The Bahamas is so much more than Nassau and Paradise Island. With more than 700 idyllic islands that stretch from Grand Bahama to the Exuma Cays, and the promise of everything from photogenic beaches to the chance to swim with pigs, you’ll find no shortage of uniquely Caribbean adventures to enjoy in the country’s Out Islands.
Big Major Cay
In an archipelago of Bahamian isles that’s known for crystal-clear waters and some of the region’s best fishing, pigs don’t fly—they swim! See for yourself in the Exuma Cays, where a porky parade greets visitors to Big Major Cay. How the swine got here is a mystery, but at the hum of an approaching boat engine the leafy-eared pigs emerge from the bushes and launch themselves into the water, laser-focused on the visiting boaters and the scraps they bring with them. Adventurers jump into the sea to swim with pigs, while others feed them gingerly from the boat. But whether you work up the nerve to go swim with pigs or simply watch the spectacle from the safety of the deck, it’s an unforgettable adventure you can only have in the Bahamas. Several local outfits operate tours, with the crew at Exuma Water Sports particularly outstanding in its service.
Compass Cay, a private island in the Exuma Cays, has 13 white-sand beaches. But that’s not the only reason people love it. Boaters have been coming here for years to pet, swim, and snorkel with the nurse sharks that congregate at its dock. The fish, which can weigh as much as 300 pounds each, are drawn by the plentiful supply of scraps from boaters who clean their catch at the marina dock. It’s good news for the sharks—who never go hungry—and even better news for swimmers, who needn’t fear a nip from the well-fed, “mostly harmless” critters. The tap of a small axe on the cleaning table is the signal for the island’s docile “pets” to come in for dinner. And when their tummies are full, that’s your signal to grab a snorkel, jump in, and join them.
For the selfie to beat all selfies, snap a pic at Pelican Beach, the Little Exuma shore that is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer line. Painted a fittingly Caribbean shade of blue, the line spans the steps leading to the sand, showing the Tropic’s official coordinates at 23 degrees latitude. Experts say the Tropic is actually moving further south at a speed of about half a second of latitude every year, so you’d better make 2016 the year you get here!