This was our first time visiting the Bahamas. We booked the trip a year in advance and honestly, we didn’t know what to expect. Our friends recommended Exuma because they knew folks who already went and loved it. After seeing the pictures, we booked it without hesitation! We went in early August, and flew from Atlanta directly into Exuma (Georgetown-GTT). As the plane descended, I could see that the water and sand were pristine. I knew at that moment, we were about to see a special place.
The Exumas is a region of the Bahamas composed of some 365 islands and cays. There’s a stretch of sand known as Big Major Cay, and it’s known for it’s population of pigs. It’s one of the most popular attractions in the entire Caribbean nation, and we swam with the pigs! I’ll tell you about it below!
We stayed at Sandals Emerald Bay, an all inclusive resort. Our experience was amazing and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s thinking about going to the Bahamas. On our first full day, we had a private charter boat scheduled. This was the best decision! We took a bus from Sandals to the dock that morning, met our captain, and began our day. It was one of the best days of our lives! There were plenty of snacks and drinks on the boat, so we just took in the atmosphere and enjoyed each other’s company!
Visiting the rock iguanas
Our first stop on the tour was Guana Cay, where rock iguanas lounged like miniature dinosaurs on the shoreline. It felt I was in a toy-sized version of “Jurassic Park.” As we slipped off the boat into the water, our captain told us to “be careful and don’t offer food”. As the iguanas came crawling out of every corner, we were somewhat trapped between intrigue and fear. We slowly took more pictures and left. (The captain also told us that Nicolas Cage owns that island- interesting!)
Next, we dropped the anchor at the stunning Pipe Cay sandbar that looked and felt like a shallow pile of clouds. It’s in the middle of the ocean- absolutely breathtaking! We all jumped off the boat and spent about 30 minutes there. We kept saying to each other, “HAVE YOU EVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS!? IS THIS REAL LIFE?!”
Faith Hill & Tim McGraw’s House
Once we were back in the boat, we jetted by Musha Cay, the luxurious private island owned by magician David Copperfield and frequented by celebs like Johnny Depp and Oprah Winfrey. And shortly after, we slowed down in front of the island owned by country singers Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. The 2nd pic is behind their house, a guest house for each one of their 3 daughters.
Playing with pigs
Next, it was time to swim with the pigs. As we arrived at Big Major Cay, we noticed most of the pigs were passed out under a thatched hut on the beach. One huge male pig swam toward our boat immediately, its round, pink snout rising out of the water like a periscope. He was quickly banging himself against the side of our boat, demanding to be fed.
“Don’t hold out your hands and show them your fingers, they’ll think they’re hotdogs” the captain said. He also warned us not to turn our backs on any of them: Some are feisty enough to bite your behind if they think you’re not feeding them.
We stayed about 30 minutes, checking out all the pigs and babies. Some of the people in our group had no interest in hanging out longer than necessary in the same water where pigs are freely pooping and peeing, lol. So we moved on.
Then, we went snorkeling in ThunderBall Grotto, which just may be one of the most exciting snorkeling trips we’ll ever take. The James Bond movie ThunderBall was filmed there as well as Splash starring Tom Hanks, and Into the Blue starring Jessica Alba and Paul Walker. It was my favorite part of the day! Seeing all the caribbean fish, and the beautiful cave, it was truly amazing!
Around 2:00pm, we pulled up to a dock for lunch at Black Point Island. We set out on foot for a few blocks to a wooden cottage where a Bahamian buffet was set out. We happily filled paper plates with fried grouper, barbecue ribs, yellow rice with diced veggies, and fresh fruit and red velvet cake. For $24, the homemade buffet lunch was a decent deal for the Bahamas, where prices tend to be quite high.
Swimming with nurse sharks
We reached our next stop on the tour, Compass Cay, a busy marina where dozens of nurse sharks swarmed beneath. A mandatory $10 docking fee was required the minute you stepped off the boat, whether you swam or not. It wasn’t included in the tour price, and you needed cash. Several of us eased into the water, and immediately had a sense of fear. Everyone was snapping selfies and feeding the sharks fish scraps handed out on the dock. There is something about interacting with the sharks in this way — even passively swimming with them — that feels unsettling. We got our picture and got out pretty quickly.
Of our group (5 men & 5 women) all the women got in to swim with the sharks and only 1 man. I think that says something 🙂
After a long boat ride back to the dock, the sun was setting and the waters had begun to take on a golden glow. The breeze was calm, the weather hovered around 85 degrees. We were surrounded by some of the world’s most compelling natural beauty. It was an amazing day!
The days that followed
For the remainder of our trip (we stayed 4 nights/5days) we took it easy at the resort, taking in all Sandals had to offer: private cabanas, all inclusive food and drinks. We ate at many of the restaurants on property and they were all fantastic (especially the Sushi bar!)
The day before we left the island, we visited Coco Plum Beach. A local taxi took us and dropped us off for a few hours before returning to pick us up. It was secluded and in the middle of nowhere. It was gorgeous!
If you are considering where to go on our next vacation, I highly recommend Exuma! It was a vacation to remember!