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The trip of a lifetime left me home scratching myself uncontrollably for the entire week after. Let’s back it up a bit shall we? I surprised my wonderful momma Candy with her first trip out the United States. I didn’t tell her where we were going until it was time to board the flying minivan charter flight from Ft. Lauderdale to the Exumas, Bahamas. I was taking Candy to a little island called Staniel Cay in the southern most island chain of the Bahamas. A place I had discovered on Instagram actually. All of those nights of following random animal accounts paid off, because that’s where I first encountered The Swimming Pigs.

I’ve titled that because it’s undoubtedly warranted. These aren’t just any piggies. They are THE Swimming Pigs. Maybe you’ve seen them, maybe you’ve never even heard of this place. Oh but does it exist. It’s so epic I’m somewhat convinced pigs can actually fly. Maybe that’s on another island:) Anyway, Candy and I had such a unique and incredible Christmas holiday. Just the two of us, on an island of only 2 square miles, in the middle of the most gorgeous ocean I’ve ever seen. I suppose I could use the word unbelievable here many times, because that’s just what Staniel Cay is.

jenna-blog-pic-010515One day we took a private boat tour and had the full day to explore everything this treasure of a place had to offer. First stop, endangered lizards. Candy told me she liked these the best. But wait, there’s so much more. Next stop, a sunken drug plane. Then it was time for the main course. I’m still hoping the bacon I ate for breakfast isn’t literally the pigs with which I was frolicking. I can’t explain the feelings that come over when you pull up to this deserted stretch of beach and see a mass of pigs trotting down the sand, enter the water and proceed to swim up to your boat in the hopes that you have food. The yacht club where we stayed gives you scraps for the pigs to take with you on your adventure and the pigs know this. I was so overcome with pleasure, I jumped into the water so I could do the kind of thing you only dream about. There’s so much I could say about the pigs, and I went back to see them everyday of my trip, but I will spare all of you who are bored with my swine tales and let the pictures speak for themselves!

Next up was something I was actually really intrigued about. Compass Cay for the swim with friendly nurse sharks. Hmmm. They look scary. Sharks are sharks right? But, they are in this shallow marina and at high tide, they just chill on the dock and wait to be fed. I tend to be brave to a fault on vacation and again, I jumped in with the mass of nurse sharks because I told Candy, “I want a picture of me hitching a ride on the shark’s fin. Here’s the thing. Candy is a mom. Candy isn’t good at taking photos on land WITH her glasses on. Here I am with a fancy camera, new underwater housing for the camera and no photographer. Obviously my vain side wants some damn good photos of ME! Here’s the other thing. Candy has never in her life been in the ocean, let alone snorkeled with goggles-no glasses-all while trying to take a photo while treading water with a 5 pound underwater photography setup. I must say Candy stepped up her game in every way imaginable. She was fearless. She jumped in with those nurse sharks and started snapping away. I seriously think I did a “Hell yea mom!” scream because I was so impressed with her.

We had burgers and beers with our guide and he cruised us past the jaw-dropping private islands belonging to Johnny Depp, Tim and Faith, and Tyler Perry. Then he points out Stephen Speilberg’s mega yacht. We stopped on a random sand bar that pops up at low tide and appears to be in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. Just one of the most visually stunning places I’ve ever seen. After all of this, our guide says, “Hey, do you want to go to danger reef?” “Sure”, both my mom and I yell with delight!

As we pull up to deeper blue water, he starts throwing bait over the edge of the boat. I had heard this place was good for scuba divers, which I am not, because of the sharks and other wildlife. Immediately, I see the outlines of sharks circling our boat. I start snapping photos and that’s when our guide asks me if I want to get in. I thought he was kidding, but then he explained that they are reef sharks and though they look scary, they absolutely aren’t man-eaters and he’s never heard of them biting anyone. This guy is a badass who grew up on Staniel Cay island and free dives for fun. I don’t know him at all, but I just believed him. I have always wanted to do the great white shark cage dive in South Africa, but swim in open water with sharks…..ehhh….I don’t think I’m that crazy. Kidding, of course I’m that crazy. I was also determined to get as many impressive photos as possible to truly capture this place, so I threw on my snorkel gear, grabbed my camera and told my mom I loved her then jumped in. I took a deep breath before looking down below me with my goggles, because I had a feeling it was going to be like that moment in the movie Open Water where he looks down and sharks are just circling them. Terrifying beyond belief. I was also wondering why we were the only boat in the area and why my guide wasn’t getting in. Still, I just went for it. I put my face down and could see 50 feet straight to the bottom. Tons of pirahnna looking fish and a whole lotta sharks. I’m talking about 6 at a glance in one direction. They were below me, next to me, behind me. Is this a good idea? Snap, snap, snap away was all I could think about. I came up for a second and shout, “This is just the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen!” To my shock, my mom jumped in! There is no way my first time in the ocean, I would have ever done something so scary. She later told me that there was no way she was planning on doing that with me, until I looked up and said how phenomenal it was. Point blank. Candy f***ing ROCKS! What a trip we had. I totally over-posted on my Instagram, so check out the best pics from the trip! The sand fleas I hardly noticed on pig island, left me a vast array of little gifts for my trip home. I’m talking hundreds of bites that woke me up in the middle of every night for a whole week after I got home. I had to hibernate and put cream on myself 4 times a day. I was scratching my back on walls in my condo like a bear. And I’d do it all again.

I could make an R-rated calendar with my mom’s photo taking capabilities. A 2 year calendar!

Now with this underwater housing system for my camera, it’s very bulky and nearly impossible to see if you’re getting shots in focus. I know the rule here is to take hundreds or thousands of photos. This is the only way to ensure you get a good one. Guys need to be taking at least 5 when a girl hands you her camera. In this situation I told my mom, “Keep snapping, you can never take too many”. I am so glad she listened to this, because at the end of the adventure day I just told you about, I started going through all of the pictures we had taken that day. Oh there’s the drug plane! And there’s my crotch. There’s the nurse sharks! And there’s my crotch. Candy was aiming a little south with that camera and I have so many crotch shots I could make a calendar. For two years. It’s a good thing we took so many pictures, because there were actually a lot of good ones in there! The outtakes are good in their own deleted way:)