You don’t have to be an animal lover or a pig enthusiast to fall in love with Pig Beach. You do, however, have to bring a cooler of snacks.
‘Pig Beach’ or ‘Pig Island’, are affectionate nicknames for what is actually an uninhabited island in The Exumas (the real Bahamas some would say). Uninhabited isn’t exactly correct either. A group of feral pigs live on the island, and that will become apparent as soon as you approach. The big ones will hear you from several feet away, as you try to figure out just how shallow the crystal clear water is, and where to drop your anchor. You can only get to Pig Island via boat. I suppose you could swim from one of the surrounding islands, but that would be tough with a loaded cooler.
The pigs on Pig Island are not shy. They will be at your boat long before you’ve determined if in fact, it won’t drift away. They are eager to welcome visitors and have brought insatiable appetites. It might be overwhelming, but this is a good time to bring out the camera. Once the pigs realize that you’ve run out of food, or were rude enough not to bring any, they’ll move on to the next boat. So what do these wild pigs like to eat? Well, I made the mistake of leaving an attended can of beer on the beach for a few minutes, only to find it tipped over and being poured into a pig’s mouth.
Then, there are the piglets. Capable or melting any heart. Most get pretty frightened by humans but there are some that aren’t bothered and quite curious. They really are just so sweet!
Where to stay: Staniel Cay Yacht Club is a great option for anyone looking to explore a bit of the Bahamas and of course, Pig Beach. Staniel Cay is tiny and you can get to the club from the airport by walking, or a golf cart ride. It’s made up a few bungalows right on the water that vary in size. Each bungalow has its own name and you can preview them on the club’s website to see which one would suit you best. Staying at the club means you don’t have to worry about a thing. From dining to recreational activities, it’s all right there. Here is the best part- you can choose a package that comes with a variety of things like bikes, snorkeling gear, kayaks, paddle boards and my favorite: a skiff. You can pack your things, load up the cooler and take the skiff to Pig Beach whenever you want. You can’t beat that!
There is a restaurant at the club, as well as a casual dining option and a bar that comes alive after sunset. The food is great and the service is top notch. Sometimes when you’re limited to dining at just a couple of places the experience can get a bit dull. That’s not the case here. The dinner menu changes every night and the chef does an exceptional job. If they have the key lime pie on the menu, don’t pass it up!
Getting there: You have a few options here. If Nassau is a place you’d like to visit, you can easily catch a flight from there to Staniel Cay. Flamingo Air is one of the carriers that offers service. Be advised, the planes are very small and only carry a few passengers at a time. Also, the weather in this area is another factor to consider. It can change suddenly and have a major impact your flight. These small planes do not climb to high altitudes so when a storm pops up, as I discovered, things can get violently shaky. On the other hand, if you would like to bypass Nassau, you can fly in from elsewhere. Watermakers Air offers service to Staniel Cay directly from Fort Lauderdale and Miami. You can book seats or a private charter for a larger group (this can be cost-effective at times).
You also have the option of getting there by boat. Staniel Cay Yacht Club outlines the details here, if this is something you’d like to consider.
What to do: Pig Beach: Chances are you’re visiting Staniel Cay to get to it so all I will say is enjoy every minute!
Thunderball Grotto: Avid James Bond fans may already know about this place. The 1965 film ‘ThunderBall’ was shot here and the crew hung out at the Yacht Club during that time. Here’s the thing, the grotto doesn’t look very impressive from the outside and it’s easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s not far from Staniel Cay but make sure you have it mapped out just in case. You can go it alone or with a tour guide. Either way, you’ll swim into this cave and unexpectedly find yourself in an incredible opening in the rock. Sunlight beams down through it and illuminates the chamber and the water. The sight is remarkable and sadly my description just doesn’t do it justice. Below the water’s surface awaits a snorkeler’s or scuba diver’s dream. Despite the underground setting, the fish and coral are easy to see thanks to the light rays. It’s just stunning. Now perhaps the idea of blindly swimming into a cave with the promise of some type of opening at some point may be off-putting. But this is not a challenging or scary experience and the reward is great. Just make sure to keep away during tide hide for snorkeling.
There really is no right or wrong way to experience Staniel Cay. You can make it adventure driven and activity-filled, or more slow-paced and relaxed. It’s just funny to think that a pig’s paradise is exactly what us humans are looking for.