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Exuma is a must-visit vacation destination for those that wish to be surrounded by paradise. Its beautiful white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and laidback island vibe attract millions of visitors each year. It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Exuma is a chain of islands, or cays, located in the Bahamas. It’s located thirty-four miles southeast of the more popular and much more crowded Bahamian tourist destination of Nassau.
Exuma has become an internet sensation over the last few years due to the popularity of its now-famous swimming pigs; however, the island chain still remains quite peaceful. It may have the reputation of being one of the more relaxed vacation spots in the Bahamas, but there is definitely no shortage of things to do. Below you will find six incredible things to do in Exuma.
How to Get to Exuma
The island of Exuma is 100 miles off the coast of Florida and just 35 miles southeast of Nassau. The best way to reach Exuma is generally by plane. Exuma International Airport (GGT) is located on Great Exuma and direct flights are offered from Nassau, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale. Flights from Nassau are more frequent and usually offered daily.
If you’re departing from Florida or Nassau, Bahamas Air and Silver Airways have affordable and regular flight service. If you are departing from anywhere else in the United States, Delta can be a great option. Chartered flights are also available from some of the other Bahamian cays, such as Staniel Cay Airport (MYES), Black Point Airport (MYEB), and Farmer’s Cay Airport.
There are a couple of additional options for reaching Exuma from Nassau. The first is the ferry; however, I don’t’ recommend it. There are no direct ferries available and travel time is long (14 hours). The ferry might be appealing to those who wish to bring a car over from Nassau or simply have the time to spend on the ferry. Bahamas Ferry makes a couple of trips to Georgetown each week.
A ticket should be purchased a couple of days in advance and costs $130 USD roundtrip. A day trip from Nassau is also an option but will be very rushed. If you have your heart set on seeing the swimming pigs, but don’t have enough time to actually visit Exuma, speed boat tours are offered to Pig Beach. For more information or to book a tour, click here.
Fun Things to do in Exuma
1. Visit Stocking Island
Stocking Island is a great way to spend your first day in Exuma. It is a small, narrow island located just off of the port of Georgetown. The island has beautiful beaches and great resorts. It’s easily reachable by boat and the ride is just ten minutes long. Elvis’ water taxi runs throughout the day and $15 USD/person (cash only) for a roundtrip ticket. A full day can easily be spent on the island.
I suggest spending the morning swimming with the stingrays. They can be found directly offshore and are more active earlier in the day. I’m not sure if they are looking for food or they actually enjoy human interaction, but they will swim right up to you and allow you to pet them. The rest of the afternoon can be spent relaxing on the beach or enjoying some food and drinks at Stocking Island’s famous, Chat N’ Chill. The Chat N’ Chill has a full bar and is a great place to meet people from all over the world.
2. Charter a Boat
Chartering a boat doesn’t have to be as expensive as it sounds. Exuma has a lot of options when it comes to boats. If you are looking for a great and relatively inexpensive way to go out on the water, I suggest booking a boat through Elvis (the man who runs the water taxi). He arranged a captain/guide to take us to some incredible spots around Elizabeth Harbor and Stocking Island. The tour ended up being my favorite on this list of things to do in Exuma.
The first stop was Hooper’s Bay. Hooper’s Bay is a beautiful area of shallow turquoise waters and is a must if swimming with sea turtles is on your list. The water was crystal clear and we found a handful of turtles in the area. The turtles are a protected species, so please be respectful, don’t feed them, and visit this area with a guide.
Our next stop was Mystery Cave, an entrance to a blue hole near Stocking Island. Blue holes are large underwater caves or sinkholes that are open at the surface and can extend way below sea level. The cave is a great place to go diving. As a snorkeler, I wasn’t able to go inside the cave but there are lots of fish near its entrance.
Other must-visit places around Stocking Island include Hurricane Cove and Mani Wake Sandbar. Hurricane Cove is an incredible place to snorkel. There are lots of beautiful tropical fish and I even saw a barracuda and a couple of large sharks (from a distance). The Mani Wake sandbar is is a gorgeous strip of perfect white sand out in the middle of the ocean. It was absolutely stunning.
3. Visit the Famous Pig Beach
The famous swimming pigs are located on Big Major Cay. It’s about a two-hour boat ride from Georgetown and is best done as a guided tour. I used Robert’s Island Adventures, which includes a couple of other destinations mentioned in this post. The pigs have populated the island for over a decade, but no one is certain as to how they got there. It’s rumored they swam ashore after a shipwreck or were left by sailors. Boatfuls of tourists dock throughout the day to feed and swim with the pigs. The feral pigs, who once used to forge for their own food, now get the majority of their food from tourists.
Pigs are one of my favorite animals and I was really excited to visit the beach but left with mixed feelings. I carefully research any animal interaction I participate in, but it was difficult to find information on the pigs before arriving in Exuma. I assumed it would be ok because the pigs aren’t kept in captivity and are free to do as they please. In the past, though, many of the pigs have died due to sand indigestion.
This is happening because food is thrown on the beach by tourists. Rules have recently been put into place in regard to this and now tour operators only allow people to feed them from the boat. However, there are still visitors that come on their own and don’t abide by the rules. Instead of feeding them crackers, as many of the boats do, I suggest bringing some fresh veggies.
The pigs appear to be somewhat taken care of. Fresh drinking water and a small area of shade is available to them. Some, though, were sunburned and a few of the smaller ones seemed malnourished. Something just felt a little off, but the pigs seemed relatively happy. If you do decide to visit, please make sure you are visiting the original pigs at Big Major Cay. Swimming pigs have been popping up at other locations, being put there as a way to make money. Living on a beach is unnatural and isn’t an ideal situation for a pig.