I thought the swimming pigs would be the highlight of the day. Boy, was I wrong.
I was on a day trip in the Exumas, the 365-island Bahamas archipelago famous for crystal clear waters, talcum sand and some of the world’s best fishing. Our captain Ray Lightbourne and his son Justin had whisked us in their speedboat from the dock on Great Exuma across flat sapphire seas to a profusion of tiny cays, some mere scrubby spits of sand, others with flourishing stands of coconut palms and sea grapes.
I’d held a starfish bigger than my head in my hand, and savored fresh-cut pineapple spears on a postcard-perfect middle-of-nowhere sandbar.
In the afternoon we fed nurse sharks at Compass Cay, and snorkeled the depths of Thunderball Cave (yep, the one in the classic James Bond film).
But I was sure that frolicking with and feeding the famous colony of paddling pigs at Big Major Cay marked the day’s crescendo.
However, that was yet to come.
Before we headed back to Barraterre, Ray told us, we’d be making one final stop. And minutes later he dropped anchor in the shimmering shallows, dived off the side of the boat, and plunged a multicolor beach umbrella into the sand. Justin cracked open bottles of Kalik, and before you know it we were all in the water, basking in the welcome shade cast by the beach umbrella, and toasting our good fortune to be here.
And that’s when Ray made the big reveal, handing us plates heavy with generous slices of the most delicious rum cake I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste. “It’s my wife’s secret recipe,” he crowed, as we tucked into the glistening golden slabs, moist with butter and liberally laced with Bahamian rum. To compare it to a mass-produced rum cake would be like comparing the finest aged cheddar to Cheez Whiz. Each flavorful bite seemed to encapsulate the magic of the day, sunshine, sandbars, swimming pigs and all. Ray’s wife will probably never share her recipe with me. But that’s OK. No cake I could make would ever taste as sweet as hers did on that beautiful Bahamian day.