as common as having a new shade of blue catch your eye each time you survey the surrounding waters.
But as your boat approaches Big Major Cay, you're awoken from this daydream by some rather boorish inhabitants: loud, snorting pigs paddling out to greet you like a jolly bunch of golden retrievers rushing to the door when their owner finally gets home from a long day of work.
The locals at Big Major's “Pig Beach” are transplants rather than native islanders, just like many of the people you'll meet in the area. And though they've clearly taken to their tropical digs and rising popularity — spurred in part by a dramatic appearance on “The Bachelor” and more than a few well-liked Instagram posts — the rewards of fame (read: free food) have come at a cost.
How to get there?
The only way to reach Pig Beach is by boat, so you'll either have to charter one or take a guided tour.
A popular tour company in the area is 4C's Adventures, which offers a full-day tour that includes visiting the pigs, swimming with nurse sharks, meeting iguanas, a sandbar picnic, and snorkeling in the famous Thunderball Grotto (a scenic spot that has been in two James Bond films), for $160 per person.
If you're willing to venture out on your own, you can rent a boat from exumavacation.com for as little as $250 for a full day (or include a guide for an additional fee).