Silly Sailors & The Swimming Pigs Scandal
There are a few running themes here in the Bahamas that seem to repeat themselves at almost every island. Which is why so many people love the Bahamas, you can visit any of the islands and almost be guaranteed: beautiful water, snorkeling, diving, caves, blue holes, basket weaving, fishing, sites of movies scenes, and islands owned by famous people.
But, there are some stand out attractions that set a few destinations apart from the others. Staniel Cay in the Exuma chain of islands is one of those places. If you’ve heard of it then you probably know the reason for our visit and if you haven’t…well, then perhaps the swimming pigs aren’t as famous as we thought.
It’s 2017 and it seems the entire world knows about the famous swimming pigs in the Bahamas. I searched YouTube for Exuma Bahamas Swimming Pigs and found 22,900 results with collectively (I’m totally guessing here) a few billion views. So yea, these pigs are famous.
Sadly, the day we arrived these pigs in paradise had endured a tragedy that has now turned scandal. Internet out here on the water is limited, we don’t watch TV and therefore we don’t get to check the news often. It wasn’t until several days after we left Pig Beach that we heard the news.
Curiouser and curiouser! Right!?!
It’s a real bummer the pig drama went down, otherwise this post would mostly be about Thunderball Grotto. For us, the pigs weren’t all that exciting but then again we’re from Texas and have seen pigs a million times. The Grotto on the other hand is an absolute natural attraction. If it wasn’t so chilly we could’ve spent hours swimming around with the fish and popping in and out of the holes.
The James Bond movie Thunderball (Sean Connery) was filmed here as well as Never Say Never Again, Splash (Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah) and Into the Blue (Jessica Alba and Paul Walker).
It’s times like these that I wish we had a proper underwater housing for our ‘big’ Sony camera. I could have played with the shadows and light for hours capturing stunning images. Even still I think our little action cam did a decent job, especially considering the low light.
What surprised us is we were the only ones there. It is a popular tourist attraction so I guess we were lucky slack tide was early and the weather wasn’t perfect.
The island and town of Staniel Cay it’s super basic. Not much to do, see or buy here. We walked around the entire island to stretch our legs, thoroughly exploring the north one day and the south another afternoon. There is an outlandish amount of wealth on the island in the form of lush vacation homes, mega yachts and private airplanes. There seems to be a huge disconnect between the yacht club, private neighborhoods, and the local community. We’ve seen it often here in the Bahamas but the difference between poverty and wealth hits pretty hard when walking around the neighborhoods of the island. The locals nevertheless are kind, helpful and genuine people. It’s hard not to fall in love with the Bahamian people.
I’m not going to get on my pedestal and preach about Bahamian politics or animal rights, but I can tell you something feels fishy with the way things were handled with the pigs. We were hoping the story would unfold completely by the time we launched this video, but sadly there’s just as many questions as the day we visited.
If you want to read and make your own conclusions here are two interesting articles published in the Bahamas news outlet Tribune 242 website:
- This article was written by the same lady who initially threw the “silly sailors” under the bus as I mentioned in the video tribune242.com/news/2017/mar/06/insight-government-making-pigs-ear-out-treatment-a/
- This article goes a little deep into government conspiracy and cover up tribune242.com/news/2017/mar/29/tough-call-dead-pigs-and-suffering-horses-result-p/
As for animal rights and responsible tourism it’s always been a personal challenge for us to know what is okay and what does harm. Riding an elephant would be amazing, walking a tiger on a leash is no doubt a thrill and swimming with a dolphin sounds fabulous. But it’s been shown that many of these animal attractions are abusive and detrimental to the animals.
Here’s the website we found while searching out more info for our personal knowledge:
- What Can We Do? I think this article does a wonderful job of sharing ways for compassionate animal travel (BTW it is a UK site so when they say ‘holiday’ they don’t mean Christmas): https://www.worldanimalprotection.org.uk/protect-animals/our-guide-to-animal-friendly-travel
- What To Avoid. In this article, they lay out the most cruel forms of wildlife attractions around the world: https://www.worldanimalprotection.org/wildlife-not-entertainers/worlds-cruellest-attractions
We came to see what all the fuss was about with “the famous swimming pigs”. I believe we’ve left with a better understanding of ourselves along with the destinations and entertainment that best fulfill our curiosities. We want to see and experience the world but not at an expense to the world. Being a responsible and respectful human and traveler requires more than good intentions. We’re obviously going to have to increase our research to make sure we are doing our part along the way.
To see our full map with interactive pins, click here: gonewiththewynns.com/map
Dates: February 17-19, 2017
Nautical Miles Sailed: 27
Anchorage: Dropped the hook at Big Major Cay which is where pig beach is. The anchorage can be found easily on Active Captain with additional info and reviews.
Cell & WiFi: Our cell phone signal/data was good here.
Gear Used In This Video
- iPad Pro using Garmin Bluecharts App (and Active Captain): http://amzn.to/2d9Oopf
- Iridium Go and Predict Wind App for weather and communications: bit.ly/PredictWindIridium
- Portable Floating VHF w/GPS: http://amzn.to/2hwEoK7
- Dinghy: gonewiththewynns.com/dinghy-swap-ab-highfield
- Snorkle/Dive Gear
- Hammerhead Free-Dive Mask With Camera Mount http://amzn.to/2d5C6SB
- Hammerhead Free-Dive J Snorkel: http://amzn.to/2cjh3dV
- Jason’s Omer Freediving Fins: http://amzn.to/2kIhljK
- Nikki’s Sporasub Freediving Fins: http://amzn.to/2kIYmlf
Cameras Used to Capture This Video
- Sony A7ii: http://bit.ly/a7rii-sony
- Sony Zoom Mic: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-gun-zoom-microphone-black
- Sony 24 – 70mm f4 lens: http://bit.ly/2470-zeiss
- Sony Action Cam: http://bit.ly/sony-as300
- All of our up to date photo and editing gear: gonewiththewynns.com/best-travel-camera-video-photography
Thanks for being a part of our journey! If you enjoy what we do and you want to help us keep the videos and posts flowing, check out our Say Thanks page. It lists out some ways you can show us some digital love and most won’t cost you a penny.
A lot of adventure in that video!! Nikki, I love that top you had on when you went to see the pigs…you have a lot of cute clothes! That beautiful blue water….. I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see the videos…
I found another youtuber who watches you guys – He flys a caravan in the bahama’s – He said hi on his video!
That fifth picture (underwater grotto silhouette) is surreal and incredible!
Cool video !
You guys may have seen this, but I thought I would forward it to you:
oh, and I LOVED your footage of the grotto. If I had the money I’d send you a case for the camera. Seriously. Dreamy, surreal, beautiful…and yeah, if it’s chilly, I can see why you were only there for 30 minutes. (and I grew up swimming in the Pacific Ocean. I get it!) Thank you for capturing the beauty and sharing it …you both have a good eye for the composition and cinematography of the moment.
That is too bad about the pigs’ death, they can possibly take a certain amount of alcohol, say beer (we were told to use beer to get 4-H pigs to eat, but never did, and it was a can, not a case). However hard alcohol certainly would be a different story. It’s odd. I would feel the same as you two would, about seeing a pig, as we had over 60 in 4-H and it is not something rare around here, especially with a huge wild population. I think though, the juxtaposition of a herd of pigs, swimming pigs at that, and the tropical isle is attractive in a way. (a weird way) Frankly, as for ‘animal’ tourism, I don’t care for a lot of it, but I have to take it in context. San Diego Zoo and many others have helped us understand Why we need to preserve habitat, they have helped re-establish wild populations, and so on. They also educate. We have a local family that has taken in exotic wild animal rescues – and in turn has made it a goal to educate the public why it is not a good idea to think you too could own a tiger. (up close they are huge, and terrifying) As for the elephants, it’s interesting. I have some good friends from India who grew up around elephants. Asian elephants have been part of the working world for hundreds of years. In a way, the ones who have descended from working elephants have a desire to work – like working horses, for example, camels, or herd dogs. The ones who don’t are wild Asian elephants or African elephants. I think you both are being quite thoughtful about your adventures, and that is important. Visiting the pigs and telling their story is a layer on the fascinating world of the Bahamas, and the sometimes dreamy feel of the tropical isle. It is a reminder of the ‘real’.
Thank you Helen for sharing your thoughts! We agree animal tourism can be done right and sometimes there is an intersection of where we use the animals but provide for, love and respect them in return. I especially like your working horses/camel/elephant example, great point. On the UK website we found, there is a very long list of all the animal tourism attractions around the world that are doing good things…ie, sanctuaries, zoos, rehabilitation centers and such.
Thank you for your responsible tourism and for conveying those sentiments to your followers. I love animals and try to never do them harm. Here in the Phoenix, AZ, area (specifically Scottsdale), we now have a place where people can swim with the dolphins…outside…in the desert. There was a great deal of controversy when it opened and a lot of protests, however, it is still open. I would never be a party to that. I actually don’t really like zoos anymore, even though some claim to help to bring certain animals back from the brink of extinction. I just don’t think animals were put on earth for the pleasure (or the food) of humans. They deserve respect. We’ve already messed up most of their natural territories, we need to back off. Very sad that someone would find it entertaining to get pigs drunk.
The Grotto was very pretty. Very sad what people do for their own amusement and harm the animals. The ignorance of some people is astonishing. Thanks for another great video. 🙂
Watching y’all swim them caves reminds me of the movie Into the Blue with Jessica Alba and Paul Walker. I love the Bahama’s. Its so Beautiful there.
That was one of the movies filmed there! So good eye!
Scott and Bre
My favorite place…
That simple, my favorite place to spend time with Bre.
Love the Staniel Cay Yacht Club staff.
Love the fresh bread
Love the laundry service and the smiles of islanders cleaning fish near the water with nurse sharks lingering in 1.5 feet of water.
To me – Staniel Cay just hits all the buttons
Thanks for sharing. So glad you both made it there!
btw – did someone buy your consignment dinghy? I’ve missed a couple episodes ?
We heard, we were in Exuma last year this time for a wedding, and one group went to see the pigs, we arrived after that trip, but and a few months later some stupid people and I mean stupid, gave the pigs alcohol, and it killed some…I mean how nuckle, headed can one be to do that, and no one said stop that…so yes it was quite the tragedy…was all over FB
Thank you for sharing. I don’t know what to say about the pigs. Who knows what happened.
Moving on to your video going into the grotto. You two are so much braver than me. I kept waiting for the theme from Jaws to start playing and something far more frightening then a pig to swim up behind you. Of course at that point even a giant pig swimming up behind me would have frightened me to death. Maybe that will be the next movie they film there.YIKES!
Glad you both are safe and back aboard your boat for more adventures.
This video gives me pause. I really liked the snorkeling section but the political pig problem, not so much.
After reading the links you posted it would seem there are more questions than answers. And it is impossible to talk about the pig problem without getting into politics. Thanks heavens you steer clear of that.
In general I have been against zoos and aquariums that make animals perform for tourists. On the other hand there is some good research than happens in zoos and aquariums. Research that is providing life-saving answers for endangered animals.
The whole thing gave us pause too. For us we walked away from the experience with a reminder to do our homework on attractions. We want to be responsible travelers and not participate or promote participating in potentially harmful attractions. There is a great portion of the UK website that talks about and lists out the good animal tourism can do and does. It has a long list of sanctuaries and even zoos that are doing great things for education, awareness and bringing back the population of struggling species. It’s not all bad, there’s lots of good going on and that’s what we will focus on going forward. Visiting and sharing great organizations doing exciting things that do good.
Beautiful video. The grotto was amazing. Very sad about the pigs. Don’t quite understand why people feel the need to take selfies or get close enough to try and touch wild animals. Idiots, and they will never go away.
I noticed you’re back in Dania. I’m sure you’ve been to Jaxson’s Ice Cream in Dania but just on the off chance you haven’t, you have to go there. We’ve celebrated lots of birthdays there.
Nikki, the swimming pigs were alive when we were there February 13 -15. Hoping you would have posted you found a GoPro in the Thunderbolt grotto. It had our up close & personal encounter with 5 great hammerheads and 4 bull sharks. Now get back to work…the marina life…ha, ha!
Oh no! I wish we would have found your GoPro too! That would have been awesome footage to see! Surely you didn’t see the hammerheads at the Grotto…right!? I would have died from shock swimming through one of those holes to find a hammerhead waiting on the other side!
That grotto looks amazing…totally worth the risky cameraman action! Bright sun would have been stunning, but you still got great photos … and more importantly, a great experience!!
Heard about the pig deaths, but hadn’t heard all the follow up. Interesting. But I’m totally with you on animal tourism…not a fan. Grew up in SoCal with frequent trips to San Diego for the Zoo (even one very cool “behind the scenes tour), SeaWorld & Wild Animal Park. But then you learn more and more about questionable and cruel animal acquisitions and then the captivity of them all, even potentially releaseable animals, just can’t. Not on any of my “to do” lists. In college, I had an experience of snorkeling at Santa Barbara Island, in the Channel Islands, and amongst a sea lion rookery that enhabited the dock area. Swimming with them was amazing as they played with you…and swam *fast* right toward your mask and spun away at the last second! Had to keep any eye out for the bull, but that was *wild* fun. ? My next non-sailing adventure starts tomorrow…Peru trip with the siblings! First time to South America, including a visit to Machu Picchu…they’ve got the guardian alpacas, I’ll be staying away from them. ?
Swimming with the sea lions would be super exciting like that. The real wild encounters with animals, on their terms is so much more exciting. So many opportunities for us to be curious about one another in a natural way and swimming with those sea lions is the perfect example. I haven’t encountered sea lions in the water like that but have had them get close and say hello while kayaking or paddle boarding and it always exciting. Have fun in Machu Picchu! We haven’t been but its on the list and we hear its fantastic.