Swimming with the Pigs PART ONE: Hidden Beaches & Boat Bean Bags
Oh my god. I still can't believe this isn't all a dream. My mom and I took a mother-daughter vacation to the Bahamas so that we could cross a huge number off our bucket list—swimming with the pigs in the Exuma Islands. It was absolutely magical. Seriously though, is this real life?
We decided to book with the company Hidden Beaches Tours because we waited until the last minute and the cheaper options were all booked up for the weekend we were going. I'm looking at it like a blessing in disguise though because I can't imagine us having a better time with any other tour group. The package included boat transfer, visiting the iguanas, a stop at compass cay to see the nurse sharks and of course swimming with the pigs. Since this was practically a full-day excursion, our lunch was included as well, along with beers and waters for the journey.
*SIDE NOTE* I'm going to go ahead and split this post up into four different parts because there is just so much to talk about, I need to be able to separate my thoughts and I want to give each experience the justice it's deserves. So, let's begin!
The night before our exciting excursion, we set our alarms for 7am and tried to fall asleep, but couldn't help but spend the night restless because we were so freakin' excited. Once morning came around, we were up and at em' and started walking down to the pier next to the Margaritaville on Paradise Island. Luckily we were staying at Atlantis, so the walk was short and we didn't have to get a shuttle bus like some of the other people on our tour. (Read about our stay at the Coral Towers here)
Our route took us right through Marina Village which was nothing like we saw it the night before. The usually crowded streets were now vacant and the storefronts were dim. It was an absolute ghost town except for some employees getting their days started and a few one percenters enjoying their morning coffees on their private yachts. I of course took this moment of solitude to snag a photo on the Ben & Jerry's ice-cream bench, lookin like a straight snackkkk. We arrived at the Margaritaville on the pier and there were a good 30-50 people there who were also going on the tour. After wandering about the Margaritaville (my parents are HUGE Jimmy Buffet fans—some of the biggest parrot heads you'll ever meet) we decided to grab a seat on a nearby bench and look at all of the boats making their way to the dock.
Next we were guided to a check-in station where we were assigned a color wristband which was associated with a specific boat in the fleet. We got green bands to match our boat called "Wasabi'. There were about three different groups and we would each be enjoying the same activities, but a little bit spaced out so that we weren't too overwhelming for the animals (and each other).
Finally, the captains of the ships began boarding passengers, and my mom and I were one of the last two pairs to get on. Once we stepped on the boat, it became very clear, very fast that there were no more seats available on the benches.
We exchange worried glances and stood awkwardly there until the captain pulled out what looked like giant beanbag chairs and proceeded to strap them onto hooks in the aisles. It turns out, these would be our seats for the remainder of the trip, which we were NOT mad about.
It turns out, these were our life savors. These fluffy bags saved us from what would have been the most intense and painful butt bruises we have ever experienced because, guys, this boat ride was rough. Like, extremely rough.
To be fair, we were warned by the captain that it would be a rough ride. Though the day looked picturesque, complete with fluffy clouds and blue skies as far as the eye could see, there were apparently some very strong winds which made an otherwise flat ocean, very choppy. My mom and I consider ourselves troopers and we brushed aside this word of caution as we laid back and prepared for the hour long trip to our first stop.
Once we started gaining some speed, we realized how serious that warning was. I kid you not, we were hitting wave after wave sending us flying off of our seats and then slamming us back down. Over and over and over. We literally had to stop because someone (who we later became great friends with and went to dinner with later that night) started experiencing horrible back pain. He moved to a standing position and we set back on our way on the unforgiving sea, being thrown continuously into the air and back down again.
I cannot stress enough how clutch it was that we were able to snag the bean bag chairs. It made the crazy ride a lot more enjoyable. If you have the incredible opportunity to go on this journey, I would highly recommend waiting until the rest of the group boards so you can enjoy the comfort of the bean. You won't regret it. Besides the rocky ride, the trip was a lot of fun. The crew was blasting early 2000's hits and stopping every now and then to show us some celebrity islands and homes, some of which included actors, singers, designers and athletes. Plus the stunning views and crystal clear waters were absolutely awe-inspiring and almost made us forget about the fact that we could fly off the boat any minute (kidding, sort of...)
FINALLY, we made it to our first destination: Allen Cay, which you'll have to wait to read about in my next post: Swimming with the Pigs PART TWO: Me, Momma and Iguanas