WE stand in the warm, turqouise waters, carrots in hands – waiting for the famed swimming pigs of the Bahamas.
As they amble from the undergrowth and into the sea, two things occur to me.
One: These are not the cute pink piglets I’ve seen on many an Instagram post. These are fully grown 400lb hogs, their hairy brown and beige backs high in the water.
Two: Why did no one ever mention the poo?
It’s immediately necessary to keep an eye out for floaters as the inquisitive porkers go after our carrots, while trailing a fair quantity of dung.
Our laughing guide has a top tip: Simply swish the poo away with the turning tide, where it will be safely carried out to sea. Easier said than done when you’re trying to record the moment on your phone, proffer carrots and avoid getting trodden on by one of the beasts.
It’s a surreal experience but the pigs really do charm us, happily chomping away then sploshing back on to the beach where they flop down and offer up their bellies for a rub.
What makes it even more special is there are just 18 of us enjoying the experience, all from our own private island paradise.
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The original feral pigs on Big Major Cay, in the Exuma archipelago of the Bahamas, have become such a draw that as many as ten boatloads of tourists can be jostling to swim with the pigs at any one time.
Stingrays and sharks
So Powerboat Adventures hit on a novel solution: Its own private island, Ship Channel Cay, and its very own gang of hand-reared, friendly porkers.
The day starts with a thrilling powerboat ride from Nassau, capital of the Bahamas. Zipping along at speeds of more than 40mph it’s just an hour to our first stop — and animal encounter — at Allan’s Cay.
Here we meet the island’s only residents — hundreds of iguanas. The endangered Bahamian Dragon species is accustomed to visitors and head to the beach to gobble up the grapes we proffer from sticks. Feeding them from a distance is necessary as they don’t have great eyesight and the little ones can get a tad too enthusiastic.
Iguanas fed, it’s back on board for a ten-minute high-speed ride to Ship Channel Cay. Surrounded by calm waters almost obscenely aquamarine, the island is two miles long and just half a mile wide, fringed with soft, pink-sand beaches.
The original fisherman’s cottage houses a relaxed bar where you can enjoy as many beers, wines, cocktails or soft drinks as you like throughout the day.
We settle down on the sunloungers with a cocktail in hand and admire the stunning views — and in no time there’s our date with the swimming pigs to enjoy.
The rest of the day sees the enthusastic team help us feed wild stingrays and even sharks that have grown used to arriving for an easy meal from the shallows.
Lunch is served on the pontoon deck — generous portions of meat, fish and salads, all washed down with more complimentary drinks from the bar. As the afternoon stretches out we return to our sunloungers for a snooze, others take a dip in the sparkling waters and every now and again the island’s piggy population will wander along, still keen to sniff out a snack or two.
It’s pretty much a perfect day in paradise — and it is now easier than ever to get there with the launch this month of new twice-weekly direct flights from Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic.
With more than 700 islands and cays to explore, just 50 miles off the coast of Florida, the Bahamas is perfect for year-round sunshine with miles of pristine beaches and fantastic opportunities to fish, dive, snorkel and swim. And you can do almost all of that and more without setting foot beyond your resort at the legendary Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island.
The original ocean-themed mega-resort features 3,805 rooms across five hotels, the vast Aquaventure waterpark covering 62 hectares and more restaurants, shops and casinos than a small city.
Roll of the dice
The Royal Towers are right at the centre of the resort and ideal for families — and feature that famous Bridge Suite where the likes of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber have shelled out 25,000 dollars a night for the privilege.
For a more relaxed, sophisticated vibe head to all-suite The Cove, where you’ll have access to your own exclusive crescent of gorgeous white sands and adults-only pool with swim-up bar, yet still be close to the waterpark with its slides, flumes and mile-long lazy river.
Being so close the US — with Miami just a 30-minute flight away — hotels are very much aimed at the American market and the recently opened Margaritaville will delight fans of music legend Jimmy Buffet.
Set on a lovely beachfront in Nassau, there is a water park, a climbing wall and a relaxed atmosphere that families are sure to love.
And for those who like a roll of the dice with their tropical sunshine, check out the Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, part of a large complex of three hotels with gorgeous tropical gardens, multiple pools and a beach, as well as a large casino and some excellent high-end restaurants.
Being a US favourite, the standards are very high wherever you head in the Bahamas, with excellent service and some top-class facilities.
They just need to teach those naughty pigs a thing or two about toilet manners.
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