The Bahamas beach where piggies swim – CNN Travel

(CNN) — If you’re waiting to fulfill any life goals until pigs fly, heads up: There are swine swimming in the Bahamas already.

A colony of pigs in the Exumas, a klatch of islands to the southeast of Nassau in the Bahamian archipelago, rushes into the crystal-clear surf every time they hear boats motoring nearby. Dubbed the “swimming pigs,” the swine do their best piggy-paddles in the hopes of getting food from curious people who travel here.
Once visitors arrive at Big Major Cay, they can disembark and interact with the pigs in the warm water or on the island’s white-sand beach.

The juxtaposition of pigs and paradise makes for epic and hard-to-believe photographs and selfies. As a result, the oinkers collectively have established themselves as a social media sensation, achieving Kardashian-style fame practically overnight.

Visitors come from all over the world, just to see and swim with the pigs. The porkers have become official ambassadors of Bahamas tourism. A book about them, “Pigs of Paradise,”will hit shelves later this month.
There’s even a full-length documentary film expected by the end of the year.
“These animals certainly have captivated people’s imagination,” says author T.R. Todd. “Swimming with pigs on a beautiful beach is not something you do every day.”

Start of a porcine era

There are many theories about how the pigs first got to Big Major Cay. Some cite shipwrecks or say a storm washed them ashore. Others believe pirates hid them there. As Todd explains in his book, most of these origin stories are folklore.
The real story: Residents of neighboring islands put them there on purpose.
The Exumas are a bit of a playground for the rich and famous. Celebs such as Johnny Depp, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield own islands there. As the islands became popular among the Hollywood set in the 1980s and 1990s, locals who had their pigs in pens at home decided to relocate the smelly and often messy animals to a more secluded spot.
Big Major Cay provided the perfect cover. It was far enough away that visitors wouldn’t see or smell the pigs, yet close enough that locals could get the pigs if they needed them.
David Hocher, owner of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club on neighboring Staniel Cay, says Big Major has another critical resource: fresh water.
“Not every island around here has fresh water like Big Major,” says Hocher, who grew up on Staniel Cay. “That island is perfectly set up to support and sustain life.”

A population grows

At first, there were only a handful of pigs on Big Major. Over time the population grew.
Up until as recently as the 1990s, locals would use Big Major as a farm, harvesting animals and slaughtering them as needs arose. In recent years, however, the subsistence aspect has disappeared, though no laws formally protect the pigs from harm.
Today, though numbers ebb and flow, there are about 30 to 40 animals on the island at any given time. Baby pigs roam freely with juveniles, adults and elderly swine. The animals differ in color. Some are all black, while others are mottled black, pink and white. They also have different personalities. Some are eager to interact with people, while others are shy.
Most of the pigs have names. Some, such as Cinnamon and Ginger, were named for their color patterns. Others, such as Raleigh, Roosevelt and Shirley, were named after friends and ancestors. The three large mother pigs were named after matriarchs from Staniel Cay: Blanche, Maggie and Diane.
Bernadette Chamberlain, a local, notes that Mama Diane’s name was changed recently to Mama Karma, because the pig likes to bite visitors in the butt.
“She’s the one you have to look out for,” says Chamberlain. “Don’t ever turn your back!”

Caring for piggies

If anybody around Exuma knows about the pigs, it’s Chamberlain. Earlier this year, she and other volunteers formed the Official Swimming Pigs Association, a nonprofit devoted to caring for the pigs.
The group makes sure the pigs always have fresh water, which they store in three 150-gallon drums at the center of the island. Volunteers also built separate pens for piglets and animals who are ill and need medical treatment. A veterinarian from Nassau provides those services.
Perhaps the most important job for volunteers is to monitor the pigs’ diet.
They do this by mixing vitamins with the water and providing the animals with food pellets to supplement the berries and other items the pigs forage on their own.
Of course, the pigs also eat what visitors feed them. This is why they bum-rush the water when they hear boats. For years, this process went unchecked and tourists would give the pigs everything from lettuce and lobster tails to raw meat and beer.
After a handful of pigs died in early 2017, volunteers made signs designed to raise awareness about the pigs’ health. The signs remind visitors that the “pigs are not garbage disposals,” and that it’s best to feed the animals in the water so they don’t ingest sand.

Stars are born

More than anything else, social media has changed the lives of the swimming pigs. The man behind that effort: Peter Nicholson, partner and director of GIV Bahamas, and majority owner at the Grand Isle Resort & Spa on Great Exuma Cay.
Nicholson, had been aware of the pigs for years and always saw them as a curiosity. In 2013, when he decided to market the Exumas, it hit him: Why not build a campaign around the pigs?
To get the word out, Nicholson hired Todd, a former business editor at the Nassau Guardian. Todd, in turn, hired Charlie Allan Smith, a local filmmaker and video producer. The dynamic duo of Todd and Smith cranked out a five-minute promotional video spotlighting the pigs.
With the help of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, the video went viral, piquing the interest of travel bloggers and celebrities alike. In 2016, the pigs hit the TV circuit, with an appearance on “The Bachelor” and the “Today Show.” The pigs even got their own Instagram page and Twitter account (both @pigsofparadise).
Todd’s book chronicles the pigs’ rise to stardom. It includes colorful history of the islands, thoughtful analysis of the relationship between humans and pigs through time and autobiographical anecdotes about Todd’s other (non-piggie) experiences in the Bahamas. Smith’s feature-length documentary, due out in December, touches on many of these topics as well.
“You’ve got these islands with the most beautiful water in the world, and then you’ve got pigs,” says Smith. “The pairing is just so unexpected. People are drawn to it. It lends itself to a closer look.”

Getting piggy with it

Of course the best way to experience the pigs is to see them in person.
Big Major Cay is accessible only by boat, and most vessels take 20 to 30 people at a time. Many boats leave from Staniel Cay; to get there, visitors first must fly to Nassau, then take a puddle-jumper or boat to the final destination.
Full-day trips also leave from Great Exuma, which is a short plane or boat ride from Nassau as well. Most excursions include a scenic ride, visits with other animals such as Bahamian rock iguanas and stingrays, and a stop at Thunderball Grotto, a sea cave that appeared in the James Bond movie “Thunderball.”
Because the pigs have become so popular, Nicholson and other entrepreneurs have put together subcolonies across the Bahamas. One is closer to the main island of Great Exuma and others in Abaco, Eleuthera/Spanish Wells, Long Island and Nassau.
Wherever you see them, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of observing the piggy-paddle in action, snouts above water in the tropical sun. Once you’ve witnessed this oink-tastic spectacle, every other wildlife experience is just hogwash.

Swimming Pigs of Staniel Cay want you to join them for a pre-launch book party onboard a luxury yacht!

BY:  Lisa Suhay, WG News Editor

After basking in years of sun-kissed fame, appearing in television shows, magazines and countless social media posts, The Bahamas’ fastest growing attraction will soon be displayed in book stores around the world.swimming-pigs-1_zpst1s6vtmx

Skyhorse Publishing, an independent book publishing company that has published 47 New York Times best sellers, has will publish “Pigs of Paradise,” written by a former Business Editor in The Bahamas.

Expected to be released on October 16, 2018, the book offers a history of Exuma, where the pigs are originally from, while also chronicling their swift rise to stardom amid a viral marketing campaign that has captured the world’s attention

Pre-LAUNCH PARTY: On August 31, join T.R. Todd, the author of Pigs of Paradise: The Story of the World-Famous Swimming Pigs, aboard Impulse Yacht at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club Exuma Cay in The Bahamas to celebrate the global success of the swimming pigs of Exuma, Bahamas. T.R. Todd will have the first advance copies of the book on hand.

When: August 31, 2018 3pm to 6 p.m.
Where: Impulse Yacht, docked at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

In recent years, the swimming pigs have been seen by millions across the globe from North America to Europe to Asia.


Already a key economic driver for Exuma, the swimming pigs have spread to other islands in The Bahamas, with the world’s fascination for the attraction only seeming to grow.

“Watching the world take notice of these creatures has been an incredible journey,” said author Jeff Todd, who writes by the pen name T.R. Todd. “It probably shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but the hype and momentum surrounding the swimming pigs is truly amazing. The contrast of the most beautiful water and beaches in the world with an often misunderstood animal has proven to be a force in the age of social media. But I think what people will soon appreciate is that the journey on how we got here is also a great story.”

Todd first took notice of the swimming pigs in 2014, when he teamed up with Peter Nicholson, the largest owner at Grand Isle Resort in Exuma, and Bahamian director Charlie Smith, to create a film on the attraction, ‘When Pigs Swim’.

The movie proved to be a hit. After touring in film festivals in the United States, often with a piglet in tow on the red carpet, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism incorporated the pigs into its global marketing campaign. That set off a chain of unprecedented publicity. Since then, the swimming pigs have been featured in most major publications, including the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Travel & Leisure, the Washington Post, Forbes, CNN, The London Telegraph, Daily Mail, BuzzFeed, USA Today, Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and hundreds of others. They have also found their way into a myriad of television shows, everything from ABC’s The Bachelor, NBC’s Today Show and even popular children’s cartoons.

“The book is about how and why they went viral, but what I love most about it is being able to provide a history of Exuma and an opportunity to stop and think about how we interact with animals,” Todd added. “It’s funny, but I want people to come away from the book thinking a bit more about our relationship with pigs, and indeed the wider animal kingdom. I think the pigs give us a unique lens with which to consider our relationship with animals. And I think this is the right time to be thinking more about these issues in a new and original way.”

‘Pigs of Paradise’ is also expected to be heavily illustrated with stunning shots of Exuma and the pigs, including contributions from top social media influencers. Diane Phillips, the founder of Diane Phillips & Associates, wrote the book’s Foreword.

“I’m very excited to see this package come together—it’s an intriguing and informative story with stunning photographs that will surely be a must-have for many, especially animal lovers and activists as well as travelers,” said Nicole Frail, Senior Editor at Skyhorse Publishing.

Skyhorse Publishing, founded in 2006, is a rapidly growing publishing company with more than 1,000 titles. It has published the works for four Nobel Prize novelists, and released around 50 New York Times Best Sellers. In 2015, Skyhorse, headquartered in New York City, published ‘The Walk’. By Phillippe Petit, about his daring walk between the NYC World Trade Center Towers, based on the motion picture directed by Robert Zemeckis. In September 2016, it released Snowden, based on the notorious American whistleblower. The book was timed with the release of Oliver Stone’s feature film that year.

Celebrities from around the world, including comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Amy Schumer, have made the trip to see the swimming pigs in recent years. ‘Pigs of Paradise’ offers the inside story of this rise to fame.

Just another day in paradise – Exuma’s swimming pigs have become an international phenomenon attracting celebrities, visitors and journalists like NBC’s Kerry Sanders who did the story for the Today show. Now a major publisher has acquired rights to the book “Pigs in Paradise’ by author T.R. Todd. Skyhorse Publishing, which published 47 New York Times best sellers including ‘The Walk’ and ‘Snowden’ about whistleblower Edward Snowden, aims to release the book on Exuma’s swimming pigs and humankind’s complex relationships with animals it adores and devours in the Fall of 2018. Photo by Charlie Smith/Earthbeat Films.


View location on the Waterway Guide Explorer

Sports Illustrated Cover Model Danielle Herrington Swim With Pigs in The Bahamas

Danielle Herrington may be a newbie, but she’s already a superstar.

The 24-year-old model is the face of the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, after being named the magazine’s Rookie just last year. Travel + Leisure had the chance to join Herrington in the Bahamas, where she partook in the popular activity there: swimming with the pigs.

pigsHerrington shot her cover photos with photographer Ben Watts. She is the third African-American model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. The first was Tyra Banks and the second was Beyoncé — two of Herrington’s idols.

“I am so excited to be part of this iconic brand that has long given identity and voice to women of all shapes, colors and beliefs,” said Herrington. “I hope that young girls who look at this cover are inspired to dream as big as I did and work hard to attain all their goals.”

The Sports Illustrated photoshoot was her first big modeling job, People reported. Before SI, she took her first walk down the catwalk in 2017 for designer Philipp Plein.

This edition of Sports Illustrated also includes a section called “In Her Own Words,” a photo spread featuring models and celebrities such as Aly Raisman and Paulina Porizkova, in which their own bodies become a canvas for a message of empowerment.

Swim with the pigs in the Bahamas: How domestic swine became big business for the paradise islands

BY: Steve Dinneen

On 9 September the ocean around the Bahamas’ Long Island and the Exumas vanished. Where there should have been endless stretches of aquamarine, there was mile upon mile of muddy grey sand, flecked with seams of stringy kelp, all set against a foreboding backdrop of slate-grey cloud.


Sandwiched between hurricanes Irma to the west and Jose to the east, water from these paradise islands was sucked away, feeding the storm surges that decimated other parts of the Caribbean.

The Bahamas escaped virtually unscathed, and when people woke up the next morning, the ocean was back where it’s supposed to be and the sun was shining, as if nothing had ever happened.

A month later in the Exumas, the only sign of the near-miss are the wooden boards still hammered over the windows of the pastel-coloured houses. It’s hot and sticky and tranquil. Sitting in a boat off its east coast, watching domestic pigs glide gracefully through the ocean, it seems unthinkable that it were ever any other way.

Wait, pigs? In the ocean? Ocean pigs? Oh yes: here, you will find big, fat pink pigs, kicking their little trotters through the surf, nuzzling up to the side of your boat on the promise of a turkey sausage.

If you’re a millennial, the sea-pigs of the Bahamas will probably be old news. They’re Insta-famous, adorning the social networks of countless “influencers”, who know a sure-fire 100,000-like photo opportunity when they see one. If you’re a little older, however, the pigs come as a surprise.

Initially, they were banished to an island to keep them away from the tourists, pigs being notoriously smelly and prone to defecating all over the place. Nobody wants to see that. So they were sent packing, and every day a man would chug out on a little boat to feed them. The pigs, being clever little swines, began to associate the sound of the motor with food, and would swim out to get the prime cuts before the other porkers could get a look-in.

Eventually, someone decided that, actually, this is exactly what tourists want to see, and now the pigs are spread over several islands, with people paying good money to sail out and hand-feed them.

We’re not talking little pigs, either: the biggest among them must weigh close to a tonne, with testicles the size and shape of human brains. They’re friendly enough, but they’ll swim straight through you to get their chops around a sausage. On their island – White Bay Cay – piglets scurry around your feet, and the adults (both human and pig) don’t seem to mind you picking them up.

pigs-5a09a2fab22b9It’s not just pigs, either. Bahamians have made a industry out of taking tourists to islands and letting them feed things. At first glance, the nearby Leaf Cay, which used to be owned by Nicholas Cage (at this stage, nothing would surprise me about Nicholas Cage), appears to be deserted. But as the boat approaches, the island’s residents gear-up for the daily feed. Iguanas. Dozens and dozens of rock iguanas, ready to gorge on buckets full of lettuce.

These red-frilled lizards are listed as “very endangered”, existing on just a handful of tropical islands, although they appear to be doing just fine here. The sight of maybe a hundred of these three-five foot beasts swinging their hips over the rocks is one you won’t forget in a hurry, and if you come armed with food, they’re happy to let you stroke them. When the buckets are empty, they turn and slink back into the undergrowth.

The third thing you can feed – and probably my favourite – are manta rays. For this, it’s best to head to Stocking Island, where you can while away an afternoon, or a week, or the rest of your life, at Chat ‘N’ Chill, a beach-bar so laid-back that from a distance you might assume it were dead.

Here you can get drunk on signature Bahamian cocktails, like the “banana mama” (rum, grenadine, orange juice and pineapple juice) and “sky juice” (coconut milk, condensed milk and gin), both of which are so blood-curdlingly sugary you can expect a truly life-affirming hangover the next day.

But before you get too sloshed, pay a visit to the shack on the beach, where live conch (the things that live inside those lovely shells that your gran probably kept in the loo) are extracted, chopped into cubes and served in lime juice with onion, tomato and peppers, a bit like ceviche. Conch (pronounced “konk”) have a meaty texture that’s a world away from soft shellfish like scallops or oysters.

conch-shelled-5a09a288ae31bAnd if you ask the salad-maker nicely, he will donate some conch guts, which you can then give to the gigantic manta rays who have learned to hang out here for a free feed. They will swim right up onto you if you’re not nervous around them, nibbling away at conch guts with their weird little ghost faces and generally being adorable.

Chat ‘N’ Chill also has a great selection of grilled fish and meats, although for me, the food is slightly overshadowed by Santana’s Bar & Grill, on the south end of the main island (there are more than 700 in the archipelago). This is the restaurant where famous wife-beater Johnny Depp used to hang out while he was filming Pirates of the Caribbean, and you can see why.
The fried lobster with rice ‘n’ peas and macaroni cheese (everything in the Bahamas comes with rice ‘n’ peas and macaroni cheese, the latter being cooked until it’s a delicious cheesy paste) is glorious, and the view out to the ocean, where yellow lemon shark glide silently past, would have been left out of the book of holiday cliches for being too damned beautiful.

Next door is Ma’s Bakery, where 86-year-old Ma – who boasts 38 grandchildren – gives away free hugs alongside the baked goods (which you have to pay for). To get home you could book a cab, but this i
s the kind of island where you can still hitch-hike and not end up on Crimewatch, so do that instead and pretend you’re in a Jack Kerouac novel for the 20 minutes it will take to get home.

And “home” should be the gigantic Sandals Emerald Bay. Now, hear me out: I know all-inclusive resorts aren’t always considered the height of sophistication, with the trend being to stay in a corrugated steel hut with a local mining community or some such. But Sandals is actually rather lovely. For a start, there are no kids here. Just imagine that: no kids. At all. Blissful.

And there’s something wonderful about rolling out of bed at 11am, crashing into the sea like an exuberant walrus and then ordering a couple of rum and cokes to take the edge off the hangover from all the gin and condensed milk you drank the previous evening. All of this without having to bring a wallet, because it’s all inclusive. That also goes for the 11 restaurants too, and there’s also a Greg Norman-designed golf course, tennis courts and scuba diving, for those who aren’t satisfied lounging on a beach reading and getting sozzled like the rest of us.

iguana-5a09a3367b263Sandals is also a great location from which to explore the local history, with little tombs and monuments and ruined old prisons lurking down leafy paths, which require a guide to find. You should also bone-up on your local history, which involves centuries of slave ownership, uprisings and, eventually, emancipation. There are an inordinate number of people with the surname Rolle, after a former land-owner gave the name to his former slaves along with the land they once worked.

Away from the resorts, the Exumas aren’t exactly glossy; this is no manicured paradise like the hotel-owned islands of the Maldives. The rusting skeletons of machinery lie by the roadsides and anything left alone for more than five minutes is reclaimed by the verdant blanket of greenery that covers the island. It makes Exumas feel lived-in, a place you can really explore, even get lost in, but then still find your way home before you have to call the emergency services.

And you get to feed pigs. Honestly, it had me at “pigs”.


Read original article here.

Pigs of Paradise book: The story of Exuma’s Swimming Pigs

In the middle of paradise, with billionaires and celebrities for neighbors, there is an island populated only by Swimming Pigs.

There was a time when these animals were largely unknown to the world.
And suddenly, they went viral. Appearing in magazines, videos, newspapers, commercials, TV shows and countless selfies, the Swimming Pigs of Exuma became a bucket list sensation.

But how did they get there? What made them so famous?  And why, in February 2017, did so many of them die?


’Pigs of Paradise’ is an unlikely story of humble beginnings and the swift rise to stardom. With interviews from historians, world-renowned ecologists, scholars, famous pig owners and boat captains, it thoughtfully considers not only what this phenomenon says about these animals, but also about ourselves.

A portion of every sale is donated to the Bahamas Humane Society.

Follow along on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram!