Our writer reveals what it's really like to swim with pigs - and where to go for the best experience
Swimming with pigs is an experience that regularly tops people’s travel bucket lists in the Bahamas – and with good reason. Watching these adorable animals frolic in the surf is a totally joyous affair.
No one really knows exactly how the pigs came to be on these lush tropical islands, as they are certainly not native. The story you’ll hear from locals is they were shipwrecked nearby to the famed Bahamas Pig Beach and then swam to shore.
Whatever the truth, swimming with pigs has become one of the must-try activities in the Bahamas. Here’s everything you need to know about this unique experience…
Where to swim with pigs: Pig Beach vs Rose Island
Although the more famous (and wild) swimming pigs of the Bahamas can be found on the Exuma Islands – nicknamed ‘Pig Beach’ – that’s a two-hour boat ride from the capital, Nassau, and its international airport.
A more easily accessible experience is available on the nearby and less-discovered Rose Island – a mere 25-minute boat ride away. Here, local tour operator Sandy Toes offers action-packed full-day excursions, with swimming with the pigs included in the price.
This uninhabited tropical oasis is the perfect playground – not only for the pigs but for visitors too. There’s snorkelling, beach volleyball and kayaking, and a beach bar to relax with a piña colada or two – a Bahamian must.
The island is also a sanctuary for protected wildlife, where you can see Royal Peacocks, curly tail lizards and ocean reef life, in addition to the pigs.
What to expect when swimming with pigs
It may be a familiar sight to the locals, but for a first-timer to the Bahamas, seeing these brown and pink boars racing down to the shore is utterly surreal. As they sit themselves comfortably on the white sandy shores happily receiving delicious and healthy ‘treats’ before their swim, expect a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from onlookers.
There are 9 resident pigs on Rose Island, which are sent out in small groups. This way they don’t spend too much time in the sun and get a little break from all the attention.
The pigs know exactly what to do as they head for the locals who feed them and give them a tummy rub. Visitors are invited to do the same – much to their delight. And, with only around 30 people arriving by boat to the island, you are guaranteed to get some quality time with the pigs.
Sensibly, the piglets tend to paddle along the shoreline – the bigger waves are a little too daunting – but the larger pigs rush into the oncoming waves while visitors swim alongside them. Once the Sandy Toes staff feel the pigs have had their fill of fun they return them to the shade before the next set of VIP piggies are sent running out.
Is swimming with pigs safe?
Absolutely. On Rose Island the resident pigs have been brought up at the Sandy Toes resort, meaning they are as tame as pets – unlike the Exuma pigs, which are completely wild.
The pigs at Sandy Toes are well cared for too, receiving regular check-ups, nutritional care and vaccinations. They are only sent out for short periods of time (slathered in sun cream, no less!), and are given lots of love by the owners and guests alike.
What else is there to do?
Outside of swimming with those adorable pigs, Nassau has much to offer. A vibrant city with a swashbuckling past, expect colourful colonial buildings, cathedrals, craft shops and off-shore coral reefs.
For a spot of shopping, there’s the famous local straw market, bustling Bay Street and independent boutiques on Paradise Island. A visit to a local rum distillery offers a real glimpse of island life, too.
Finally, don’t forget to sample the indigenous conch (pronounced ‘konk’). These large snails hidden in spectacular-looking shells can be eaten as a salad, cracked, scorched, as a chowder, grilled, in fritters and even stewed – a Bahamian delicacy you have to try.
Where to stay
In nearby Nassau, the newly-opened Grand Hyatt caters to pretty much every desire. It sits alongside two other leading hotel brands – the 5-star Rosewood and SLS – that form the impressive Baha Mar resort on Cable Beach.
The Grand Hyatt is the largest of the hotels yet it manages to retain its charm. Intimate curated spaces bordered by palm trees offer sunny spots to sit; colourful chairs are dotted around the pristine coastline of Cable Beach to make the most of those stunning scenes, and there’s a stylish Airstream trailer or colourful shack around every corner offering everything from hot dogs to seafood, coffee, and of course ice cream.
The room are as luxurious as you would expect, but it’s difficult to stay put when there’s so much on offer at this 1,000 acre resort. Whether it’s visiting the biggest casino on the island, watching the resident flamingos go about their day, spending time gazing at sharks and sea turtles at the poolside aquarium, you will find yourself itching to explore.
There are many outstanding restaurants to choose from too, including Carna, where the steaks are displayed in glass drawers.
BA Holidays offer a nine-hour direct flight from London to Lynden Pindling International Airport, Nassau. Nassau is also just under an hour’s flight from Miami. The Sandy Toes full-day excursion to Rose Island costs from $119 for adults, $75 for kids (4-12) and 0-3 years go free.