By Noelle Khalila Nicolls
December 29, 2014
Planetpix / Alamy

It was hard for me to whittle this list down to five, because the Bahamas has so much to offer when it comes to wildlife encounters. Most are aquatic, which adds an extra level of vulnerability and excitement. I turned into a giggly school girl on Stocking Island in the Exumas, when I hand fed conch slop to a stingray on the Chat ‘N’ Chill beach. At Compass Cay I felt like a Zen master while lying fully submerged on a wooden platform, playing blink with two resting nurse sharks. Imagine my quiet terror when one of the sharks yawned and flashed his grill! In Inagua, large piles of dried donkey dung are the only evidence some people see of the southern island’s famed wild donkeys; one day, though, in a clearing deep in the bush, I was lucky enough to spot them. Their meat is prized on the island, so they made a hasty exit once they recognized our presence. But it was a memorable moment for me. Here are some of the best opportunities you'll find for having your own wildlife encounter in the Bahamas.

Exumas Pigs

Pigs aren't exactly the most appealing animals, but when they are lounging on the beach under the Bahamian sun (instead of wallowing in mud), they can seem almost adorable. The phenomenon known as the swimming pigs of the Exumas is a bit of a wild life enigma, as these animals are not indigenous to the Bahamas. But they have happily accepted the sun-soaked beaches of the Exumas as their home and we can’t blame them. 

Sandy Cay Iguanas

Though its vast and pristine beaches are the source of this island's beauty (in some directions, the coral white of the sand glistens all the way to the horizon), the resident rock iguanas give it its charm. Although Sandy Cay iguanas live a protected life in the sanctuary of their national park, the island is the site of a territorial war between two Bahamian islands. The Exumas lay claim to the cay as the most southern in its chain, while Long Island insists this iguana sanctuary lies within its domain. 

Inagua Flamingos

Inagua lives up to its name as the birding capital of the Bahamas. You will not see flamingos walking around town, but it only takes a short drive out to the salt pans of Lake Rosa to see flocks of them wading shin-deep in potent brine. Outside of nesting season, these crimson-feathered water birds spend their entire lives on their feet—preening, feeding and even sleeping upright.  

Bimini Dolphins

Lucky boaters will brag about that one time they sailed in the Bahamas accompanied by a pod of wild dolphins. The stories are true; dolphins will sometimes play in the wake of boats here and cruise alongside until something else in their aquatic underworld catches their fancy. Fortunately, in Bimini, you don’t have to be a lucky boater to have a wild dolphin encounter. Even unlucky people find blessings on a Bimini wild dolphin excursion. 

Eleuthera Turtles

The mangrove-lined creeks of Winding Bay, on Eleuthera, provide quiet sanctuary for sea turtles of varying ages. Kayak at high tide through the canal connecting Winding Bay to Half Sound, and you can float close enough to reach out and touch them (but don't). There are several private rental homes lining the almost-two-mile stretch of beach at Winding Bay that offer laid-back comfort and luxury; staying at one is a good idea if you want to explore the area.

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