What a vacation in the Bahamas is like, from luxury hotels to swimming with pigs

Standing knee deep in the crystal clear waters of a private Bahamian island, I grab a handful of carrots and prepare for the immediate arrival of very special guests.

We traveled to the Exumas, a group of 365 tropical islands in the Bahamas, to meet the world famous swimming pigs that reside here on the white sand beaches.

Weighing up to 500 pounds, they move only to rub their bellies or to poke fun at the carrots of the delighted tourists who have traveled over an hour by speedboat from the Bahamian capital, Nassau, to see them.

The story of how they ended up living in Heaven is a legend – some say they were the only survivors of a shipwreck and managed to swim ashore, others claim they were left there by sailors who intended to return to eat them.

Jess Wilson met some friendly pigs in the Bahamas

It’s a bizarre but incredible sight to see them rushing towards us with their noses in the air, their sniffles almost as loud as the screams of joy from the children in our group.

It was one of many surreal and unique moments I experienced on our Virgin Atlantic Holidays trip to the Bahamas – marking the airline’s launch of direct flights from the UK – and one that also saw us petting rays and hands -feed sharks and wild iguanas.

But wildlife experiences are just a drop in the ocean when it comes to what the Bahamas has to offer.

From luxury five-star resorts with resident dolphins and hammerhead sharks to local tiki huts serving fresh conch – a local seashell – and legendary Bahama Mama cocktails, the islands are dotted with tropical magic.

The best places to visit in the Bahamas

A view of the Atlantis General in Nassau


© Bahamas Ministry of Tourism)

From Nassau, Powerboat Adventures offers day trips to the private island of Ship Channel Cay, 38 nautical miles from the harbor.

Prepare for a thrilling ride as the crew sing the Mission Impossible theme tune and turn the ship from side to side as it sails between islands.

The trip has two stops – the first is the secluded island of Allen Cay, where visitors jump on the beach to feed a colony of endangered rock iguanas, also known as Bahamian dragons.

Tourists are given skewers filled with grapes to feed the reptiles at a safe distance.

It’s time for a quick dip before getting back on board for a short trip to the nearby Ship Channel Cay where we’ll swim with pigs before feeding the resident stingray (be prepared to get up close) and watch the guides feed a frenzy of hungry nurse, lemon sharks and Caribbean reefs.

Next comes a lunch of grilled grouper, burgers, fruit platters and conch salad.

Reservations cost $ 260 for adults and $ 160 for children plus a discount of 10. (Learn more about powerboatadventures.com.)

For those who prefer a day on dry land, the city of Nassau offers historic buildings, lush gardens, and world-class hotels with aquariums and casinos.

Where to stay

There is no shortage of upscale hotels in Nassau.

Located on Paradise Island – a 45 minute transfer from the airport – is the Cove Hotel in the ocean-themed Atlantis Bahamas Resort. Guests could be forgiven for not leaving the 154-acre destination for their entire vacation.

The resort buildings are surrounded by freshwater and saltwater lagoons home to more than 50,000 creatures, including jellyfish, barracudas and eels, all of which can be seen via The Dig walkways.

Luxury cabanas with private butlers are available for hire, and gourmet restaurants such as Nobu are plentiful.

Beach cabanas serve cocktails until sunset, and Las Vegas-style casinos offer adrenaline-fueled games day and night.

The hotel is home to numerous waterslides at the Aquaventure Water Park, including the Mayan Temple that catapults riders down a 60-foot vertical drop and through a tunnel into a shark-filled lagoon. There is a lazy river for those with a sweeter trip in mind.

For those looking for accommodation west of central Nassau, the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is a great option.

This triple resort has a water park, eight swimming pools, water sports, and the largest casino in the Bahamas.

The highlight has to be the iconic Flamingo Cay where guests can meet the beautiful pink residents.

What’s up

A view of the Margaritaville Resort in the Bahamas

A stone’s throw from the port, Margaritaville is the last seaside resort in the Bahamas. The resort has a laid back vibe and some of the best food we had on the trip.

JWB Prime Steak and Seafood Restaurant overlooks the cruise ship docks and serves refined versions of a traditional surf ‘n’ turf with premium cuts and lobster.

The resort is packed with activities, including a surf pool and climbing wall, as well as an outdoor cinema and a luxury spa.

What to eat and drink

If good food is your priority, you’ll have no problems in and around Nassau.

Foodie highlights include Shuang Ba at Baha Mar, which served some of the best dim sum and fish appetizers I’ve eaten. Costa in the Rosewood at the Baha Mar offers delicacies from the sea, served Mexican style.

End the night at SLS Baha Mar’s Skybar for bespoke cocktails with ocean views. Reservations are recommended.

Scarlet lady

Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady is by far the most impressive ship in Nassau Cruise Port and I was delighted to be allowed to embark on a tour while she was visiting.

The dynamic design of the sister brand ship is characterized by a sleek silver gray hull and distinctive red accents. But it’s what’s inside that makes this one of the most luxurious cruise offerings out there.

The adults-only ship is adorned with hammocks on each cabin balcony, a futuristic gym stocked with Peloton bikes, deck jacuzzis, and bars serving champagne rosé.

Guests – known as sailors – can eat at one of the ship’s more than 20 restaurants and enjoy non-alcoholic drinks included in the price of the trip.

State-of-the-art Sailor wristbands linked to the Virgin Voyages app are used by passengers to order drinks, which are then delivered to them anywhere on the ship, and unlock cabin doors without a key.

The Redemption Spa offers sailors a haven of peace with a hydrotherapy pool, mud room, salt room, cold pools, quartz beds and rejuvenating spa treatments.

And good news for the planet, Virgin bosses have banned single-use plastics on board, and the ship uses toilet rolls and tissues made from sustainable cane sugar.

Book vacations

Virgin Atlantic Holidays is offering seven nights at The Cove at Atlantis in the Bahamas from £ 2,229 per person, including Virgin Atlantic flights from Heathrow on August 29 and transfers.

Seven room-only nights at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in the Bahamas from £ 1,399 per person, departing Heathrow on September 26, with transfers. You can find out more about vacationsvierges.co.uk.

You can also book Scarlet Lady cruises on virginvoyages.com.

For more information on the Bahamas, visit bahamas.com.

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