Illustration By Douglas Holgate

A Swine Time
Everything you need to know before visiting the swimming pigs of the Exumas


THE PLAYERS
At the start, Big Major Cay’s pig population consisted of four sows and one boar. Their names were Emily, Liza, Gussie, Spot and Big Boy. The pigs are in their seventh generation now, and these names have been handed down to the dominant five — the ones who will swim out to boats. While many more pigs roam this uninhabited island, it’s rare for more than three or four females and a male to come out to boats. The current Big Boy, a pink boar, has been relegated to the beach. The sows have new piglets to take care of, and the dominant boars see him as a threat.

WHAT THE PIGS EAT AND DRINK
When they’re not being fed scraps, the pigs dig around for roots and shoots from some of the island’s native plants such as pigeon berries, as well as trees like silvertop, sea grape and buttonwood. Their favorite food is the wild cabbage that grows around Big Major Cay. The pigs get their water from a brackish pond in the middle of the island and from rainwater collections. They will drink bottled water from visitors when the mood strikes them.

Nixon discourages giving them other kinds of drinks. “We have people try to give them beer, and we tell them, ‘Don’t do that. Give them water if you want.’ Mind you, they’ll drink the beer — but I don’t think it’s  good for them.”

Pigs aren’t known for being selective about their food, but visitors who bring their own scraps should stick to feeding them fruits, vegetables and breads. As is often the case with humans, just because the pigs will eat something doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

Staniel Cay Yacht Club is open to the public for lunch. (Dinner is at a set time and by reservation only.) The kitchen will provide takeout scraps for the pigs upon request. Ask at the bar.

HOW TO FEED THEM
The pigs assume everything given to them is food. For this reason, it’s best to toss pieces of food near them. If it floats away, they will swim around to get it. Never try to feed the pigs by hand — they don’t differentiate between fingers and food.

GETTING TO BIG MAJOR CAY
The Exumas have a relaxed island vibe that makes it seem like anything or nothing is possible, depending on the day. Exumas information is scarce on the Internet, but several tour companies or individual tour guides will bring you anywhere you want to go. Ask your hotel concierge or try one of these tour companies:

Island Routes: Bahamas-Exumas
007 ­Thunderball Luxury Tour
(877) 768-8370
www.islandroutes.com

Four C’s Adventures
(954) 793-4329 (U.S.) or (242) 355-5077 (Bahamas)
www.exumawatertours.com

WHERE TO STAY
Great Exuma has an airport and the most accommodations. Guests can book anything from a stand-alone guest house to a private villa to a luxury, all-inclusive resort. It is entirely possible to explore the cays on a tour from Great Exuma, but for those with their own boats or a desire to venture off the main island, Staniel Cay is a good base.

Sandals Emerald Bay
(888) 726-3257
www.sandals.com/main/emerald/em-home.cfm

Staniel Cay Yacht Club
(954) 467-6658 (U.S.) or (242) 355-2024 (Bahamas)
www.stanielcay.com

Grand Isle Resort & Spa
(866) 380-5213
www.grandisleresort.com