The Bahamas is renowned for its natural beauty, but the unexpected inhabitants of one remote island manage to upstage their sunny surroundings.
I sailed around a rocky corner of Big Major Cay and watched with anticipation. The sun-bleached rocks blended in with the white-sand beach. An overgrowth of deep-green palm trees and shrubbery was the only thing breaking up the beautiful blues of the Caribbean Sea and sky. Where were they?
I looked for any kind of movement on this windless day — a sway of palm trees, a kick of sand. The motor of our little Boston Whaler was the only thing interrupting the midmorning silence. I started to worry that they wouldn’t know we were here. Were they asleep? Hadn’t they heard us coming?
Suddenly, my husband pointed toward something on the island, about 30 feet away. It started with a fierce rustle in the shrubbery. Three giant bodies sprang from the brush and darted across the pristine crescent beach with purpose. They trotted dutifully into the sea, submerging themselves up to their furry, floppy ears. Flashes of pink and tan broke up the bright-blue ocean. In a matter of seconds, I was only inches from three long snouts poking their way out of the water, snorting and breathing deeply.
The pigs had arrived. To underscore that point, a black-and-tan spotted sow stared straight into my eyes and let out a blood-curdling, ear-piercing squeal that almost knocked me overboard. My husband, who grew up near a farm, laughed when I asked him if that was normal. As we idled in a boat somewhere in the Caribbean Sea with pigs treading water around us, I realized how relative “normal” had become.
These are the swimming pigs of the Exumas, a chain of remote islands in the Bahamas. Big Major is one of 365 cays in the Out Islands. Currently, about 40 residents call the island home — all of them pigs, save for the occasional rooster or lizard.
We were the only boat in the cove that day, and we had drawn all of the pigs’ attention. They doggy-paddled around the boat, searching the perimeter for floating scraps. A spotted pig opened her large mouth and displayed her wild, decaying teeth. Another pig soon joined her off the starboard side, and they jostled each other under the water while their mouths gaped open, waiting for food.
We’d come prepared. A cook at the nearby Staniel Cay Yacht Club had assembled a cooler full of bread and vegetable breakfast leftovers for the pigs. With a laminated map of the islands, a packed lunch, a container of scraps and a waterproof camera, we took to the seas in search of adventure. Only a few twists and turns from Thunderball Grotto and Staniel Cay, we had found it.