When one becomes a traveler, the desire to seek unique experiences can lead you to some unusual places. The act of traveling can put you in touch with interesting people, strange customs, different local foods, and some pretty amazing adventures. Sometimes it even brings you face-to-face with farm life run amok.
A very recent trip to the Exumas, a chain of small islands in the Bahamas, landed us in an environment so beautiful and peaceful that it seemed this couldn’t possibly be one of the trips mentioned above. But then again, one should never make assumptions.
Taking a Chance
In spite of a love of travel, I am a fearful flyer, so the 9-passenger plane that brought us to our tiny island nearly did me in. Once ensconced in our cottage on the 2-square-mile island, my heart-rate slowed and the stunning crystal blue waters calmed me. Perhaps the quarters without televisions, phones, or any of the usual trappings of daily life, would set the pace for a quiet time. This would likely be an uneventful tour of the white sand beaches that dotted the islands around us.
Yeah, When Pigs Fly… Or…
Think again. Never assume. While the overall vibe was very chill, there was an undercurrent of excitement about what a traveler could discover here. Maps showing a grotto made famous in the James Bond movie “Thunderball” for snorkeling, an island populated with various species of iguanas, and a menu that boasted some fresh local food hinted at the tour that was to come. This tour was going to take us to a place that had perhaps the most unusual experience of all.
Swimming pigs. Yes, pigs that swim. A boat ride to Big Major Cay brought us to a beautiful beach populated with swine paddlers aggressively looking for food scraps. Good thing we brought some! Pigs of various sizes swam to the boat – one even tried to climb in – and we spent a few moments tossing bread into the water for them. Once we landed on the beach, we walked amongst the pigs, saw their tiny babies sleeping in the sand, and were even chased by some who thought we still had food. It was definitely not your average day at the beach. As a traveler, I love when things aren’t typical – this experience definitely qualified.
Is This For Real?
Using a hand-drawn map, we carefully navigated the shallows between cays to reach other stops where we could see iguanas, climb on rocks and cliffs, scour sandbars for starfish, and snorkel in some of the clearest turquoise water you’ve ever seen. There was a feeling of connection between us and the water, the land, and the sky. The wide open views and the simplicity of it all was breathtaking.
Making a Connection
Coated in salt water, sand, and sunscreen, we landed back at our cottages to enjoy some down time. Memories of our swine friends and their lizard-island neighbors lingered as the sounds of reggae floated through the air. The lack of an agenda allowed for cold beverages and conversation with locals that gathered nightly in the restaurant bar. There was talk of this place being the “real Bahamas” along with stories of how this particular island was settled. It currently boasts less than a hundred full-time residents who are so welcoming – that, in the moment, we felt we could be included in that number.
Then it was off to dinner where the local food that is most plentiful, conch and lobster, appeared nightly. Oh to enjoy the fresh taste of something we don’t eat at home! The conch fritters were formed and fried like a giant hush puppy or lightly battered and served with a tangy sauce. Bahamian lobsters, served simply with drawn butter, have no claws – perhaps a fitting representation of the gentleness of the place and the people.
Full and tired, but ready for another day’s adventure and another tour of low-lying cays and sparkling clear waters awaited us. So we slept the kind of sleep that only comes when there is no stress and no worries – only magical thoughts of fish swimming in grottos and pigs swimming by our side. No we weren’t dreaming – it was real. A unique adventure that was truly a gift.
Think again. Never assume. Take a chance.