Long time readers of this blog will know that in recent years, I’ve stuck firmly to the city break as my holiday type of choice. City breaks are perfect when you want to see a lot of the world, but you are on a budget, both in terms of time and of course money. I can leave on a Friday, return on a Sunday and have a whole heap of new food in my belly, photos on my camera and memories of a new destination without having to sacrifice a lot of my holiday allowance. In fact last year I went on 14 trips in total, all around a full time job.
But before that, and before this blog kicked off properly I was a two weeks in the sun kind of girl. I thought that’s how you did travel. You took 10-12 days of your holiday allowance for that once in a year sort of trip, and used the rest for life admin and Christmas. I managed to travel to Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic that way, and I do not regret spending a few years holidaying in that way and having time to see places in a way that suited my life back then.
For now, I’m at a bit of a travel crossroads. I keep a piece of paper stuck to my wall with all the potential destinations I could visit in a year – city breaks in Poland, a short beach holiday in Cyprus, a heritage visit to a cute town in the UK. All of these are manageable if I work hard and save my pennies. But I’ve been yearning for more. I want a longer adventure, some time to relax (I haven’t had more than 7 straight days off work for three years) and a destination that is a little bit fabulous.
But the longer adventures, and the something a little bit fabulous will need a budget that I just don’t have right now. There’s the mortgage to pay, the house renovations to complete (that hole in my back wall is getting bigger by the day) and the ever present reality that soon I might have a little Sparrow to spend my pennies on.
So it is pretty incredible to have been shortlisted for The Post Office Affordable Travel Blogger of the Year Award, and a prize of £5,000 to spend on the trip of a lifetime.
*opens the party poppers, pours a gin and tonic*
I’ve thought long and hard about what a trip of a lifetime would mean to me, given my desire to go a little further, and for a little longer than my average two night break. I considered Fiji, a visit to Kruger National Park in South Africa, Lord of the Rings spotting in New Zealand or maybe even a USA road trip. But there is only one place that I really dream about, and that brings tears of joy to my eyes when I think about it (honestly, I cry at everything).
I want to go and visit the swimming pigs on Exuma Island in the Bahamas.
Those swimming pigs
Yes, you heard that right. There is a place in this big wide world of ours where where pigs swim in the sea – a phenomenon that doesn’t occur anywhere else, and it just so happens to be in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. There are many theories as to how this happened, many linked right back to the explorations of Christopher Columbus. I’ve watched the video that I stumbled across one night whilst in a You Tube black hole at least a hundred times, and I’m desperate to get under the skin of this a little more, and find out about the history of this island, and how these gorgeous animals came to exist so far away from the habitat we might associate with them in the UK.
You could, by now, call it an obsession.
The swimming pigs live on Exuma, a district of the Bahamas, consisting of over 365 islands which are known as cays. I’ll be honest and say that I was never particularly drawn to the Bahamas as a holiday destination before the magical pigs led me on a journey of internet discovery. Don’t get me wrong, it really looks like paradise but I’m not a sunbathe on the beach type of girl, and when I have been to a destination like this in the past it’s always been combined with cultural activities and visiting cities too.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong about the Bahamas, and it’s now perched high on the top of my bucket list. Actually, nothing else on my bucket list really matters!
Staying in Nassau
The Bahamas are made up of over 700 islands and cays, meaning that there is so much to explore and do. That said, I’d stay opt to stay in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, because from there it is an easy day trip to hang out with the swimming pigs, and if it were possible I’d totally do that twice!
If I had the chance to stay in Nassau itself, I wouldn’t be short of other things to explore. The imposing Fort Fincastle (built in 1793), colonial streets and pastel hued buildings, a gorgeous lonely lighthouse to photograph and Arawak Cay, known for its street food culture.
The Cloisters, located on Paradise Island within Nassau look especially beautiful – the remnants of a 14th century French monastery that was brought to the island. Apparently the views from here over the whole of Nassau are breathtaking, and I do enjoy a good view.
There are plenty of amazing hotels in Nassau too – including the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar and Breezes, both of which would certainly hit my criteria of being a little bit fabulous and allow me to really relax between adventuring! It is the trip of a lifetime after all.
Exploring further afield
Given there are so many islands and cays to visit, I’d love to squeeze in some time exploring a little further afield. The Glass Window Bridge is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen before, and visiting would give me the opportunity to see another area of The Bahamas, Eleuthera. It’s known as the “narrowest place on earth” and is where the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea meet.
Lucayan National Park is home to a spectacular system of underground caves. Whilst I can’t scuba dive, it is also home to many hiking trails which is something I’d love to do (and I’m sure will bring back memories of hiking in the rainforest in Costa Rica). Gold Rock Beach is also located inside the park boundary and I’m sure that I could manage a nice little sit down in the sun taking it all in!
Finally, Harbour Island is home to many historical landmarks and natural areas of beauty that are well worth seeing. Firstly, it is home to the famous Pink Sands Beach, pink hued from the 4,000 species of forams that live in the sand. Secondly, if I look hard enough I’ll find a hidden and very much overgrown 17th century battery built by the English to defend the island (and I love ruined places). And finally, I really want to see some of that colonialist architecture, so I’ll try and sneak a peek at the Commissioner’s Residence, built in 1913.
Let the voting commence!
You can head on over to The Post Office website to vote for me as Affordable Travel Blogger of the Year until midnight on Tuesday 17th July, and hopefully make my trip of a lifetime a reality. I’ve never spent anywhere close to £5000 on a trip, and to be able to do something so special and so completely fabulous would make my decade. And I’d of course take you all on that journey with me through my photography and stories from this stunning destination.
If you’ve enjoyed my city break guides, UK day trip tips or musings on how travel can still be a part of your life if you work full time, I’d so appreciate your vote. And if not – I hope you enjoy the idea of swimming pigs as much as I do – here’s that video of them again one more time. You’re welcome.