Midcheshire Independent Issue 128

23 Issue 128 • March 2020 Visit our website: www.independentnewspapers.co.uk PIGS, PUTTS AND PARADISE IT’S a question sure to interrupt any daydream. I’m enjoying a lavish breakfast in the Bahamian haven of Great Exuma, ruminating about swing f laws and missed putts, when my wife comes across a guidebook entry she feels merits my attention. “What should you do if you’re chased by a swim- ming pig?” she reads dead- pan, coffee in hand, without a glance away from the page. Ker r i’s quer y c on- jures a somewhat alarm- ing prospect. I’m in the Bahamas osten- sibly to brush up on a flag- ging golf game at Sandals Emerald Bay resort; not flee the trotters of an enraged waterborne hog. Thankfully, she moves swiftly to the guidebook’s recommended answer. It transpires the world-re- nowned swimming pigs who’ve made an uninhabited Bahamian island their home are not aggressive pursuers; they’re just not very good at stopping. As they’ve only been at it for around 15 years (swim- ming, that is), I suppose evolution hasn’t yet had a chance to equip them with physiology more suited to the amphibious lifestyle they’ve unexpectedly embraced. There are several local legends as to how a small group of pigs ended up on Big Major Cay, one of around 360 islands that make up Hurricane Dorian caused devastation when it swept through the Bahamas. But it’s business as usual in Great Exuma, discovers David Young The Bahamas promises golfers a holiday with a difference the idyllic Exumas region of the Bahamas. Some say they were left by sailors who intended to return to cook them but never did; others claim they were washed ashore from a shipwreck. As t he t ou r boat approaches ‘Pig Island’, our guide MJ insists it was the work of a local farmer, who thought its water hole and ample vegetation made it a perfect place to plump up his livestock. The engine noise rouses the resident 20 pigs and pig- lets from their midday sun- bathe. Snorting loudly, they trot down to shore and start paddling out toward us. “The pigs were smart,” MJ continues. “They learned to swim and saved themselves. No one’s going to eat those pigs now.” And he’s right. The swim- ming pigs have become a tourism sensation in recent years, drawing thousands of visitors keen to tick off what has become a surprise ‘bucket list’ experience. “We call him Kung Fu Panda,” MJ shouts, a bucket of vegetables under his arm as he wades between the inquisitive stingrays gliding around our feet. He’s pointing at a hefty black and white chap who’s chugging at pace in my direction. “Watch out - he’s a kicker!” Luckily, I avoid a kick from the pig named after a panda. He instead halts his momentum by clumsily bumping his snout into my stomach. A couple of carrots and an obligatory selfie later and he’s off again, paddling Independent TRAVEL unsteadily towards his next food-bearing human buffer stop. Swimming with the pigs is the highlight of a packed afternoon trip around the Exumas with Island Routes tours - a rollick that also includes reef snorkelling; peaking at the island homes of the rich and famous; and a stop at a beach populated by hundreds of endangered Bahamian Rock iguanas. It comes midway through our week on Great Exuma, the largest of the Exumas. Our home is a fabulous beach-side house at San- dals’ acclaimed all-inclusive resort, which sits like a jewel on the mile-long stretch of unspoiled sand that wraps around Emerald Bay. And our plan, swimming with pigs aside, revolves around golf and relaxation. Not that Rich Gibson goes in for much relaxation on the range. The veteran golf pro at Sandals’ championship Greg Norman-designed course, delights in keeping his stu- dents on their toes. “Imagine you’re swinging at the girl who stole your lunch money at school,” he jokes, employing another colourful metaphor to urge Kerri to hit the ball harder. Sandals bought its prop- erty on Great Exuma a decade ago, with the aim of combining innocence with its own brand of understated opulence. With around a dozen restaurants, six bars, a huge zero-entry pool, ten- nis courts, a luxuriant spa and well-equipped gym, and even the services of a team of attentive butlers if desired - you can easily find reason never to step foot outside Sandals’ real estate. But Sunday afternoon served up a persuasive exception, when a short boat trip took us to nearby Stock- ing Island and the charm- ing Chat ‘n Chill - a rustic and lively beach restaurant famed for its Bahamian roast and conch salad. Our time at Sandals comes weeks before Christ- mas - a day when the resort hosts around 70 orphans, f lown to the island by Bahamas Air pilots who volunteer their time to give some of the country’s most needy children an unforget- table experience. That we spot several guests helping to wrap pre- sents ahead of the big day speaks to a sense of commu- nity the hotel aims to unob- trusively foster. Like the resort’s weekly guest trips to read to local school children, it’s an ini- tiative of the Sandals Foun- dation - the philanthropic arm of the company that only months earlier was involved in the emergency relief response to one of the worst natural disasters in the Bahamas’ history. GOT A STORY? Email: jan@independentnewspapers.co.uk

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