I’m Over This Winter Weather, Please Take Me to Pig Beach

Like my stomach after spilling hot chocolate on it (AAAAAH), Pig Beach is so hot right now. Maybe you have an inkling of what I’m talking about if you watched Hulu’s Fyre Fraud and or Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. While filming a scene for the ill-fated festival’s promo video, a gang of bikini-clad models descended upon a white-sand beach to frolic with the Swimming Pigs of Exuma: A group of 20 or so feral pigs who live on their own private Bahamas island.

Ever since I heard of it a week and a half ago, swimming with the pigs of Big Major Cay, aka Pig Beach, has become my biggest dream. See, I hold a childlike obsession with pigs that borders on concerning. They’re so cute and smart and weird that my heart bursts whenever a piglet flies into my newsfeed. My room is littered with all sorts of pink, snouted little friends, and my S.O. has this twerking pig gif at the ready for when I’m happy (Or sad. Or neutral). I’ve cried tears of joy through most of Babe: Pig in the City, despite it being objectively Not A Good Movie. 

And as you can imagine, the pigs turned out to be the real rock stars of both Fyre Festival docs as well. Although, in this case, their behavior wasn't exactly G-rated—they were caught on camera snipping and snorting and starting feuds with some of the models. “They’re like pigeons, except they’re pigs with mouths and teeth," filmmaker Michael Swaigen says at one point in Fyre Fraud. "Chanel Iman actually fell because she was getting bit by a pig. The pigs, at one point, bit [Fyre Festival co-creator] Billy [McFarland] in the balls.”

Laugh all you want, but biting is a sign of stress—and, suffice to say, pig abuse like this has become kind of a big problem. Forcing alcohol on the pigs isn’t an uncommon practice for the worst visitors, Fyre Festival crew included. “As soon as we get there, [the pigs are] all swimming up, and someone’s feeding them beer, he thinks it’s funny,” Swaigen said in Fyre Fraud. And in 2017, seven pigs were found dead from too much sand ingestion, having tried to eat small treats thrown by (you’ve guessed it) tourists.

Luckily, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism has stated that it's going to put more regulations in place to protect the pigs. Animal-loving travelers can all do their part to help, too. Since the pigs are becoming reliant on humans, it’s more important than ever for them to be surrounded by visitors who will show them love, respect, and you know...personal boundaries. They deserve it. And Fyre Festival be damned, if you want to swim with the pigs in a responsible way, I’ve started investigating for the both of us.

Here’s everything you need to know about swimming with the pigs in the Bahamas.

Pig Beach
Photo: Getty Images/Elizabeth W. Kearley

First things first: Spending time with pigs is good for our mental health

I’ve Googled the hell out of this in case somebody wanted to give me a baller birthday gift, even if that person is me: A pig can be considered a therapy animal through different organizations, and in case-by-case scenarios, can even be registered as an emotional support animal. So you might say pigs are certifiably good for the soul.

Of course, the Exuma pigs are feral, so they’re not obliged (or trained) to heal your emotional wounds. If you pull some kind of bro move like force-feeding them beer or chasing them around, than yeah, I’d get why they’d get chompy on you. 

However, pigs are generally noted to be extremely social, smart, and sensitive beings. One 2015 review recognizes pigs as “cognitively complex” creatures that display intelligence on an emotional level, and hold a personality structure that’s comparable to other “intelligent” animals, including humans. According to PETA, they show empathy to their piggy friends and like listening to music, playing games (even video games!) and getting massages. And, at least in the case of the Bahamas pigs, they're also into swimming! In the ocean! Adorable!  

pig beach bahamas
Photo: Getty Images/Instants

Okay, I'm convinced. So how do I actually visit Pig Beach?

In my wildest dreams, I would just fly over on a Pink Floyd-approved pig blimp. The more realistic way to get to Pig Beach is by getting a flight to the Nassau International Airport first. From there, you can board a second plane to Exuma International Airport near Moss Town, in The Exumas. You can also get a ferry via Bahama Ferries that’ll take you from Nassau to The Exumas, if you don’t mind the longer journey. 

The next step is to find a hotel with relatively easy pig access. Thanks to a little lurking on Tripadvisor, I found that Fowl Cay Resort (from $1,740/night for a one-bedroom villa) and Embrace Resort (from $219/night for a one-bedroom villa) have both been recommended as good options. 

Then, you'll want to book a tour for the best Pig Beach experience. Prepare to break open the piggy bank again, because there’s definitely a spectrum you’ll pay for this experience, and it starts in triple digits. The Exuma Cays Adventure Tour, for example, starts at $130 per adult for a half-day pig tour, but if you want to add snorkeling or hiking to that itinerary, the number goes up to $1,250.

Exuma Water Sports promises a “007-style” tour that’s “sophisticated, action-packed, professional, and with all the frills.” They’ll charge you $150 per person for a half-day tour where you’ll hang with iguanas, stingrays, and of course, PIGGIES! And ooh, you get a complimentary beverage of beer, water, or Coke!

And if a few hours isn’t enough pig time, Harbour Safaris will give you a full-day tour (!) at $399. This will take you directly from Nassau and give you an eight- to nine-hour excursion (lunch included.)

This is just a starting point, and there are a few stipulations. (For instance, 12 percent tax is included on all of these things). But based on how excellent pigs tend to be, stopping by Pig Beach can never be a Fyre Festival-level bad decision. If you’re already headed to the Bahamas and want to play with some adorable pot-bellied creatures, I think it’s a must-see!

And yet, with my bank account a little low right now, Pig Island may just be a far-away fantasy for me. It’ll be a good place for my mind to wander on these blustery cold days, but an actual visit? Sigh. I anticipate I’ll be able to book it when pigs can fly.

Another can't-miss travel experience: Seeing the Northern Lights while you still can. Here are 7 prime aurora borealis viewing destinations around the world, and 4 AirBNBs in Iceland, specifically, to behold the Northern Lights magic

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