The Bahamas are known for their stunning beaches, but some come with a piggy surprise
But as we drew closer to one of these, my eyes seemed to be deceiving me.
There, in the water, was a big, fat, black and white pig and several little pink piglets paddling behind it, emitting a chorus of loud grunts.
I wasn’t going mad, fortunately; I was simply arriving at Big Major Cay in the Bahamas, an island entirely inhabited by pigs.
No one knows quite how they got to be there; some say sailors put them there to come back to cook later, another theory is that they swam from a shipwreck.
But as it stands today, there are about 20 that live here on what is affectionately called Pig Beach, an isolated and idyllic slither of powder white sand and mangroves.
Big Major Cay is an island inhabited entirely by swimming pigs
The sand was as soft as flour and we jumped over waves and watched the sun come up
Just as I was plucking up the courage to jump into the sea to swim out to them, the biggest pig wasted no time for introductions, coming straight over to our boat where he jumped up to give me a kiss.
It was certainly the most bizarre sight I’ve ever witnessed.
My trip out to Pig Beach was part of a much-needed winter sun break with my partner in Great Exuma, one of 365 cays and islands known as the Exumas and around seven hundred islands, in total, that comprise the Bahamas, just east of Miami.
We took a direct flight from London into the capital, Nassau (taking just under 10 hours), then a short half-hour hop over to Great Exuma.
One road runs through the entire 37-mile-long island (which is also joined to Little Exuma, by a small bridge), and passed locals sat on the porches of bright clapboard houses, chatting and barbecuing.
We were staying at Sandals Emerald Bay, and when we arrived there was a lovely buzz from the beach bar and a jazz pianist playing in the cocktail lounge.
But after a long trip, we headed straight to the comfort of our colonial-style room, where a luxurious mahogany four-poster bed with steel blue Egyptian cotton sheets awaited us.
At sunrise, we stepped out onto our terrace and wandered barefoot through the manicured lawns, past one of the three freshwater pools to the beach.
The sand was as soft as flour and we jumped over waves and watched the sun come up before enjoying a full American style breakfast (every type of food is on offer at this all-inclusive resort).
The name Bahamas, from the Spanish ‘baja mar’, means shallow seas, and it’s these large white sandbanks that sit beneath the surface that give the sea that hypnotic clear turquoise colour.
Sandals Emerald Bay provides luxury colonial accommodation
Eager to explore, we signed up for an historic tour of the island, where we learned that its many coves and inlets made for hiding places for even the largest of pirate ships.
We then stopped off at Santanna’s Bar & Grill – a favourite spot of Johnny Depp while filming the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies – for their special ‘Goombay Smash’ cocktail (coconut rum, brandy and pineapple juice) and tasty grouper and lobster for lunch.
The next day we caught a boat from George Town to Stocking Island, where locals have built a popular bar/restaurant known as Chat ’N’ Chill, renowned for its fresh conch salads and roasts every Sunday.
Our last night was spent at Kimono’s, a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant at Sandals where a personal chef cooks in front of you.
The ginger-infused chicken did not disappoint, and it was a great end to our stay.
Stocking Island is worth a visit for its food alone
Before we caught our flight home, we spend a night at Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau, which was once the famed Balmoral Club, a private club for 1940s high society such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – and later a hideaway for celebrities including the Beatles, while they were filming Help!
A little oasis of calm, with its own offshore island for exotic excursions, we had just enough time to feel like royals ourselves with a quick swim in the Roman colonnaded pool.
Nassau itself is also worth a visit, where you can shop in the straw market – home to handmade crafts, gifts and souvenirs – and pop into the fascinating interactive Pirates of Nassau Museum.
The Bahamas undoubtedly has some of the most picturesque beaches in the world, but we were also pleasantly surprised to find it had so much more to offer.
Bahamas beaches are unique in their beauty, but they’re much more than that
10 things to do in the Bahamas
1 Hop on the ferry from Great Exuma to Chat ’N’ Chill, on Stocking Island (chatnchill.com) for a barbecue lunch.
2 Take a historic tour of Great Exuma, which includes a visit to the Pompey Monument and Prison and lunch at Santanna’s Bar & Grill (islandroutes.com).
3 Swim with pigs if you’re staying on Great Exuma. It’s the highlight of a fun-filled day touring around the Exumas’ 20 cays in a luxury Powercat (islandroutes.com).
4 Join in the local fun at the fish fry in George Town on a Sunday night. It’s where everyone comes together to party at the weekend (discoverexuma.com).
5 Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the colourful streets of Nassau on a food tour, sampling conch salad, baked macaroni cheese, rum cake and Bahamian gelato (trubahamianfoodtours.com).
6 Time your trip with the annual, week-long Junkanoo Carnival in May for an authentic Bahamian party atmosphere (bahamas junkanoocarnival.com).
7 Try Japanese teppanyaki at Kimono’s Japanese restaurant, Sandals Emerald Bay (sandals.co.uk), where your personal chef entertains you as he cooks.
8 Make friends with a Bahamian. People-To-People will introduce you to an ambassador (bahamas.com/people-to-people).
9 Vist the Pirates of Nassau Museum (piratesofnassau.com) for an interactive adventure.
10 Book a round at the Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course which hugs the shoreline (sandals.co.uk/golf).