“YOU’LL get to swim with them,” I overheard our guide say as our boat bobbed in Emerald Bay.

“Great,” I thought. “I’ve always wanted to swim with dolphins, or maybe it will be whales!”

Boy, was I in for a shock. As we rounded the island of Big Major Cay we spied Pig Beach. And it’s just that.

lee walpole swimming with pigs in the bahamas exumas pigs bay
Lee Walpole swimming with pigs in the Bahamas Exumas pigs bay

Within moments of approaching I was amazed as ten little piggies ran into the water and swam up to the boat.

While most of my fellow passengers were happy throwing food from the deck, I decided to throw myself in and get personal with the hungry lot.

The beasts were friendly and had no objection to me patting them. It was the highlight of my day — and the last creatures in the world I’d thought I would be admiring underwater when I’d signed up for a three-day diving course at the Sandals Grande Emerald Bay in the Bahamas.

bahamas sandals emerald bay
Bahamas Sandals Emerald Bay resort

After an intense training session in the pool, my porky encounter took place as we headed out in the ocean ready to test what we had learned.

Next up was a more traditional — and terrifying — encounter in the deep.

At Compass Cay we slipped into the water to feed reef sharks.

Feeding reef sharks at Compass Cay in Bahamas
Feeding reef sharks at Compass Cay in Bahamas

Bobbing around with several pieces of squid in my hand, I felt the need to check all was OK with the guide.

Feeding reef sharks at Compass Cay in Bahamas
Feeding reef sharks at Compass Cay in Bahamas

His reply wasn’t exactly reassuring: “Just don’t get too close to their mouths and you should be fine.” As I dangled the food in front of their mouths they attacked it like they hadn’t been fed in months.
As the sharks swam away I was able to get a good feel of their sandpaper-like skin.

I was shocked at how tame they were.

After a fresh seafood lunch it was off to Thunderball Grotto and a snorkel in the fabulous waters that made it into the James Bond movie of the same name.

Thunderball Grotto Bahamas
Thunderball Grotto Bahamas

Here, we got to spy on a turtle and swim with schools of colourful fish — I’d never seen anything like it.

That was until we donned our scuba gear and plunged in.

Getting ready to Skuba dive in The Bahamas
Getting ready to Skuba dive in The Bahamas

There are few experiences that compare to scuba diving. Gliding across the coral reef with nothing more than a gentle flick of my legs made me feel like I was flying. The feeling was incredible.

skuba diving in Bahamas
skuba diving in Bahamas

The final day of the trip meant making the most of the incredible Sandals resort and its all-inclusive luxury.

I teed the day off by testing the Greg Norman-designed golf course.

Greg Norman-designed golf course in Emerald Bay Bahamas
Greg Norman-designed golf course in Emerald Bay Bahamas

It was clear from the first hole that this rivalled any oceanside course in the world. It’s just a huge shame I’ve never been able to play golf, as it meant I lost all my balls before I could finish the course. To escape the embarrassment, I headed for the beach to have a go at windsurfing.

It looked easy from afar. Big mistake! By the end of my training session with the water sports manager Pressy, I could confidently say I was completely useless.Having tried and failed to impress the lovelies round the pool with my golfing and surfing skills, my last chance was the “hobie cat sailing” — a kind of catamaran.

At last, something I’m good at, I thought, as I zoomed past fellow aqua cyclers and kayakers.

Pity I’d forgotten how to turn the sail — I capsized and had to be rescued.

Lee Walpole Hobie Cat Sailing in Bahamas
Damn thing, wouldn’t stay up

Maybe I’ll leave the sports to the pros.

playing in the sea Bahamas
playing in the sea Bahamas

Sticking to what I knew I was good at, it was time to sample the food.

The resort has seven themed dining delights. It was gourmet global — with pizza and tropical casual eateries as well as high-end Italian and French restaurants. There’s even an authentic Irish pub with hearty home cooking.

During the day I couldn’t keep away from Café de Paris — an authentic French bakery serving pastries, crêpes and ice creams.

In the evening, my favourite was the Barefoot By The Sea restaurant, serving a variety of seafood. I chose to spend my last evening here, sipping a Goombay Smash Bajan cocktail while admiring the Caribbean sunset.

barefoot by the sea restaurant in Emerald Bay Bahamas
barefoot by the sea restaurant in Emerald Bay Bahamas

I counted the shooting stars until 4am in a bubbling Jacuzzi.

While I may not be trying some of those all-inclusive sports again, Sandals proved the ultimate place to learn to dive — I can’t wait to return.

Go: Bahamas
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ all-inclusive at Sandals Emerald
Bay is from £2,199pp, including return British Airways flights and
transfers. Valid for travel until December 5. Call 0800 597 0002 or visit sandals.co.uk

OUT & ABOUT: Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours’ full-day 007
Thunderball Luxury Tour costs from £238 per person and includes lunch. See islandroutestours.co.uk

MORE INFO: Visit bahamas.co.uk

This post was written by Lee Walpole
on August 28, 2012