I had visited Nassau in the Bahamas when I was 18 just for a couple days on a cruise. Because of that small exposure, I never really had much intention of going back to the Bahamas. For me, Nassau was too crowded and seemed a bit touristy. But then over the last couple years, I saw pictures on Instagram of people swimming with pigs somewhere called Exuma, and I knew I had to go. So it had been on my “list” for quite some time but I never really knew if I’d make it there. Then I had a last minute opening in my schedule and wanted to go somewhere close and easy to get to from Florida where I’d be visiting my dad. This was the perfect opportunity to check the swimming pigs off my bucket list.
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Exuma, Bahamas is very unlike crowded Nassau. The small island with a population of just over 7,300 people has quick daily flights from Florida and Nassau. I spent 5 days there exploring and relaxing and felt incredibly safe as a woman by myself. Because there is one main road that runs the length of the island (which can be transversed in about 2 hours), I highly recommend renting a car and making the most of the island. Driving on the left took some getting used to, and I had to constantly remind myself to stay on that side of the road.
There are postcard perfect beaches just right off the road and all over the island, most of them totally deserted. I couldn’t believe it when I’d pull over at some funky little restaurant on the side of the road, and behind it were steps down to a beach with not a soul in sight.
Prices in Exuma are similar to other places in the Caribbean, and reflect the fact that tourism is the main industry. Costs for food seem to be similar to eating out in the states, gas is more expensive, of course, and hotels are pretty high priced. I went for the mid priced, but lovely and quaint Augusta Bay. It is within close driving distance to Georgetown for running to the ATM or grabbing a bite to eat, but far enough away that it felt quiet. There is a restaurant and pool, and each room has a great balcony or patio with a view. About a five minute walk will bring you to picture perfect Jolly Hall Beach.
Of course a major attraction in Exuma is swimming with the pigs! There are a handful of tour companies that offer full day and half day adventures. Click here to see all boat tours. The highlights and price will be pretty similar between companies, but read reviews to find one that provides a fun energy and treats the animals and environment with respect. I always use Trip Advisor and sort by ratings for both hotels, tours, and things to do.
I don’t want to tell you much about the day on the boat. Just trust that it’s worth your time and the photo ops are plentiful. It’s not the cheapest tour at around $200, but it may be the highlight of your trip. Bring a camera and sunscreen as well as snacks if you are like me, and tend to get hungry before lunch or didn’t get a big breakfast before the tour. If you have the means, I highly recommend a GoPro and a dome (LIKE THIS ONE) for this trip. Not only do they provide a fun, wide angle, and make for getting the biggest field of view, the fact that they’re waterproof makes it a sure way to get good shots in the water, especially with the awesome dome effect. Just make sure you get one that matches the version of GoPro you’re using.
If I could emphasize a couple points about Exuma it is this: I felt safe and totally relaxed, and the beaches and water are stunning. Part of my mission in life has always been to seek out the most ideal and perfect beach or island in the world. Topping the list of places that have come close are Bora Bora, Zanzibar, St. John USVI, the Whitsundays, Koh Phi Phi, and Exuma. All of these places have certain downfalls that don’t allow me to call them perfect. But Exuma comes really close. When I drove down a bumpy dirt road, wondering if my car was going to bottom out or if I’d pop a tire, then found myself at a deserted crescent shaped white sand beach completely alone, I thought I’d found paradise. But occasional trash scattered through the brush tainted it. Despite that, Exuma gets very high marks for beauty and isolation. I typically don’t visit a place twice, although I almost always want to. Exuma, however, may be an exception. It’s easy enough to reach that travel time is worth a short visit. The island is so small, it can be easily explored in a short amount of time, plus I can combine it with a few days in Florida to visit my dad (and Disneyworld).
Here’s what blows my mind about Exuma. On my last day, on the way to the airport, I pulled off the road into a gravel parking lot with a little food shack. I ordered a burger and wandered around back to some wobbly steps that climbed up to an amazing, rustic outdoor seating area overlooking the ocean. There were also a few steps down to another perfect, white sand beach and aquamarine water. Again, there was not a soul in sight. There were these impressively dark clouds hanging on the horizon with sun streaks breaking through and a light breeze. I shared this view and those few moments with only myself, and it was deeply fulfilling and magical. It was the best lunch view I’ve ever had. I almost don’t want any more people to discover this island, because the ability to have those experiences is what makes it so special.
Well, hello there!
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